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Critical Reflections on the Role of the Canon in New Testament Scholarship

Watson, Francis

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The modern discipline of New Testament Studies has subjected the various components of the New Testament to close scrutiny, yet it persistently fails to ask critical questions about the New Testament considered as a whole. In its familiar twenty-seven book form, the New Testament may be seen as a fourth-century anthology of early Christian writings based on earlier collections or sub-collections (the fourfold gospel, the Pauline letter collection), yet innovative in establishing a sharply defined boundary between included and excluded texts. An analysis of contributions to this journal over a recent five-year period demonstrates the pervasive influence of this fourth-century construct in determining the scope and priorities of (so-called) ‘mainstream’ scholarship. Greater attention to the contingencies of canon-formation will enable us to locate the texts that came to form the New Testament within a wider early Christian literary landscape.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 2, 2024
Online Publication Date Feb 1, 2024
Publication Date 2024-01
Deposit Date Feb 27, 2024
Publicly Available Date Feb 27, 2024
Journal New Testament Studies
Print ISSN 0028-6885
Electronic ISSN 1469-8145
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 70
Issue 1
Pages 111-124
Keywords Religious studies; History
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Copyright Statement
© The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.

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