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Toward a Canon-Conscious Reading of the Bible: Exploring the History and Hermeneutics of the Canon


Two distinct questions about the canon of the Bible can be raised: (1) How did the biblical canon come to be?, and (2) What effect does that canon have on its readers?

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SKU: 978-1-909697-26-3

Two distinct questions about the canon of the Bible can be raised: (1) How did the biblical canon come to be?, and (2) What effect does that canon have on its readers? The former is a historical question about the formation of the biblical canon; the latter is a hermeneutical question about the function of the biblical canon. Though these questions have often been pursued in virtual isolation from one another, Spellman argues that there are considerable gains from observing the interconnections between the two lines of inquiry.

On the historical question of the origin of the canon, Spellman asks, Is the shape of this collection an accident of history or a result of intelligent design? He concludes that canon-consciousness played an important role in the formation of the canon, even impinging on the work of the biblical authors themselves. On the hermeneutical question, the communities of readers of the Bible may also be shown to have been directed by their own canon-consciousness, using it as a guide in their interpretative task.

In this interdisciplinary work, Spellman marshals historical, theological and hermeneutical resources in order to paint a picture of how the concept of canon can enrich reading communities of today.

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INTRODUCTION Questioning Canon Theme and Development of This Book 1. DEFINING THE CANON (DEBATE) The Terms of the Debate and the Role of Presuppositions Defining Canon Broad and Narrow Understandings of Canon The Distinction between Canon and Scripture The Process of Canon Formation Re-Shaping the Boundaries of the Canon Discussion Answering the Charge of Anachronism The Recognition of a “Core Canon” Consensus The Relevance of Manuscript Evidence The Relevance of Internal Evidence The Value of Canon-Consciousness 2. THE NATURE OF CANON-CONSCIOUSNESS The Importance of Canon as a Mental Construct Canon-Consciousness in the Secondary Literature Internal Evidence Implies a Canon-Consciousness among the Biblical Writers External Evidence Implies a Canon-Consciousness among the Believing Community 3. THE CANONICAL FEATURE OF CONTEXTUALITY The Canon Guides Readers through the Biblical Material Canon as a Mental Construct The Effect of the Canonical Framework The Canonically Generated Metanarrative The Canon Generates Textual Connections (Contextuality) 4. INTERTEXTUALITY WITHIN THE CANONICAL CONTEXT The Study of Intertextuality The Study of Biblical Intertextuality The Contextual and Intertextual Function of the Book of Revelation Revelation Fittingly Concludes the New Testament Canon Revelation Fittingly Concludes the Christian Canon (OT + NT) 5. IDENTIFYING AND BECOMING THE IDEAL READER OF THE BIBLICAL CANON Identifying the Implied Reader of a Literary Text Identifying with the Implied Readers of the Biblical Text Becoming the Ideal Readers of the Biblical Canon CONCLUSION: Embracing a Canon-Conscious Reading of Scripture


  1. John Barton, Review of Biblical Literature.

    [T]his is a magisterial discussion of how [the ‘canonical approach’] works and a persuasive account of why one might believe in it. It carries forward the torch lit by Brevard Childs with great learning and skill, and it must definitely be read by all who are concerned with either the historical or the hermeneutical question of the canon. John Barton, Review of Biblical Literature.

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Book information

Ched Spellman
List Price
£70 / $110 / €80
New Testament Monographs, 33
Scholars' Price
£35 / $55 / €40
ISBN 13 hardback
Paperback price
£22.50 / $29.50 / €24.50
ISBN 13 Paperback
Hardback / Paperback
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xi + 278
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