Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 59:3 (Sep 2016)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

The Formation and Significance of the Christian Biblical Canon. By Tomas Bokedal. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014, 440 pp., $39.95 paper.

“What is the biblical canon?” This question seems simple and often receives a straightforward historical answer. In this volume, Tomas Bokedal seeks to demonstrate that the question of canon requires the tools of the theologian as well as the craft of the historian. Bokedal begins by arguing that to understand the “complex phenomenon of biblical canonicity” (p. xiii), at least four broad areas must be taken into account: the effective-historical, textual-material, performative, and ideational aspects of canon. According to Bokedal, all four of these dimensions are “equally necessary to grasp the dynamic, multidimensional character of the Christian canon” (p. 20).

Bokedal first delineates the effective-historical (and linguistic) dimension of canon. For Bokedal, the formation of the biblical canon is “at one and the same time” both a “contingent act” and also a “carefully designed literary work of art” (p. 6). The canonical Scriptures can be understood as “a carefully designed, yet spontaneous, literary creation in and for the church, providing textual and theological basis for ecclesial existence” (p. 7). Affirming both the intentional and contingent aspects of the canonical process in his understanding of canon allows Bokedal to draw together historical, hermeneutical, and theological connotations. While historical investigation often dominates the canon discussion, Bokedal maintains that theology is needed in order to capture the wide-ranging function of the canon within the life of the churches. The concept of canon, then, “refers to the Christian Scriptures as a theologically normative intratextual matrix, involving first of all the contents, but, also the textual arrangement, scope and ecclesial function of the scriptural canon” (p. 11).

Bokedal then discusses the textual-material dimension. Several textual features of the canonical collection directly affected the way it was utilized within the believing community. The presence of nomina sacra in the earliest manuscripts of the NT points to an almost immediate reverence for Jesus and his teachings (chap. 3). The early preference for the codex format shows a specific concern for the way these particular texts were gathered and collected together (chap. 4). The clear connection between oral and written proclamation of the gospel and the teachings of the apostles highlights that early on these two textual streams function as a “two-fold norm” and cannot be neatly separated (chap. 5). Further, Bokedal draws out the implications of the textuality of the biblical texts (chap. 6). Understanding a “text” to be a ...

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