starts fresh, defines first principles, andrnaugments and elaborates them in balance,rnproportion, and, above all, logicalrnorder. True, the Pentateuch draws uponrnmuch older materials in its reformulationrnby Ezra in 450 B.C., but the reformationrnof these materials into a systemrnimparts to all details the message of thernsystem as a whole. In a traditional process,rnby contrast, we never start freshrnbut only add—to an ongoing incrementrnof knowledge, doctrine, and mode ofrnmaking judgment—our own deposit. Torntake one striking example of such a traditionalrnprocess, the formulation of therntraditions surrounding Jesus into thernGospels exhibits traits of agglutinationrnand conglomeration; nothing is lost,rnbut new materials find a place. Thisrnaccounts for the complexity of thernGospels’ accounts of Jesus. (Yet we needrnnot call into question a single detail;rneach account can be right, so far as therntraits of a tradition are concerned.) Traditionrnis, therefore, by its nature exegesis,rnnot fresh composition.rnThe opposite process we may call systematic,rnin that the intellect, starting asrnif from the very beginning and unboundrnby received perspectives and propositions,rnconstructs a freestanding andrnwell-proportioned system. It is like therndifference between a city that grows naturallyrnand a city that is planned; an oldrnscrapbook and an original composition; arncomposite commentary and a work ofrnphilosophical exposition.rnWhat sort of indicator tells us thatrnwe have a system, not a tradition? A systematicrnand, by nature, philosophicalrnstatement or document presents itsrnideas as though they emanate from itsrnauthorship, rather than by alluding to—rnlet alone citing—a prior writing, such asrnthe Scriptures. The form of a systematicrnstatement will ordinarily be autonomous.rnThe discourse will beginrnwith first principles and build uponrnthem. The presentation of a systemrnmay, to be sure, absorb within itself arngiven document, citing materials herernand there, but the authorship in such arncase imposes its own program and itsrnown problem upon received materials.rnAn example of a systematic statement’srnuse of received materials is Matthew,rnchapters two and three, which argue thatrnevents in the early years of Jesus’ life fulfilledrnthe promises of prophecy.rnMatthew appeals for his explanationrnof the life and authority of Jesus to genealogy,rnbeginning with Abraham, runningrnthrough David, proceeding onwardrnto Christ; this explanation is part ofrnMatthew’s larger thesis that the thingsrnJesus said and did fulfilled what the HebrewrnScriptures (“the Old Testament”)rnhad predicted. Christianity, then, is therncompletion of the Old Testament. Thisrnconclusion requires the citation of variousrnverses; these are, of course, chosenrnby the authorship for the occasion, andrnthere is no pretense of reading wholernpassages in their “own” terms accordingrnto their “own” momentum of meaning.rnMatthew, rather, makes his point—rnwhich is part of his larger program andrnpolemic—through an incidental, if important,rnallusion to prophecy.rnHow do we know that a statement, arnsizable composition for instance, isrnmeant to be systematic? In a well-composedrnsystem, every detail will bear thernburden of the message of the system as arnwhole. Each component will make, inrnits own terms, the statement that thernsystem intends to deliver. In order tornunderstand this, we must first appreciaternan important distinction in the analysisrnof systems: that between a fact that isrnsystemically vital and a fact that is inert.rnIn a well-composed system, every systemicallyrngenerative fact will bear in itsrndetail the entire message of the system,rnwhile inert facts will not. This is simplyrnillustrated. It is clear to any reader ofrnPlato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, thernMishnah, or Matthew’s Gospel thatrnthese writers propose to set forth a completernaccount of the principle or basicrntruth governing their subject—beginning,rnmiddle, and end. Accordingly,rnthey so frame the details that the mainrnpoint is repeated throughout. At eachrnpoint in the composition the messagernas a whole, in general terms, will bernframed in all due particularity. Thernchoice of topics will be dictated byrnthe requirements of the prevailing attitudernand statement. According to thisrnscheme, we can even account, ideally,rnfor the topical components of the program,rnexplaining (in theory at least) whyrnone topic is included and another not.rnA topic will find its place in the systemrnwhen only through what is said aboutrnthat particular topic can the systemrnmake the statement it wishes to make.rnI do not wish to enter into counterpartrnclassification of Christian writingsrn(e.g., Irenaeus, Origen, and Augustine)rnas to their traditional or systemic identification.rnBut I do maintain that thernBible (Old and New Testaments together)rnforms a system and indeed wasrnmeant to make a systemic statement,rnand I rest my argument on the functionrnand purpose of the Bible as described inrnscholarship on the canon.rnSome systems say precisely what theyrnwant on exactly those topics essential torntheir full statement. These are what wernmay call “closed systems,” in that thernauthors tell us—by definition—everythingrnthey want us to know and—again,rnby definition—nothing they do notrnthink we need to know. An open system,rnby contrast, requires the reader tornrefer not only to what an authorshiprnstates, but also to what an authorshiprninvokes. The program is partial, thernstatement truncated, the system incompleternand lacking correct compositionrnand proportion—if indeed there is a systemrnat all. These traits will then mark arntraditional, not a systemic, statement.rnA traditional document (and thereforernthe mind and the religious systemrnthat it represents) recapitulates inheritedrntexts, thus defining the traditionality ofrnrzrrr;-:-„-a.” | yj:;g-T ”7 “;^:L ‘^^^rnDECEMBER 1992/51rnrnrn