When did the Bible become the Bible? Recent scholarship has problematized anachronistically projecting our notions about the Bible onto the Second Temple period. Scholars are now asking a series of related questions: What was the function of scripture for specific communities? Which textual traditions were dominant? Which texts were considered ‘scripture’?
This forum highlights some of the issues regarding the form and function of the "Bible" in the Second Temple period. In particular we’re interested in two specific dimensions of this problem:
- Authority: how do we judge the authoritativeness of a text? Does authoritativeness mean that the text should be categorized as ‘scripture’? Can a text be scriptural or authoritative despite being fluid and appearing in different versions?
- Canon: how are canons formed? How are these individual texts incorporated into a canon? Are there different kinds of canon? Is there a major difference between the earliest canons and the canon as it is known today?
The forum is interested not just in challenging former conceptions about the Bible, but in highlighting some of the interesting variations and configurations of scripture that existed in the Second Temple period. Look for a piece each week of the month of December!
Timothy Lim, Professor of Hebrew Bible & Second Temple Judaism at University of Edinburgh
"In the Second Temple Period, I have suggested that different collections of authoritative scriptures preceded the emergence of the one Jewish canon. Before Yavneh, different Jewish communities held their own understanding of authoritative scriptures."
Eva Mroczek, Assistant Professor of Hebrew Bible & Ancient Judaism at UC Davis
"But the Dead Sea Scrolls revealed a world where sacred writing did not have a stable essence and was not contained in specific boundaries. It seems dissonant to think of texts as unstable, uncontained, and sacred all at once. But could this hint at a different set of features, assumptions, and values that ancient people associated with sacred writing?"
Brennan Breed, Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary
"In relation to sacred scripture, “canon” designates a group of texts that are authoritative for a particular community’s religious faith. Some texts are inside the canon, and thus canonical. Others are outside, located in a lower register of authority. This boundary between in and out is conceptual and metaphorical, yet it has real effects on how we approach texts."
Respondent: Sidnie White Crawford, Professor of Classics & Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln
"While there are clear differences among the three papers, I would first like to highlight one similarity: all three acknowledge in one way or another that our notions of when and how the Jewish canon of scripture came into existence were exploded by the discovery of the Judean Desert manuscripts in the mid-twentieth century."
Sarah Rollens, Visiting Assistant Professor, Rhodes College
"Canons are products of power. This power can be constructed with or without a coherent community. Power needs only a social field in which to operate."