Friday, 22 July 2016
Religion and Cultural Memory (tr. Rodney Livingstone),
Jan Assmann, Stanford University Press, 2006, page 64-65
On the basis that once in its 'final' state, the historical development of a text ceases to be important, Jan Assmann observes:
The process of canonisation inverts the normal fate of written and copied texts. For the ormal path is downhill: the history of texts is the history of decadence. This is why all philologists are at pains to arrive at the oldest and most fundamental version, the archetype. The source of meaning isthe author's intention, and the closer a version comes to that intention, the more meaningful it is. Textual criticism works from the latest form to the primeval form.
Canonical criticism is very different; diametrically different.
The critique of a canon works in the opposite direction: it uncovers the forces that motivate the development, growth, coming togetherm and sanctification of the texts. Here we are interested not in the original authors and their intentions, but the editors and especially the last editors who bring the whole corpus together into a canon.
So what sort of process of forming a canon?
Theologically, we can think of canonisation as an inspired process, a revelation that unfolds and perfects itself over time and that, according to the rabbis, continues in the shape of the oral Torah to modify the interpretation of the text.