Saturday, July 31, 2010

The New Testament as Canon

I've been reading in the field of canonical criticism lately. When one begins to research in this area, Brevard Childs and James Sanders are at the top of the reading list. There are a number of other fine scholars who have done work in this field, however. One fine book that I recommend is by Robert Wall and Eugene Lemcio. It is called "The New Testament as Canon: A Reader in Canonical Criticism." Wall and Lemcio are both New Testament professors at Seattle Pacific University, a school affiliated with the Free Methodist Church. Their work in canonical criticism takes the Bible as the book of living, breathing communities, communities that are trying to work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Biblical interpretation has often been separated from the life of faith, but the approach in this book sees in the Bible myriad voices that often stand in tension with one another, informing communities of faith in a variety of ways. The tensions between these voices are resolved, they hold, not by creating a "canon within the canon" or simply rejecting one voice in favor of another, but by working through the implications of each within the life of a faithful community. For pastors who have academic interests, this would be a very useful book.

I think that canonical criticism could be a very fine method for working through issues related to the Bible and disability. We have in the Bible texts that one would not think of as helpful for people with disabilities. Likewise, there are texts that people of faith who have disabilities may find hopeful, liberating, and saving. There are tensions in the Bible around these topics, tensions that we need to work through not simply abstractly as scholars, but also as communities of faith who come to know God through scripture.

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