As It Is Written . . .
Book of the People
by Patrick Henry Reardon
For a long time the identification of a thematic core of ideas was a major difficulty facing modern biblical scholarship. Even from fifty years ago I recall reading initiatory books—with titles like Introduction to the Old Testament and New Testament Theology—in which the authors prefaced their labor with many pages trying to justify the effort: What were the unifying doctrines that led to the formation of the biblical canon(s)? I, for one, was never satisfied that the author answered the question. Only later did I realize that it was the wrong question.
The difficulty came from the nature of the biblical canon, which differs greatly from what may appear, at first, to be parallel cases. For instance, a book entitled An Introduction to Plato or The Philosophy of Jane Austen begins with the canonical limits of these two authors. Their origin from a single mind is the unifying core of their ideas. Even a literary canon not determined by single authorship normally has some other recognizable factor providing a unitive core. In a book entitled An Introduction to the Romantics, for instance, the author is not obliged to spend a lot of pages explaining why Endymion is included and The Old Man and the Sea is left out.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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