On Friday 8th November we’re holding a reception in the Senate Room, New college from 4.15 – 5.45, to celebrate the publication of Dr Margaret Williams’ new book, Jews in a Graeco-Roman Environment (Mohr Siebeck, 2013). Margaret is a member of the CSCO committee and a regular participant in the Classical reading group. All welcome – as always. The event will also feature Ray’s famous G&Ts!
The CSCO team is pleased to announce that the Kennedy-Wright Opening lecture will be give this year by Professor Judith Lieu, Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge on Monday 7th October at 4 pm in the Martin Hall, New College. Prof Lieu will speak on ‘Marcion and the Corruption of the Gospel.’ The event will be followed by a wine reception. As always, all are welcome!
My book on the formation of the Jewish canon is about to be published by Yale University Press on the 22nd of October. Several years ago, while co-editing a volume on the scrolls, John Collins invited me to send in a proposal for the Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library series. I had written a chapter in the Oxford volume on ‘Authoritative Scriptures and the Dead Sea Scrolls’, and as General Editor of the YUP series John thought that it would be good to have a full length study, reviewing the whole issue of canon in the light of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
My interest in the formation of the canon goes back a long way, ever since I investigated the textual characteristics of the scriptural citations in the letters of Paul and the sectarian commentaries of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Over the years I have continued to research and write on various topics, such as ‘praise of the fathers’ in Ben Sira, the canonical notice in 4QMMT and the meaning of ‘the defilement of the hands’ in the Mishnah. This long period of reflection was necessary given the scope of the subject and the burgeoning scholarly literature. There were numerous terminological and conceptual issues at stake and they were, in turn, dependent on how key primary sources were interpreted. To compound the challenges, these sources were found within the fields of several sub-disciplines that have as their research goal the study of the Pentateuch, Septuagint, Dead Sea Scrolls, writings of Philo, books of Josephus, Pauline letters, and Rabbinic literature.
I felt, however, that there was advantage in discussing the subject as a whole rather than piecemeal. Ever since the three stage theory was demolished in the past generation, scholarly opinion has been divided and no consensus has emerged. Part of the reason may be found in the specialization of studies that tend to focus on narrower concerns and not address the big picture. The emergence of the canon is a general issue that crosses disciplinary boundaries.
In this book, I advance the theory of the majority canon. This theory suggests that while the 22/24 book Pharisaic canon eventually became the canon of Rabbinic Judaism between the second and third centuries CE there were diverse concepts of canon before this time. There was no centralization of a Jewish ‘council’, at the Temple or Javneh, that prescribed which books are to be considered authoritative. Rather the Jewish canon emerged from the bottom-up as various Jewish communities came to regard the same books as canonical.
(Helen Bond) Thanks to all the CSCO team for a hugely successful conference on Peter in Earliest Christianity. We had over 70 registrations in the end and 22 great papers. Our main speakers were all excellent – Peter Lampe, Markus Bockmuehl, Tobias Niklas, Timothy Barnes, Margaret Williams, and Larry Hurtado. We also appreciated their input throughout the conference (despite the enticing Edinburgh sunshine). Most of us headed off to ISBL in St Andrews afterwards (where poor Markus Bockmuehl had to endure another panel discussion of his Peter book!).
Everyone is asking what the next conference will be on – there will be another, but not for a couple of years! Meanwhile, we are editing the papers and hope to have a volume out in a year to eighteen months. No doubt we’ll be blogging about it here . . .
We had the rather sad news this week that Prof Sean Freyne has had to pull out of the conference owing to ill health. This has meant that we’ve had to rejig the first day a little and have decided to start things 30 mins later to give us a little more time for registration, lunch etc. Registration will still start at 11am, but the welcome will nowbe at 12.30 (the new programme is already on the Events page).