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Some notes on Canons and translations

The notion of “canon”.

The English word “canon” is ultimately derived from an Akkadian word (the language of ancient Mesopotamia), and comes to us via Hebrew and Greek. Initially it meant “measuring rod, something used to give a straight line.” In Greek and later traditions it was used metaphorically for “a norm, rule or standard” in several fields. It was also used for a list or table (e.g. in mathematics or astronomy). In church circles it has come to indicate the list of books comprising the rule of church doctrine. Our “canon” of scripture is the list of books recognised as authoritative in some way for ordering the life and doctrine of the community of faith.

Notes on the determination of the various canons:

Some further points:

Thoughts on the implications of canons and translations:

Most of our work this semester will focus on approaching the biblical text as a human religious document. At the same time we will bear in mind that the OT/HB is also Scripture for various communities. We will constantly ask questions about how these two perspectives can be kept in balance. As you might already realise from the brief look at canons and translations, the matter of reading the text of the OT/HB, and of interpreting it, will not be a task without ambiguity, and assumptions and choices will need to be made from time to time. You will find there are cases for different understandings of the texts we will read in the OT/HB, just as there are cases for different views on what books we read as the OT/HB. You need to be aware of these things, and ready to engage them in your study of the OT/HB.

H. Wallace
March '05

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