An ‘Extraordinary Fact’: “ Torah And Temple” And The Contours Of The Hebrew Canon, Part 1 -- By: Stephen G. Dempster

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 48:1 (NA 1997)
Article: An ‘Extraordinary Fact’: “ Torah And Temple” And The Contours Of The Hebrew Canon, Part 1
Author: Stephen G. Dempster

An ‘Extraordinary Fact’:1
Torah And Temple” And The Contours Of
The Hebrew Canon, Part 1

Stephen Dempster


Recent studies on the final form of the Hebrew Bible suggest that it is not a literary and historical accident but rather the result of deliberate editorial activity. The present study concludes that transitional texts at the major boundaries of the canon demonstrate an extraordinary awareness of canon and provide it with the hermeneutical framework of Torah and Temple. Part 1 reviews the relevant literature, describes the methodology to be used and applies that methodology to the first major section of the Hebrew Bible, the Torah. This text begins and ends with the paramount importance of the Word of God and the presence of God.

I. Introduction

In 1971, Nahum Sarna published an article on the Hebrew Bible in which he noted briefly:

…Indeed the Messianic theme of the return to Zion as an appropriate conclusion to the scriptures was probably the paramount consideration in the positioning of Chronicles [at the end of the canon]. Further evidence that the arrangement of the Scriptures was intended to express certain leading ideas in Judaism may be sought in the extraordinary fact that the initial

chapter of the Former Prophets (Josh. 1:8) and of the Latter Prophets (Isa. 1:10) and the closing chapter of the prophetical corpus (Mal. 3:22) as well as the opening chapter of the Ketuvim (Ps. 1:2) all contain a reference to Torah.2

The purpose of this study is to explore this insight briefly noted by Sarna and the implications it has for contributing to the present discussion on the canonical shape of the Hebrew Scriptures. I will first provide a context for the paper by discussing the current state of ‘First Testament’ canonical studies, then sketch a review of some of the important literature in the field, and finally examine the general contours of the canonical form which this literature has been given. The ramifications of Sarna’s ‘extraordinary fact’ will prove to be extraordinary indeed.3

II. The Present State Of Canonical Studies: Revolutionary Shifts In Perspective

Since the focus on the final form of the text in literary criticism, there have been numerous studies of such ...

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