Nice Look for The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible

The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible
The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible

Judging The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible by its cover, this volume looks very fine indeed (cover photograph by Sam Fentress).

The book’s blurb contains a very good description of reception history, which is worth a read. It’s developed more in what also looks to be an excellent introduction by Jonathan Roberts – although I’m still waiting on my copy to arrive, so I’ve only been able to see what is available on Google books. But the blurb succinctly summarizes three pitfalls of reception history, which I would also warn against: first, viewing RH as a handmaid to ‘the historical meaning of the text’, when the relationship may also be viewed as the reverse; second, viewing RH as an indiscriminate cataloguing of influences, rather than a method of criticism done with certain goals in mind or within distinct parameters; and third, limiting the field of RH to the beliefs of certain, usually dominant, religious groups:

Rather than attempting to recover the original meaning of biblical texts, reception history focuses on exploring the history of interpretation. In doing so it locates the dominant historical-critical scholarly paradigm within the history of interpretation, rather than over and above it. At the same time, the breadth of material and hermeneutical issues that reception history engages with questions any narrow understanding of the history of the Bible and its effects on faith communities.

The challenge that reception history faces is to explore tradition without either reducing its meaning to what faith communities think is important, or merely offering anthologies of interesting historical interpretations.

The Handbook provides a fascinating selection of biblical reception history, both from the perspective of (in Part I) some highly influential biblical texts, and (in Part II) various aspects of historical and contemporary culture. As such, there are chapters on Genesis, Job, Ezekiel, Revelation, the Middle Ages, anti-Semitism, Stanton’s The Woman’s Bible, Bob Dylan, the Nation of Islam, Kierkegaard, Rushkin, and Barth, among the 44 total chapters. It looks a fantastic selection of how reception history may be done. And from Paul Joyce’s chapter on Ezekiel, there are even some Giants:

Perhaps one of the most bizarre legacies of Ezekiel is found in the legend of the last of the British giants, Gog and Magog, whose statues stand in London’s Guildhall; these figures appear to derive their names, by an obscure route, from the Gog of Magog who makes war on the people of Israel in chapters 38-9.

– Paul. M Joyce, ‘Ezekiel’. Pages 64-76 in Michael Lieb, Emma Mason, Jonathan Roberts, Christopher Rowland, eds., The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible (OUP, 2010), p. 72.

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