“Canon lists” are sometimes regarded as an independent subgenre that may be usefully analyzed in isolation from their literary and rhetorical contexts. This mode of analysis is epitomized in the practice of displaying multiple lists side by side to facilitate comparison of their contents. However, the classifying of these lists as “canon lists” is predicated on certain assumptions about the shared linguistic features of lists in general and of “canon lists” in particular. This article examines the conceptual limitations of the generic label “canon lists,” demonstrating that putative canon lists are not just lists and that they speak to much more than just the content of the canon. Attention is given to three commonplace assertions about “canon lists” and the assumptions about language that underwrite them. The article illustrates how adopting alternative assumptions about the language of lists opens up new avenues for research concerning the nature and formation of the biblical canon, the dynamics of ancient literary culture, and habits of scholarly reading.

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