WORKING MODELS AND OPEN QUESTIONS
STEPHEN B. CHAPMAN
Recent discussion about canonization within the field of Old Testament or Hebrew Bible studies1 provides a helpful vantage-point from which to identify several key methodological issues for comparative work on the phenomenon of literary and religious canons, especially in antiquity. In this essay, I hope to offer a contribution to such comparative work with the following thesis: efforts to reconstruct the process of biblical canon formation have consistendy raised certain basic methodological issues for historical-critical scholars of the Bible; furthermore, the way in which such scholars have chosen to respond to these issues has largely determined the shape of their historical reconstructions. In this way, historical theories about biblical canonization have not been ‘neutral’, but instead reflect the working out of various phenomenological assumptions about the process of ‘canonization’ itself.
1 While I would like to employ a ‘neutral’ term for this literature, especially given the original context for these remarks at the Hebrew University, I am not at all convinced that such neutrality is possible. This conviction is not only a matter of my own social location (as a Christian scholar), but also involves the different referents denoted by alternative terms. For example, ‘Hebrew Bible’ implies a contrast with the Greek Bible or Septuagint (LXX), while Old Testament’ does not. Because this essay pertains to both the Hebrew and the Greek biblical traditions, as well as the relationship between them, ‘Hebrew Bible’ cannot function as an adequate umbrella term. Moreover, although I would agree that the term ‘Old Testament’ was foreign to pre-Christian Judaism, I remain unconvinced that ‘Hebrew Bible’ does better justice to the precise hermeneutical position and role of this literature for ancient Israel. Cf. F.E. Greenspahn, “Does Judaism Have a Bible?”, in: L.J. Greenspoon and B.F. Le Beau (eds.), Sacred Text, Secular Times, (Omaha, 2000), 1–12. By using ‘Old Testament’ I do not intend to impose a network of Christian theological presuppositions upon this literature, but rather positively to describe the status of Israel’s Scriptures as a venerable collection for both Early Judaism and Early Christianity. In addition to these historical issues, moreover, it also seems fairer not to disguise from the reader the nature of my own social location and religious commitments.