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The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Definitions

“Canon” is a Greek word meaning “reed,” and 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 upon it any new status. Nevertheless, a canon of writings came to denote those texts that were of central importance to a given group. The term is used somewhat imprecisely for the Bible, since the earliest evidence we have for understanding the development of the Tanakh does not come from book lists. Furthermore, 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 Tanakh; see below] into their house introduce confusion [Heb mehumah] into their house (Eccl. Rab. 12:12).

This suggests not only that the works in the canon are important, but that they, along with their authoritative interpretation, are sufficientin and of themselves. Once the biblical canon was fixed, there could be no additions to it or subtractions from it. More important, books in the biblical canon, unlike those in the canons of the Greek grammarians, came to be thought of as divinely inspired.

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