Monday, May 29, 2006

Tomas Bokedal, ThD thesis at Lund

[I am grateful to the author for receipt of the following abstract of a doctorate in systematic theology with considerable interaction with text-critical issues. It is good to see that the material aspects of manuscripts are beginning to be noticed by systematicians.]

Bokedal, Tomas, The Scriptures and the Lord: Formation and Significance of the Christian Biblical Canon. A Study in Text, Ritual and Interpretation, 374 pp. (ISBN: 91-628-6607-9). Thesis for the degree of Doctor of Theology, ThD, Lund University, 2005.

This study explores the emergence of the Christian biblical canon and its significance for the early as well as for the contemporary church. Some major challenges to previous research on the biblical canon are presented.

The apostolic formula "the Scriptures and the Lord" is defended as a good summary of the Christian canon, its formation and significance. It is argued that the canon was formed in a process with its own particular intention, history and direction. Seeking to bridge the early canon with its future orientation and reception, history and theology, past and present are considered alongside each other. The ongoing preservation and actualization of the canon is crucial also for today's church.

As part of the investigation, a set of signifiers for the different dimensions of the concept of canon is elaborated. Furthermore, the trinitarian textual markers of the so called nomina sacra are treated. The nomina sacra were consistently used in the Bible manuscripts until modern times, and their reintroduction in contemporary Bibles is proposed. Particularly highlighted are also the codex format, oral and written text, the textuality of the canon, canonical shape, the Liturgy of the Word, the Rule of Faith and the logic of the Christian canon.

The results of this investigation suggest that three recent views on the canon formation should be revised: 1) The significance of canonizing as an act of cataloguing of a definite list of Scriptures, commonly ascribed to the late fourth century. 2) The insignificance often associated with the first and second century concepts of a Christian biblical canon. And 3) The idea that the act of canonizing Scripture is just past history, while numerous examples of the act of preserving, actualizing and restructuring the Scriptures as canon may be enlisted in the midst of ongoing canon debates.In order to grasp the complex phenomenon of the Christian canon, applying a semiotic approach, the study is divided in four major parts, each signifying different aspects of the canonical structuring of the Christian Scriptures. These are: 1) linguistic and effective-historical, 2) material and textual, 3) performative, and 4) ideational aspects. The hermeneutics of tradition developed by Hans-Georg Gadamer is central to the study.

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