Abstracts

John J. Collins, “Uses of Torah in the Second Temple Period”

The Torah of Moses was established as the official expression of the Judean way of life in the Persian period. This did not lead, however, to immediate extensive engagement with the legal aspects of the text. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah focus on a few symbolic boundary issues, that were considered crucial for maintaining the distinctive identity of this way of life. Most of the literature produced between that time and the Maccabean revolt draws on the narrative parts of the Torah as a source of wisdom and historical examples. It is only in the wake of the revolt that we begin to find a focus on the legal, halachic parts of the Scriptures, in such writings as Jubilees and the Temple Scroll and then in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Michael Satlow, “Bad Prophecies”

The major criterion by which a prophetic oracle was accepted as “authoritative,” we must assume, was that prophet’s past reliability: they were seen as accurately predicting the future.  Occasionally, though, inaccurate oracles ascribed to generally “reliable” prophets slipped through.  This paper deals with the issues that arise once oracles, especially inaccurate ones, were accepted as authoritative.

Manfred Oeming: “The Way of God: Ritual and Ethics as Birthplaces of Canonicity”

In the intensive debate about the origin of the fixed and unchangeable canon of the Holy Scripture (both inside and outside the academic sphere) we have two extreme positions: First, the position that holds that scripture was written by God himself and was revealed by prophets who acted as “the stylus” of God. The text has no history and no other authority behind it other than by God alone. The purest forms of this position are the Islamic idea of the origin of the Holy Koran in heaven and its reading before Mohammad by the angel Gabriel, and the story of the one and only Golden Plates that Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormons, received from the angel Moroni that he translated from the so-called “Ancient Egypt” script to English.

Second, the position that sees the political powers pressing for different reasons the religious communities to fix their textual heritage: prophets like Amos or Isaiah against the persecution; the Judean kings, especially Josiah; the Persian Empire, perhaps by a “Reichsautorisation”; and the Roman Caesar or the pope in his official lists. All of them wanted to use their authority and power to produce a unified text in a unified state: Monarchs and even more dictator’s needs as a basis for a uniformed kingdom one authoritative Holy Text. The final closing of the canon has – from this perspective – only external political reasons.

This paper will argue for a position in the middle: The canonization is a long process over more than 1500 years, with many steps taken by different authorities. In the beginning there were experiences of a Divine voice; in a longer period of “coagulation” the texts became more and more verbally fixed. I have previously analyzed and discussed some of the so-called “canon formulas”. Here, I will concentrate on the earliest phases of canonicity “it shall be a perpetual statute for them” and “for it ought not to be so done in Israel” . These formulas bring us back to the oldest birthplaces of the idea of a fixed text: the cult (offerings but also blessings and the sermon) and the ethics.

Timothy Lim, “The Insufficiency of Divine Inspiration”

A text’s claim to divine inspiration by itself is insufficient for inclusion in the canon.   Authority requires validation of that claim by a community. In this paper, I will discuss the nature of scriptural authority in Second Temple Judaism by examining the claim of revelation in the biblical books, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the writings of the early church. Several texts that were eventually included in the canon of the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament explicitly claimed divine origins as conveyed through prophecy. However, the principle is insufficient, since many other texts (e.g., Jubilees, Temple Scroll, Pesharim, Rule of the Community) make the same claim, but were not included in the canon. Moreover, other texts that do not make this claim were included in the canon. It is, therefore, the community that determines a text’s authority and inclusion in the canon and not the principle of divine inspiration as such.

John Barton, “How far does content of canonical texts matter?”

In calling certain texts canonical or scriptural we tend to assume that their contents must be of great importance for the community that recognizes them. This is called in question, however, by two phenomena. First, the text of scriptural books can vary widely—think of the issue in Jeremiah, where MT and LXX are so widely divergent. Second, how the content is read is often affected by the fact of canonicity: thus it might be said that the Gospel of John might be read as rather gnostic if it were not part of the New Testament. Rabbinic readings of the Hebrew Bible are often clearly ‘eisegesis’ from a modern critical perspective, yet this does not at all diminish rabbinic Judaism’s reverence for the biblical text. The paper will reflect on some historical and hermeneutical implications of these data.

Walter Moberly, “Canonicity and religious truth: What role, if any, should a traditional canon play today?”

The recent publication of A New New Testament: A Bible for the 21st Century Combining Traditional and Newly Discovered Texts (ed. Hal Taussig; foreword by John Crossan; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt: 2013) usefully raises in a focused way a range of key issues, both historical and contemporary, about the nature and purpose of the biblical canon. This paper will offer a preliminary identification and evaluation of some of these issues.

Craig A. Evans, “Jesus and the Beginnings of the Christian Canon”

Jesus quoted, paraphrased, or alluded to all of the books of Moses, most of the Prophets, and some of the Writings. Superficially, then, the “canon” of Jesus is pretty much what it was for most religiously-observant Jews of his time. Jesus also privileged certain books, such as Deuteronomy, Isaiah, and the Psalms, which again suggests that his usage of Scripture was pretty much in step with what we observe at Qumran and other circles.

But apparently Jesus did not privilege the Hebrew version as such, or at least the perspective of the Hebrew version. He often paraphrased Scripture, usually according to the Aramaic, which in his time, so far as we know, was emerging in an ad hoc fashion in the synagogue. This study inquires into what influence Jesus’ versional “openness” may have had on the early Church, which did not seem committed to one particular version, whether Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. This versional openness had significant canonical implications for the respective contents of Scripture.