Saturday, August 30, 2008

The potential depth of "canonical"

I have realised that a potential key to understanding, and therefore, praising, critiquing, and improving the Jerusalem Declaration on interpretation of the Bible, is the meaning of the word 'canonical' in the phraise 'plain and canonical' in clause 2 (see post below).

Here I observe that 'canonical' could mean, either or both of:

(i) "of the canon (i.e. agreed books) of Scripture" - any interpretation of one part of the Bible should be consistent with the overall reading of the whole of the Bible (i.e. not reading one part of Scripture repugnant with another);

(ii) "of the rule (i.e. 'canon') of the church's faith" - any interpretation of any part of the Bible should be consistent with the theology of the church (here defined in terms of clauses 3 and 4 of the JD (i.e. councils, creeds, Thirty-Nine Articles).

So, one question about clause 2 is whether it offers clarity about the meaning of 'canonical'? I think its meaning is not clear and this is a weakness in the clause which could be tuned up. Potentially 'canonical' offers some rich possibilities for how interpretation is understood within the JD. Yet it does not provide for guidance for how the church resolves issues of difference of interpretation within a canonical context of understanding.

More to come ...

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