Friday, July 13, 2018

The formation of the OT canon

A possible model for the formation of the Hebrew canon may be suggested here in broad outline. Deut 31:26 records that the "book of the law" (presumably Deuteronomy or a text similar to it) was to be placed in the most holy place of the tabernacle. As the Word of God was being written, it continued to be collected and preserved in the Jerusalem temple, where it could be read and copied by others who were interested in its contents. By 586 BC copies would have been taken by the exiles out of the country, while other copies may have been hidden near Jerusalem. Even if copies were not already present at Jerusalem, Ezra returned with the books of the Law (the Pentateuch). He and others may have brought back various books of the Bible to Jerusalem. In any case, a collection in the temple allowed the priesthood to regulate what they considered as Scripture and what they did not. At some point prophecy was regarded as having ceased, and the final scrolls came into the collection [Thus 1 Macc 4:46, "Until a prophet should come," suggests the absence of prophecy]. After that, as far as the sources attest [1 & 2 Maccabees, as well as sources cited above that attest to major divisions and the number of books in the Hebrew Scriptures], no further scrolls were added to the Hebrew Bible as preserved in the Jerusalem temple. As noted above, these were the thirty-nine books that came to be known as the Old Testament. The rabbis recognized the authority of these texts after the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. R. Hess, The Old Testament: A Historical, Theological, and Critical Introduction (Baker 2016), 8-9.

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