Textual Plurality and Biblical Interpretation

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Ephrem the Syrian and early Syrian Christianity.

BibleThis article reflects upon considerations of textual plurality and biblical interpretation as found in Lucas Van Rompay’s “The Christian Syriac Tradition of Interpretation”, James Kugel’s Traditions of the Bible, and the pseudepigraphal Jubilees. In each of these works there are concerns with how biblical texts were to be understood and how communities argued these texts should be properly interpreted, though this is relatively unsurprising in an era preceding any sort of formal scriptural canon. By my reading of these perspectives, there were at least two motivations in tension with each other during this period: inexact textual plurality and the desire for exact biblical interpretation. Continue reading

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NT Canon: Jewish Background

This post is part of an ongoing series outlining the formation of the New Testament canon.
Model of the Second Jewish Temple

Model of the Second Jewish Temple

Vital to understanding the formation of the New Testament canon is the need to understand both the context of Second Temple Judaism as well as first century Christian use of the Jewish Scriptures (now also the Christian Old Testament). Do any Google search on “Jewish Bible” and you’re likely to find the common argument that the Jewish Bible was not closed until the Council of Jamnia (c. 90 CE). This has led some scholars, such as Lee M. McDonald, to advocate that Jesus may have considered some writings which are now not included in the Protestant Old Testament to have been scriptural and authoritative. McDonald argues that Jesus, and even the writers of the New Testament books, did not have to hold to a traditional Jewish canon, and even though most New Testament quotations are from the Torah (Books of Moses) and Nevi’im (Prophets), the writers of the New Testament felt free to quote from the open Ketuvim (Writings; see for example Jude 14’s possible quotation of Enoch).[1] Continue reading