Canon Studies

Collected here are some of my posts on the biblical canon. So far, all of these deal primarily with the canon of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament, though some posts on the New Testament canon may be coming.

The Jewish Canon of Scripture

The Canon List of Baba Bathra 14b
Here I provide the Hebrew text and English translation of this famous canon list, the only one emanating from Jewish sources before the end of the first millennium CE. I also discuss some of the major features of the list and the rabbinic discussion it provokes.

Why Is the Order of Canonical Books in Baba Bathra a Baraita?
A baraita is a rabbinic tradition that is supposed to have descended from the early Rabbis (tannaim) but was omitted from the Mishnah. The famous canon list of Baba Bathra is presented as a Baraita, which leads many scholars to conclude that it is earlier than its own apparent literary context, the Talmud, redacted after 500 CE. But some scholars also ask, if the list is early, why was it not included in the Mishnah? In this post I briefly explore this question.

Beckwith on the Order of the Hagiographa
Roger Beckwith wrote one of the major monographs on the Jewish canon about three decades ago, in which he argued that the canon list of Baba Bathra reflects the 'original' order of the Jewish canon, codified in 164 BCE by Judas Maccabeus. This post is my summary of Beckwith's argumentation for this position. Despite the title of the post, it really deals with the entire Jewish canon. But my interest in Beckwith's argumentation concerns especially its relation to the order of the third section, since this section, the hagiographa, has no firmly established order in the Masoretic manuscripts.

John Barton on the OT Canon
John Barton's influential book Oracles of God proposed that the tripartite structure of the Hebrew canon arose in connection with the liturgy: those documents not read weekly in synagogue were relegated to the 'Writings'. While this might be a plausible explanation, his suggestion for why certain writings were read frequently in synagogue as opposed to others fails in light of David Goodblatt's analysis of the availability of scrolls in antiquity.

Esther at Qumran, part 1

Esther at Qumran, part 2

The Sequence of the Hagiographa
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:

The Sequence of the Hagiographa in Printed Hebrew Bibles

The Sequence of the Hagiographa in Recent Hebrew Bibles

The Order of the Hebrew Bible
Part 1:
Part 2:
What does order mean?

The Arrangement of the Megilloth
This post addresses the arguments of a new book on the intentional placement of the five Megilloth as a corpus within the Hagiographa.

A Temple Collection?
Part 1: Here I explore the ancient testimonia for the idea that the Jerusalem temple housed a collection of scripture scrolls.
Part 2: Emanuel Tov has presented an argument for a temple collection of scripture based on the non-Qumran Judean Desert scrolls. Here I summarize his argument.
Part 3: In this last post I evaluate Tov's argument and offer some concluding reflections on whether there was a collection of scripture in the temple and what that can tell us about the Jewish canon.

Significant Books at Qumran
Here I question what we mean when we talk about books that are 'significant' to a community, and how we know such a thing.

The Tripartite Canon and the Editors of 4QMMT
The Qumran document 4QMMT is often cited in discussions of the origins of the tripartite structure of the Jewish canon (Law, Prophets, Writings). In this post I point out that the 'official' editors of this scroll seemed to have disagreed about its significance for the tripartite canon.

The Sadducees on the Canon of Scripture
This post guesses that a misreading of a particular passage in Josephus led the Church Fathers to surmise wrongly that the Sadducees accepted only the Pentateuch as scripture.

Review of Lim
This is my Marginalia review of Tim Lim's book The Formation of the Jewish Canon.

Sailhamer on Dan. 9 and the Shape of the Tanakh

The Old Testament Canon in Early Christianity

The 22 Books of the Old Testament

The Jews, the Canon, and the Hebrew Alphabet

The Old Testament Canon of the Fathers

Greek Canon Lists: Melito of Sardis
Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:

Article on Jerome's Canon Now Available

Athanasius and the Term "Apocrypha"


Jerome on Tobit and Judith

Jerome's Preface to Tobit, Again
Are Tobit and Judith among the Apocrypha or Hagiographa?
Jerome on Tobit and Judith among the Hagiographa: A Wrong Avenue

Rufinus on Wisdom

Maccabees in Hebrew Manuscripts?

The Bible Translator 67/2 (2016) (Blog series)
Masoretic Text 
The Vulgate Canon 
Reformation Canon 
Ethiopian Canon 
Slavonic Bible 
Intercultural Construction


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