The Canon (Part 1)

Questions to think about during this lesson…

  • What is a “canon” of Scripture… and how is this different from the “holy canons” of the Church?
  • Why does any discussion of the Christian Bible have to start with the Hebrew Bible (what Christians call the “Old Testament”)?
  • With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the canon of Scripture was formed gradually by consensus over a long period of time. No one person or group decided what ought to be the canon of Scripture — either for the Hebrew Bible of the Jews, or for the Christian Bible. No pope, no bishop, no rabbi or council alone ever decided. Many, many people expressed their individual opinions, but no single person or group was the determining factor in whether a book was eventually accepted as Scripture or not. What are your thoughts on this?
  • What is the Tanak (or Tanakh) and where does that word come from?
  • What are the three main parts of the Tanak?
  • What books make up the Torah (or “The Teaching” or “The Law”)?
  • What books make up the Nevi’im (or “The Prophets”)?
  • What books make up the Ketuvim (or “The Writings”)?
  • What is the Pentateuch?
  • Even though the books of the Torah and Pentateuch are the same, how do their names differ?
  • How do the Jews sub-divide The Prophets?
  • How many books are in the Jewish Bible?
  • How many books are in the Protestant Old Testament?
  • If the Protestants have exactly the same books in their Old Testament as the Jews have in the Hebrew Bible, how can there be “only” 22 books in the Hebrew Bible but 39 books in the Protestant Old Testament?
  • Why did Jews of diaspora have to divide big books like Samuel into smaller books like 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel?
  • Even though the Protestants don’t officially acknowledge the Septuagint, you can see the tradition of the Septuagint in their Bible. What are some examples of this?
  • The Hebrew Bible canon (the Tanak) took form during three distinct periods of time: The first is the historical period when the events actually occurred. The second period is the historical period when those stories were actually written down. The third period is when those writings were considered Holy Scripture by the worshipping community. What are your thoughts on this?
  • While the Torah (the first five books) had already been in existence for a long time, when do most scholars think the Jews first recognized them as “Holy Scripture” — meaning that they were recognized as inspired by God and authoritative?
  • How does the layout, content and number of books of the Christian Old Testament differ from that of the Jewish Bible?
  • Why do Christians have a different order of books in the Old Testament than the Jews? And why doesn’t the order matter?
  • Why is there no such thing as an “official” order of books for the Orthodox Church?
  • When understanding the formation of the canon, it’s important to remember that in antiquity each book was copied and shelved and stored individually (as opposed to being a part of a single collection of books). In other words, we need to remember that books were written, copied, read, circulated and stored independently. Every book had a life and history of its own. Every book must be considered on its own merits. The Bible was not one volume like it is today — each book was different and had to be understood in its context. In fact, it wasn’t until very recently (really with the invention of the printing press) that the Bible became known as “The Book.” What are your thoughts on this?
  • How is it that the Tanak didn’t take its final form until LONG after the Septuagint was already in existence?

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