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.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Qumran and Canon

I'm still making my way through the latest issue of The Bible Translator, which is all about the biblical canon (previously noted here and here).

Here are some notes about the article on Qumran.

Andy Warren-Rothlin, "The Accretion of Canons in and around Qumran," The Bible Translator 67.2 (2016): 120–36. 

I find this a somewhat idiosyncratic presentation of canon issues arising from the Qumran scrolls, not an altogether helpful presentation of the data or the scholarly interpretations of it. He begins with textual diversity at Qumran, but then he wants to establish that Judaism at the time had a tripartite canon, as shown by 2 Macc 2:13–15 and Luke 24:44.
None of these "canon" statements, nor the use of the term αἱ γραφαί "the writings/Scriptures," can be shown to include any work not included in the Tanakh. This evidence thus forces us to the conclusion that the frequent attestation of other books in this period must be understood as representing, at most, a secondary, or "deutero-" canon. (p. 125)
This is a more confident statement than many scholars would be willing to make. He makes other confident statements where I would want to be more cautious, such as: "It is well known that the use of the codex by Christians contributed much to the concept of a closed canon" (p. 132). I would prefer to say: some scholars have argued that the use of the codex by Christians may have contributed to the concept of a closed canon.

He says there are two passages in the DSS that attest a tripartite canon: 4QMMT C 10 and CD 7.15–18. The former is highly debated and most scholars would not use it to establish a tripartite canon. Warren-Rothlin acknowledges part of this debate, but he confidently asserts that 'David' is "metonymous for the Psalms or Writings" in 2 Macc 2 and Luke 24:44, and he further points out (an idea which had not occurred to me before) that all of the Hagiographa are connected to David or Solomon in some way, except for Esther (not found at Qumran), Lamentations (possibly counted with Jeremiah), and Daniel (possibly included in the early period among the Prophets), so 'David' could serve as a reasonable title for this section (p. 128). As for CD 7.15–18, we have a reference to the Torah, Prophets, and an "interpreter of the Torah," which Warren-Rothlin thinks is probably a reference to David (either as Messiah or author of the Psalter) and again is "surely" metonymous for the Writings.

But he admits that the third section might be an open section, based on the Sirach prologue and the Qumran idea that inspired interpretation still occurred. And then he suggests that the reference to Paul's letters as scripture at 2 Pet 3:16 "may indicate a preparedness to accept additions to the third section of the canon" (p. 129). So, Paul's letters would be in the Hagiographa? He also says that Jubilees and Enoch would be in the Hagiographa, but actually since Jubilees seems "so clearly interpretative," it would not have "anything approaching 'canonical' status" (p. 129).

His article ends with a few pages suggesting that the UBS give thought to these issues when considering which canon to use for its Bible projects.

One last note: Warren-Rothlin says that the reason Sirach as omitted from the Protestant canon "has been based largely on its not being in Hebrew (following Jerome and Luther)" (p. 132). Well, I won't speak for Luther, but Jerome did not exclude Sirach based on its unavailability in Hebrew. Indeed, Jerome said that he had seen a Hebrew copy of the book (Preface to the Books of Solomon). [I think he also misunderstands the textual attestation of Jubilees (p. 124).]

On the canon at Qumran, I would recommend the relevant chapters in VanderKam's book and in Lim's book.