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Exploring the Origins of the Bible: Canon Formation in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective (Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology) Paperback – October 1, 2008
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From the Back Cover
For those who want to go deeper in their understanding of the canon of Scripture, leading international scholars provide cutting-edge perspectives on various facets of the biblical writings, how those writings became canonical Scripture, and why canon matters. Craig Evans begins by helping those new to the field understand the different versions of the Hebrew Bible as well as the books of the Apocrypha and the Pseudepigrapha. Later essays also help beginners by explaining "canon" and the development of canons in various Jewish and Christian communities, the much-debated tripartite canon of the Hebrew Scriptures, and questions of authority. But the book also includes insightful explorations and perspectives to challenge more advanced readers, starting with Septuagint and Dead Sea Scrolls expert Emanuel Tov delving into the complexities of biblical writing and moving into a critical investigation of the usefulness of extracanonical Gospels for historical Jesus research and an exploration of the relationship of Paul to the canonization process. The result is a thought-provoking book that concludes with discussion of an issue at the fore today--the theological implications of canon.
James H. Charlesworth
Stephen G. Dempster
Craig A. Evans
Lee Martin McDonald
Stanley E. Porter
Jonathan R. Wilson
R. Glenn Wooden
"The eight essays in this volume form a very worthwhile set of considerations of the emerging canons of the Jewish and Christian Bibles. The complexity of the processes of canonization is refreshingly tackled on the basis of both internal and external evidence. Two essays cover some of the implications of the evidence of the Septuagint, two review especially the internal data of the Old Testament and Paul, two put in their places the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha and the New Testament Apocrypha, and two consider the theological bases of the authority that lies behind the text of Scripture. This two-by-two collection is a veritable ark full of expert analysis to enable any reader to navigate the flood of recent writing on canon. Some studies rescue old theories for a new generation; others provide polychromatic perspectives for a fresh start."--George J. Brooke, University of Manchester
About the Author
Craig A. Evans (PhD, Claremont Graduate University) is Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and is the author of more than thirty books. Emanuel Tov (PhD, Hebrew University) is J. L. Magnes Professor of Bible at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and editor-in-chief of the Dead Sea Scrolls Publication Project. He was awarded the Israel Prize 2009 for his research in the Bible.
Top customer reviews
The first article is by Emanuel Tov, one of the heaviest hitters in Jewish historical scholarship today. In it, he discusses the differences between the LXX and the Masoretic texts. His goal is to determine whether particular problem passages are more accurately preserved in the LXX or the Masoretic tradition by examining how free the LXX translation is, whether there are presence of Hebraisms, or external evidence. He applies this to a number of case studies in the Old Testament, and comes to some interesting results, ultimately arguing that the LXX is just as important to the study of scripture as the Masoretic texts, as they both represent different stages of the tradition. My only criticism is that this is the first article, which seems a little strange because it can be rather complex at times, and yet the traditional reader will have only just experienced Evans' rather basic introduction. For a book that claims to appeal to beginners and scholars alike, this is a bit of an odd choice.
The second article is by the also-renowned J.H. Charlesworth dealing with the formation of the canon. He discusses the origin of the term and how the canonization of the Hebrew Bible came about, suggesting that it was a long and drawn-out process. He touches on a wide variety of topics, including the origin of different canons of various Christian churches, and works that were on the fringe of canon. Given his expertise in that particular field, his insight is appreciated, and he argues for the necessity of the use of apocryphal and Pseudepighraphal works, as they can provide us with a lot of information about trends and concerns in periods not covered by the Bible. On top of that, some are simply excellent literature, Charlesworth argues.
Evans' article is a very typical one for him, as he is doing little more than attacking the views of some scholars that he disagrees with. He claims that the purpose of the article is to assess whether apocryphal gospels are of any use in the study of the historical Jesus. It quickly becomes apparent that he is targeting particular scholars in each of the texts that he examines, but this does not detract from the article at all. On the contrary, it is a very good read and has the sense of being in the battlefield of the particular debate, one that Evans seems to be winning. He dicusses the Gospel of Thomas, the fragment that may be the Gospel of Peter mentioned by Irenaeus (although N.T. Wright disagrees with him on this particular topic, they agree that the text does not tell us anything about the historical Jesus), the Egerton papyrus, and Secret Mark. Each of these discussions is lively and fascinating, and demonstrate why Evans is considered to be on the top of the field.
There are five more articles in this book, and minus one, I learned a lot from all of them and they were all interesting. G. Wooden discusses how the LXX was used in the early church and what affect it had on canon. S. Dempster talks about the tripartite Jewish canon, and how it came to be. S. Porter discusses the effects of Paul's writing on canonization in the early church. All of these articles are well-worth reading, and are geared for a serious audience. If it has a fault, it is that there is no paper on the later canonization of the New Testament and Christian Bible, but given the quality of work contained within, I fully recommend these papers.
Yet, at the same time, it is clear that common to all Jews was a belief that "revelation...from God" (p 92) to Jews was basic and given in both oral and written form. "A number of scholars have studied the global shape of the Hebrew Bible and detected substantial evidence for larger canonical redactions, which join these streams of revelation into one channel--an integrated whole" (p 98).
A great deal has been learned recently, especially after the findings at Qumran. At Qumran, "the Scriptures are referred to...as 'the law and the prophets' denoting the two canonical divisions" (p 106), although other Second Temple Jews refer to other divisions.
One interesting point is how well educated--well, downright saturated--Paul was in the Old Testament. "He cited the Septuagint probably from a combination of memory, some form of crib sheet with important texts written out, and by finding and quoting from locally available scrolls or copies of particular biblical books that belonged to the translation-tradition that we refer to as 'the Septuagint'" (p 132). In almost every other line of his epistles you can find some reference to the Old Testament. (Amazing to think that there are still people trying to argue Paul was influenced by Hellenization).
As far as the New Testament "The Greek collection has determined the canon of the church into the present day in both the Orthodox Church"(p 138) and the Catholic Church. Martin Luther decided to leave out a number of books that had been part of the New Testament for over a thousand years. He reverted back to the canon suggested by Jerome.
Craig Evans, who is always good, has a terrific essay on the "Apocryphal Jesus". He is certainly correct in his criticisms of the "Gospel of Thomas", which, after the in depth critique by Perrin, is clearly shown to be from the late half of the 2nd century. For one thing, Thomas draws from Luke too obviously.
"We need to take a hard look at the Gospel of Thomas, especially as it relates to Syrian tradition", (p 154) is how Evans politely states. After all, "Perrin is not only able to explain the order of the whole of Thomas in reference to catchwords, he is able to show in places the Gospel's acquaintance with the order and arrangement of Tatian's Diatessaron". So much for early strands and the Jesus Seminar.
And as for "Secret Mark" and the Morton Smith hoax, it is a huge piece of mud sticking to the Jesus Seminar forever. That it took in anybody now strikes most scholars as the single most embarrassing moment for biblical studies in the last century. Even worse than Crossan and the "Gospel of Peter".