Two distinct questions about the canon of the Bible can be raised: (1) How did the biblical canon come to be?, and (2) What effect does that canon have on its readers? The former is a historical question about the formation of the biblical canon; the latter is a hermeneutical question about the function of the biblical canon. Though these questions have often been pursued in virtual isolation from one another, Spellman argues that there are considerable gains from observing the interconnections between the two lines of inquiry.
On the historical question of the origin of the canon, Spellman asks, Is the shape of this collection an accident of history or a result of intelligent design? He concludes that canon-consciousness played an important role in the formation of the canon, even impinging on the work of the biblical authors themselves. On the hermeneutical question, the communities of readers of the Bible may also be shown to have been directed by their own canon-consciousness, using it as a guide in their interpretative task.
In this interdisciplinary work, Spellman marshals historical, theological and hermeneutical resources in order to paint a picture of how the concept of canon can enrich reading communities of today.