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Toward a Canon-Conscious Reading of the Bible
Exploring the History and Hermeneutics of the Canon
Ched Spellman

Two distinct questions about the canon of the Bible can be raised: (1) How did the biblical canon come to be?, and (2) What effect does that canon have on its readers? The former is a historical question about the formation of the biblical canon; the latter is a hermeneutical question about the function of the biblical canon. Though these questions have often been pursued in virtual isolation from one another, Spellman argues that there are considerable gains from observing the interconnections between the two lines of inquiry.

On the historical question of the origin of the canon, Spellman asks, Is the shape of this collection an accident of history or a result of intelligent design? He concludes that canon-consciousness played an important role in the formation of the canon, even impinging on the work of the biblical authors themselves. On the hermeneutical question, the communities of readers of the Bible may also be shown to have been directed by their own canon-consciousness, using it as a guide in their interpretative task.

In this interdisciplinary work, Spellman marshals historical, theological and hermeneutical resources in order to paint a picture of how the concept of canon can enrich reading communities of today.


Ched Spellman teaches in the School of Biblical and Theological Studies at Cedarville University, in Cedarville, Ohio.

Series: New Testament Monographs, 34
978-1-909697-26-3 hardback
Publication June 2014

Contents
INTRODUCTION
         Questioning Canon
         Theme and Development of This Book

1. DEFINING THE CANON (DEBATE)
         The Terms of the Debate and the Role of Presuppositions
         Defining Canon
         Broad and Narrow Understandings of Canon
         The Distinction between Canon and Scripture
         The Process of Canon Formation
         Re-Shaping the Boundaries of the Canon Discussion
              Answering the Charge of Anachronism
              The Recognition of a “Core Canon” Consensus
              The Relevance of Manuscript Evidence
              The Relevance of Internal Evidence
              The Value of Canon-Consciousness

2. THE NATURE OF CANON-CONSCIOUSNESS
         The Importance of Canon as a Mental Construct
         Canon-Consciousness in the Secondary Literature
         Internal Evidence Implies a Canon-Consciousness among the
              Biblical Writers
         External Evidence Implies a Canon-Consciousness among the
              Believing Community

3. THE CANONICAL FEATURE OF CONTEXTUALITY
         The Canon Guides Readers through the Biblical Material
              Canon as a Mental Construct
              The Effect of the Canonical Framework
              The Canonically Generated Metanarrative
         The Canon Generates Textual Connections (Contextuality)

4. INTERTEXTUALITY WITHIN THE CANONICAL CONTEXT
         The Study of Intertextuality
         The Study of Biblical Intertextuality
         The Contextual and Intertextual Function of the Book of Revelation
              Revelation Fittingly Concludes the New Testament Canon
              Revelation Fittingly Concludes the Christian Canon (OT + NT)

5. IDENTIFYING AND BECOMING THE IDEAL READER OF THE BIBLICAL
      CANON

         Identifying the Implied Reader of a Literary Text
         Identifying with the Implied Readers of the Biblical Text
         Becoming the Ideal Readers of the Biblical Canon

CONCLUSION: Embracing a Canon-Conscious Reading of Scripture


Reviews
[T]his is a magisterial discussion of how [the ‘canonical approach’] works and a persuasive account of why one might believe in it. It carries forward the torch lit by Brevard Childs with great learning and skill, and it must definitely be read by all who are concerned with either the historical or the hermeneutical question of the canon. John Barton, Review of Biblical Literature.