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The Canon Debate: On the Origins and Formation of the Bible [Hardcover]

By Lee Martin McDonald (Editor) & James A. Sanders (Editor)
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Item description for The Canon Debate: On the Origins and Formation of the Bible by Lee Martin McDonald & James A. Sanders...

The most comprehensive overview of canon formation in Judaism and Christianity. Featuring up-to-date research from more than 30 scholars, this superb resource treats historical and methodological topics relating to the development of both the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Jewish and Christian Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha. Sure to set the standard for future study. 700 pages, hardcover from Hendrickson.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Hendrickson Publishers
Pages   662
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.76" Width: 6.68" Height: 1.55"
Weight:   2.53 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Nov 1, 2002
Publisher   Hendrickson Publishers
ISBN  1565635175  
ISBN13  9781565635173  

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More About Lee Martin McDonald & James A. Sanders

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Lee M. McDonald is President Emeritus and Professor of New Testament Studies Emeritus of Acadia Divinity School, Nova Scotia and Adjunct Professor of New Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. He serves as Scholar in Residence for the American Baptist Churches of Los Angeles and the American Baptist Congregations of the Southwest and Hawaii.
James H. Charlesworth is George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary and director of the seminary's Dead Sea Scrolls Project. He is the author of The Beloved Disciple (Trinity) and co-editor of the Trinity Press Faith and Scholarship Colloquies (FSC) Series.

Lee Martin McDonald was born in 1942.

Lee Martin McDonald has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Guides for the Perplexed

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Canon Debate?

Prior knowledge needed  Nov 22, 2006
I purchased this book in 2005 because I saw it seemed to cover a lot of important issues regarding the canon of the bible. Well, this book has lots of technical language to the scholars in the area. Also a lot of views or theories perhaps are expressed here so I would definitely say prior knowledge of the bible's history and history outside of the bible is a must. I gave this book 5 stars although I really would've left it unrated if i had the option. I say that because this book was too advanced for me to read, at least for now it is.
Canon- Origins and Changes  Mar 25, 2004
The word "debate" well summarizes the character of the vast scholarly output of the past half-century dealing with the Jewish and Christian biblical canons. It is probably not accidental that the burgeoning interest in canonical issues coincided with the discovery (beginning in 1947) and publication of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in which "canonical" and "non-canonical" writings appear in great quantity in the same location. Indeed, of the 511 items in the bibliography of this book, 471 were published after 1950. This collection of 32 essays traces the contours of the contemporary debate in admirable detail.

Even the section titles hint at the unsettling of old conventions. Following the introduction, part two is labeled "The Old/First Testament Canon," and part three is "The New/Second Testament Canon." In the essays themselves, however, only James Sanders adopts these neologisms, and he only partially; even the Jewish contributors to the volume continue to use the conventional designations, "Old Testament" and "New Testament."

In the introduction McDonald and Sanders outline eight major questions in the debate, which can be collapsed into five: 1) What is the relationship between "scripture" and "canon"? 2) What is the scope of the respective OT and NT canons? 3) In view of the high profile of some non-canonical gospels in research on the life of Jesus, should the gospel canon be expanded? 4) Which form of the text is canonical, i.e., the most ancient form (as critically reconstructed), the final form (as known at the time of closure), or some other form? 5) What were the criteria for determining canonicity, and how should these criteria be evaluated by contemporary Jewish and Christian communities? These and related questions are central to the 15 essays on the OT canon and the 16 on the NT. The references that follow illustrate how lively and controversial the discussion remains.

Eugene Ulrich ("The Notion and Definition of Canon") claims that three elements are essential to the definition of canon. "First, the canon involves books, not the textual form of the books; secondly, it requires reflective judgment; and thirdly, it denotes a closed list" (34). But Eldon Jay Epp asks, "When two meaningful variants occur in an authoritative writing, which reading is canonical, or are both canonical? (512). That is, is the "reflective judgment" that yields canonical authority for a book different somehow from the reflective judgments that have given us variant forms of biblical texts? The status of the Septuagint in both Hellenistic Judaism and early Christianity shows that Epp's question goes far beyond the issue of individual variant readings. Essays by Albert Sundberg ("The Septuagint: The Bible of Hellenistic Judaism"), Emmanuel Tov, ("The Status of the Masoretic Text in Modern Text Editions of the Hebrew Bible: The Relevance of Canon"), and Craig Evans ("The Scripture of Jesus and His Earliest Followers") all point to the indissoluble connection between text and canon.

With respect to the criterion of a "closed list," some contributors suggest that the canon is much more about process than product (James Sanders, "The Issue of Closure in the Canonical Process," Joseph Blenkinsopp, "The Formation of the Hebrew Bible Canon: Isaiah as a Test Case"). The relevant importance of closure separates those who view the decisive period of canon formation as the second century (Everett Ferguson, "Factors Leading to the Selection and Closure of the New Testament Canon," Peter Balla, "Evidence for an Early Christian Canon [Second and Third Century]) from those who judge the fourth century as the crucial era (Albert Sundberg, "The Septuagint . . . ," Geoffrey Mark Hahne-man, "The Muratorian Fragment and the Origins of the New Testament Canon"). In sum, however much we may wish, with Ulrich, to "formulate and agree upon a precise definition of the canon of scripture for the sake of clarity, consistency, and constructive dialogue" (35), this is probably too much to hope for.

Nevertheless, this collection does offer much constructive dialogue and advances the debate about the canon in several particulars: 1) It subjects conventional arguments to fresh and vigorous re-examination (Steve Mason, "Josephus and His Twenty-Two Book Canon," John Barton, "Marcion Revisited"); 2) It underscores the vital relationship between textual criticism, codicology, and canon formation (Robert Kraft, "The Codex and Canon Consciousness," Daryl Schmidt, "The Greek New Testament as a Codex," Eldon Jay Epp, "Issues in the Interrelationship of New Testament Textual Criticism and Canon,"); 3) It provides up-to-date surveys of scholarship on a number of ancillary issues (James VanderKam, "Questions of Canon Viewed through the Dead Sea Scrolls," Pheme Perkins, "Gnosticism and the Christian Bible," Kent Clarke, "The Problem of Pseudonymity in Biblical Literature and Its Implications for Canon Formation"). Best of all, it offers the mature scholarship of the most seasoned veterans of canon research. A good two-thirds of the contributors are either emeritus faculty or senior scholars; and they represent an international, interconfessional, and theologically varied field. They are not only willing to engage each other in dialogue but to respond to and carry forward their own earlier research and reflections (Jack Lewis, "Jamnia Revisited," James Dunn, "Has the Canon a Continuing Function?").

The end matter is almost worth the price of the book. Lee McDonald has assembled appendices in which are collected primary sources for canon study and lists of catalogs for both the OT and NT canons. In addition to the generous bibliography, there is a subject index, an index of modern authors, and an index of ancient and medieval sources.

Although not a reference work in the usual sense of the term, the range and depth of discussion of canonical concerns assure that this book will be used as a standard reference work for many years to come.
Robert F. Hull, Jr.

Buy quickly, read slowly!  Jan 11, 2003
McDonald and Sanders have done an excellent job of convoking the best and brightest to discuss issues around the formation and understanding of the biblical canon.(Their use of the word "debate" for the title may be a bit of an overstatement considering the respectful collegiality of the participants.) Every contributor is a highly credentialed major player in the field. The editors express disappointment that Bruce Metzger, Roger Beckwith, Earle Ellis, Brevard Childs, and Gerald Sheppard were unable for various reasons to contribute articles. While their thoughts would have been interesting, the 31 Jewish and Christian scholars who did contribute are not to be considered second string (many of whom quote and reference the five absent giants anyway).

My enthusiasm for the thought contained in this 662-page book is based on having read the introduction and five randomly selected articles: "The Notion and Definition of Canon" (Eugene Ulrich), "Jamnia Revisited" (Jack P. Lewis), "The Old Testament Apocrypha in the Early Church and Today" (David J. Harrington, S.J.), "The Codex and Canon Consciousness" (Robert A. Kraft), and "The Problem of Pseudonymity in Biblical Literature and Its Implication" (Kent D. Clarke). As far as I can tell, these are new papers, not reworkings of existing materials. Harrington's thoughts on the Apocrypha, for instance, go far beyond anything he expressed on this subject in his own excellent book, INTVITATION TO THE APOCRYPHA (1999). Clarke's article on Pseudonymity answered a lot of questions I've had about this issue and I felt it did a good job of showing how a person's assumptions about a biblical book's pseudonymity (whether the practice is honorable, innocent, and licit or dishonorable, deceptive, and illicit) affects how a person is likely to judge that book's status within the canon. So far I've been impressed with everything I read. I look forward to savoring the remaining 26 articles.

Editor McDonald provided four interesting appendices and the bibliography is worth the cost of the book (they seem to identify English translations of scholarly works created in other languages when possible, though I noticed they did not do so with Trobisch's FIRST EDITION OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, Oxford, 2000; otherwise, the bibliography seems to be quite current).

If you're at all curious about how the Bible came to be and why different religious traditions have different Bibles, THE CANON DEBATE will give you lots to mull over. Accessible, but challenging.


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