Tuesday, 2 October 2007
The Complexity of "Canon"
I'm finally back home in Germany after a brief visit home in England! Blogging should resume with a tad more regularity. Thank you for your patience!
So onwards with the discussion ...
I last spoke of the biblical text as the product of a relationship between the LORD and his people (here). Within this relationship God spoke, Israel heard, responded and then passed on this word to a later generation. The purpose was that the ancient traditions should function authoritatively for those who were not present by critically "rendering the material into a form suitable for future accommodation" (1977: 93). This was a complex, multifaceted process in which different manoeuvres were made under varying conditions. Underpinning this diversity, however, is the continuity of Israel's religious use of its tradition. Childs tries to capture this unity in diversity with the term 'canonical process'.
Childs thus has a broad understanding of canon. He clarifies potential confusion as follows:
"When analyzed narrowly, there seems to an inconsistency that the canonical process includes the setting of boundaries for the literature, the combining of rival traditions and the actualization of earlier traditions to function authoritatively for later generations. However, when one focuses on attempting to understand how Israel struggled throughout its history in understanding its traditions religiously the variety of solutions and complexity of responses should not be surprising. Of course, the setting of canonical boundaries in exclusion of rival claims is different from the transformation of an ancient tradition to serve authoritatively in a new situation. No one doubts that that the juxtaposing of disparate material functions differently from closely intertwined sources. But the point to be emphasized is that there are important elements of continuity extending throughout the entire history of the literature's formation which are connected - at times loosely - with a religious concern. A careful analysis of the evidence allows one to delineate with some precsision the nature of this religious use of tradition. Clearly the process was affected by Israel's changing historical situation, but the final fixing of the Hebrew canon was only the final stage in a long process" (JSOT 16 : 53).