I had an interesting discussion a few days ago at work. I’ve been trying to get one of my co-workers (Vince Setterholm) to guest blog for me on the canon matter since he’s done a lot of thinking about that. I think he’ll end up contributing. In the meantime, one thing he said really made good sense to me. We were talking about the myth that Constantine created the canon (a la, The DaVinci Code). What Constantine did was demand that copies of the Scriptures be made and distributed. That act, Vince noted, was what (in his mind) brought the canon as subsequent generations knew it, to fruition. In other words, once people were confronted (by the Emperor no less) with the task of having the canon copied out and distributed, they had to produce. There were lots of books out there that were considered canonical, but there was some disagreement. The choices made to fulfill Constantine’s order resulted in a collection disseminated throughotu the empire AS the “canon” — and so it stuck, so that, for generations thereafter, THAT collection became (pardon the pun) canonized. Constantine’s demand forced a decision.
Hopefully Vince will unpack this a bit more and stimulate some other ideas.