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The Formation of the Jewish Canon



Timothy Lim here presents a complete account of the formation of the canon in Ancient Judaism from the emergence of the Torah in the Persian period to the final acceptance of the list of 22/24 books in the Rabbinic period. Using the Hebrew Bible, the Scrolls, the Apocrypha, the Letter of Aristeas, the writings of Philo, Josephus, the New Testament, and Rabbinic literature as primary evidence he argues that throughout the post-exilic period up to around AD 100 there was not one official “canon” accepted by all Jews; rather, there existed a plurality of collections of scriptures that were authoritative for different communities. Examining the literary sources and historical circumstances that led to the emergence of authoritative scriptures in ancient Judaism, Lim proposes a theory of the majority canon that posits that the Pharisaic canon became the canon of Rabbinic Judaism in the centuries after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple.

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If you like this title be sure to check out the Anchor Yale Reference Library.

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  • Presents a complete account of the formation of the canon in Ancient Judaism
  • Argues that up to around AD 100 there was not one official “canon” accepted by all Jews
  • Proposes a theory of the majority canon
  • Modern and Ancient Views of the Canon
  • The Emergence of the Canon Reconsidered
  • The Earliest Canonical Lists and Notices
  • The Torah in the Persian and Early Hellenistic Periods
  • The Letter of Aristeas and Its Early Interpreters
  • The Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira and 2 Maccabees
  • The Dead Sea Scrolls and Authoritative Scriptures
  • The Holy Books of the Essenes and Therapeutae
  • Canon in the Gospels and Pauline Letters
  • The Formation of the Jewish Canon
His argument is intelligent, balanced, and non-polemical.

Eugene Ulrich, John A. O’Brien Professor of Hebrew Scripture and Theology, University of Notre Dame

With great learning and great clarity, Timothy Lim studies the origins and significance of the canon of the Hebrew Bible. This book instantly becomes the point of departure for all future discussions of the subject.

—Shaye J. D. Cohen, Littauer Professor of Hebrew Literature and Philosophy, Harvard University

In this cogently argued book, Timothy Lim’s important and fresh interpretations of all of the pivotal ancient texts are informed by his considerable knowledge of the relevant ancient languages and his advanced awareness of both canonical and non-canonical literature.

Lee Martin McDonald, professor of New Testament studies, Acadia Divinity University, Nova Scotia

Lim has written a disciplined, substantive study of the evidence from ancient texts regarding the development of a Jewish canon and the many modern publications about the topic. The result is a valuable, up-to-date addition to the literature on this fascinating subject.

James C. VanderKam, John A. O’Brien Professor of Hebrew Scriptures, University of Notre Dame

Lim is a confident guide through the sources and the debates regarding the formation of the Jewish canon. In this essential and readable book, he deftly explores the problems of interpretation and recovery, cogently arguing for a persuasive yet nuanced position of his own.

Judith M. Lieu, Lady Margaret’s Professor of Divinity, University of Cambridge

Timothy H. Lim is professor of Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism at the School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh.


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