The Canonical Process,
Textual Criticism, and Latter Stages
in the Composition of the Bible
In antiquity there were certain scribes engaged in the process of handing on the texts of the Hebrew Scriptures who intentionally went beyond the simple copying of the text. They worked creatively on the traditional sacred text, dared to augment it and enrich it for the community, and thus became contributors to the composition of the scriptures. Shemaryahu Talmon has described this type of scribe as “a minor partner in the creative literary process.”1
The present generation of textual critics has made a major contribution to our understanding of the history of the biblical text, and I hope to show how recent textual study of the Hebrew Bible has opened a window on a previously dark stage in the composition of the Bible. James Sanders is correct that study of the areas of text and canon can be mutually illuminating.2 Tex-
1. S. Talmon, “The Textual Study of the Bible — A New Outlook,” in Qumran and the History of the Biblical Text (ed. F. M. Cross and S. Talmon; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1975) 321-400, esp. 381.
2. James A. Sanders, From Sacred Story to Sacred Text (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987).
I wish to thank Professor Shemaryahu Talmon for inviting me to give an earlier version of
this paper at a symposium he organized on “The Hebrew Bible — From Literature to
Canon,” held at the National Humanities Center, Research Triangle Park, N.C., April 27-