Contemporary debate over the formation of the biblical canon has highlighted the question of dating. This article argues that the dating issue is subordinate to a prior semantic question: What does "canon" mean? Recent attempts at defining canon reduce to two alternatives, each defined by the relationship that canon bears to "Scripture"—canon is either viewed as exclusive and formal or inclusive and functional. The former way of conceptualizing canon faces problems of anachronism and theoretical rigidity, while the latter encounters difficulty in explaining the historical stabilization of canonical boundaries. The idea of a "core canon" is identified as a means of adjudicating this dilemma and further illuminating the relationship between Scripture, tradition, and authority in Christian theology.

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