A little bit before SBL 2009 in New Orleans, Stephen Chapman sent me a copy of his recent article in the journal Word & World (Volume 29, Number 4, Fall 2009, 334-347). The theme of this issue is Canon. If you can get your hands on it, I’d recommend reading it. Here is the abstract for Chapman’s article, “What Are We Reading? Canonicity and the Old Testament.”
Contrary to the standard step-by-step model of the formation of the Old Testament canon, the process was more fluid, on [sic] ongoing recognition of the authority of certain books, based on their use. Hints at early canonical moves are evident already in the Old Testament texts themselves. All of this is important to Christian readers because, without the Old Testament, the church cannot properly know who Jesus is.
Chapman provides a helpful outline of the history, rationale, and details of what he calls the standard model of Old Testament canon formation and contrasts this with an alternative model (which asks if canon is “more about authority than closure”). Chapman credits the work of James Sanders and Brevard Childs as influential in the development of this alternative. A pull-quote in this second section of the article asks, “Must a canon by definition be literarily unchanging, officially approved, and nationally applicable?”
I realize I am not summarizing the entire article here, my purpose is to point out the article (and the volume) as worthy of your time if you are interested in Canon issues.
The editorial, by Frederick J. Gaiser, is available in full-text (PDF) online here.