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Constantine's Bible: Politics and the Making of the New Testament Paperback – October 1, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
This is where Dungan starts to get fancy. He asserts that the range of meaning for the term "canon" needs to be understood as a part of the rise of the Greek city-state. Fancy or not, that is what etymology is. No doubt one would want to study the uses of the term canon in order to understand its etymology. Etymology of the term canon shows that it meant more than a reed as a measuring stick. For example, in the sixth century BCE Pythagoras applied measurement to musical tones and came up with kanonikoi or "standard tones." Such measurement permeated Greek philosophy as well. In a Hellenistic culture, early Christianity adopted the idea of canon as measurement, but Clement of Rome and Origen of Alexandria know no idea of a canon as a set of official doctrines. In fact, according to Dungan, no Christian scholar before the 4th century refers to "the canon."
At just about the turn of the era, Greek philosophical thought rebelled against the idea of pseudonymous authorship. A novel practice began in the first century BC/BCE.Read more ›
First, it does an excellent job suggesting a cultural/philosophical, and primarily Hellenistic, basis for the process of canonization. This one will undoubtedly stir discussion, if not derision, among some Evangelicals. On the other hand, showing just how thorough the legitimization of the eventually canonized texts was, through the rigorous historical work of Eusebius, should please Bible-lovers by showing that the choice of books which was selected was far from arbitrary, rooted in purely historical motives, etc.
Dungan does well here in capturing an angle that will both irritate, but also comfort, sola scriptura folks. On the one hand, all of this nonsense about conspiracy can be done away with in discussions about gnostic and questionable works, which Dungan shows clearly don't pass historical muster. On the other hand, what we are left with as "canon" is the result of alleged politicization of the church through Constantine, and this brings me to some of the mild drawbacks of the book.
In a nutshell, it has become fashionable in recent years to use Constantine as a whipping boy in church history, thereby raising a cloud of suspicion over every project to which his name can be attached--an influence which gave the Church "power," and all too likely, we are led to believe, tainted the "purity" of an early age (and also one with many more loose ends--enough to allow for the disintegration of the Christian faith, one is often led in these discussions to suspect--though not necessarily by Dungan--if it wasn't for the artificial solidification of the Christian cultural base through the assertion of crass political force).Read more ›
However, the argument of this book reminds me of a comment made by one of my own past professors: "It sounds to me that he's reasoning from an unwarranted assumption to a foregone conclusion."
Historically, Constantine had no such role whatsoever in canon formation. Dan Brown's inferences were unsubstantiated and misinformed initially, and unfortunately this work only feeds this same imagination and gullibility.
Discussing canon formation of the New Testament on the basis of Hellenistic thinking entirely overlooks the much greater influential role of the Hebrew scriptures upon them. The NT canon is thoroughly saturated with and embedded into the pre-existing Hebrew Bible (in complete contrast to the other purported "gospels").
Further, the thesis of the book turn on a precise, nuanced, and exclusionary definition of the term "canon." Those more versed in the field recognize that no such scholarly consensus obtains with this term.
In fact, even the assertion that the selection of formative scriptures occurred centuries subsequent to their writing obfuscates the factors and realities that need to be considered.
A far better discussion regarding canon for those who consider themselves genuine truth seekers can be found in Michael J. Kruger's, The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate.(2013). Even a cursory reading of the first 75 pages will expose how ill-informed is Dungan's work.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have found this book on the formation of the early church up to Constantine to be extremely interesting and very readable for a lay person. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Chuck Jenkins
Very enlightening. difficult first chapters especially for a lay person, but well worth wading into. This book is a reread.Published 18 months ago by gaye fearing
I am a Christian. I have been all my life. And I still am. I wish every Christian on the face of this earth could read this book.Published on August 17, 2013 by H. L. ARLEDGE
This book contains some valuable information for the christian mind in explaining some questionable things the christian church does. Great book for my library.Published on January 22, 2013 by RT Hines
Over the course of 35 years of teaching a course "The Making of the New Testament" at U. of TN, Dungan has gathered gems from history and from the research of his many students. Read morePublished on September 12, 2012 by Quincy Harris
Constantine's Bible is at the same time a history of the development of scripture and of the canon. Of course, these two histories are normally seen to be identical; in other... Read morePublished on September 17, 2011 by Freeborn John
I've always been interested in these 50 Constantine Bibles; one of the least known and undiscovered relics of the Christian Church. Read morePublished on August 24, 2011 by Z. G Zinzel
Dungan presents a desription of the history of the canon of the New Testament from the perspective of the political process. Read morePublished on October 6, 2009 by J. Matos