“Canon,” a Greek word meaning “reed,” came to refer to any straight stick that could be used for measuring. This basic meaning was extended to refer to any rule or standard by which things could be compared or judged. The Alexandrian grammarians, classical Greek writers who were not simply grammarians but also what we would call literary critics, used “canon” as their term for the list of standard or classic authors who were worthy of attention and imitation. This was not a closed category, and there were disputes about adding or removing works from the list. Furthermore, inclusion on the list merely recognized a work's quality; it did not confer any new status. Nevertheless, a canon of writings came to denote those texts that were of central importance to a given group. When used in reference to the Bible, canon has an even stronger significance: Not only is a given set of texts included, but all other texts—no matter how worthy otherwise—are excluded. This sense is expressed in a rabbinic comment on Eccl 12.12 . The biblical text reads:
Of anything beyond these [Heb mehemah], my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end.
The rabbinic comment states:
Those who bring more than twenty‐four books [the standard number in the Hebrew Bible; see below] into their house introduce confusion [Heb mehumah] into their house (Qoh. Rab. 12.12).
This suggests not only that the works in the canon are important, but that they, along with their authoritative interpretation, are sufficient in and of themselves.