What's a canon?


David Markham
 

What makes a book scripture within its tradition? Religion scholars Ninian Smart and Richard Hecht struggled with this question as they created an anthology. Traditionally, the definition is through a canon, a definitive list of what books or stories are in, and what are out.


Johnstone, Jonalu. Scripture Unbound: A Unitarian Universalist Approach (p. 4). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition. 


In the Christian tradition the fights and arguments over the centuries about what texts should be considered scripture and which not is fascinating if one is interested in such topics. It is amazing how political this process is which often leads to schism and splitting with the dominant group declaring the people with opposing arguments and views as heretics. Some texts make it into the official canon as sacred while others are marginalized or condemned. This dynamic is observable in all faith traditions which promote a sacred text.


The argument for the dominant group often rests on the idea that the text is the revealed word of God and therefore the text, itself, is to be worshiped and respected as ultimate authority. Some would argue that this worship of text is a form of idolatry and the people making such a claim have made the finger the object of worship rather than the moon to which the finger is supposedly pointing.


What beliefs have you been taught about the ontological authenticity of scriptural texts? What beliefs do you hold now?

 


Carol Mannchen
 

Okay.  I was taught in Catholic school that the Bible was the inspired word of God.  I took a class a few years ago, a 4 year class, so I guess you might call it a course, called Education for Ministry, sponsored by The University of the South (Episcopal.)  We had a year of church history, so we covered all the councils during which the canon was decided upon.  I am not as familiar with how the apocrypha got removed by the Protestants.  Anyway, the whole procedure seemed just too political for me to associate it in any way with the inspired word of God.  However, I will say that I have read some of what is sometimes called the lost Scripture, and most of it is super weird to me.  

I know that the Quran is considered to have been dictated to Mohammed by an angel, but other than that, I am not familiar with the other Scriptures.

I don't consider the Bible to be the definitive word of God.  It is too contradictory, and also portrays God as someone I would not care to know most of the time.  That is somewhat scary to me.  Having learned more about placing it in its historical context, I see it as more of a history of a people and how they came to define themselves.  The New Testament -- I am not so sure.

When we do Bible studies at my church, we don't take everything literally, but still more literally than I believe, and then we read things like Rob Bell's What is the Bible, that interpret the Bible in a way more pleasing to us.  It seems we bend the words and stories to mean what we want them to mean and what makes sense to us.

I know that all of this is extremely heretical, but, oh well...

Carol Mannchen

Hermitage, TN
oldlawmom@...
615-310-4504




On Fri, Jan 1, 2021 at 12:42 PM David Markham <davidgmarkham@...> wrote:

What makes a book scripture within its tradition? Religion scholars Ninian Smart and Richard Hecht struggled with this question as they created an anthology. Traditionally, the definition is through a canon, a definitive list of what books or stories are in, and what are out.


Johnstone, Jonalu. Scripture Unbound: A Unitarian Universalist Approach (p. 4). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition. 


In the Christian tradition the fights and arguments over the centuries about what texts should be considered scripture and which not is fascinating if one is interested in such topics. It is amazing how political this process is which often leads to schism and splitting with the dominant group declaring the people with opposing arguments and views as heretics. Some texts make it into the official canon as sacred while others are marginalized or condemned. This dynamic is observable in all faith traditions which promote a sacred text.


The argument for the dominant group often rests on the idea that the text is the revealed word of God and therefore the text, itself, is to be worshiped and respected as ultimate authority. Some would argue that this worship of text is a form of idolatry and the people making such a claim have made the finger the object of worship rather than the moon to which the finger is supposedly pointing.


What beliefs have you been taught about the ontological authenticity of scriptural texts? What beliefs do you hold now?

 


David Markham
 

Hi Carol:

Thank you for your thoughtful and informative description of your experience with scripture.

In Unitarian Universalism, heresy is considered to be a good thing. The fourth of the seven UU principles is the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. If this search takes one in heretical directions so be it. As Polonius says in Hamlet, "above all else to thine own self be true."

Francis David, the Unitarian pioneer in the sixteenth century said "We need not think alike to love alike." I think Jesus said a similar thing when He said that the way to the kingdom is to "love as I have loved." Jesus was not impressed with the rabbinical scholars of His day and often called them hypocrites, whited sepulchres etc.

I admire your bible study and your flexibility in considering the meaning and application of the scripture to your daily life. This is the best purpose to which scripture can be put.

Happy New Year!

David Markham

On Fri, Jan 1, 2021 at 3:44 PM Carol Mannchen <oldlawmom@...> wrote:
Okay.  I was taught in Catholic school that the Bible was the inspired word of God.  I took a class a few years ago, a 4 year class, so I guess you might call it a course, called Education for Ministry, sponsored by The University of the South (Episcopal.)  We had a year of church history, so we covered all the councils during which the canon was decided upon.  I am not as familiar with how the apocrypha got removed by the Protestants.  Anyway, the whole procedure seemed just too political for me to associate it in any way with the inspired word of God.  However, I will say that I have read some of what is sometimes called the lost Scripture, and most of it is super weird to me.  

I know that the Quran is considered to have been dictated to Mohammed by an angel, but other than that, I am not familiar with the other Scriptures.

I don't consider the Bible to be the definitive word of God.  It is too contradictory, and also portrays God as someone I would not care to know most of the time.  That is somewhat scary to me.  Having learned more about placing it in its historical context, I see it as more of a history of a people and how they came to define themselves.  The New Testament -- I am not so sure.

When we do Bible studies at my church, we don't take everything literally, but still more literally than I believe, and then we read things like Rob Bell's What is the Bible, that interpret the Bible in a way more pleasing to us.  It seems we bend the words and stories to mean what we want them to mean and what makes sense to us.

I know that all of this is extremely heretical, but, oh well...

Carol Mannchen

Hermitage, TN
oldlawmom@...
615-310-4504




On Fri, Jan 1, 2021 at 12:42 PM David Markham <davidgmarkham@...> wrote:

What makes a book scripture within its tradition? Religion scholars Ninian Smart and Richard Hecht struggled with this question as they created an anthology. Traditionally, the definition is through a canon, a definitive list of what books or stories are in, and what are out.


Johnstone, Jonalu. Scripture Unbound: A Unitarian Universalist Approach (p. 4). Skinner House Books. Kindle Edition. 


In the Christian tradition the fights and arguments over the centuries about what texts should be considered scripture and which not is fascinating if one is interested in such topics. It is amazing how political this process is which often leads to schism and splitting with the dominant group declaring the people with opposing arguments and views as heretics. Some texts make it into the official canon as sacred while others are marginalized or condemned. This dynamic is observable in all faith traditions which promote a sacred text.


The argument for the dominant group often rests on the idea that the text is the revealed word of God and therefore the text, itself, is to be worshiped and respected as ultimate authority. Some would argue that this worship of text is a form of idolatry and the people making such a claim have made the finger the object of worship rather than the moon to which the finger is supposedly pointing.


What beliefs have you been taught about the ontological authenticity of scriptural texts? What beliefs do you hold now?