Brian W. Davidson

sharing things I enjoy

What did Geza Vermes think about the distinction between “Bible” (i.e. “canon”) and “Scripture”?
The Spring 2013 issue of the Journal of Jewish Studies includes his review of Molly Zahn’s Rethinking Rewritten Scripture. At the beginning of this review, Vermes notes that he coined the term “Rewritten Bible” in 1961 in his Scripture and Tradition in Judaism.

For a quarter of a century, the idea made little impact, but in the 1980s the ‘Rewritten Bible’ was rediscovered and during the last decades it has become an academic hot potato. (p. 194)

A few sentences later, as something of an aside, he bluntly states his thoughts on the Bible/Scripture distinction:

Another pedantic peculiarity adopted by many trans-Atlantic scholars is to reject the phrase ‘Rewritten Bible’ and substitute for it (guess!) ‘Rewritten Scripture’ because in their view the notion of ‘Bible’ was still in a state of flux before the second century CE. In my view, however, Josephus’s statement that in his time twenty-two books counted as authoritative among Jews shows that what became to be known as the canon existed by then, or perhaps even in the first century BCE. As for the textual variations that students of the Bible encountered in those days, they were probably not greater than those readers in England  or in America face when they look at the great variety of the current English translations of the Holy Writ. (p. 195)

Straightforward statement from an important scholar in a place you would’t think to look.

3 responses to “Vermes on the Canon Issue”

  1. Ronnie

    Very interesting post. Molly Zahn just spoke at our department (McMaster University) yesterday too.

  2. Sweet! What was the topic? Any lecture notes you could pass along?

  3. Joseph Kelly

    Straighforward, but not backed by a critical reading of Josephus. This argument amounts to “Josephus said it. I believe it. That settles it.” See the following:
    Borchardt, F. “The LXX Myth and the Rise of Textual Fixity.” Journal for the Study of Judaism 43 (2012): 1–21.
    Campbell, J. G. “Josephus’ Twenty-two Book Canon and the Qumran Scrolls.” In The Scrolls and Biblical Traditions: Proceedings of the Seventh Meeting of the IOQS in Helsinki, edited by G. J. Brooke, D. K. Falk, E. J. C. Tigchelaar, and M. M. Zahn, 19–45. Studies on the Texts of the Desert of Judah 103. Leiden: Brill, 2012.
    Lange, A. “‘Nobody Dared to Add to Them, to Take from Them, or to Make Changes’ (Josephus, AG. AP. 1.42): The Textual Standardization of Jewish Scriptures in Light of the Dead Sea Scrolls.” In Flores Florentino: Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Early Jewish Studies in Honour of Florentino García Martínez, edited by A. Hilhorst, É Puech, and E. J. C. Tigchelaar, 105–26. Supplements to the Journal for the Study of Judaism 122. Leiden: Brill, 2007.