The complex way that the Bible came together is the subject of a good deal of conjecture and fiction like The Da Vinci Code.
A New Testament Lecturer at Butler University has invented a new card game to explain the controversies and process that shaped the biblical canon.
The game Canon comes after New Testament scholar Dr James F McGrath found it difficult to explain the canon process to new students.
“The game originated with one of the challenges I face as a professor who teaches a one-semester course on the Bible. Students regularly come to class with misconceptions about the biblical canon,” Dr McGrath told Christianity Today.
“Some think the whole thing dropped from the sky as a complete package, while others have heard the Da Vinci Code version that has Constantine telling the Church that it has too many Gospels and they need to cut the list down to four.”
According to Dr McGrath, the canon’s history is a complex one. The books of the Bible started as works that were used by networks of smaller faith communities. Debates took place over what books were shared and core to the Christian faith.
“Discussions, additions, removals, and much else continued to happen down the centuries,” Dr McGrath explained.
Debates continue regarding the canon, with protestant and Catholic churches disagreeing over whether the apocrypha should be included in the Bible.
Similar controversies exist over what is considered ‘canon’ in fandom.
“When someone says that Star Wars Episode I is not as authoritative as the original trilogy, that parallels debates about the relative importance of Romans and James between Protestants and Catholicsm,” Dr McGrath said.
“And when all fans agree that the first Star Wars movie ever made is at the heart of the canon, and yet disagree about whether Han shot first, that is essentially a matter of textual criticism, akin to accepting the Gospel of John and yet debating the status of the story of the woman caught in adultery.”
In 2014, Lucasfilm excluded much of the ‘Expanded Universe’ stories from the official canon. These events had appeared in books and films after the ‘original’ trilogy concluded in the 1980s. The move pruned what Star Wars stories still ‘counted’ down to the films, television series, and a few core novels.
McGrath has refined the game from earlier versions with the help of publishing company The Game Crafter. After using it in his “Religion and Science Fiction” class and at classes at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, he has brought it to conventions. During the game, players’ cards determine what biblical books end up in the bible. They work collaboratively and competitively to get their own personal canon of up to seven cards to match the central canon, which everyone creates together, as closely as possible.
For more information on Canon: The Card Game, check out the game’s official Facebook page.
For more on gaming and faith, visit Uniting Gamers’ Facebook page.
Jonathan Foye is Insights’ Editor