Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
March 30th, 2016 by Joel Watts

Canon Shots: Teaching the canon

CanonOver the past year or so, I’ve engaged others on the topic of canon. Some suggest that the Catholic/Orthodox canon(s) are the real Christian one. Others suggest that we must heed the Jewish canon. Neither of these statements are accurate because the “canon” is actually something designed by the community. Yes, the Catholic/Orthodox canon(s) are more historic for the Christian, because they reach back before the time of Jesus and from such time, is used to build Christian doctrines. Yes, the argument for the current Jewish canon does seem to have weight, but the LXX list(s) is actually older — among other theological issues.

The canon usually referred to as “the Jewish one” is actually a later invention of the Rabbinical school. It is simply one competing canon — the other canon, of course, is the other Jewish canon (i.e., the Church). I would maintain, along with the early Christian writers, that the Church is a form of Judaism. Usually, I tell classes that there are two main forms of Judaism that survived the destruction of the Second Temple: the Christian Church and the Jewish Synagogue. Yes, we are competing. No, it hasn’t always been bad, especially in the East where the Church and Synagogue helped develop each other’s theology.

Anyway, Chris Jones has an article up about incorporating the canon into classes on “the bible.” I believe he is correct. It is not completely correct to teach a “bible class” without acknowledging that the bible taught is the one inherent to the community, rather than it being “the bible.” So we can teach the Protestant bible, but it is not “the bible.” It is simple the canonical list recognized as common to Protestants. However, we should likewise teach how important Enoch was to the NT writers. And we may want to teach how Sirach and Wisdom of Solomon plays into early Christological discussions. And we may also want to teach that these books are found in many canonical lists.

As Wesleyans, our Articles of Religion (rather than the Confession of Faith) limits the canon only to the 66 books of the Protestant bible. On the other hand, as I swim in Anglo-Catholicism, my (deutero)canonical list expands. Frankly, I’m still pulling for the Psalms of Solomon and the list found in the New English Translation of the Septuagint.

Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

2 Responses to “Canon Shots: Teaching the canon”
  1. Benjamin D Williams says

    I’ve been exploring the fascinating topic of canon recently myself. One aspect that I would be interested in knowing more about is the history of how the Catholic deuterocanonical books were used in the church prior to the council of Trent. To what degree was Trent formalising something that was already a status quo?

    • If you read the Fathers, Doctors, etc.. you’ll note their use was something less than extensive, but more than forgotten. Then, turn the East and you’ll note real use.

Leave a Reply, Please!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: