How Did the Bible Come to Be? | Recommended Reading List on Canon Formation

How did the Bible come to be? 

In One Holy Book, I walked through some of the central steps of the "story" of canon formation and broached some of the wide-ranging questions that arise when we attempt an answer to this question. In the first appendix, I give an annotated list of recommended readings ("where do I read from here?"). 

This list is obviously not seeking to be comprehensive but a launching pad to further study in the wonderful world of canon studies. The list focuses on broadly evangelical works that directly address the canon formation question. A more comprehensive/inclusive list would be much longer (there's an embarrassment of riches out there!). It's alphabetical & the intro <--> advanced scale is not a value judgment but rather my perception of how "technical" it gets and how someone new to the subject might receive it. 

For someone whose burning questions are theological, I'd start with Lanier. If these questions are primarily historical, I'd start with Reeves/Hill. The next step could then be guided by interest or desire to follow-up on an area. 

The Bible is an inexhaustible area of academic study and confessional devotion. If you've never examined this area, I hope this list encourages you to dive in! 

Recommended Reading List on Canon Formation 

Bruce, F. F. The Canon of Scripture. IVP, 1998. Overviews the formation and reception of both the OT and the NT. A careful historical study that discusses most of the important primary sources for this discussion from a broadly evangelical perspective. (Introductory/intermediate)

Collins, C. John and Thomas R. Schreiner, et al, eds. Understanding Scripture: An Overview of the Bible’s Origin, Reliability, and Meaning (Crossway, 2012). Helpful series of introductory essays on canon formation and text transmission by Roger Beckwith, Charles Hill, Paul Wegner, and Daniel Wallace (parts 2–3). These essays were originally part of the ESV Study Bible and so are substantive but accessible. (Introductory)

Gallagher, Edmon and John Meade. The Biblical Canon Lists from Early Christianity and Analysis. Oxford, 2017. A comprehensive resource that presents and contextualizes the many lists of the biblical collection in a variety of traditions. Also includes discussion of the canon debate and manuscript evidence. (Advanced)

Hill, Charles E. Who Chose the Gospels? Probing the Great Gospel Conspiracy. Oxford, 2011. Focused on the fourfold Gospel collection. Readable examination of the manuscript evidence and testimony of the earliest churches. Also a primer on the interpretive decisions that must be made when interpreting this historical evidence. (Intermediate)

Jongkind, Dirk. An Introduction to the Greek NT Produced at Tyndale House, Cambridge. Crossway, 2019. An accessible introduction to an advanced topic. Explains decisions made for the Tyndale Greek NT edition along with a primer on the text-critical issues involved in preparing a Greek NT for publication. (Advanced)

Kruger, Michael J. Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the NT Books. Crossway, 2012. Interacts with recent scholarship on canon and the most important primary sources. Special focus on the historical and theological question of determining the boundaries and authority of the NT books. Makes a strong argument for the “self-authenticating” quality of biblical texts. (Intermediate/advanced)

Kruger, Michael J. The Question of Canon: Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate. IVP, 2013. Tackles five major questions in the field of canon studies including the definition of canon, the concept of canon, the presence of written texts in early Christianity, the nature of apostolic authorship, and the early date for canon formation. (Intermediate/advanced)

Lanier, Gregory Y. A Christian’s Pocket Guide to How We Got the Bible. Christian Focus, 2018. A brief and accessible introduction to both canon formation and text transmission with an eye toward the theological questions asked by church members. (Introductory)

Reeves, Ryan M. and Charles Hill. How We Got Our Bible. Zondervan, 2018. An accessible introduction to canon formation that includes versions and translations through the modern era. (Introductory/intermediate)

Sailhamer, John H. How We Got the Bible. Zondervan, 1998. A succinct overview of the canon formation and text transmission process. Designed to be accessible with each topic being treated on a single page. Helpful focus on the nature of composition. (Introductory)

Spellman, Ched. Toward a Canon-Conscious Reading of the Bible: Exploring the History and Hermeneutics of the Canon. Sheffield-Phoenix Press, 2014. Provides a more in-depth argument for some of the key concepts and starting points broached in the chapters above. Develops the notion of canon-consciousness and its implications for biblical interpretation. (Advanced)

Canon Formation
July 19, 2021


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