Outline of Post on the Scripture Session held on 03/16/14
- Discussion of the Formation of the Scriptural Canon
- Background to today’s Reading
- Reading Gen. 43: 01 – 34
Discussion of the Formation of the Canon
I began by providing a brief summary of the past two chapters which form the background to the second journey of the brothers, including this time, Benjamin to Egypt to purchase food because of the continuance of the famine. I mentioned just in passing, I thought, that I would do the reading from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible so that the group could hear a slightly different wording of the passage that we were going to study. Little did I know that I had opened a can of worms.
Ken asked what might seem like a straightforward question. Aren’t there different books in the Catholic Bible as compared to the Protestant Bible? The question isn’t as straightforward as it might seem. Why?, because the question itself assumes a series of historical events that occurred in the 16th century but doesn’t take into account another series of historical events that began in the 19th century and continues to today. There is no question that there are different accounts of the books that make up the Jewish and the Christian bibles. But Ken’s formulation of the question continues an understanding that doesn’t take into consideration the later developments in biblical scholarship. In its own way it continues the 16th century divide which in some future date Christians will have to solve but that solution can begin with each of us now, today.
Over the next ½ hour or more I attempted to give a brief but less than accurate [my response being off the cuff] account of the factors involved in the formation of the bible as it exists today; what is called the Canon of the Scriptures. There is a growing consensus among scholars but there remain points of difference.
Since both the Jewish and Christian communities believe that the bible as they understand it is inspired by God [again however that is understood], that fact alone leads both communities to arrive at what is called their canon. The canon is an authoritative and closed list of books that the believing communities say are those inspired by God. The believing communities don’t all agree, though.
Why there is not a total consensus on what that closed list comprises actually is a rather complicated research into the history of both Jewish and Christian communities. If you want to look into this history, you might google one or more of the following:
- List of books in the Jewish Canon
- Apocrypha – a Greek word meaning “hidden,” or “secret” that identifies one way of talking about the differences in the list.
- Deuterocanonical – derived from the Latin which means “second canon” and is another term that identifies the differences in the list.
Although there are differences, there is much more of the bible that all Christians agree on. If we focus on the differences we will find them but if we focus on what we agree on, we will find that too.
At its core, however, these differences are a question of personal and communal identity. Who are we? The answer to which responds to a very primal human issue. Someday maybe we can get pass that but that will take more than scholarship. Jesus himself experienced this issue among the Palestinian people with whom he lived, talked, and conducted his ministry. Ultimately this was to led to a division among the Jewish communities into Jews and Christians. Not all differences though have the same impact. Some divide us, others don’t; those that deal with our very identity divide us.
Every time I come to these profound issues, I wonder if it might spark a conversation so that we can learn how to create a common community that might mirror the simple fact that we are all on this one planet, together.
Fortunate or not, I then asked a follow up question. I was talking to a friend of mine and mentioned an obvious fact, that Jesus was a Jew; in fact, all of the initial followers of Jesus were Jewish. My friend asked then another one of those simple, straightforward questions, the best of questions because they are genuine, Well why aren’t we [Christians] all Jewish? I ask the gathered group, as I ask those reading this post, how would you answer that question?
Ken responded that sometimes short questions have very long answers. The short answer is that Jewish did not accept Jesus as their Messiah.
Michael added his own question. Why, upon following Jesus, did we do away with so many Jewish traditions?
These two observations took us on another journey. In the dynamic of the group the journeys just happen. They can happen on the blog too, but that can happen only if and when I find a way to entice readers of the blog to join the journey. For now, I leave the other three points on this blog quiet and point to the final statement, the invitation to participate.
Background to today’s Reading: Gen. 43: 01 – 34.
Reading: Gen. 43: 01 – 34 http://usccb.org/bible/genesis/43.
You are invited to respond to these or other questions that might arise within you as you read this passage. Your comments, observations, questions are welcomed. See “comment” link below