Luke Clossey

Published On


Page Range

pp. 267–332


  • English

Print Length

66 pages

11. Interpreting Canon

  • Luke Clossey (author)
This chapter shifts from the controversies in making canon to focus on the content itself. What determines meaning and truth? The deep ken seeks the meaning intended by the divine author, mediated by the guarantees of tradition, and received by a pious reader. The plain ken considers the intentions of scripture's human scribes (or “co-authors”), as well as the historical circumstances of both those original scribes as well as generations of copyists. A comparative history of Biblical and Qur'anic interpretation contrasts the Christian deep-ken quest for depth (meaning buried in the text by God) with the Muslim plain-ken quest for flatness (a simple meaning revealed through the historical circumstances of revelation). In the fifteenth century, Muslims (especially al-Biqa'i and al-Suyuti) continued to build on these early plain-ken foundations. The Christians held the deep ken close, but (especially Valla and Erasmus) inched towards the plain ken, in particular by revising their understanding of literal meaning and by historicizing manuscript production.


Luke Clossey

Associate Professor of Global History at Simon Fraser University

Luke Clossey is an associate professor of global history at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. His first book, Salvation and Globalization in the Early Jesuit Missions (Cambridge UP, 2008), won the Canadian Historical Association's Ferguson Prize for best work of non-Canadian history; a chapter from it won a paper prize from the World History Association. His writings on global religion, the history of ideas, and history methodology have appeared in the Journal of World History, the Journal of Global History, the Journal of Early Modern History, the Sixteenth Century Journal, Global History Review 全球史评 论 , History Compass, the Wiley-Blackwell Companion to World Literature, and The Cambridge World History.