Friday, July 25, 2008

Is There A Canon Within The Bible?

Thinklings is having an excellent discussion about this question:

Is there a canon within the canon? In other words, do some books of the Bible take precedence over other books of the Bible? Or at least are there books -- or a set of books within the Bible -- that could be construed as primus inter pares (first among equals) when compared to other biblical texts?


John Wilks said...

I would say that since the Gospels contain the teachings of Our Lord and the account of His life, death, and resurrection, they would be the books through which we must interpret all other books.

Gord said...

In realitiy we all have a canon within a canon. And that is where many of the "discussions" around Biblical interpretaion get bogged down.

In theory we should weigh each passage against the witness of the whole. How does this message tie in with the over-arching message of GOd's revelation in Scripture? (And maybe how does it relate to GOd's revelation outside of Scripture)

For Christians the GOspels hold a special place but I have to disagree with John that they need to bethe lenses through which we see all other books. REading Paul's letters through the Gospels makes little sense (not that Paul makes sense all the time as it is). REading the Jewish Scriptures through the GOspels only makes sense when we name that this is wht we are doing and avoid saying that those lenses give us the one and only meaning of those passages.

AS to what makes up the canon within a canon? That varies with who you aske. SOme have specific books, some a collection of passages/sayings that they either do or don't include.

Anonymous said...

The gospels are the canon within the NT canon. Other books written for contextual specific challenges should not be used to contradict Jesus teaching in the gospels.

wes said...

Personally I feel that if we are Christians then the answer is yes. The New Testament is our Cannon within the cannon of scripture. This is the lens by which we approach the Old Testament, for instance if we preach on the laws of the Old Testament, even the ten commandments, we temper that preaching with the Gospel of Christ. Also if we are Christian we cannot help but to read the Old Testament without looking toward the new, many of our hymns do this (that is if you look at all their verses and not just one).

The danger of the whole canon within a canon debate is that scripture as a whole becomes dependent on your view of the canon, not the other way around if that makes sense. I think another issue in the "canon within the canon" debate is that often what we mean is to ask the individual if there is a book or portion of scripture they turn to the most. This does not necessarily have bearing on doctrinal issues or even social issues. For example, time and again when something major happens in my life I turn to the book of Ecclesiastes. This is a major book in my personal canon within the canon. However I don't look toward this book when I am speaking of the Divinity of Christ, or when I am searching for how I am to act toward my neighbor (even though there are some good things there for this.)

In the end I believe we need to be careful with the whole idea of "canon within the canon" because we risk making all of the canon relative to only the individual (at least this has been my experience, or what I have seen).