Firing the Canon

Star Wars 1There has been a long debate between fanboys/fangirls about what is and isn’t canon in Star Wars. As a geek and fanboy and my wife as a geek and fangirl, we have had many discussions about what is and isn’t canon in Star Wars. We both agree that the Movies and the show The Clone Wars is canon. That is something that is not negotiable. But the rest, that is up to debate. Some state that the expanded universe (EU) is canon. The EU, especially the novels, comic books, video games, etc, that take place before, during, and after, the movies, are huge. There have been a large number of books, comic books, games, what not, about the movies, about the characters in the movies, about the world of Star Wars before and after the movies. It’s amazing the amount of writing that has happened in the EU.

And then, then Lucas did something that blew our socks off. He declared all EU non-canonical. Dude. Harsh. All the characters that people had come to love (like Luke’s wife Mara Jade) and come to hate and despise (like Grand Admiral Thrawn) are not going to be considered canon. In fact, in the upcoming Episode VII it won’t draw on any EU canon whatsoever. What’s more interesting is that Episode VII will take place some 30 odd years after the events of The Return of the Jedi.

Over the years, there has been that debate about the EU as canon or not. And now it has been solved by the author of the canon of Star Wars. And it is a no. (I was right!! okay, no more gloating).

Over the years, people have asked me about how the Bible is put together. Why is it put together the way it is? Why is it only filled with 66 books and doesn’t include other books that were written during that time?

A lot about how the Bible is put together connects with the EU and Star Wars. Canonicity. What is and isn’t canonical.

There are differences in how the Bible is organized. The Old Testament in the Protestant Bible is different than the Old Testament in the Hebrew Bible (technically, it’s not an “Old Testament” it is one testament, but for lack of a better non big Biblical theological wording which needs explanation, I’ll use the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible). The Protestant Old Testament has Genesis through Exodus as the first 5 books. These are called the Pentateuch (literally 5). Then it goes from Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, 1 & 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. These are considered the histories. Then there are the wisdom books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs (which people don’t always admit a book about sex is in the Bible). Next are the major prophets of Isaiah, Jeremiah (Lamentations which was written by Jeremiah is in the mix too), Ezekiel, and Daniel. Then you have the minor prophets which make up the rest of the Old Testament.

In the Hebrew Bible, it is separated into the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The Law is the same as the Protestant Bible’s Pentateuch. Then it get’s different. Joshua, Judges, 1&2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and the minor prophets are in the book of Prophets. Then there is the writings. And this is where people get a bit confused/annoyed. Daniel, many hold to be a great prophet, is in the writings. This isn’t saying he isn’t a prophet but that what was written is considered part of the writings. So is the book of Ruth as is Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, the wisdom literature, and finally Chronicles.

This is important to note: The Protestant Bible ends with Malachi the prophet and the last words are a promise to send Elijah and also a curse. The Hebrew Bible ends with the edict that the people of God were allowed to return to Judah and Jerusalem after their 70 year exile (so much history and stuff to goes behind this that I just don’t have time nor room to get into it).

Why is this different? Well, a while before Jesus was born, Jewish scholars got together and translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the main language of the world of the day. It’s called the Septuagint (LXX). The LXX was the Bible that the apostle Paul knew. It is what the author of Hebrews, and Matthew, and Luke quote from. And it’s order is very similar to the Protestant Bible.

And all the same books are in there that are in the Protestant Old Testament and the Hebrew Bible, just a different order.

That’s like watching the Star Wars saga in the machete sequence (Episodes IV and V, then  watch I, II and III as a flashback and then go to Episode VI). Same movies, different sequence, same canon.

Star Wars expanded universeBut who is the final author of this canon? And I haven’t even gotten to the New Testament either. Just like in the Star Wars universe Lucas has the final say, so with the Bible, God has the final say. The whole of the Bible (Old Testament, Hebrew Bible) tells the story of God’s people and His mission to bring them back to Himself. It starts with creation in both versions but though the story it tells is the same, it tells it differently with different nuances.

In the Hebrew Bible, the beginning is that God is sovereign and created all things. Then in in the Prophets, it looks at God’s promise to Give them the land, how they disobeyed God, how God spoke to them, and how the people lost their land, and God’s promises of restoration afterwards. The writings tell of the story of God’s people and ends with the good news of their release from exile. The Hebrew Bible then as a whole is the story of grace, redemption, and return and restoration of God’s people as its overall theme.

The Old Testament (Protestant Bible) tells the same story starting with creation and that God is sovereign, and then goes a bit different direction. It speaks about how God’s people were given the land, how they messed up living in the land and then ends with the returning to the land. It then looks at the wisdom literature of God’s people. How God’s people spoke with God and dealt with him. It then goes into the prophets and looks at how God spoke to his people. It ends with a promise and a curse. It is the perfect transition into the New Testament.

Where the Hebrew Bible is self contained, the Old Testament has a “to be continued” message to it.

What’s interesting about canon is that you have to look at it as a whole. With the original trilogy of Star Wars (Episodes IV-VI) it was about the journey of Luke Skywalker in developing who he was and what he was supposed to do as a Jedi. He was finding his identity. But when you add the prequels (Episodes I-III) you learn that the Star Wars saga is about the rise, fall, and redemption of Anikan Skywalker (aka Darth Vader). It changes the tone and mood of the canon.

I don’t know what Episodes VII-IX will bring. I don’t know how it will change the interpretation of Star Wars. I don’t know how it will change the overarching story and narrative of Star Wars. But it will and in a big way.

The same is true with the New Testament. It changes how the Old Testament is read. When the Old Testament is read through the lenses of the New Testament, the Bible as a whole becomes God’s story of His mission of bringing His people back to Himself–the why it happened, what he did, and how it will end up, is all there in the Old Testament if read through the eyes of the New.

As Star Wars continues to grow and expand, and with the EU no longer being canon, it will be interesting to see where it goes.

With the Old Testament and the Hebrew Bible, it is interesting to see what God has done. And when it is read through the lenses of the New Testament, it is amazing what God has done and will do.

…to be continued…

 

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