Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Various Canon Articles

Here's another post on the latest issue of The Bible Translator, which is all about the biblical canon (see here and here and here). Here are some briefer summaries of a couple of articles.

Seppo Sipilä, "The Canonization Process of the Masoretic Text," The Bible Translator 67.2 (2016): 151–67. 

I don't really get what Sipilä is doing here. On the one hand, he reviews some very basic things about the MT. Here we learn things like the Biblia Hebraica series has printed the text of the Leningrad Codex since the third edition, but it doesn't always follow the Leningrad Codex in the order of books, since BHS (unlike L) puts Chronicles at the end of the Ketuvim, a tradition going back to the Second Rabbinic Bible (actually earlier). Before the Second Rabbinic Bible, Maimonides had praised the Ben Asher text. The MT has different parts to it, like consonants, vowels, Masorah Parva, Masorah Magna. There is some discussion of the list in Baba Bathra and the rabbinic discussions about particular books, along with the idea of a Synod of Yavneh and its rejection over the past 50 years.

On the other hand, Sipilä makes an argument regarding the nature of the canon. I'm just not sure what the argument is. Here are some hints: Sipilä briefly considers textual traditions before the rabbinic period, such as the use of proto-MT texts, the position of the LXX--he argues that the LXX fell into disuse by the Jews not because it was taken over by Christians but because Jews found it to be inadequate, evidenced by revisions, which in turn "shows that the roots of the rabbinic text and its position lie much more deeply in the text's prehistory than some people like to think" (p. 163). He rejects Tov's idea of the temple text (p. 163). He wonders whether the idea of a Jewish canon could have already been around in the sixth century CE (p. 158). And he thinks the list of Baba Bathra cannot have been accepted by everyone because of the status of Sirach in rabbinic literature (p. 159). He even says that the Cairo Genizah Sirach manuscripts confirm "that people still used Sirach as an authoritative text after the Masoretes had already fixed the MT" (p. 159). It is "hasty and groundless" to conclude that by the time of the Mishnah "much of the Tanakh had already been canonized" (p. 160). The switch from scrolls to a codex may have been significant in terms of canon (p. 156).

I think he might be saying that it's odd to talk about a Masoretic Canon, because the Tanakh and the MT are different concepts. But I'm not at all confident I've correctly understood this.

Jean-Claude Loba Mkole, "Intercultural Construction of the New Testament Canons," The Bible Translator 67.2 (2016): 240–61.

The abstract of this article says that it uses "an intercultural method in dialogue with historical and canonical approaches," and then it talks about about how it's important that the NT comes after the OT, and we shouldn't talk about "deuterocanonical" books--books are either canonical or not.

The article itself spends a while surveying the history of research (240–49) and then talks about the canonical approach to the NT, especially that of Childs and his followers (249–53). The intercultural bit comes at the very end of the article (254–56). He describes the biblical canons operative in the upper eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and he identifies several different canons used by different groups there: the Roman Catholic Canon, the Protestant Canon, the Ethiopic Canon, etc. "The differences among them pertain to the number, order, and content of the biblical books" (256). Yes, I suppose so. He suggests that the UBS might publish two different Bibles, one with the Catholic canon and one with the Protestant canon.

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