Biblio-Bites (Vol. 1)

The core of the canonical process is the establishment of an authoritative inspirational and instructional corpus and the consequential reclassification of excluded writings to a secondary status at best, and utter rejection at worst.  Such activities are invariably and inextricably related to issues of content; indeed, without content there is nothing to canonize.  If it is true that the ecclesiastical leaders, synods, and councils of the formative patristic period did not or could not establish definitive editions of the writings which they approved, neither did they endorse mere titles apart from their included subject matter.  Thus any action which potentially impinges upon the authority of a given biblical reading may be said to possess some canonical consequences.  The placement of one or more endings of Mark within brackets or marginal notes, for instance, visually and mentally differentiates these words from those which are not so presented.  It is extremely unlikely that the reader, when presented with these readily discernible indications of varying status, would subsequently determine that the alternatively presented options were just as valuable—or, we might say, just as canonical—as the other sections.

As the study of the interplay between canon and textual criticism remains in its infancy, its ultimate ends remain unknown.  Already, however, the innovative efforts of Parker, Epp, Comfort, and others have called attention to the subject and have revealed that it is possible to present and study a multiplicity of readings not only as competitors to be ranked and treated accordingly but as telling remnants of religious communities which used, preserved, and transmitted them.  Moreover, all extant readings belong to the evolution of the most significant book in the history of Western civilization and have something to offer as such.  It is an especially exciting time for those interested in the developing nature of the Christian scriptures.  Like the Short Ending of Mark, what happens next has not yet been revealed.

From “The end?  A canonical exploration of the conclusion(s) of the Gospel of Mark” (2009)


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© 2006-2009, Matthew Burgess. All rights reserved. Any unauthorized use of the original content of this website is strictly prohibited. Quotations or citations should include a link to this website. The views and opinions given here are my own and do not represent those of the University of Virginia (or anyone else, for that matter).

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