Biblical Studies Carnival Help

The person who was to do this month’s Biblical Studies Carnival XXIV is unable to do so. Tyler Williams, the carnival coordinator, is taking on the job heroically. Please send him suggestions on posts made during the month of November 2007 on subjects of interest to academic Biblical studies, via the instructions found on the home page of the carnival.

He plans to have the carnival up and available around the middle of next week.

Canon and Catechesis

There are a number of discussions these days about the Biblical canon, about the way it was formed, about the different canons of various communities of faith, and so on. One of the more interesting questions is: What is the function of canon? That is, people wonder what exactly is a list of books supposed to accomplish. The simple answer is that canon is a function of catechesis.

Think about it. When we speak (or spoke, as the case may be) of the canon of great literature in school, the context of such a list of great works of literature was specifically didactic. A true familiarity with the great works of literature was not simply an expected hurdle of the academy, but was actually training in both the recognition and production of good writing, as well as the passing on of a cultural patrimony, the treasures of the past, to a new generation.

The Biblical canons work the same way. Their context lies in maintaining a list of books considered by teaching authorities as canonical, that is, adhering to the Rule of Faith. In the past in both Christian and Jewish communities, during the number of centuries before doctrines and practices were truly settled, the canons within both were also in flux. As the Rule of Faith changed and came to more perfect delineation in each, so also the canons were adjusted to reflect this. This would explain why at one point some books appeared to be Scripture, while later they were classed as apocryphal, or merely good reading if they were lucky.

The above idea is something that I’ll be looking into more deeply, but it came from realizing that a number of those works which list the books of the canon do so in the context of instruction in proper faith (catechesis is the strictest sense), and some explicitly mention that fact, for instance, Athanasius of Alexandria in his famous Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter. Unfortunately, the beginning of that letter is lost, as is the context for various of the lists preserved only by Eusebius in his systematizing survey in the Ecclesiastical History.

Anyhow, more on that some other time, in more detail.

Many-colored Sepulchres

I will cut to the chase: this post is on the engagement of a Christian with what passes for art in contemporary culture.

Much ink has been spilled, or pixels arranged, over the Harry Potter books, to begin with. I admit that I read all of them, and enjoyed them, although progressively less as the series continued to develop. By the end, it was merely a matter of reading to “find out what happens.” Throughout their publication, aside from the general worldwide mania, the scores of translations, the betting on plot developments, the development into motion pictures, and all manner of merchandising, there have been consistent voices among Christians, either praising the books for their Christian subtext, or denouncing them for their superficial secularism and making witchcraft “cool” to kids. Both approaches were quite misguided, I believe.

To begin with the pro-Potter Christian perspective, one can only say that the efforts seemed rather desparate. Though Ms Rowling may be a Christian–quite the progressive one, it seems–her books are certainly not Christian. No one really argues with that. It is in the manner of certain thematic or narrative devices that the pro-Potter Christians center their praise for the books. Yet, I will be blunt. The appropriation of Christian themes of sacrifice and redemption, very, very real things to a Christian, are appropriated by an author as devices to be utilized in a plot narrative in an entirely fictional world. This in itself is a cheapening, a gutter-slumming of the great work of God for the world, which appropriates rather blatantly those themes. Yet there is a greater wretchedness at work in this.

What happens when your children no longer are able to recognize that sacrifice, redemption, and selfless love belong outside the pages of fiction? When they open their Bibles, and read of the work of God throughout the ages in history, real work in the lives of many real people of real nations, will they not be subconsciously reading fiction? “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” It works both ways, you know, that training. If you train up your child to think that redemption is a fictional plot device, well, then, there you go–time to be fitted for a necktie in the pattern “millstone.” In that sense, the anti-Potter side wasn’t attentive enough, as it only decried the superficial inanities, while leaving the misappropriations of salvation history alone.

Now we are confronted with the motion picture serialization of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series of books, a motion picture which appears to be beautifully well-done, with some very well-known actors and fantastic special effects. This is a man who bears a visceral hatred for Christianity, and kills God in the third of his books. Granted, so as to ensure the movie will be viewed by more than Pullman’s fellow-travellers on the militant atheistic road, the name of the big, bad organization is changed from “The Church” to “The Magisterium.” Hollywood, clueless as ever in matters of fact, thought that would make things more palatable to the American public, ignorant (or are they?) of the fact that “magisterium” is the name given to the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. They are completely within their rights to boycott. As would Jews be had they chosen “Rabbinate” or Muslims had they chosen “Ummah.” Of course, Roman Catholics calling for a boycott of the movie have earned the label “nitwits” from Pullman for their efforts. How progressive of him! How concerned for the welfare of the world, roughly 1/3 of which is Christian, and the vast majority of those Roman Catholic!

WIth these books, and this move, the mask is off. Hatred for God, for Christ, for the Christian Way, live with a burning passion in the author’s heart. There is no good that can come from any Christian poisoning their heart and mind with such things. Oh, you may think you’re immune to the dangers, and can discuss the misappropriation of Christian themes with the kids after they’ve seen the flying witches and the talking bears. But you fail in your Christian responsibility as a citizen of the Kingdom of God by allowing yourself and your children to partake of the ideas of and simultaneously enrich and encourage an antichrist, which this Pullman creature self-admittedly is.

Yes, yes, many will say, “Well, that’s a bit over the top. It’s just a book, just a movie.” No. It’s a symptom. It’s a symptom of a culture’s abandonment of its Christian roots, bit by bit, piece by piece, book by book, movie by movie, “art”work by “art”work. It is apostasy by half-turns and half-steps, a shy shuffle off the narrow and difficult Way onto the wide and well-paved road leading not to the Kingdom of God, but…elsewhere. “It’s easier walking, you know, and look how beautiful it is. Really well done. Everyone’s doing it…walking on this road…reading this book…seeing this movie.”

These things are not just whited sepulchres filled with putrefaction, but beatifully painted many-colored sepulchres, using the highest quality artistic talent the world has ever seen, and filled not just with putrefaction, but annihilation. And so the world slips inch by inch into an ever more chic darkness, with the cold and clear hatred and satisfaction of the prince thereof as its only company.

Κυριε ελεησον

Come, our Lord, come!

SBL Notes, part three

This post covers the afternoon session of the Function of Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal Writings in Early Judaism and Early Christianity Consultation, held 4:00-6:30 pm on Monday 19 November 2006.

Amy-Jill Levine presided at this one, and kept everyone right on time with her sharp charm, and the threat of her sharper stilletto heels! I kid you not.

Casey Elledge was the first presenter, with “Rewriting the Sacred: Some Problems of Textual Authority in the Light of the ‘Rewritten Scriptures’ from Qumran.” His seven page handout covers an outline of his talk, a very interesting table of “Texts Exhibiting ‘Scriptural Rewriting’ in the Qumran Library”, and a very helpful bibliography, as this is not an area that I’ve found particularly welcoming: daunting is rather the word, I think. This talk was a great introduction for concepts that make “Rewritten Scriptures” more approachable, I found. The following is based on his detailed outline, with a few of my own notes thrown in. The first part of the talk focused on recent scholarly investigation, covering instances of scriptural rewriting in canonical books, scriptural versions, pseudepigrapha, and Qumran, with a special focus on the latter. Elledge then proceeded into the stick issue of definitions, preferring this definition from George Brooke, that a “rewritten scripture” is “…any representation of an authoritative scriptural text that implicitly incorporates interpretive elements, large or small, in the retelling itself…. [The Scriptural source] acts as the primary control on what is re-presented” (from “Rewritten Bible” pp 2.777-781 in Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Oxford, 2000). Alongside this he lists also the sources for further definitions: by Phillip Alexander (“Retelling the Old Testament” pp 99-121 in It Is Written: Scripture Citing Scripture: Essays in Honour of Barnabas Lindars. Cambridge, 1988), by Geza Vermes (somewhere in Emil Schürer’s The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ. T&T Clark, 1986), by George Nickelsburg (“The Bible Rewritten and Expanded,” pp 89-156 in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period. Fortress Press, 1984), by Joseph Fitzmyer (in The Genesis Apocryphon of Qumran Cave 1 (1Q20): A Commentary. Editrice Pontificio Instituto Biblico, 2004), by Craig Evans (“Genesis Apocrypon and the Rewritten Bible.” Revue de Qumran 13 [1988]: 153-165), by Emanuel Tov (“Rewritten Bible Compositions and Biblical Manuscripts, with Special Attention to the Samaritan Pentateuch.” Dead Sea Discoveries 5.3 [1998]: 334-354), and by Sidnie White Crawford (“The Rewritten Bible at Qumran,” pp 131-148 in The Bible and the Dead Sea Scrolls, Volume One: Scripture and the Scrolls. Baylor University Press, 2006). The second part of the talk was on “The Varied Sources of Rewritten Scriptural Compositions,” focusing on the relationship between the Genesis Apocryphon, 1 Enoch 106, and Genesis. The handout includes a chart showing more parallels between the Genesis Apocryphon and 1 Enoch than Genesis. A second chart shows parallels between Genesis Apocryphon, Jubilees, and Genesis, with, again, the unmistakable conclusion that Jubilees has been followed more closely than Genesis itself. He moved on to the Temple Scroll, perhaps the most complicated of these “Rewritten Scriptures” from Qumran in its combining, rewriting and expansion of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Kings/Chronicles, Ezra/Nehemiah, Ezekiel and other sources, which Elledge characterizes as “An Expanded Arsenal of Authoritative Sources.” I’ll say! The third part of his talk covered “The Status of Rewritings at Qumran.” FIrst he touched on the criteria for evaluating authority, which he characterizes as: 1. Quotation, 2. Copies, 3. Revelation, 4. Completeness, and 5. Compatibility. Related to “copies” was a point Elledge made that not only the number of copies is important, but the duration of copying. That is, while, for instance, there are numerous copies of 1 Enoch at Qumran, all of them date to the Hasmonean period, indicating that 1 Enoch had lost some of its caché by the Herodian period. Writings that otherwise rate strongly on all counts are Jubilees and Psalms of Joshua.

Brent Strawn was Elledge’s respondent. He made the point that many of these (re)writings’ sources could conceivably be traditions rather than actually written. The typical form for their expression was simply scripture-like. Strawn mentions that Kugel disagrees, rather instead seeing such rewritings as the standard format for interpretation at the time. I would lean toward the former myself. Are we, if following Kugel, to understand the authors as completely without tradition, creating all these things ex nihilo? We know this is not the case with those traditional elements which are otherwise recorded in other writings. Nor should we consider these authors to be simply innovators in working with such traditional materials, even if they are commentators.

David deSilva next presented “‘An Example of How to Die Nobly for Religion’: The Influence of 4 Maccabees on Origen’s Exhortatio ad Martyrium. For those unfamiliar with Origen’s Exhortatio, it was written to encourage two imprisoned Christians during the persecutions of Maximin, arguing against accommodation. In this paper, deSilva presents parallels between 4 Maccabees and Exhortatio that cannot be either attributed to either 2 Maccabees (which is extensively quoted in 4 Maccabees) or to general cultural or Christian themes. Although these don’t include any explicit citations, there are numerous phrases in parallel and several themes, all of which are used authoritatively, if not explicitly as scripture. One example is in Exhortatio 1 (from deSilva’s handout):

The martyr contends “as a noble athlete” ως γενναιος αθλητης. This is a title also applied to the Maccabean martyrs throughout 4 Maccabees (6:10; 17:15, 16); see especially 4 Macc 6:10: καθαπερ γενναιος αθλητης.

It’s pretty obvious that there’s a connection between the two. Relatedly, deSilva is the author of 4 Maccabees: Introduction and Commentary on the Greek Text in Codex Sinaiticus, part of the Brill Septuagint Commentary Series.

Sigrid Peterson was deSilva’s respondent. She’s been working on the book of 6 Maccabees for the More Old Testament Pseudepigrapha project headed by Richard Bauckham and James Davila at St Andrews University, Scotland. Her two handouts consisted of a half-page with a short comparison chart of some parallels between 2 Maccabees, 6 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees, which are suggestive of 6 Maccabees being intermediate to the two, and thus one of 4 Maccabees’ sources. The second handout is a full sheet showing parallels between 6 Maccabees and 4 Maccabees in great detail. It’ll certainly be interesting to finally be able to read 6 Maccabees, and everything in the MOTP, for that matter.

Jeremy Hultin was next, presenting “Jude and 1 Enoch.” There was unfortunately no handout with a convenient list of the citations he covered, so some of my guesses below may be incorrect. Hultin cited patristic opinions on 1 Enoch primarily and Jude secondarily. There was a spectrum of attitudes regarding 1 Enoch, ranging from “Scripture” with Tertullian and apparently Origen, through to so bad that Jude is questionable for quoting it, a view of other mentioned by Jerome. Tertullian defends 1 Enoch in several ways (On the Apparel of Women 1.3):
1.) Although the Jews don’t consider it Scripture, why follow them?
2.) Objections that it must’ve perished in the Flood [there were giggles here] don’t take into account that Noah will have known him and will have remembered/memorized the writings.
3.) Even if they were lost, they could’ve been recovered through inspiration as in the case with Ezra and the Scriptures after the Exile.
4.) Jude uses it.
Cyprian also refers to the story of the fallen angels in On the Dress of Virgins, 14, and this is clearly a reference to the story as depicted in 1 Enoch. Origen refers to 1 Enoch in the context of Scripture (De Principiis 1.3.3) and even quotes from it twice (4.4.8, quoting 1En 21.1 and 19.3). He defends it against Celsus’ misreading (Contra Celsum 5.52-55), while also mentioning that “In the churches the books that bear the name of Enoch do not at all circulate as divine,” showing that his preference for the book of 1 Enoch may’ve been idiosyncratic at the time. Athanasius would have implicitly included 1 Enoch amond the writings of the heretics mentioned in his Thirty-Ninth Festal Letter. Likewise, a quotation of Athanasius regarding 1 Enoch is preserved in the Pachomian Lives: “Who has made the simple folk believe that these books belong to Enoch even though no scriptures (or writings) existed before Moses?” Augustine has a mixed opinion of 1 Enoch (City of God 15.23; 18.38), noting that one cannot deny that Enoch “left some divine writings” on the evidence of Jude, but these are not canonical because they lack attestation throughout the ancient Scriptures among the Hebrews. Likewise, the simple matter of suspicion of their claimed antiquity is brought up. Jerome, in De viris illustribus 4, says the following: “Jude, the brother of James, left a short epistle which is reckoned among the seven catholic epistles, and because in it he quotes from the apocryphal book of Enoch it is rejected by many. Nevertheless by age and use it has gained authority and is reckoned among the Holy Scriptures.” In other places (Comm. in Ep. ad Tit. 1.2 [PL 26.573D] and Homily 45) he likewise refers to Enoch explicitly as apocryphal. Priscillian, in his Liber de Fide et de Apocryphis (tractate 3), 56-57, asks, “Who is this Enoch to whom the Apostle Jude refers as a witness of prophecy?” at the beginning of a long passage defending Enoch as prophetic even if not canonical.

Les Walck was Hultin’s respondent, and mentioned an (upcoming?) article by Hultin on the reception of Enoch, which I’ve been unable to track down. I’m sure it’ll be fascinating, judging by the variety of perspectives presented in the few patristic citations noted in his talk.

Simon Lee next presented “The Transfiguration remembered, reinterpreted and reenacted! — An examination of the dynamic relationship between the scriptures and their interpretive traditions and interpreting community in Acts of Peter 20-21.” [Whew.] He provided a single page handout, comprising an outline and several illustrative quotations. Lee argues that the Acts of Peter defends the canonical Gospels, though using “rewriting” to do so. In Peters’ recalling of the Transfiguration in the first half of Acts of Peter 20, the Incarnation is also implied. In the second half of the chapter, the Transfiguration is then reinterpreted, with a number of descriptions of Jesus (polyonomy) leading to a number of different appearances of Jesus (polymorphy) in chapter 21. I found this quote especially striking: “This God [Jesus} who is both great and little, beautiful and ugly, young and old, appearing in time and yet in eternity wholly invisible, whom no human hand has grasped, yet is held by his servants; whom no flesh has seen, yet now he is seen; whom no hearing has found, yet now he is known as the word that is heard….” This brought to my mind the possibility that this is on the road to apophaticism, for when one is said to be so many things, is one really said to be anything at all? Apophaticism is often described as a way of negative theology, of describing what God isn’t, but this is far too simplistic, a reduction of its richness. At core, apophaticism is about non-specific theological language, and maintains a variety of references (as above) or descriptions, particularly in the usage of opposites (again, as above) in order to maintain the transcendence of God. Fascinating stuff.

Henry Rietz was Less’ respondent, beginning with “I’m no Peter, but Simon’s no magician!” He made the point, echoing some of what Elledge touched on earlier, that memory of the past is always being made present and effective, as here. A story of a story is reenacted in the community, and is then not just past, but present. In that sense, “rewriting” simply adjusts traditional materials for a new audience so that it is more alive to them, while the older versions still retain their value as well. Rietz also perceptively noted that the “touching” in the Acts of Peter 20 Transfiguration account is language peculiar to the Gospel of Matthew. Good catch!

Stephen Shoemaker was next, presenting “Between Scripture and Tradition: The Marian Apocrypha of Early Christianity.” Wihelm Schneemelcher and others with him are responsible for establishing the view of apocrypha as “failed scriptures.” With knowledge of the reception of many of these texts precisely as scriptures, however, in addition to a better understanding of the canonization process, wuch a perspective need to be rejected. Here is Schneemelcher’s definition of “New Testament Apocrypha”:

The New Testament Apocrypha are writings which have not been received into the canon, but which by title and other statements lay claim to be in the same class with the writings of the canon, and which from the point of view of Form Criticism further develop and mould the kinds of style created and received in the NT, whilst foreign elements certainly intrude…. When we speak of ‘Apocrypha of the NT’, we mean by that Gospels which are distinguished by the fact not merely that they were intended to take the place of the four Gospels of the canon (this holds good for the older texts) or to stand as enlargement of them side by side with them…. It is further a matter of particular pseudepigraphical Epistles and of elaborately fabricated Acts of Apostles, the writers of which have worked up in novelistic fashion the stories and legends about the apostles and so aimed at supplementing the deficient information which the NT communicates about the destinies of these men. Finally, there also belong here the Apocalypses in so far as they have further evolved the ‘revelation’ form taken over from Judaism (Schneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha 1.58-59).

There are several problems with this somewhat diffuse definition, most particularly the suggestion that some of these works were intended to replace works that are now canonical–there is no evidence for this, only assumption. Shoemaker much prefers the definition offered by Eric Junod for the wider category of Christian Apocrypha:

anonymous or pseudepigraphical texts of Christian origin, which stand in some relation to the books of the NT or the OT, because they are devoted to events which are narrated or mentioned in these books, or because they are devoted to events which can be understood as a continuation of events presented or mentioned in these books, because they concentrate upon persons who appear in these books, or because their literary Gattung is related to those of the biblical writings (Schneemelcher NTA 1.60).

Indeed, this is a fine definition of apocrypha and pseudepigrapha in general after simply the removal of the phrase “of Christian origin.” In any case, a new collection of Christian Apocrypha is in preparation utilizing Junod’s definition, and is intended to replace Schneemelcher’s collection. Schneemelcher had a decidedly low opinion of Marian apocrypha, even though some of it is very early and very popular (e.g., Protevangelium Jacobi). One in particular which he completely excluded is the Six Books Apocryphon, detailing the legends surrounding the Dormition of Mary, and describing Apostolic instructions for three Marian feasts, given after they had miraculously accompanied the Virgin to Paradise. The work dates to the fourth century and is related to some degree to the Kollyridians described by Epiphanius. One thing included in the six books, which Epiphanius mentions was a Kollyridian practice, was the morning preparation of bread for the Virgin, accompanied by various prayers and hymns. This is somewhat reminiscent of the modern Greek Orthodox artoklasia, which is made fresh in the morning, brought to church, and after the liturgy is censed while the priest circles it chanting the “Hail Virgin” (the Eastern equivalent to the Hail Mary), even though the five loaves are intended to reflect the multiplication of the five loaves by Jesus. Perhaps even closer is the production of the prosphora, the loaves used for communion, which require various prayers to be said during the process of their making in the morning before the liturgy. There are 6th century Syriac manuscripts of the Six Books Apocryphon, along with the Protevangelium Jacobi, and even some 5th century palimpsests of the Protevangelium. The antiquity and influence of these two books in particular should ensure their inclusion in any future collections of Christian Apocrypha.

George Zervos was Shoemaker’s respondent. He made the point that with earlier Christian Apocrypha it’s easy to show independence of the canonical Gospels, but difficult to demonstrate liturgical usage. With later apocrypha, that is reversed: it’s more difficult to show independence from the canonical Gospels, but easier to demonstrate liturgical usage. He also noted that Junod’s definition was acceptable to a point. And then we ran out of time!

At that point I said goodbye to several people, unfortunately missing to say hello to Sigrid Peterson, interaction with whom I’ve appreciated for a long time on a Septuagint mailing list. I headed out of the hotel, shared a cab back to the airport, and flew back to San Francisco, thence home by van to Berkeley. I wasn’t even twelve hours in San Diego that day. And I will NEVER do that again, flying in and out the same day. Ugh.

I hope you readers find these notes useful. They were for my own benefit as well. The papers of these sessions should eventually be published in a volume by T&T Clark, I heard.

SBL Notes, part two

Continuing with my expanded notes from my time at SBL this year, I cover the rest of the morning session of the Function of Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal Writings in Early Judaism and Early Christianity Consultation, held 9:00-11:30 am on Monday 19 November 2006, and also the lunch of the steering committee to this consultation, to which I was invited.

Lee Martin McDonald presented “What Do We Mean by ‘Canon’? An Ancient and Modern Question.” Here is the abstract for this paper, by co-chair of this consultation (Charlesworth being the other chair), and presider over the morning session:

The terms “canonical,” “non-canonical,” “apocryphal,” and “pseudepigraphal,” are often confusing when cited in contemporary investigations of ancient Jewish and Christian literature. They are all anachronistic terms that later Christian communities used to describe literature that did or did not eventually find acceptance in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles. Initially most of those writings, if not all of them, functioned as sacred literature in one or more Jewish or Christian religious communities. This paper will focus on the meaning and validity of such distinctions for investigative research of ancient religious literature and will include examples of writings that functioned authoritatively in early Judaism and/or early Christianity, but were not eventually included in the biblical canons of either religious community. This paper is foundational to the proposed consultation on the function of apocryphal and pseudepigraphal literature in early Judaism and early Christianity.

McDonald’s handout consists of a four page outline of this thirty-six page foundational paper. McDonald spoke more or less extemporaneously, not hewing precisely to the full text of the paper, obviously, due to time restraints. He began by discussing the variety of canons in existence now and in the past, and the variety of organizing those canons, noting in particular that the tripartite organization and order of books in the Hebrew Bible was never used by Christians, for which he cited an interesting article by James Sanders, “‘Spinning’ the Bible: How Judaism and Christianity Shape the Canon Differently” (Bible Review 14.3 [June 1998]: 23-29, 44-45). Likewise dealing with the variety of canons in the past, but with a particular focus on the Jewish canon, was an article he cited, quite compelling in its argument, that Jewish communities in the western Diaspora (i.e., west of Judea) were generally non-conversant with Hebrew and Aramaic and thus maintained and attachment to the Septuagint/Old Greek texts and its extra writings over the Masoretic canon for several centuries into the Rabbinic period: Arye Edrei and Doron Mendels, “A Split Jewish Diaspora: Its Dramatic Consequences,” Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha 16.2 {january 2007]: 91-137. [This article called to mind the chapter in McDonald’s and Sanders’ The Canon Debate by Jack Lightstone, “The Rabbis’ Bible: The Canon of the Hebrew Bible and the Early Rabbinic Guild,” pp 163-184, in which Lightstone reasonably posits the existence of various later Christian regional canons to have originated with divergent canons among the various earlier pre-Rabbinic Jewish communities and the divergent canons of books that they held. The two articles are perfectly complementary.] From the variety of canons and their organization, McDonald moved into the lack of evidence for discussion of a canonizing process among Church writings. In the New Testament itself, the only usage of “canon” (κανονος) itself involves reference to the scope of Paul’s ministry (see 2Cor 10.13,15,16) and to the rule of faith (Gal 6.16). These references show the lack of connotation to “canon” of an exclusive set of books. Indeed, says McDonald, the original canon or measure of the Church was Jesus Christ. The Gospels were so immediately popular and accepted so widely as authoritative precisely because they reflected that original canon, Jesus Christ, in His words. [At this I would like to emphasize something I’ve posted on before, “Canon(s) or Canonical?,” regarding the preference for looking at books as canonical rather than as a canon–McDonald making precisely that point here with me. Books were recognized as canonical insofar as they adhered to or reflected the Canon of Faith. They were not initially considered a new rule in and of themselves, i.e., a canon. This is a crucial distinction.] McDonald continues that Irenaeus memorably commented on the, by then apparently longstanding, recognition of the four Gospels being the only Gospels (indeed, actually that they rather comprise a four-fold single and only Gospel; Ireneaus Adv. Haer. 3.11.8), but focuses on the rule/canon of faith, the regula fidei, as the result of the apostolic tradition (see esp. Adv. Haer. 1.10.1-3). So, seeing that even the word “canon” was used differently, McDonald shows that we also need to recognized that all our language relating to this subject is anachronistic: Bible, canon, canonical, non-canonical, apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, etc, all of it. These modern categories, traditional in scholarly circles, are now recognized not to map well to the processes and works under discussion. An important article on the subject related to these terminological problems is Bob Kraft’s Presidential Address to the SBL, delivered 18 November 2006 at the last annual meeting in Washington DC: “Para-mania: Beside, Before and Beyond Bible Studies” JBL 126.1 (Spring 2007): 5-27, particularly section I: The Tyranny of Canonical Assumptions: The Parascriptural Worlds (pp 10-18). McDonald proceeded to lay out briefly several past consensus positions on the formation of the canon, and as briefly described problems with them, including even the understanding of “canon” as a lit of books to which nothing may be added or taken away. There are numerous books that “fell out” of different canons, e.g., The Shepherd of Hermas and Epistle of Barnabas, both of which are found in Codex Sinaiticus. Should this be categorized as “decanonization”? McDonald says:

“Canon” continues to be a useful though confusing term, but if used for a complete and fixed collection of scriptures, then it is technically and chronologically inappropriate for any writings before the fourth century when the greater church defined the parameters of its sacred literature (“What Do We Mean…” p. 23).

He also notes that often too much is drawn from the citations of various books in patristic sources [see below on Ken Penner’s talk] as though every quote would indicate another book to the author’s canon. A related problem is seeing such a personal canon of a writer as anything more than that. Such should not be imposed on the wider church of the time.

In the end, whatever the precise process, it appears largely to find its completion in the fourth century, when precise lists of books to be considered canonical appear. [I would also add that a Biblical canon is then physically possible to be represented with the the technological innovation of the great codex, which could fit a large number of books in its pages.] The process of how these lists were concluded remains inferential.

What I have taken away from McDonald’s paper (and various of his other works) is the very clear impression that studies of the canonizing process have come to the point of the rejection of old canards, and have commenced asking the important questions of methodology, terminology, and epistemology related to this subject. It’s an exciting time for canon studies obviously.

Loren Johns was McDonald’s respondent. An issue that McDonald brought up in the paper but that I don’t recall hearing in the reading regarded governmental influence on the churches toward the formation of the canon, an influence that McDonald rejects. Johns thinks this avenue could stand some more attention. Johns didn’t have a chance to elaborate as there was so little time. I think his idea was that the government of Constantine’s time (and later) was concerned with peace and unity among the Christian factions and might have suggested a single set of books in order to attempt to accomplish that unity. I actually would think this is not the case, as the problem wasn’t that, say, Arius and Athanasius were reading different books, but that they were reading the same books differently. That is, each had his own particular exegetical stance based each in his own regula fidei. That the government-sponsored Council of Nicea was charged with producing a creed, a concise summary of the Rule of Faith that would be universally adhered to, rather than a particular list of books, shows that at this period the Rule of Faith was of primary importance. Books would be read according to this Rule, or recognized as reflecting that Rule, the inheritance from the Apostles themselves (with Irenaeus, et al.). Johns also noted the serious need, agreeing with McDonald, for new terminology for books like The Shepherd of Hermas. I would prefer “historically canonical” myself, but that’s still problematic, as it doesn’t transparently reflect the temporary status that it held as canonical. Perhaps something like “Erstwhile Canonical Books” would cover it, but that’s somewhat odd. I’m sure we’ll hear more on this subject soon enough.

Ken Penner was next with “Citation Formulae as Indices to Canonicity in Early Jewish and Early Christian Literature.” His four page handout consists of notes on the kinds of quotation formulae used in various corpora, and a chart of samples for each: “TNK”/”Old Testament,” “Deuterocanonicals”/”Apocrypha,” “Dead Sea Scrolls” (including CD), Philo, Josephus, “Mishnah,” “Pseudepigrapha,” “New Testament” and “Early Church Fathers.” His conclusion from the handout describes the talk perfectly (emphasis his):

The original qustion, and that of the title of this presentation, was how the formulae can indicate the “canonicity” of a quoted text. The evidence of these nine corpora is sufficient to approach an answer, namely that the formulae used to introduce the quoted text, phrases such as “it is written,” “as a prophet says,” “the scripture says” are in fact useful for indicating the divine origin or scriptural status of writings quoted by early Christian and Jewish authors. In contrast, the quotations from Epimenides in Titus, Aratus in Acts, and Plato and Homer in Philo and Justin Martyr are introduced with formulae that dissociate their origin from the Judeo-Christian God, usually by simply mentioning the human author. This difference in the usage of citation formulae constitutes evidence that they did consider some writings at least divine or scriptural and others not.

It seems then that the citation formulae for Yashar and the books of the wars of the Lord cannot distinguish them from other scriptures; the citation formula places Jubiless in the same category of other scriptures at Qumran, as does the formula used for Enoch among the other inspired writings known to Jude. Eldad and Modat was not distinguished by the Shepherd of Hermas from other recorded prophecies of the Hebrews. The presence of such typical formulae used for scripture may safely be taken to imply the special divine origin of the work being quoted. The patterns of usage of citation formulae indicate they belong in a distinct category that may be called either divine or scriptural.

Whether this category could or should be called canonical is a question I will leave for my respondent to address. But if by canon we mean a list of books to which none can be added, the citation formulae cannot indicate the canonicity of a quoted work. On the other hand if by canon we mean a special class of divinely authoritative writings, then yes, the citation formulae can function well as indices to canonicity in Early Jewish and Early Christian literature.

It’s this last paragraph that comes closest to explicating what I found most valuable in Penner’s discussion. Too often studies of citations miss the forest for the trees, so to speak. That is, studies of citations are usually focused only on the citation formulae themselves, while neglecting the larger context and the rhetorical/narratival point of using the citation. Indeed, the work in which the citation is made as a whole can be argued to be a kind of rhetorical entity in itself, an ordered presentation of an argument with an intended point, toward which those citations contribute. That’s always bothered me about citation studies in the past: too much micro, not enough macro. Penner breaks free of that, which is refreshing.

Despite Penner’s reference to his respondent, program changes left him without one. But he did have an interesting question/response from Bob Kraft during the question period. Kraft noted the importance of physicality in discussing canon, particularly in the context here of someone quoting a number of various writings. Kraft said he wished he’d brought along a hatbox (a larger one of which is roughly equivalent to the size and shape of ancient “book buckets” for scrolls) to show how little of any such canon a person was likely to be able to travel with. The storage for all the scrolls of the OT alone would be the size of an armoire or a very large chest, certainly furniture sized and non-portable. Most people outside of the very rich wouldn’t own very many scrolls at all, and would likely have relied on scrolls of excerpts, each of which was perhaps not well or quite properly labelled. He also noted that references like “Law and Prophets” aren’t transparent at all, as the constituent members of each aren’t enumerated. It’s a very important point, and one that deserves repetition. I was first made aware of the need for caution in assumptions of this kind in connection with Luke 24.44 (“…in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms…”) in Andrew Steinmann’s short but helpful book The Oracles of God: The Old Testament Canon (Concordia Publishing House, 1999), particularly in his cautioning against seeing “the psalms” in Lk 24.44 as a label for anything other than a group of psalms, and certainly not as a kind of pars pro toto label for all the books now in the Ktuvim of the Hebrew Bible. As Kraft stated, the principle applies more widely, and such labels as “law” and “prophets” cannot be assumed to include any particular list at all when that list is not explicitly given.

Susan Schwartz was next with “Pseudepigrapha among the Pagans? : Exploring the Boundaries of Audience.” There was no handout, unfortunately, though one would’ve been particularly helpful. Essentially, Schwartz would like to have us recognize things like certain of the Greek Magical Papyri, apotropaic amulets and such items which bear Biblical names within their texts among the pseudepigrapha. Moses, Jesus, Solomon, and various angels and other Biblical characters all appear in various such contexts, as in PGM 4.3007, where we find mentioned both the “Seal of Solomon” and “Jesus, God of the Hebrews.” The point is then made by Schwartz that “perceived efficacy” rather than affiliation is what led to the use of these various Biblical names in such different contexts that their original Judeo-Christian ones. There is a certain amount of overlap in these magical texts and some of the pseudepigrapha, most notably in one of my favorites among the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Testament of Solomon, where Solomon has demons working on the construction of the temple in Jerusalem through his superior magical wisdom. Such similarities show that the inclusion of some of these magical texts among the pseudepigrapha would not be so far-fetched.

Jonathan Soyars responded to Schwartz with complete agreement, wanting only to re-emphasize that “pagan” doesn’t necessarily eqate to “polytheist.” In describing the “God-fearers”, people who were attracted strongly to the synagogue but not so as to be circucised and convert fully, as an example of this, Soyars shows the variation of beliefs, including proper Judaic monotheism, among these “pagans.” This is another case where I think an appropriate terminology is lacking. Pagan, polytheist, Greek, Gentile–all in various contexts are used to refer to non-Jews/non-Christians, though the latter two eventually loose that connotation, particularly as more Greek Gentile Christians came onto the scene.

The Steering Committe Lunch
The morning session was held in a fairly large meeting room (probably with the capacity for seating about 300, though it was only perhaps 1/3 full) in the positively beautiful Manchester Grand Hyatt hotel. The hotel’s lobby, restaurants, and bars were all quite splendidly furnished. Prior to the conference, Lee McDonald and James Charlesworth had invited me to join them at their steering committee lunch, which was held immediately after the morining meeting at the delightful Buster’s Beach House, in the Seaport Village right west of the Grand Hyatt, on the marina. The meal was Macadamia nut crusted chicken with ginger soy glaze and Hawaiian chutney, served with garlic mashed potatoes, steamed fresh vegetables, and fried battered onion strings. At the lunch were Lee McDonald, Bill Hupper, Ken Penner, Fr Veselin Miha, Andrei Orlov, Henry Rietz, Jonathan Soyars, James Charlesworth, myself, Loren Johns, David de Silva, George Zervos, Burke Gertstenschlager, and Craig Evans. A couple of other people were apparently invited but unable to join us, including Amy-Jill Levine. The food was good, the conversation better. My greeting from Charlesworth (we’ve done quite a bit of email correspondence) was “I’m so glad you’re here” with each word punctuated by a a punch to my right arm–a prefect greeting to put me at ease, actually, although I then wondered if one of my San Diego SBL souvenirs minght not turn out to be a healthy bruise. He also made a joke about pirates infiltrating the steering committee–I generally wear a bandana on my shaved head and have a small gold earring in each ear, which do lend quite a pirate-like appearance to yours truly. I should put up a picture here sometime. Anyhow, the food began arriving promptly. After a prayer by Lee McDonald (who also used to be Craig Evans’ youth pastor–now there’s a long friendship for you!), each of us introduced ourselves. Most of these folks didn’t need introductions, but then there were the rest of us, of course. I introduced myself with a short precis of my current work, training and interests, ending with, “I’m just a guy who reads alot.” Charlesworth prompted me to tell them what I’m working on, which is also the reason for our correspondence–a full index and concordance to his OTP volumes which he’ll see is published (with the both of us as co-authors), and which they all thought was a great idea. Lee McDonald was also very kind in noting how helpful I’d been in sending him a list of corrections for his book, The Biblical Canon. Since it was an actual meeting of the steering committee, there was no chit-chat at first. I didn’t take notes during lunch, of course, so I only recall a few items out of what was discussed. One topic was on potentially rearranging the sessions so that they alternate speaker and respondents, with questions in a half-hour lump at the end. Another topic was the possibility of devoting an entire session to the Protevangelium of James, one of the NT Apocrypha, which George Zervos has worked on for two decades. After the business was over and general topics were being bandied about, I asked if anyone had any ideas how to track down detailed manuscript information for manuscripts containing pseudepigrapha, since in many cases they are not alone in those manuscripts, and that physical context could be very telling. George Zervos recommended to me a particular bibliography/catalogue of manuscript catalogues, which will be a very useful starting place. I should mention that not only are all these people sharp as tacks, they’re personable and pleasant, too. That’s be a great environment to be in every day, of course, but no one has that. These SBL conventions are almost like religious pilgrimages–people are energized by the opportunity to interface in large groups with similar interests, away from the bureaucratic tedia waiting back in the desk’s inbox at the office. After lunch was over, people went there separate ways until next year’s lunch or the consultation’s afternoon session for some of us who were planning to attend. I walked down along the marina with George Zervos for a bit until he doubled back to head to some session. I finally found a quite monumental (and exhausting, as I was still suffering from a cold) staircase leading up to the Convention Center, but to a floor that was creepily quite empty. So, after wandering a bit in this positively enormous building (it must be 1/2 mile long, if not longer), and wondering why all the various sessions weren’t being held in the convention center itself (I suspect the hotels required meeting space rental in exchange for the offering of reduced rates), I got in a rather long line for an iced coffee. After the coffee, I wandered into the book fair. I finally met James Spinti in person at the Eisenbraun’s booth, where we chatted for a bit. Then I went over to the Oxford University Press booth, where I got Albert Pietersma and Ben Wright to autograph my copy of NETS, A New Translation of the Septuagint, just like some silly, sycophantic schoolgirl. Well, not just like. Then I wandered on over to spot out the meeting space for the 4:00 pm session of the Function of Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal Writings in Early Judaism and Early Christianity Consultation over at the Marriott. It was in a place called the Chicago Room which seemed as distant from the lobby as its namesake. I toyed with the idea of going down to the pool for a fruity drink and a comfy spot in the shade to read some, but thought I might just fall asleep at that point. So I instead found a farly uncomfortable chair at a little table with someone else’s bag of finished take-out Chinese food sitting on it. Knowing that the garbage would be something of a deterrent to table-mates, I happily settled in and got more reading done in the midst of glad-handing, noisy, occasionally slightly tipsy AAR and SBL folks than I normally get done anywhere outside of home back in Berkeley. Fortunately only one person recognized what I was reading (NETS) and asked how was it–something I hadn’t experienced since the last Harry Potter book. Eventually, my intersessional break was over, and it was time to head to the afternoon session.

I will continue with the afternoon session in the next installment.

McDonald’s The Biblical Canon: update

Good news! Lee Martin McDonald has received word that his latest book, The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority (Hendrickson, 2007), is going to be issued in a corrected reprinting in January or February 2008. Hopefully they’ll recall and destroy all the old copies! We’ve discussed the problems with the current printing of this book here, here, and here before. I’ve posted a small selection of quotes that I thought were particularly striking here.

So, if any readers were waiting to buy a copy, it will only be a couple of months more to wait. So that’s good news!

More on Loose Canons

Going back and reading my Loose Canons post, I see that it was somewhat prophetic, in the sense that several of the points that I discussed in the first part of the post were covered precisely during the discussions and papers I experienced in San Diego. That fortunately means that some very talented people are working on exactly the same issues that I described as needing attention, for which we can all be grateful. More on that in upcoming posts of my SBL notes.

I want to discuss further some issues with the second part of my Loose Canons post, which described a tripartite organization for a synchronic and diachronic Christian Biblical canon. I don’t think I sufficiently described some of my points very well, and want to ealaborate on them here.

Firstly, I’d like to suggest some alternate terminology for the three canons. For one thing, I think it’s actually better in more technical labels to move away from the word “canon” itself. As “canon” has come to bear a connotation of exclusivity for the list of books contained within it, in such a context as this tripartite scheme of mine which is inclusive at core, there is some cognitive dissonance involved in using this label. So, though My Canon, Our Canon, and Their Canon are fine labels colloquially, other labels would need to be used for more accurate, technical descriptions of these groupings.

Particularly tricky is the first category, of My Canon. With it I betray a great sympathy for community over individuality, in that what I intend by this category is that of one’s Christian community. This institutional component could also be missed in a reading of the label My Canon which is other than its intended reading, for instance, were someone to understand the label as an individual’s personal or heart canon of particular books which are especially dear (on which, see below). However, this is a label which describes a received canon for that individual. In that sense, a more technical label for this level of canonicity would be Canonically Received Books, or perhaps a Received Canon. At this level, the primary level of a reader’s interaction with this literature, the standard usage of “canon” is certainly appropriate, as it is an exclusive list of materials authorized by one’s Christian tradition. Thus Received Canon connotes the authority of that transmission of a tradition of canonicity with this particular set of books to the user. It is likely a set of books that the user will find still to be of more value than those appearing in other categories.

The second level, that which encompasses those books which are currently held canonical in other orthodox Christian traditions other than one’s own, Our Canon, could be labeled Contemporarily Canonical Books. The connotation of “comtemporarily” involves something going on at the same time, while separate from the primary point of view. In this sense, it’s appropriate for this usage, in that it is both limited to the contemporary age and usage, but external to the tradition described in the primary level above, the Received Canon.

The third level, that of Their Canon, would obviously bear the label Historically Canonical Books. This level comprises, of course, only those books which survive of those works which were considered canonical in the past by orthodox Christians. This is a perfect label for those works like The Shepherd of Hermas, which were once quite obviously judged canonical in various places at various times, whether through theoretical means (lists and quotations) or practical means (inclusion in Bibles) and yet are no longer considered canonical in any living tradition. Attached secondarily to this list could be a list of those of the works which were considered canonical historically which are entirely lost and known only by title, or which have only survived in fragments, like Eldad and Modad.

To these three levels I would like to add the potential for a fourth, touched on above briefly, a Zero Level Canon: the Canon of the Heart, or a Secret Canon. I think everyone who reads the books of the Bible has some subset which speaks to their heart better than others do. This is simply a fact of the beauty of free will and individuality interfacing with literature. And while we may never tell anyone else which in particular these books are, we will continue to go to them for the simple joy of it. These are the Personally Canonical or Secretly Canonical Books, or even, dare we say it, the Apocryphal Canon, understanding “apocryphal” in its original sense of “hidden away,” and “canon” with its connotation of exclusivity intact because this collection of books seldom changes for an individual once it has formed. Yet, even so, I think it’s better to keep this level a secret, and personal, a privelege of the reader and not a public thing at all, but a secret between reader and God. Just as lists never begin with zero, so we can understand this level as implied, but not publish it.

Secondly, I’d like to discuss shortly why I limit these levels of distinction or canon to orthodox books in particular. We have numerous unorthodox books preserved, particularly from the Nag Hammadi collection. And yet, these books can only be said to have been of import to the development of the wider Christian tradition through the ages in an adversarial role if at all. Most are not quoted, most do not appear in lists of historical churches as canonical, and yet they do often appear in such lists as non-canonical or heretical, a decdedly negative context. In many cases we have no idea who thought these various books were canonical, or even if anyone actually did. Yet, even so, as I described in the Loose Canons post above with the Acts of John, on occasion some of these outré works were excerpted in orthodox hagiographical and liturgical works, thereby bestowing canonicity on those excerpts, quite extraordinarily. So, even though there is a great deal of value in these books in a scholarly sense, particularly for investigation of the development of various heresies and controversies in the early centuries of Church history, for the personal edification of a modern orthodox Christian, it is necessary to eschew these books and exclude them from the various levels of canonicity that I have described above. If there were living traditions of Ophites or Sethians out there somewhere suggesting such lists as I’ve done above, I wouldn’t be at all surprised or offended if they were to exclude the (to them) heterodox works that we would actually include. There’s no bitterness or triumphalism in my exclusion of heterodox writings, simply practicality and a concern for consistency and appropriateness. These are lists for orthodox Chrisitians. Others may make their own.

Thirdly, I’d like to elaborate on what I described in the earlier post as the suggested three canons suggested above as “psychological safety barriers.” I touched briefly on the concept above that we are more comfortable in our own tradition’s Biblical canon. Other people’s canons may include books or subject matter that our own tradition may consider unacceptable. Thus we find the need for a certain amount of separation of the canonical works into those that are currently institutionally canonical in our home traditions as our home base for canonicity, with a secondary level of canonicity which we could all recognize as of lower value to us personally but still of value for an understanding of contemporary Christianity, and then with a third level, of even lower value, as our ancestors in the faith eventually decided against maintaining these works in the Biblical canons which they have passed down to us. Each of these levels may also ostensibly be seen as of decreasing authority in the life of a Christian. But as a whole, every work included in these categories should be held of more value than any other work written, in that they constitute a Bible of the ages.

And that we can reconstruct such a Bible of the ages is something to give thanks for!

SBL Notes, part one

I’ve been going over my notes, expanding them, looking up titles and such, in order to make these notes a bit more useful for you folks who weren’t at these particular sessions that I attended. I hope they’ll be found useful.

The only two sessions I attended were the Function of Apocryphal and Pseudepigraphal Writings in Early Judaism and Early Christianity Consultation, at 9:00-11:30 am and 4:00-6:30 pm Monday 11/19. I took notes of all the talks. Between the two sessions, I was invited as a guest to the lunch of the steering committee, and I’ll describe some of that too. This consultation is particularly fascinating to me, blending as it does several interests of mine all into one: canon, apocrypha/pseudepigrapha, and their usage in early Christianity.

After a brief welcome by Lee Martin McDonald, the morning session began with Craig Evans, presenting “The Pseudepigrapha and the New Testament: The Case of the Acts of the Apostles,” taking the place of the scheduled paper by James Sanders, “Non-Masoretic Literature in Early Judaism and Its Function in the New Testament.” Sanders has recently undergone surgery and was unable to attend, but Evans read some notes from Sanders prior to beginning his paper. Evans’ handout consists of five pages of “Parallels between Acts and the literature of late antiquity” taken from his Ancient Texts for New Testament Studies (Hendrickson, 2005), pp 373-78.

Evans first discussed two particular cases of parallelomania (which term he didn’t use, but I do), positing exact parallels between Acts and the Iliad in Dennis R. MacDonald, Does the New Testament Imitate Homer? Four Cases from the Acts of the Apostles (Yale, 2003), and between Acts and the Aeneid by Marianne Palmer Bonz, The Past as Legacy: Luke-Acts and Ancient Epic (Fortress Press, 2000). [I also took down the name of Gregory Riley, who likewise writes on such mimesis, but neglected to note the import of the name. He’s probably as much in Evans’ sights as MacDonald and Palmer Bonz.] Evans mentioned that the reviews of both works are mixed, but generally negative. He mentioned a lengthy critique by Karl Olav Sandnes, “Imitatio Homeri? an appraisal of Dennis R. MacDonald’s ‘mimesis criticism'” (JBL 124.4 [Winter 2005]: 715-732) who provides helpful bibliographical background. Sandnes concludes, “MacDonald isolates subtle emulation from its advertising context. Subtle and concealed emulation without basis in a broadcast intertextuality cannot make up for slippery comparisons. His reading is fascinating and contributes to a reader-oriented exegesis. But he fails to demonstrate authorial intention while he, in fact, neglects the OT intertextuality that is broadcast in this literature” (p. 732), a point which Evans picks up later. Evans also referenced a review by Luke Timothy Johnson of MacDonald (Theological Studies 66.2 [June 2005]: 489-90), which concludes “M. can claim the Iliad as part of the Hellenistic intertexture for interpreting Luke-Acts, but he fails to show that there is anything uniquely in Acts and Homer that can be explained only by literary imitation. The book fails to convince on its central point, and fails to suggest what difference it might make for any reader of Acts if its central point were correct” (p. 490). Evans echoed the latter point, emphasizing that such potential parallels as suggested by scholars often serve no purpose exegetically, and would have had little impact on any reader unless they were more obvious and involved. This leads him directly to the fascinating counter-example to MacDonald and Palmer Bonz that both the narrative setting of Acts 2 and the text of the quotation there of Joel 3.1-5 (LXX/MT; English 2.28-32) are intertwined in such a way that Joel 3 is then presented as a prophecy of the time of the events depicted in Acts 2, which are likewise presented as the fulfillment of that prophecy, and the wording of the quotation and setting are both subtly adjusted toward making that connection. Thus the explicit or “broadcast intertextuality” (so Sandnes) in this case also indicates the “subtle emulation” (also Sandnes) in this passage. This is a direction that really needs following in Luke-Acts in particular, but also in every other location in the NT with explicit quotations from the OT–investigating the possibility of quite subtle effects on the texts surrounding such quotations, their context influencing and being influenced. A further question raised by Evans is: Do the suggested parallels actually help us understand the text better? If they don’t, knowing the above Joel-Acts example, then those parallels are very likely not there, as they would serve no purpose to either author or reader. (There was no respondent at this point to Evans because of the above-mentioned schedule change.)

Next was James Charlesworth, presenting “The Book of the People from the People of the Book.” His handout consists of a photocopy of photographs of columns VII and VIII of 1QpHab, the Qumran Pesher Habakkuk.

Drawing a point from Polybius’ Histories at the end of Book 12 (28a.8-10), he states, “Misinformed questions contribute to misinformed answers.” That is, in seeking to determine the structure of the “Book,” i.e. the canon, have we actually neglected the input of the people of the book? Charlesworth noted the number of copies of various books found at Qumran and discussed the importance of this more physical aspect of canonical treatment, with special emphasis given to the relatively well-preserved 1QpHab. When the Pesher Habakkuk was authored, the Hasmonean scriptio continua gave a certain latitude to the author of the Pesher to vary word divisions and alter letters in places due to their similarity (e.g., yod and waw). In the Pesher Habakkuk, things like the omission of a waw in order to connect two verses of Habakkuk more closely don’t show a lackadaisical textual criticism (an anachronism, in any case), but rather the value the author of the Pesher places on Habakkuk, in presenting the content in a new, slightly adjusted way which makes the point of his commentary clearer. The author shows by this that though Habakkuk didn’t understand the full import of the text he was writing, the Righteous Teacher does, because the meaning was in fact withheld from Habakkuk and everyone else until the end times. Likewise, the physical care taken in the production of 1QpHab shows the extremely high value of this text for the people who copied it: the raising and selection of the lamb for the skin, the involved preparation of the leather and ink, the careful sewing of the sheets of leather into a long scroll, the precise and careful ruling done so delicately with a very sharp blade, the careful writing with spaces, and especially the correction in different hands. This latter is seen in 1QpHab VII.1, where an אל which had been missed through haplography by the original scribe was inserted supralinearly by a later one in another hand, and in line 3, yet a third hand is seen in this column supralinearly adding ירוץ which had likewise been omitted. This shows they cared enough about this text to actually correct it. These physical characteristics are an important indicator of canonicity, as well, because, as Charlesworth said, “The canonical process is complex, and frequently opaque.” By this, I think, he means that our reconstructions of canonical theory have been repeatedly shown to be inadequate, and the physical realia can provide an anchor and some at least partly objective input into a re-evaluation of the canonical process. It’s an aspect that I’m very interested in, actually.

Andrei Orlov was Charlesworth’s respondent. He suggests the usage of the term “protocanon” to fill the gap between the complete absence of a canon and a fully developed, later, exclusive canon. He also noted that some of the same text-play that Charlesworth noted in Pesher Habakkuk is also present in later midrashim which were certainly written after the establishment of a canon including those texts being played with.

I’ll continue tomorrow.


Crocuses and snowdrops wither,
Violets, primroses together,
Fading with the fading Spring
Before a fuller blossoming.

O sweet Summer, pass not soon,
Stay awhile the harvest-moon :
O sweetest Summer, do not go,
For Autumn’s next and next the snow.

When Autumn comes the days are drear,
It is the downfall of the year :
We heed the wind and falling leaf
More than the golden harvest-sheaf.

Dreary Winter come at last :
Come quickly, so be quickly past :
Dusk and sluggish Winter, wane
Till Spring and sunlight dawn again.

Christina Georgina Rossetti
7 December 1853