My interest in the origins of the New Testament canon began probably 30 plus years ago. At the time, there was a general interest in the subject, but it was still pretty niche. One had to dig around to find works on the canon that went beyond the well-known volumes by the likes of Bruce Metzger or F.F. Bruce.
But thankfully things have changed in the last bit of time. Now the topic of canon has garnered quite a bit of attention—at both scholarly and lay levels. New work is being done, and fresh avenues are being explored.
One example of fresh work is the new volume of collected essays from T&T Clark, Canon Formation: Tracing the Role of Sub-Collections in the Biblical Canon, edited by W. Edward Glenny and Darian R. Lockett. I had a chance to read the pre-published version of the volume and provide an endorsement, but I have only just recently received my own hard copy.
The volume has 16 chapters, so obviously I will not be offering any sort of comprehensive review here. Instead, I simply note the books primary contribution, namely a deep dive into the form and structure of the canon, both at at macro level and also within individual canonical sub-units. This involves, among other things, the order of books, their arrangement, textual divisions, and inter-textual connections.
The other feature of the book that I appreciate is the fact that it covered both Old and New Testaments. This allowed for scholars to observe not only links within, say, the corpus of New Testament writings, but links between New Testament and Old Testament writings.
Of course, this volume is not the first to explore these sorts of issues and questions. Looming in the background here is the work of Brevard Childs who was a pioneer of sorts in regard to the overall structure and function of the biblical canon. And he addressed both New and Old Testament in his various works (even though he was an OT scholar). One might also think of the work of James Sanders.
Even so, the essays here provide an wonderful update on how the scholarly discussion about canonical structure has fared over the last few generations. As a whole, the essays were balanced, even-handed and insightful (even if I had some quibbles here and there). My only real complaint is that it will have a limited audience due to the $150 price tag!
Here is the description of the book followed by the table of contents:
Contributors to this volume examine the various collections of canonical sub-units in the canon, considering the state of the question regarding each particular collection. The chapters introduce the issues involved in sub-collections being accepted in the canon, summarize the historical evidence of the acceptance of these collections, and discuss the compositional evidence of “canonical consciousness” in the various collections. The contributors consider paratextual evidence, for example, the arrangement of the books in various manuscripts, the titles of the books, and also include evidence such as the presence of catchwords, framing devices, and themes.
The book begins with a consideration of the two overarching collections – the Old and New Testaments. Next, several sub-collections within the Hebrew Bible (OT) are considered, including the Torah, Prophets, the Megilloth, the Twelve (both in their Masoretic Text and Septuagint forms), and the Psalter. In addition, sub-collections in the New Testament include the four-fold Gospel, the Pauline Collection (usually with Hebrews in the early manuscripts), the function of Acts within the New Testament, the Praxapostolos (Acts along with the Catholic Epistles), and the function of Revelation as the end of the canon.
Lee Martin McDonald
W. Edward Glenny and Darian R. Lockett
Section One: The Bible as a Whole and the Old and New Testament as Canonical Units
The Bible Canon and Its Significance
The Canonical Shape of the Hebrew Old Testament
Stephen G. Dempster
The Canonical Shape of the Greek Old Testament
The Canonical Shape of the New Testament
Matthew Y. Emerson
Section Two: Old Testament Canonical Sub-Units
The Pentateuch as Canon
Stephen B. Chapman
The Canon of Psalms
Nancy L. deClaissé-Walford
The Canonical Role of Israel’s Wisdom Collection
Craig G. Bartholomew
The Macro-Structure of the Megilloth
The Canonical Function of the Nebi’im
Prophetic Intentionality in the Twelve
Don C. Collett
The Book of the Twelve in the Septuagint
W. Edward Glenny
Section Three: New Testament Canonical Sub-Units
The Fourfold Gospel Collection
Gregory R. Lanier
Darian R. Lockett
The Pauline Corpus
E. Randolph Richards
Revelation as the End of the Canon
Section Four: Hermeneutical Considerations of Canon
Hermeneutical Reflections on Canonical Sub-Collections: Retrospect and Prospect