“Collaboration on Canon” by Robert W. Wall and David R. Nienhuis (Part 3 of 3)

David R. Nienhuis is associate professor of New Testament studies at Seattle Pacific University.  Robert W. Wall is Paul T. Walls Professor of Scripture and Wesleyan Studies at Seattle Pacific University. Together, they have written Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude as Scripture: The Shaping and Shape of a Canonical Collection.

When we approached them to write to write a guest post for EerdWord, they responded with an unusual proposal: they would each write separately about the individual paths that brought them into this project, then comment together on the collaborative partnership that took them through it.

How could we resist?! 

In part one of our series, Rob Wall told his part of the story; in part two, Dave Nienhuis shared his. Today we hear from Rob Wall again, as he describes the collaborative effort that resulted in their new book. 

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Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude as Scripture
Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude as Scripture

Dave’s concluding reference to his important work on 2 Peter prompts me to make a final point about the nature of our collaboration. Unlike the sciences, where collaboration is the professional norm, most co-authored books in biblical studies (and generally in the humanities) are not produced by an extended, interpenetrating conversation between two scholars and their students. Multi-authored books are typically the collected results of different scholars working by themselves on projects of shared interests. The best of this genre vocalizes the work of a chorus of scholars, singing together in their different voices but still in harmony. What Dave and I wanted to produce, however, was a genuinely co-authored book whose core ideas were developed organically in a give-take conversation with each other and with different groups of students over an extended period of time. Our book is the product of such a conversation.

For example, Dave came to our project with a working hypothesis about the canonization of 2 Peter already forged during his PhD research (see his Not By Paul Alone). But it wasn’t until, while working on this book and team teaching a class on the Catholic Epistles (CE), our attention turned to this letter’s role within the collection that new and surprising ways of thinking about 2 Peter began to emerge. As can be witnessed by our steady email dialogue, Dave’s original hypothesis about the canonizing of 2 Peter came to be refocused upon its strategic and continuing role as the lynchpin letter for an entire canonical collection. Much of this conversation, though initiated by Dave, was driven by our shared intuitions about the internal logic of the sevenfold CE collection, which we tested and confirmed by intertextual analysis, historical witness (“shaping”), and theological readings (“shape”). Our book presents these preliminary findings. But what has emerged from our collaboration since is a new understanding of 2 Peter, which Dave continues to unfold based upon the goods he mined from the point of the letter’s canonization and from its current biblical location within the CE collection.

About that “Epilogue” Dave touched on in his blog post yesterday: yes, we mention the prospect of further work that engages the two corpora of New Testament letters, Pauline and Pillars, in an intracanonical dialogue regulated by the point of canonization and by recognition of their different yet complementary theological witnesses. But the Epilogue is much more than a declaration of our own scholarly intentions. It is an invitation for other colleagues to join in this collaboration with us.

There is much work to do.

Click to order Reading the Epistles of James, Peter, John and Jude as Scripture: The Shaping and Shape of a Canonical Collection by Robert W. Wall and David R. Nienhuis, or to read parts one and two of this series.