Mark Sequeira's Reviews > Exploring the Origins of the Bible: Canon Formation in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective

Exploring the Origins of the Bible by Emanuel Tov
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This is a great book exploring the creation and pulling together of the Bible as we know it as well as the importance of the Septuagint (Greek O.T.) to our understanding of inspiration. As widely disparaged as it sometimes is, it is surprising that Jesus and the inspired authors of the N.T. chose to quote from the Septuagint more than half the time when there is a difference with the Hebrew O.T. and upwards to 94% of the time if we include every reference whether in agreement with the Hebrew or not. Didn't they know better? What's more, Jews in the first century believed the Greek O.T. translation was as inspired and authoritative as the original. Interesting as the Greek used was poor, just as the New Testament was written in a grocer's, crude greek spoken on the street rather than an older, classical Greek. This book definitely discusses first century struggles and views of inspiration as well as our own, which are very different as a result of our critical, scientific, and modern technology, the internet and the printing press.

It also gets into what books were included in the N.T. and used in the first century churches, as well as left out such as the Shepherd of Hermas, 1-2 Clement and the Psalms of Solomon. As someone who has already read these and a number of other later, sometimes gnostic texts, it is interesting that the church was still considering, praying over and and reserving judgement on a number of them, allowing them to be used in services but not committing to their inspiration. Same holds true of 1-2 Peter, Hebrews, Revelation, Jude, and in some instances the pastoral letters. As Revelation was often left out and the Shepherd of Hermas included, it does make you want to go back and read some of these texts to see what we might be missing, at least as good Chr. literature from the first century.

This was a process and while it may unsettle some, the openness and honesty with which the church dealt with letters and teachings before condemning or using texts should inspire us that they were not censoring or being rash but seriously seeking light in a time before all the writings were in. This plus the difficulty of access and communication before printing or the phone when transcribing was so phenomenally expensive causes one to understand a bit more the challenge why things took as long as they did.

We should be grateful to live when we do, with access to resources and a great text as close to the original manuscripts as we are likely to get and worlds closer than most older documents in existence. Most of us have libraries that would be the center of the learned world back in the day, rivaling kings and universities.

This is not a beginner's guide to the Bible. It is easy to read however and all earnest students will find something of interest whether they agree with a little or a lot.

The book is written as a series of articles/lectures from April 2006 dealing with the Septuagint, writings outside the canon, the Torah, the roole of the Septuagint in the formation of the canon, the Apocryphal Jesus, Paul and the process of canonization and Wherein lies authority? as well as Canon and Theology: What is at stake?

Contributors include:

James H. Charlesworth

Stephen G. Dempster

Craig A. Evans

Lee Martin McDonald

Stanley E. Porter

Emanuel Tov

Jonathan R. Wilson

R. Glenn Wooden
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