11. The Production of Authority in Levantine Canonical Ecologies: An Example of Accumulative Cultural Production
Terje Stordalen [+]
University of Oslo
This chapter reviews the beginnings of the cultural strategy of setting collections of professedly superb literature as symbols for social formation and group identity—what is in today's world known as Scripture. This was a cultural paradigm that emerged slowly over three millennia (or more) in the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Asia. During four or five centuries around the beginning of the Common Era, Jewish groups in the premodern Levant and Egypt adapted this paradigm particularly intensively. Their cultural production prepared the foundation for present-day Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scriptural canonical ecologies—all of which further adapted and implemented the cultural scriptural paradigm inherited from Classical Hebrew and early Jewish cultures. But what are the mechanics of production of authority in scriptural canons? In particular, how would it be possible, in the predominantly oral world of the Southern Levant during the centuries around the start of the common era, to stage a collection of scriptures as a means to produce social legitimacy? Exploring that question, this chapter discusses typical anatomies of canonical ecologies, including the canonical collection, its commentary, the canonical elites and their institutions, and the users: the canonical community. It then explores how texts would generally be used in popular culture in the oral–written interface of a predominantly oral world. Based on all this, the author argues that at one time a scriptural and an oral religious canon seem to have merged to form a symbiotic relationship, gaining each of the elites responsible for the respective canons.