Problems of Text and Canon – Part 2

This is a two part essay based on a larger paper by The Yellow Dart. This is the second part, part one can be found here and the full essay can be read here.

———————————————————————————————–
THE “ORIGINAL TEXT”?
The Dead Sea Scrolls, LXX, SP, and other ancient witnesses, have amply demonstrated that the Bible as canon did not occur until long after the writing of all the now-biblical books, and that the textual history and character of these books should be described as evolutionary and pluriform. The problem of recovering an “original” text for the biblical books is therefore extremely complicated.1 For instance, is the original text the final, expanded edition of a given biblical book or passage (but what if there are multiple late expanded editions, as we have seen)? Or is the original the edition of a book at an earlier stage in its transmission history (perhaps when it was accepted by some community as authoritative?)? Is it the earliest recoverable edition of a given book (even if we know, as is the case for the book of Daniel, that there was an earlier edition underlying all of our extant witnesses)? Is the original text the earliest complete edition of the book that we would recognize as that book (even if we don’t have access to it)? Or is the original text the literary sources used to compose that book (such as J, P, or D for the Pentateuch), even if the author(s) or editor(s) revised and modified those sources for their own (different) purposes? Or are the oral traditions that underly many of our literary sources the real original text? Further, the Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient witnesses strongly indicate, on account of the great pluriformity in the biblical texts during the Second Temple Period, that there were likely many more editions of biblical books and passages, important textual variants, orthographic peculiarities etc., than we moderns currently have access to, and that the extant (and lost) literary editions of the biblical books and their many variants represent a long and complicated textual history for these texts. Thus, although the Dead Sea Scrolls are our oldest biblical manuscripts, they only represent a very small fraction of the biblical manuscripts from antiquity, and they also do not contain large sections of the biblical books as well as entire books (e.g., Esther was not found among the Dead Sea Scrolls).

A CANON?
We have already concluded, drawing on the research of Ulrich, Vanderkam, Tov, and others, that there was no canon in the Second Temple Period and that the idea of a canon–a closed, authoritative collection of texts that is consciously chosen as distinct from other texts–is a postbiblical development. Indeed, many Jewish groups and individuals believed other books were as religiously sacred and authoritative as the (later) biblical texts (although some groups, like the Samaritans, only accepted a smaller collection of texts, e.g., the Torah), while other groups also held in high regard the words and teachings of their contemporaries (or near contemporaries). The LXX (and later Vulgate) was the Bible of the Church for the great majority of its history and it contains a number of books not found in traditional Rabbinic and Protestant Bibles. The Dead Sea Scrolls and other ancient witnesses show the development of the canon, what we might term the canonical process, but they do not witness to the canon as such. Rather, the Dead Sea Scrolls show that ancient scribes, like earlier authors and editors, both transmitted their religious texts and modified them to meet the needs and circumstances of their contemporary communities.

However, although the idea of a fixed canon exists in traditional Judaism and Christianity, modern religious readers of the Bible still edit and modify their sacred texts in similar ways to those of the ancient scribes and editors who physically composed and transmitted the biblical texts. Modern readers update and expand (and subtract) from the Bible through various hermeneutical traditions (e.g., religious traditions or the academy), pluriform ideological and political perspectives (e.g., egalitarianism, Marxism, etc.), manifold world views, and their own diverse, raw human experiences. Modern readers eisegete the biblical texts, harmonize them, use secondary materials as primary means of interpreting the Bible, selectively choose which parts are to be emphasized or ignored, etc. There is also a dialectical interpretive2 process at work between the Scriptures and the modern reader, and in this process the modern reader necessarily adds to and takes away from the biblical books (even if not physically). Thus modern readers are in many ways similar to their ancient counterparts–the difference is that many (though not all; c.f. scholarly conjectural emendations, etc.) do not physically change the text of their sacred writings because of their developed, non-biblical notions of canon.

CONCLUSION
However, does the fact that all readers of the Bible add to and subtract from it in their dialectical engagement with the biblical texts, in combination with the fact that the biblical texts themselves show complex evolutionary stages of growth and development, undermine many modern ideas of canon? That is, does the evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls, other ancient witnesses, and modern biblical scholarship, undermine some modern religious notions of canon since 1) there is, historically speaking, seemingly no accessible “original” text, 2) the idea of canon is itself non-biblical, and ancient Jewish and Christian groups used other sacred texts (e.g., 1 Enoch or Jubilees) and traditions (e.g., the words of Jesus, Paul, or the Teacher of Righteousness) as religiously authoritative, 3) the very composition and transmission of what would become the biblical texts was gradual and evolutionary until an artificial end (e.g., there is no evidence that the text types for the biblical books selected in the Rabbinic tradition were chosen on textual grounds3) sometime probably in the second century C.E., 4) there were multiple editions of biblical books and/or passages, and 5) the biblical texts (like all texts) are always read in a dialectical manner involving both the reader and the text in a process that necessarily adds to and subtracts from the scriptures (even if not physically)? And finally: what affects do these evidences and issues raise for modern notions of biblical authority (e.g., inerrancy) and devotional use of the Bible?

You can read the entire paper in full here.

1 For the following discussion of “original text,” etc., see Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls, 3-33 (esp. 12-16).

2 See Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls, 73-78 (esp. 73-75).

3 Ulrich, The Dead Sea Scrolls, 84.

Advertisements

40 thoughts on “Problems of Text and Canon – Part 2

  1. For me, coming to grips with the reality behind the “canon” (first Mormon, then Judaeo-Christian) has been one of the strongest catalysts prompting a massive reconfiguration in my approach to religion.

    I used to see the world in historical absolutes: there was a historical Joseph Smith, who revealed certain eternal, unambiguous truths about a historical Jesus. I explored the Mormon canon to illustrate and fill out my picture of the eternal, unambiguous truth.

    Eventually, my exploration led me to the problem that the Yellow Dart has outlined so very thoroughly here. My conclusion (so far) is that I was mistaken to look for absolutes in history. The reality behind the divine (however we experience it) is beyond words, beyond people (historical or mythical), beyond history (or myth). Whereas before I had the idea that Mormonism was a fuller revelation of absolute truth than any other brand of Christianity, and that Christianity was a fuller revelation than Judaism, and that Judaism was a fuller revelation than (say) Hinduism, I now see all these approaches (and any others) as fundamentally equal. Their equality is generic, not specific: an individual may not find what he needs in one and so (rightly) move on to another. But different individuals can find all they need in any one of them, or combination thereof. Does this relativism make me an atheist? I don’t think so, but I know some people will disagree.

    Thanks for the fascinating paper, TYD and Tim.

  2. Tim — The link for the full paper doesn’t work. There doesn’t appear to be a URL present.

  3. Joseph — While I agree that looking for absolutes in history can be an exercise in frustration, I don’t think that the quest has to end in the kind of relativism that you suggest.

    For me, learning about the history of the scriptures has served to strengthen my faith as much as anything else. I have come to realize that God always deals through flawed people, and that very seldom do we get the superclear answers that many of us (very commonly in Mormonism, and probably even more commonly in Protestant fundamentalism) would like. While I certainly believe in the Bible (and other scriptures) as revelation, I am comfortable as well with a certain degree of ambiguity. To say that we can’t have all the complete answers doesn’t mean that the scriptures can provide none.

    I’d also point out that TYD in these selections has to some extent addressed the “worst-case scenario” of the scriptures. While it seems pretty clear to me that the Pentateuch, for example, is a compilation derived in part from multiple authors and oral traditions, I wouldn’t see the letters of Paul, for example, as fitting in the same category.

  4. For me, coming to grips with the reality behind the “canon” (first Mormon, then Judaeo-Christian) has been one of the strongest catalysts prompting a massive reconfiguration in my approach to religion.

    For me, coming to grips with the reality behind Conan has been one of the strongest catalysts prompting a massive reconfiguration in my approach to religion.

  5. Eric,

    The New Testament has its own set of interpretive nightmares, which I don’t really want to delve into here. Several epistles (including a few Pauline ones) are probably forgeries. But I am past caring too much about that.

    I’m very much a “big picture” kind of person: I want to see how stuff fits together. In laboriously piecing together fragments of various different mythologies (mostly Christian, Jewish, and Greek–but I have looked at stuff from all over the world), I have come to realize that (for me) the best place to regard these myths is one that does not make the value in one subordinate to the value in another. What makes Christ true and Yahweh or Buddha or Zeus false? The fact of the matter is, they all encode important information about how humanity structures and has structured its mental map of the universe. It is easier for me to see this and deal with it productively when I acknowledge them as being equals. If you have ever studied a foreign language, you know what I mean when I say that translation is really impossible (Zeus is not Christ is not Buddha, etc.) and that this fact actually enriches the life of the person who acknowledges it and can live with value from two different paradigms through which to construe reality.

    Kullervo,

    This may sound funny, coming from me, but I think your point with Conan is well taken. While Conan is not a myth that speaks much to me personally (owing to my ignorance of it: I have not been studying the right scriptures), I have come to realize that the Judaeo-Christian canon does not have a monopoly on good myths: some of the greatest are firmly planted outside of it. So say a prayer to Conan for me!

  6. The fact of the matter is, they all encode important information about how humanity structures and has structured its mental map of the universe.

    I don’t disagree.

    It is easier for me to see this and deal with it productively when I acknowledge them as being equals.

    It may be easier, but it seems to me that it requires just as much faith, if not more, to make that relativistic leap. Aldolf Hitler too had his mental map of the universe, but that doesn’t mean it was equal in value to Mother Teresa’s mental map, for example. (I am not accusing you of being a Nazi or anything close, just trying to point out the fallacy of relativism.)

    If you have ever studied a foreign language, you know what I mean when I say that translation is really impossible …

    Yes, 100% accurate translation is impossible (with the possible exception of many technical terms). But that doesn’t mean that we have 0 percent accuracy in interpreting concepts from one language to another. In fact, nearly all of the time it can be done “well enough” for practical purposes. In a sense, “My name in Eric” doesn’t say the same thing as “Me llamo Eric” in Spanish, because the Spanish doesn’t even have a word for “name” and in a sense is based on a different philosophy of self-identification. But for all practical uses I’m aware of, they mean the same thing. And while religious language may be unable to covey truth with 100% accuracy, that’s far different than saying it conveys nothing accurate.

  7. Thanks for your thoughts, Eric.

    For me, it is not so much that language about god(s) conveys nothing accurate as that it conveys something accurate: there are valid points about the constellation of ideas surrounding divinity that I will miss if I never study Zeus (or even perhaps Conan). Zeus reveals some truth that Christ never can, not because Zeus is superior to Christ or preferable, but because he is different.

    Should we ban Spanish or force all speakers of it to learn some other language (thereby “completing” their truth) because we find it imperfect? I don’t think so. Should we force everyone to learn Spanish then? Again, I don’t think so. In my ideal world, everyone is free to learn any language she may want or need for reasons unique to her. No one language is preferable generally (though some will inevitably be better at specific applications: math works a lot better than any spoken language for depicting complex shapes).

    In answer to your point about relativism, I do not think there is a cognitive place we can arrive at where faith is not necessary. In taking my current “relativist” position, I am not trying to escape faith; rather, I am trying to find something I can actually believe in (now that my “one true perspective” on the world has been irreparably shattered): I am rebuilding a new faith (that will hopefully be a little more resistant to things like history).

    The closest thing that I can come up with in terms of an absolute is what C. S. Lewis calls the Tao (in his essay on the Abolition of Man). By this he means something like “the natural law that every historical society has respected.” The Jewish version is the Ten Commandments, reworked in the Christian Sermon on the Mount. Other cultures have yet other versions, all agreeing in general principles and departing on certain specifics. I see where they coincide (murder, adultery, and theft seem to be universally bad things) and find the closest thing to a cultural absolute that I can recognize.

  8. I have one additional thing to say about Nazism. I think Hitler’s viewpoint needs to be studied very carefully, since too many people have assumed that the defeat of the Nazis meant the end of any serious kind of fascism. The reality, I am coming to suspect, is very different. Nazism (in the form of a single group of people taking their patriotism far too seriously) died, but fascism (in the form of powerful governments capable of inspiring dangerous patriotism) won. If we think that we are somehow immune (as Mormons, Christians, or citizens of the United States) from falling into the same trap of overweening cultural arrogance that destroyed Hitler (along with Germany and millions of Jews), we are naive. We have in us all the germs of the very worst things that came out of Nazism (hatred of the other; weapons of mass destruction; ideologies that value death for God and celebrate the end of the world). This became painfully clear to me as I studied the Mountain Meadows Massacre and reflected on 9/11 (latest episode in the ongoing war for religious domination between Christians and Muslims). If we want to avoid become the new Hitler (or what is more likely, his faithful followers) we need to study him so that we can recognize what factors trigger him in us. We are human, just like he was, subject to the same fits of brilliance and idiocy.

  9. Dear Eric,

    This post was specifically about the Jewish Bible, i.e., what scholars refer to as the Hebrew Bible and Christians typically call the Old Testament, and not the New Testament (see the footnotes in the first segment of this series). The New Testament has its own issues (e.g., the Synoptic problem, pseudepigraphical writings, etc.; N.B.: most scholars believe that 2 Corinthians, though a genuine letter of Paul, is a composite text of several Pauline letters). However, my intent was not to address a “worst-case scenario” (indeed, I am not sure that I did that at all). Rather, in posting here I was interested in seeing how Evangelical Christians and LDS Christians, in an interfaith situation, interpret, engage, and discuss the arguments presented in the post, i.e., how it affects their views of scripture, how those scriptures are used both personally and communally, and how they then interact with other faith communities. I was specifically interested in seeing the ways in which, say, Tim and Jack engage this information (I am not saying that they do this the same; in fact, I am interested in the differences just as much as the similarities), as well as Seth and other LDS Christian commenters. I have a number of thoughts on these issues and questions too, but I wanted others first to address the questions in the post’s conclusion before I jumped in. And the fact that I chose to use the Old Testament to stimulate discussion of these issues is only because that is what I spend the majority of my time studying and thinking about.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  10. Joseph — Good thoughts on Nazism. Demonizing the “enemy” is an easy thing to do, and we need to be aware of where it can lead.

    TYD — Thanks. To engage part of your post directly, here’s a part I found especially interesting:

    Modern readers update and expand (and subtract) from the Bible through various hermeneutical traditions (e.g., religious traditions or the academy), pluriform ideological and political perspectives (e.g., egalitarianism, Marxism, etc.), manifold world views, and their own diverse, raw human experiences. Modern readers eisegete the biblical texts, harmonize them, use secondary materials as primary means of interpreting the Bible, selectively choose which parts are to be emphasized or ignored, etc.

    As I’ve taught the Old Testament this year, I have found it interesting to see which portions are emphasized in the teaching manual and which are ignored, and I sometimes wonder how a comparable one-year Old Testament guide for a non-LDS church would be different.

    I’ll mention just one example, because I found it interesting. In the scriptural passage the covered the fall of Jericho, Rahab was a significant character, and as it turned out, I chose to make her one of the foci of the lesson. But she was barely mentioned in the manual, I assume in part because it doesn’t fit in well with the theme of priesthood authority, a major emphasis of the manual. What I found even more interesting is that Rahab has been mentioned almost nowhere in church publications, General Conference addresses and the like, even though she is a perfect Old Testament example of the Atonement in action. As far as LDS teaching materials are concerned, the story of Rahab might as well be excised from the Old Testament.

    It isn’t hard, though, to find references to Rahab in evangelical teaching.

    Of course, evangelicals also have parts of the Bible they don’t pay much attention to, as well as their own biases about what parts of it mean.

  11. 1) TYD, in Blake’s third volume, so far he takes me from passage to passage, showing me how much he enjoyed Charlesworth’s The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.

    Do you have that book on your shelf?

    2) I would think that you show your faith and I show my faith.

    And it is our faith that draws the line for the both of us on what will be the canon for our faith traditions and what will be on par with the mighty Conan.

    3) And despite all this . . .

    “Modern readers eisegete the biblical texts, harmonize them, use secondary materials as primary means of interpreting the Bible, selectively choose which parts are to be emphasized or ignored, etc. There is also a dialectical interpretive2 process at work between the Scriptures and the modern reader, and in this process the modern reader necessarily adds to and takes away from the biblical books (even if not physically).”

    . . . won’t it be fun to see what canon still holds the day for the Christian world on this green earth in the next 100 years . . . the next 1000 years.

    4) I love the KJV O.T. It is my O.T. authority. Genesis to Malachi dominate. Ironically, I think this will continue to be the evangelical English translation of the Jewish Bible in every household for the next 100 years and more in S.E. Idaho. People will add and take away all they want but it is not going to change the 39 books. I have no worries that in my whole lifetime in S.E. Idaho, the insights by higher critics on the Dead Sea Scroll material or Old Testament secondary writings will usurp in any way the KJV Genesis or KJV Isaiah texts, etc. The KJV has ruled as devotional reading in the English world for 400 years. And thanks to General Authorities, this will not stop in the next centuries. In S.E. Idaho, we are not going to budge from the KJV when it comes to the problems of text and canon for the O.T. 🙂

  12. Not trying to leave you hanging TYD just no time to give a response that respects your post. On my way on vacation tomorrow.

  13. TYD – I enjoyed reading the paper, although I am sure there are words and concepts in there that I don’t fully understand. My general understanding is that one should not be too concerned about errors in the text, because, really, the text has been passed up, down, and all around through so many different kindred, tongues, and people (to borrow the phrase popular in the BoM), that it is rather amazing to see it around at all.

    That may be reading a bit more into what you wrote, but I have been discussing the issue of inerrancy in the Bible with some friends today, and I forgot that many Christians still hold to the concept of inerrancy, even while acknowledging translational errors. (I’m not quite sure what they mean by inerrancy or infallibility, as one called it, now. Maybe someone more familiar with the concept can clue me in.)

  14. Alex — Here’s one statement on inerrancy that has been subscribed to by some leading evangelicals: The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978). I think it does a good job of indicating not only what many inerrantists believe, but also what they don’t.

    Since even those who emphasize the inerrant nature of the Bible acknowledge the possibility that the text has been corrupted over the centuries, I’m not sure there’s much practical difference between the inerrantist view that and that of many (not all, but probably most) Mormons (other than that we have additional scriptures).

  15. For me, it is not so much that language about god(s) conveys nothing accurate as that it conveys something accurate: there are valid points about the constellation of ideas surrounding divinity that I will miss if I never study Zeus (or even perhaps Conan). Zeus reveals some truth that Christ never can, not because Zeus is superior to Christ or preferable, but because he is different.

    You’re just trying to make me like you. And its working.

  16. I’m glad! I know I come across a little crazy sometimes (and definitely long-winded), but in the end I am not trying to antagonize anyone, even those who feel put off by my approach (or my conclusions).

  17. TYD, I don’t think you have to dig as deep as all of this to call into question what people typically think inerrancy means. Hardly at all for a certain fundamentalist view of inerrancy.

    God did not hand us the biblical canon in a box with a pretty bow on top. If Christian believed that God delivered the Bible the way Muslims say the Koran was deliverd, or if Christians believed the Bible to be inerrant the same way Muslims believe the Koran to be inerrant, we would be in trouble. The very fact that the NT canon did not exist as we know it for a couple of hundred years, and that we rely on tradition for it, challenges a great many Protestant assumptions.

    I can’t say I believe in inerrancy without nuancing the word to some degree.

    My own take is to rely on Jesus as my rock. Whatever we can discern that Jesus considered to be scripture should be our guide. Whatever “version” of Daniel that was used as established canon for the Judaism of Jesus day is probably the version of Daniel that we should look to unless Jesus gives us some reason not to recognize it. Jesus relies heavily on Daniel by taking the “son of man” title. He must have thought it was a significant and reliable witness of his coming.

    I’m okay with the formation of Biblical books being a fluid process. But at some point those books became established and recognized by religious authorities. Out of respect for those authorities and the tradition of the faithful before us we follow their lead.

  18. Dear Tim,

    Thanks for your reply. I hope you had a nice vacation.

    You said: “I can’t say I believe in inerrancy without nuancing the word to some degree.

    So how would you nuance it? What is your definition? And what are your thoughts on the Chicago Statement linked to above? Or Blomberg’s comments on these matters in “How Wide the Divide”? Any other evangelicals here could answer these questions for me as well. I am interested in hearing personal perspectives.

    You said: “Whatever “version” of Daniel that was used as established canon for the Judaism of Jesus day is probably the version of Daniel that we should look to unless Jesus gives us some reason not to recognize it.

    The point of the paper was that there was no one fixed, authoritative text type of Daniel in Jesus’ day. There were multiple versions or editions of that book, plus any number of individual variants in each (or some, or all) textual stream(s). And as I said in the post, “there is no evidence that the text types for the biblical books selected in the Rabbinic tradition were chosen on textual grounds.” Your comments also relate to my questions regarding the “original text”: if we are to use the editions of the proto-biblical texts that Jesus used (and recognized? But as Qumran shows, one community seemingly could use multiple editions of a book without a difference in religious significance), how do we recover those editions? Further, the problem is complicated by the fact that Jesus’ proto-biblical quotations would have been in Aramaic/Hebrew, and not in Greek such as they are preserved in the NT. Additionally, the very idea of canon is anachronistic in Jesus’ day. Did he accept 1 Enoch like the author of Jude did? What of other books? Did he not accept each of the proto-biblical books?

    You also said: “I’m okay with the formation of Biblical books being a fluid process. But at some point those books became established and recognized by religious authorities. Out of respect for those authorities and the tradition of the faithful before us we follow their lead.

    Which authorities are you referring to? And why do you accept their authority on these matters? Also, why follow the “tradition’s” decisions, especially if they didn’t pick a text type on textual-critical criteria (indeed what were their criteria?)? And what of the LXX? It has been the traditional Christian Bible, why not accept it instead of the MT? All of this again goes back to my questions about the “original text.”

    Finally, to Tim and other interested LDS Christian and Evangelical Christian commenters: what impact does all of this have for Mormon-Evangelical dialogue concerning scripture? For instance, was it really worth the time for Blomberg and Robinson to use a whole section of their book to discuss problems pertaining to text and canon?

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  19. I’d have to nuance the word so much it may be better for me to say I believe in the infallibility of the Bible (though I’m quite comfortable hanging with the inerrancy crowd).

    The point of the paper was that there was no one fixed, authoritative text type of Daniel in Jesus’ day.

    However Jesus used and viewed the book of Daniel is the way I’m comfortable using it and viewing it today. Even if it’s radically different than the way Billy Graham sees it.

    Additionally, the very idea of canon is anachronistic in Jesus’ day. Did he accept 1 Enoch like the author of Jude did? What of other books? Did he not accept each of the proto-biblical books?

    That’s a bit of a stretch. Because Jude quoted 1 Enoch does not necessarily mean he thought it was canon any more than Paul thinking Cretan prophets were part of the Biblical canon because he quoted them (and said they were true). It just means that particular quote is true. My pastor quotes “The Divine Conspiracy” in his sermons but that doesn’t mean he thinks it’s scripture.

    The Gospel of Thomas may have many true and historically accurate bits of information in it. Those bits don’t qualify it for canon.

    For instance, was it really worth the time for Blomberg and Robinson to use a whole section of their book to discuss problems pertaining to text and canon?

    Of course it was worth it. That’s a significant difference between us.

    I’m not at all a proponent of closed canon arguments against Mormonism. I don’t think we have a strong enough footing to say the canon is closed. I think it’s more appropriate to discuss the merits of any book we’re attempting to place into the canon than categorically say the canon is closed.

  20. I think it’s more appropriate to discuss the merits of any book we’re attempting to place into the canon than categorically say the canon is closed.

    I think this is at least on the surface an intellectualyl honest argument.

    However, I anticipate that in reality, when you apply the tests you think should be applied, no book will ever qualify. That’s a de facto closed canon. And I strongly suspect that in reality, you would not be applying the same standards to a newly received work as the apostolic church did to first-century scripture. At least, you are going to have practically irrebuttable presumption of not-scripture.

  21. Dear Tim,

    Sorry for not responding sooner–I have been moving this past week, and I have limited inernet access.

    You said: “Because Jude quoted 1 Enoch does not necessarily mean he thought it was canon any more than Paul thinking Cretan prophets were part of the Biblical canon because he quoted them (and said they were true). It just means that particular quote is true. My pastor quotes “The Divine Conspiracy” in his sermons but that doesn’t mean he thinks it’s scripture.

    This sounds like a badly reactive apologetic that doesn’t actually confront the issue under consideration on its own terms.

    Jude draws on past examples to show that God punished sinners in order to show that God will eventually condemn Jude’s opponents too: v.5 relies on Exodus/Numbers concerning the Israelite rebellion and punishment in the wilderness, v.6 draws on 1 Enoch 6-16 about the angels who left their appointed sphere and who were thus condemned (c.f. Gen. 6:1-4), and v.7 speaks of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah from Genesis. Jude also later quotes 1 Enoch 1.9 explicitly in vv.14-15 crediting Enoch with having correctly foretold (lit. “prophesied”) the condemnation of Jude’s own contemporary opponents, as well as having noted the final judgement (although it should be mentioned that 1 Enoch is a 3rd B.C.E. work and was not written by “Enoch,” contrary to “Jude’s” belief). It is clear from the above that Jude thought 1 Enoch a genuine, reliable source of information about God’s dealings in the past with sinners (along with Genesis and Exodus/Numbers), and that he believed Enoch (or better: the work attributed to “Enoch,” that is, 1 Enoch) had genuine prophetic power. Moreover, historically, 1 Enoch was a popular religious work among many Jews and early Christians–indeed, it is quoted or alluded to at least 14 times in the NT. The Epistle of Barnabas quotes it explicitly as scripture. Tertullian defended it, and the Abyssinian Church included it in its canon. Moreover, some later Christian writers such as Origen, Eusebius, Didymus, and Jerome debated Jude’s scriptural status, probably in part because of its use of 1 Enoch and other religious texts not found in the later LXX or Rabbinic biblical collections. There are many other related points that could be mentioned along these lines, but it seems most reasonable on historical grounds to believe that Jude considered 1 Enoch religiously authoritative (note: to speak of a canon at this time, as you do, is anachronistic). Your comparisons above are just not similar or meaningful in the present discussion. Luke-Acts portrays “Paul” in Acts 17 as quoting a Greek poet in a much different manner and context than Jude’s use of 1 Enoch, and I don’t know what relevance, if any, your Pastor’s example has for this discussion, especially since (I assume) he has stated publicly before that only the Bible (as he perceives it) is scriptural.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  22. Isn’t that the basic justification for including the whole of the Old Testament in the Christian canon? “Jesus quotes it, so it’s gotta be scripture.”

  23. Dear Tim,

    I don’t think Titus 1:12 is any more relevant for our discussion of Jude/1 Enoch than Acts 17 or your pastor’s use of “The Divine Conspiracy.” Again, the manner of citation and the context (including historical context) are very different. (N.B.: most scholars believe the Pastoral letters are not genuinely Pauline.)

    You said:”Because Jude quoted 1 Enoch does not necessarily mean it should be part of the canon any more than Cretan prophets because Paul quoted them.

    Although I agree with your principle in theory, as I have argued above there are many good reasons for believing that “Jude” is quoting a work that is religiously authoritative for him and his readers (again, to call it canonical would be anachronistic). What implications does this have for issues of canon now, especially in the context of LDS-Evangelical discussions?

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  24. What implications does this have for issues of canon now, especially in the context of LDS-Evangelical discussions?

    Is what you’re getting at that there should be no such thing as a Christian canon? Whether LDS or otherwise?

  25. Does John 10:35 where Jesus says that “the Scripture [Old Testament] cannot be broken” lend anything to this discussion?

    Also, the Bible codes that are amazingly distributed throughout the Hebrew text of the Old Testament—do they prove that there is such a thing as “canon”?

  26. Does John 10:35 where Jesus says that “the Scripture [Old Testament] cannot be broken” lend anything to this discussion?

    Not really. While it does suggest Jesus believed there was some degree of reliability to scripture, it doesn’t indicate what his standard for a canon was.

    Also, the Bible codes that are amazingly distributed throughout the Hebrew text of the Old Testament—do they prove that there is such a thing as “canon”?

    Show me one true “Bible code” and I will be amazed.

  27. I used to have a book that showed many of the Bible Codes but I’ve apparently lost it.
    The first book that pops up when I check Amazon is “Bible Code Bombshell” by Edwin W. Sherman. It proves the existence of them. You can get that without putting up much $$.
    I’ve watched many programs about the Bible Codes, both on Christian channels and the History Channel. I’ll guarantee you they are real. If you’re willing to buy the book above, I’m sure you’ll see that they are real. They put a chill down my spine the first time I saw some—sort of like seeing an angel, I suppose. The chances of them occurring my chance are astronomically low—and “astronomically” isn’t nearly a strong enough word.

    Furthermore, they testify that Jesus is Lord. Satan wouldn’t do that.

  28. Well, yeah, if you have long enough of a text and an infinite number of ways of manipulating it, you’ll find all sorts of amazing things.

    Maybe I could combine that book with the Book of Jaraneck to qualify for free shipping.

  29. Dear Cal,

    First, I honestly do not know if Jn. 10.35 is an authentic saying of Jesus–indeed, the gospel of John, the latest of the gospels, is so different in so many ways from the earlier, and (seemingly) more historically authentic, Synoptic gospels, I would bet that a not insignificant number of the words attributed to Jesus (and the supposed situations that elicit them) are not historically genuine (even if the theological ideas of the author(s) are “metaphysically true”). Second, even if the saying found in Jn. 10:35 were genuine, either historically or metaphysically, or both, I don’t know that it has much new to add about the topics of canon and/or text discussed above in my post (you are welcome to make some arguments for analysis, however). Finally, as for popular Bible Code theories: they are bogus. Sorry.

    Dear Tim,

    I am trying to get people to engage the evidence, instead of simply trying to manipulate the evidence to fit their preconceived beliefs.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  30. Dear TYD,

    To what extent do you question the authenticity of the book of John? What I mean is, have you made Jesus your Lord? Is the Holy Spirit living in you? If not, we can begin to discuss that; if so, we can build on that. I’d like to know where to start?

    As for John 10:35 not contributing to the discussion on canon, I don’t doubt you’re right.

    As for the Bible codes, if you engage the evidence as you suggest we all do, I’m sure you’ll see that they are real. Perhaps you have read books that try to find Bible codes that are not a blessing to anyone–I’m sure people can find some of those types of “codes” as with any book, as you said. But don’t let the devil’s codes distract you from ones that God put there!
    In any case, have a good day. It’s not a vitally important issue!

  31. A related issue: Doesn’t the Book of Mormon have chiasmus (spelled wrong) in it?—a-b-c-c-b-a formats? What would this do toward making the Book of Mormon canon?

  32. Yes, the Book of Mormon has chiasmus (yes, that’s the correct spelling). Its existence might speak to its historicity, but that’s a different issue than canonicity.

    If all it took was chiasmus to put something in the canon, we’d be obliged to accept some of the writings of James Strang. While a few of those who trace their religious heritage through Joseph Smith do, the vast majority do not.

  33. In a nutshell, after Joseph Smith died, Strang claimed that Smith had designated him as the next president of the Church. He and his followers eventually formed a small denomination (it still exists) that claims to be the “true” church that Smith founded. You can find its web site here.

  34. A related issue: Doesn’t the Book of Mormon have chiasmus (spelled wrong) in it?—a-b-c-c-b-a formats? What would this do toward making the Book of Mormon canon?

    Absolutely nothing. Chiasmus has been a common rhetorical device in the West since at least Classical Greece. It’s not a special, secret Hebrew poetic form that Joseph Smith could not have known about–it’s a well-known form of oratory/rhetoric.

    Joseph Smith himself may never have heard the word “chiasmus,” but he undoubtedly had been exposed to classical rhetoric at least second-hand.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s