As I noted in a previous blog post, it seems that the issue of the origins of the biblical canon continues to garner quite a bit of scholarly attention. And this is good news. There’s always more issues to be explored and debated.
Let me mention four new volumes sitting on my desk, the first two of which I was able to endorse.
Tomas Bokedal, Christ the Center: How the Rule of Faith, the Nomina Sacra, and Numerical Patterns Shape the Canon (Lexham, 2023).
While I always appreciate new books on the canon, sometimes it seems that we are rehashing the same topics over and over. Not so with this book. Tomas does a great job breaking some new ground, exploring some micro-aspects of canon that have needed more attention. I’ve talked about the nomina sacra and the rule of faith elsewhere, so I found these topics particularly welcome. It’s a creative and stimulating volume, and sure to generate some fresh conversations.
Benjamin P. Laird, Creating the Canon: Composition, Controversy and the Authority of the New Testament (IVP Academic, 2022).
One of my common complaints over the years is that too many prior books on canon were simply “data” books. By that, I meant that they simply rehearse the historical facts about when/how books were received. While that is always an important task, too little attention has been given to broader contextual issues around canon, as well as the theological foundations for canon. Benjamin Laird’s new book is another helpful addition to the body of canonical works exploring these broader, more foundational questions.
Charles L. Quarles and L. Scott Kellum, 40 Questions about the Text and Canon of the New Testament (Kregel, 2023).
Unlike the other volumes, this is more of a reference work—a handy tool for those with quick questions about the origins of the NT canon or transmission of the NT text. It’s part of the 40 Questions series (edited by my friend Ben Merkle) where it answers 40 questions about the topic at hand. It is introductory and accessible and would be a helpful tool to put into the hands of the average person in the pew with questions about how these books were assembled.
Stanley E. Porter and Benjamin Laird, Five Views on the New Testament Canon (Kregel, 2022).
For years now, I thought it might be helpful for there to be a book where the different canonical models can be debated and discussed by their respective advocates (along the lines of the well-known “Four Views” series with Zondervan). Well, thanks to Stan Porter and Ben Laird, now we have such a volume. They collected five different authors/views: Conservative evangelical (Darian Lockett), Progressive Evangelical (David Nienhuis), Liberal Protestant (Jason David BeDuhn), Roman Catholic (Ian Boxall), and Greek Orthodox (George Parsenios). This will be a helpful volume if someone wants to get the proverbial lay of the land in the modern canonical debates.
I look forward to even more book on canon in the years to come. In the meantime, happy reading!