Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Necessity and Sufficiency

In the business of logic in programs, and the transference of control from one segment of a program to the next, it has been traditional to speak of necessary and sufficient conditions. This thought has sat in my draft pile for a few days. It seems to me to speak of canon without appealing to the authority word.

iyov writes about canon that the "later Jewish writings, even those down to this day (such as the continuing flow of responsa and the great Hassidic corpus) are careful to always state that they are in no way novel, but simply consequences of earlier writings." (Be sure to read his post on English gematria - it is delightful craft among all the others.)

What is that word 'novel'? Can there be nothing new? If so, canonical writing should have stopped with Ecclesiastes. And what of that word 'careful'? There seems to be here also a desire to be seen as a part of and in continuity with that great cloud of witnesses. Nonetheless, I feel a fear in me of isolation. I will need the new, not for its novelty, but for my uniqueness in the experience of life. I will need care for I trip easily, but I am told to 'be careful for nothing'.

John Hobbins takes the hard-edged canonizers to task by citing a poetic thought on wisdom from Ben Sira as a possible backdrop to the 'never thirst again' theme in the fourth gospel. Is Ben Sira necessary or does it over-contribute to the conditions for confirming experience with a word from the past?

This issue of necessity is of considerable importance. We need to know about sin - not that it is original but that it is pervasive and we are in it. So a failure of innocence, a covenant of blood, a means of escape, a need for discipline, a promise of completion, a satisfaction of cult, and transcendent example are all given to us. Did we need more? What then makes the cut and how can it be presented? Was what we thought we had sufficient? Or was it ever necessary to think so?

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