Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The New Testament Canon

The New Testament is not: a deliberate or pre-conceived collection of writings that understands itself as scripture; a systematic theology unified by a common message; an archive of solely Christian texts that exist outside of or beyond the Jewish cultural and religious context; self-consciously inspired (with the exception of John's Revelation).

The New Testament could be understood as: a multiplicity of manuscripts (of which we have no original autographs) that offer a multi-vocal account of similar events in a non-monolithic way; twenty-seven books written in (often poor) Greek; a fluid collection of texts that are inscribed with revisions, commentaries on Jewish Scripture and self-critique.

For me, the New Testament represents a politically arranged and deliberately pluriform anthology of humanly-drafted texts that document mythopoetic narratives and 'ethical' declarations held as important by a particular social group. And yet, as Ricoeur suggests, their "extravagance" lies in the creative potential engendered by the relationship between content and form, such that the inter-textual interplay of genres reconfigures humanity and moves us towards a more socially just understanding of the self. They reach out and invite us into a world of divine creativity.

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