Friday, 30 May 2008

The Scope of the Canon: The "Protestant" Pole

In this post I pointed out the theological challenge of the scope of the Christian Bible. Within the history of the church, two principles seem to have been operative concerning the scope of the canon which stood in tension.

On the one hand, there was the concern that the truth of the apostolic witness be preserved. The commitment to guard this witness led to efforts to guarantee the proper scope of the sacred writings and to preserve the Biblical text from corruption. Jerome argued for the Hebrew form of the Old Testament on the basis of the fact that the Word of God to Israel had been preserved in the Hebrew Scriptures, which were then translated. Equally important was the view that the Jews were the proper tradents of the tradition (Rom. 1.4) and that Jesus stemmed from the Patriarchs “according to the flesh” (Rom. 9.5). Therefore, to quote Childs,

“to use a different collection of Old Testament writings from those accepted by the Jews appeared as a threat to the theological continuity of the people of God" (Biblical Theology, 65).
This could be called the "Protestant" solution to the problem of the Christian Bible (though it clearly has ancient roots). Tomorrow I will look at the "Catholic" tendency within the history of the church.

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