Brief Comments on the Old Testament as Canon

I was asked by a student if the early Jews (of the second Temple period) held to a canon of the likes of the later Church.

Here is my brief response:

No. There was considerable debate. For instance, the Sadducees of Jesus’ day only held to the Torah/Pentateuch. They rejected everything else. Same with the Samaritans. The Pharisees seem to represent a group that held to what we know as the OT (which was a collection of 22/24 scrolls equivalent to our 39). While the community (?) at Qumran seems to have held to a wider idea of sacred Scripture that included other texts. And still others, Greek speaking Jews, made use of what we have come to call the Apocrypha or Deuterocanon later received in the Roman Catholic tradition.

This causes me pause with regard to the certitude we can occasionally speak with regarding our ideas of canonicity. These are questions complicated by the communities we find ourselves a part of and the traditions we have received.

For an attempt at addressing the issue of “original text” of the OT, see my “Formation of Canonical Texts”

For an attempt at addressing “Formation of an OT Canon or Formation of a Community”

For a short “fun” attempt at what I’ve deemed a Midrashic history of the OT text/s. (apologies for the Greek/Hebrew texts going wonky in these early attempts…I should fix the unicode).

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