Archives of Reception of the Bible

Past blogging in more ways than one.

Friday, March 31, 2006

The University of Bristol - Reception generally and a possible future MA in Biblical Reception

I said I’d say something about the University of Bristol and its attitude to reception issues. Like many institutions Bristol increasingly wants to focus on themes on cross-departmental lines. Five themes were recently suggested for Arts and Reception was one of them. The Classics and Ancient History department here has reception as perhaps its major focus and various people in History, English, and so on are also involved. (This widespread interest means the conference on Revelation will also involve someone from Historical Studies here, Anke Holdenried.) A Faculty lecturer in Reception (Ika Willis) has been appointed and the intention is to create a Faculty MA in Reception.

In my own department, interest in the theme has been developing and with the addition of Jo Carruthers in September 2005—she is writing the Esther commentary for the Blackwell series—it has blossomed to the extent that we are considering an MA in Biblical Reception, to run in 2007-08. Imagine having the opportunity to study how the Bible has been used/received in a variety of settings, with tutors who are specialists in Judaism, medieval history and theology, Systematics, Philosophy of Religion, English Literature, and so on. In my opinion, it is a great idea (and it wasn’t even my suggestion). I’ll say more as and when things progress further.

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Philip Davies on Faith-based scholarship

It was a real blast from the past to read Philip Davies' comments on faith-based scholarship on Alan Bandy's Cafe Apocalypsis blog. Ten years ago as a PhD student in Sheffield I took part in a seminar with Philip and offered the comments below. I will always be indebted to Philip for his gracious encouragement to me. But I did and still do find his arguments problematic here. (The only thing I cringe at now by the way is the crack about creationism. I am sure it was funny--well, I hope it was--but for the life of me I can't see how.
A Response to Professor P.R. Davies’ Whose Bible is it Anyway?
(Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995).

Delivered in Sheffield in 1996

William John Lyons

I should like to begin by thanking Professor Davies for both his provocative paper and his willingness to present it here. As Professor Davies is hoping for a good debate, my aim is to raise in what follows a number of questions and present some arguments which should ensure this.

Professor Davies’s paper has concentrated on certain binary relationships within the whole area of the study of the biblical texts; Academy/Church; Theology/Non-theology. Yet, if I understand him correctly, he is suggesting that three types of discourse are involved here. The first is that of Bible study within a church setting. The second is that of a ‘non-confessional Biblical Studies’ within the Academy. These two are not, he suggests, in any kind of opposition to one another; they are incommensurable. I shall return to this point later. The third type is that of the study of Scripture within the Academy, and it is this type, and its relationship with a ‘non-confessional Biblical Studies’, that Professor Davies finds problematic. These two he characterises in the following way:

A) Biblical Studies is a non-confessional critical discipline which concentrates on bibles and implies human creativity.
B) Scripture is a confessional critical discipline which concentrates on the Bible and implies revelation.

Professor Davies argues that these two are separate disciplines, and that they cannot be reduced to a single discipline, and with this I am in considerable agreement. Neither, he suggests, is it any answer to look to a non-confessional Biblical Theology of the type proposed by Krister Stendahl; a point with which I am in total agreement.

Having accepted such arguments, however, I find a number of areas of Professor Davies’s thesis with which I have difficulty. The first is the question of what happens to the study of Scripture? Professor Davies talks of the outing of Scripture. Does he simply mean revealing it for what it is or does he mean removing it from the Academy? He does at one point seem to leave a place for Scripture in the Academy but the language which he uses to describe it lead me to believe that he does not think it a suitable academic subject. I find it interesting that Professor Davies does not just say “throw it out”; this indecisiveness leaves me wondering whether Professor Davies is completely confident about his grounds for its removal.

This is my first question; accepting that there are two disciplines here, is there any qualitative difference between them which makes one academic and one not. Professor Davies suggests that one is credal and one is not. Scripture study begins from a non-negotiable dogmatic given. He notes that some may suggest that ‘biblical studies’ is also credal but discounts this possibility. According to Professor Davies, non-confessional Biblical Studies has no creed, and is open to critical discussion of its founding assumptions. This claim to have no creed stands in interesting juxtaposition to statements such as ‘Discourses are not neutral, innocent or equal’ (Whose Bible is It Anyway? [JSOTS 204; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1995], p. 26). However, even if it did have a creed, Professor Davies sees no difficulty since he is trying to demonstrate that the two disciplines are separate. However, this is, I feel, a fundamental point. It is one thing to accept that the two disciplines are separate; it is another to suggest that one is not academic on the grounds that is credal.

For it seems plain to me that Professor Davies’s non-confessional biblical studies is actually credal in nature; with the removal of ‘the transcendental signifier’, ‘the denoted object’, or ‘the raw fact’ from philosophical discourse, it seems to me that there is no non-credal position for any of us. Of course one could accept this but then argue that one’s creed is open to change. Is this the case for Professor Davies’s non-confessional Biblical Studies? The answer, it seems to me is no. The ideology of its discourse seems to have come straight from that of contemporary liberalism. The problem, as Stanley Fish puts it in terms of liberalism, is that

[l]iberalism is informed by a faith (a word deliberately chosen) in reason as a faculty that operates independently of any particular world view….Indeed, liberalism depends on not enquiring into the status of reason, depends, that is, on the assumption that reason’s status is obvious: it is that which enables us to assess the claims of competing perspectives and beliefs. Once this assumption is in place it produces an opposition between reason and belief, and that opposition is already a hierarchy in which every belief is required to pass muster at the bar of reason. But what if reason or rationality itself rest on belief ? Then it would be the case that the opposition between belief and reason is a false one, and that every situation of contest should be re-characterised as a quarrel between two sets of belief with no recourse to a mode of deliberation that was not in itself an extension of belief. This is in fact my view of the matter and I would defend it by asking a question that the ideology of reason must suppress: where do reasons come from? The liberal answer must be that reasons come from nowhere, that they reflect the structure of the Universe or at least the human brain; but in fact reasons always come from somewhere, and the somewhere that they come from is precisely the realm to which they are (rhetorically) opposed, the realm of particular (angled, partisan, biased) assumptions and agendas (There’s No Such Thing as Free Speech, and Its a Good Thing Too [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994], p. 135).

If, as Fish has written elsewhere, “ Interpretation is the only game in town”, then it would seem that we must agree with him “that there are no moves that are not within the game and this includes even [and one might say, especially] the move by which one claims no longer to be a player” (Is there a Text in this Class? The Authority of Interpretive Communities [Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980], p. 355).

But I have to say that I do not believe that Professor Davies really thinks his ‘biblical studies’ is non-credal; his description of it as ‘positivistic’, ‘materialistic’, and ‘needing a coherent world view to justify it’ (Whose Bible is It Anyway?, p. 27), along with his characterisation of discourse mentioned earlier, seem to me to demand that the discipline be understood in ideological terms. Since it does not submit to the judgement of ‘orthodoxy’, but weighs evidence in order to form its own judgements, this approach seems to me to be one which submits to that ideological creed of the Enlightenment, the autonomy of human reason.

If both these approaches are credal in nature as I am suggesting, then a further option to disqualify Scripture study from the Accademy which flows from Professor Davies’ work is that of the relative openness of different discourses. But this option seems to me to be of little use; the problem is one of what constitues ‘public and accessible evidence’. Presumably this terms means that all can accept the evidence. But what exactly is this ‘public and available evidence’; for ‘Professor Davies’ ‘Biblical Studies’ is it not only that which reason allows? Is not the ‘public’ in question only those who accept the foundational role of autonomous human reason. Since. as Professor Davies states, all discourses are exclusive to some degree, then it seems to me that no truly ‘public’ evidence in the sense of a foundation for such a discipline can exist. What one has is the tyranny of the majority, and this is in some ways delightfully ironic. In the Middle Ages the Universities taught Scripture and reason was submissive; now the tide has turned. In the battle of creeds reason has been winning. However, this strikes me as somewhat incongruous; hasn’t Enlightement rationalism been decisively challenged by Post-modernity. Professor Davies’s argument strikes me as modernistic and untenable in the present intellectual climate. The real question here, it seems to me, is “what is the Academy?” And perhaps more pertinently, “who should be allowed in?” I shall return to this later.

My next question is that of Professor Davies’ use of the terms Emic and Etic, and in particular his wish to ensure that the two things are completely separate. This is to return to the question of incommensurability of discourses. I want to ask if this absolute separation is tenable. If ‘Biblical Studies’ is credal then it is impossible to describe any discipline as absolutely Etic in the sense that it tells us what is ‘really going’ on from an outside perspective; it is always viewing the scene through its own tinted spectacles. One should note that all researchers begin with a description of their approach before applying it to the “natives”. This is an exercise in Emic self-description - What I am doing and why. It could only be Etic if the researcher could stand to one side and discount their own horizons, an impossibility according to many involved in hermeneutics.

In a similar vein, it also occurs to me to ask whether Professor Davies’ rather “schizophrenic” professor who teaches one thing in the University and another in the Church can so easily hold these two things together. How can one avoid opposing these two possible truths without criticism of either position. In other words, can the presuppositions of History not be challenged from the side of Scripture. I don’t obviously mean that History can all of a sudden account for the resurrection, but it would make a nice change to hear a historian say they were unable to comment on this rather than to hear them denying, as Professor Davies example does, that “the body of Jesus of Nazareth revived and left its tomb”. At this point I am obviously re-introducing the question of the separation of these two disciplines, at the level of Etic and Emic discourse. I can accept that these are two discourses which are separated by different commitments but I am distinctly uneasy about the assertion of two dichotomous Emic and Etic discourses which can never meet. I might also add that other academic discourses are currently heavily involved in work undertaken from an Emic perspective, i.e. Sociology.

A final point on the place of Scripture study is that of what Professor Davies calls the “unethical” behaviour of using tax-payer’s money to do work for the church. He has already anticipated part of an answer to this suggestion, the fact that Church goers (and Fundamentalists at that) are Tax-payers too. But there is a larger problem here; what is the University for. I am reminded of the uproar in the Eighties when Ronald Reagan suggested that the study of creationism should be added to the curriculum alongside evolution. And why not I ask myself ? But it seems to me that this problem could rebound very easily on Professor Davies. If the academy is to be characterised by commitment to Enlightenment rationalism, why should tax-payers, many of whom believe more in Astrology than in Philosophy, have their money spent on the pursuits of Enlightement rationalists. Why should Church goers? Once again we are back to the tyranny of the majority (or perhaps here, the powerful). It is no longer possible to argue that the results of the Enlightement are ‘Good’ and that everything else is obscurantism. For many, the limitations of such a discourse is obvious, and they are entitled to ask for their money back. It seems to me that, however, we decide what constitutes academic work, it will not be by either the role of the tax-payer, re-introducing the foundation of reason through the rediscovery of a transcendental signifier, or, I believe, through attempts to find an ideology free discourse.

In conclusion, I wish to offer one possible definition of what is academic in our post-modern, anti-foundationlist world. The issues discussed above will be known to any here familiar with literary theory or philosophy. One possible answer has been suggested by the Philosopher of Science, Paul Feyerabend (most fully outlined in his highly influential work Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge [1975]). In a 1964 attempt to distinguish between the reasonable scientist and the crank he writes:

The distinction does not lie in the fact that the former suggest what is plausible and promises success, whereas the latter suggest what is implausible, absurd, and bound to fail. It cannot lie in this because we never know in advance which theory will be successful and which theory will fail. It will take a long time to decide this question and every single step leading to such a decision is again open to revision…No, the distinction between the crank and the respectable thinker lies in the research that is done once a certain point of view is adopted. The crank usually is content with defending the point of view in its original, undeveloped, metaphysical form, and he is not at all prepared to test its usefulness in all those cases which seem to favour the opponent, or even to admit that their exists a problem. It is this further investigation, the details of it, the knowledge of the difficulties, of the general state of knowledge, the recognition of objections, which distinguishes the respectable thinker from the crank. The original content of his theory does not. If he thinks that Aristotle should be given a further chance, let him do it and wait for the results. If he rests content with this assertion and does not start elaborating a new dynamics, if he is unfamiliar with the initial difficulties of his position, then the matter is of no further interest. However, if he does not rest content with Aristotelianism in the form in which it exists today but tries to adapt it in the present situation in Astronomy, Physics, and Micro-physics, making new suggestions, looking at old problems from a new point of view, then be grateful that there is at last somebody who has unusual ideas and do not try to stop him in advance with irrelevant and misguided arguments (‘Realism and Instrumentalism: Comments on the Logic of Factual Support’, in M. Bunge [ed.], The Critical Approach to Science and Philiosophy [New York: Free Press, 1964], p 305; cf. A.F. Chalmers, What is This Thing Called Science? [2nd ed; Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1982], pp. 135-36).

It might be suggested that the study of Scripture is rather like the crank. However, it seem to me that the project of theology is a serious endeavour which has results which can be measured in terms of their success or failure. David Tracey writes that ‘any contemporary Christian position will consider itself obliged to interpret two basic phenomena: the Christian tradition and contemporary understandings of human existence (Blessed Rage for Order: The New Pluralism in Theology [New York: Seabury Press, 1975], p. 23). It seems to me a mistake to characterise Christian theology as something which is merely opinion, as accountable to nothing. If that were the case, it would indeed be a system held by cranks. But Christian theology is quite capable of rejecting its own foundation in Scripture, as the radical theologians have done or of radically criticising it as the revisionist theologians are doing. Even Childs’ Barthian model of theology cannot simply state its presuppositions and leave it at that; it must engage with the world of human experience and the objections of other theologies, running the risk of rejection. If this is an accurate picture of theology, then I suggest that one should take Feyerabend’s advice, and let the theologians get on with it. Questions of overlap should be taken as they come !

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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Review of Canon and Exegesis: Canonical Praxis and the Sodom Narrative

I didn't get many reviews of my book - all those years and I still don't know what anyone thinks about it :) -- but here is one that's online by Brian Britt.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

RBL reviews of Blackwell Bible Commentaries

Here are the existing reviews of the Blackwell Bible Commentaries on RBL.

Mark Edwards, John (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003)
reviewed by William M Wright

David M. Gunn, Judges (Oxford: Blackwell, 2005)
reviewed by Jacob Wright

Judith Kovacs and Christopher Rowland, Revelation (Oxford: Blackwell, 2003)
reviewed by Tobias Nicklas

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My paper in Philadelphia - Abstract

Currently I am working on a monograph on the reception of the book of Acts in the early Church, focused on the figure of Gamaliel from Acts 5. The paper in Philadelphia was part of that project. Here is the abstract.
When is a Jew not a Jew? Gamaliel the Elder and the Reception of Acts in the Early Church
Modern scholarship remains polarised on the question of whether Acts portrays the Pharisee Gamaliel, Paul's teacher, positively (with, e.g., D.B. Gowler) or negatively (with e.g. J.A. Darr). Nevertheless, all agree that he remains a Pharisaic Jew. In the early Church, however, an explicit expression of this position is wholly absent. The same interpretation of Gamaliel is offered by both a Jewish-Christian (the author of the source underlying Clementine Recognitions 1) and a Gentile Christian (John Chrysostom); namely, that he must have become a believer in Jesus. The actual ‘religions’ of the two Gamaliels ‘observed’, however, are radically different. This paper seeks to answer the question of why these very different interpreters agreed on seeing a convert, and asks what implications this has for modern studies of Luke-Acts?

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Monday, March 27, 2006

Glasgow post in New Testament (with a reception angle)

Lecturer (New Testament Language, Literature and Interpretation)
£24,352 – £36,959

You should be qualified to teach in New Testament Studies, with special reference to hermeneutics and exegesis, at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels including the supervision of research students. In view of the broad range of expertise and cross-disciplinary teaching within the Department, it may be an advantage if applicants also have research or teaching interest in the broad history of biblical interpretation, or in the dissemination and application of the New Testament in church, society or culture in the modern era. Ref 12100/HRF/A1.

A second post is also available in "Christian Origins and Early Development"

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Dutch Reception project

The following blurb and links have some interesting strands, especially in connection with the perceived decreasing knowledge of, and hence decreasing influence of, the Bible in Dutch culture (although the line on the Koran has lost this reader at least).

A multimedia edition

The Bible has had a deep influence on our culture and continues to do so. However, for the last decennia the Bible has not been a living tradition for large parts of the population, so knowledge of its significance has decreased. Ever larger groups are becoming estranged from their own culture. Even a future multicultural society is incomprehensible for those who do not know the influence of the Bible on the Koran.

Amsterdam University Press has started a project that aims to address this growing ignorance. Together with the publication of a new translation of the Bible, the AUP wants to generate commentary on the Bible, focussing specifically on the reception of the bible in Dutch culture. The publication project will use the latest publishing possibilities of the internet. Therefore a partnership with the University Library of the Universiteit van Amsterdam has been set up. Genesis, Ruth, Esther, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Amos, Jonah, Zechariah, Tobit, Judith, Mark, Luke, Acts, 1 Corinthians and Revelation are available. The other bible books will follow in the coming years.

Published by Amsterdam University Press.

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Saturday, March 25, 2006

A fundamentalist charter?

It occurs to me that what I have just said could be taken as a fundamentalist charter--that virtually anything goes in the academy! But it should be understood in the light of my earlier comments about Popper's 'Open Society' and Paul Feyerabend's anarchistic theory of knowledge. The former is defined as a system based on 'conjectures and refutations', and although technically there is plenty wrong with Popperian falsificationism, it seems a good model for scholarship to me. Whatever our starting point, we must be prepared to speak out and expect (or hope) to learn from the response. Feyerabend said that there was no difference in terms of rational foundations between the scientist and the person interested in voodoo. All forms of knowledge are ultimately based on non-rational foundations. For Feyerabend, the difference between a crank and a scientist was that the latter pursued their subject and expected to learn about it. The latter sat on their backside and did not do anything. I'll settle for this kind of description of academia. People should only take part if they want to learn and are prepared to have their views modified in their exchanges with others (whatever their viewpoints). If they already know the answers and are not prepared to learn (whether as a religious or a secular scholar), then they are either cranks or already enlightened beings. Neither are worth giving a place to in the academy :)

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Faith based scholarship?

It is interesting to see that once again the issue of faith-based scholarship has come to the fore. And Alan Bandy is to be congratulated for getting some quite detailed responses to the issue this time around. But I hope I’ll be forgiven if I say that nothing seems to have really changed from ten years ago and Philip Davies’ volume, Whose Bible is it anyway? (Sheffield, 1995). My own feeling is that the secularist position was bankrupt then and that it remains so. Let me try and explain why.

The key, it seems to me, is the notion of ‘publicly available facts’ (explicitly mentioned by Mark Goodacre). The assumption is that scholarship is only what we can all discuss, what Philip Davies wanted to describe as a non-creedal Biblical Studies. We check in our beliefs at the door and enter a cool clean place, free of religious affiliation.

The problem is that this place does not exist. It is the typical liberal attempt to define a level playing field in which all are equal so long as they don’t challenge the presuppositions upon which the arena for discussion sits (see Stanley Fish’s essay, Liberalism doesn’t exist’, in his book There’s no such thing as free speech [1994]).

Ben Myers is absolutely right when he states that the historical critical method is the number one theological achievement—it has been so successful that it is simply assumed rather than chosen, its results are now non-creedal, and it can now effectively try to rule out of scholarly existence any other creedal viewpoint. Don’t get me wrong, I like the method (for some obscure reason I usually end up defending it at conferences). I appreciate what the Enlightenment gave us (in some areas at least). But it is not neutral, and any decision to define scholarship in its terms is a colonising and imperialistic one based on a dogmatic acceptance of Enlightenment thought. Surely postmodernism and postcolonialism have taught us that much?

The largely uncritical acceptance of this view in much biblical scholarship is one of the major factors in the current split between theologians and biblical scholars. When I see theologians either working with fundamentally anti-enlightenment projects like ‘Scriptural Reasoning’ or basing their work on theological authorities like Barth or papal documents, I see the gulf between them and us as biblical scholars—and I feel we have probably cheated them. Biblical scholarship was once so much more than just ‘historical criticism’.

And there is the rub. These people work in secular universities just like we do. My colleague Gavin D’Costa is a well-respected Catholic theologian who has his own views on what a University could be (see his recent Theology in the Public Square: Church, Academy, Nation [Oxford: Blackwell, 2005]). But he still works in a British secular institution. We occasionally discuss Theology and Religious Studies, but actually co-exist quite happily. I accept that the States may be different but don’t feel that placing their theological dysfunction on the rest of us is particularly helpful.

Two things make me laugh about the current situation. First, both sides feel hard done by. The secularist feels that the religious is too dominant in governing something like the SBL, for example. The religious feels squeezed by the secularist who wants to throw him or her out of the academy. Yet, and here is the second thing, just who among us has the power to define the academy in this way? Historical criticism came close, but the elitist power structure that is modernity has now become hypermodern in such a way as to turn the academy into what is effectively a pluralistic supermarket. Economics defines the academy in a way that the discussion tends to ignore. The secularist can make it uncomfortable for the religious (journals can insist that you don’t use God, for example, or BC/AD), but that’s about it. On the other hand, the secularist has his or her place at the table and no amount of prayer will get them out.

So welcome to the modern academy—it is all things to all people. Historical criticism is an extremely valuable mode of discourse that I value but there are others, and even others that might have something to say about ‘history’ itself. Let’s just see where it all goes, and not leap to shut it all down in the name of some fictitious purity. Perhaps where we are is not too bad a place to be. It beats being in a position to exclude (or, in a more distant past, torture each other—James Crossley on the rack might appeal to some, but I'd rather have him teaching people to think in Sheffield). As someone who likes having the freedom to think heretical thoughts, the current situation certainly suits me. So if you all don’t mind, I’ll just get on with it and hope none of you ever gets your own way fully.

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Friday, March 24, 2006

The Bible and Its Influence: History and Impact, SBL International Meeting, Edinburgh, 2-6th July 2006

The Bible and Its Influence: History and Impact (1)

7/04/20068:45 AM to 12:00 PM Room: G.01 - William Robertson

The Bible in Art, Music and Literature

Helen Leneman, University of Amsterdam, 'Music as Midrash: Ruth-Boaz Love Duets' (30 min)
Leonard J. Greenspoon, Creighton University, 'The Handwriting on the Wall’: The Text of the Bible in Art (30 min)
Matthew S. Rindge, Emory University, 'The Function of Exodus 8:2 in Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia."' (30 min)
Break (45 min)
David M. Gunn, Texas Christian University, 'The Women around David: Voltaire, Family Values, and the Man After God’s Own Heart' (30 min)
Mikael Sjöberg, None, 'A Model of Modesty? Sexual Politics and the Book of Ruth' (30 min)

The Bible and Its Influence: History and Impact (2)
7/04/20062:00 PM to 4:30 PMRoom: G.04 - William Robertson

The Bible and politics

Jacques Berlinerblau, Georgetown University, 'The Bible in Contemporary American Political Rhetoric' (30 min)
J. Mark Blackwell, Francis Marion University, 'Slave Texts: A Comparison of Antebellum Scholarship with Modern Biblical Criticism' (30 min)
Shelly Matthews, Furman University, 'The Violent Effects of the Rhetoric of Enemy Love in Discourses of Christian Self-Identity' (30 min)
Break (45 min)
Business Meeting (15 min)

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

How to embarrass a friend and get away with it!

One excellent paper on Reception that I heard in Philadelphia was given by my good friend and whisky drinking partner, Lloyd Pietersen, a Research Fellow in the Department here in Bristol. So just to embarrass him, here is the abstract.


2 Timothy 3:12 and ‘the Ideal of Good Christian Citizenship’: An Anabaptist Perspective

Martin Dibelius famously described the Pastoral Epistles as being concerned to promote “the ideal of good Christian citizenship” (christliche Bürgerlichkeit). Yet this description fails to take adequate account of the rhetorical force of 2 Tim 3:12, a text which receives very little attention in the Dibelius and Conzelmann Hermeneia commentary on the Pastorals. Indeed most commentators pay scant attention to this particular verse. By way of contrast, the 17th century Anabaptist text, Martyrs Mirror, contains 25 references to this verse and a further three to 2 Tim 3:12-13. This proved a significant passage for Anabaptists facing persecution in the 16th and 17th centuries. This paper argues that modern commentators on the Pastoral Epistles have consistently interpreted them through the lens of Christendom – an interpretative stance that fails to do adequate justice to the precarious nature of Christian communities in the first and second centuries. Far from promoting a form of Christianity at ease with the authorities, this paper suggests, in the light of Anabaptist experience, that the Pastorals are concerned with appropriate Christian communal praxis in the light of the real threat of persecution of a group at the margins of society.

Embarrassment aside, this is a perfect example of reception challenging received historical critical wisdom, here on the atitudes of the community behind the pastoral epistles to the state.

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Closer to home - Biblical Reception in Oxford

Centre for Reception History of the Bible

The Centre for Reception History of the Bible (CRHB) is a research centre based at the University of Oxford. It aims to foster exchange between scholars working on the biblical text across the Humanities, creating a research network which focuses on exploring the use and influence of the Bible.

The Centre organises a regular seminar series (‘The Bible in Art, Music and Literature’) during University term time, runs conferences, and promotes publications that examine the reception history of the Bible.

Seminars this academic year

17th Oct
Dr Jorunn Økland (University of Sheffield)
1 Corinthians and Protestant Women: An Uneasy Relationship

31st Oct
Prof Kenneth Newport (Liverpool Hope University)
'A Vision for the Appointed Time' (Cf. Habakkuk 2.3): Reading the Bible as the Remnant of God

14th Nov
Dr Emma Francis (University of Warwick)
'Under the Lash of the Egyptian': Olive Schreiner's Woman and Labour and the Old Testament

28th Nov
Dr Jo Carruthers (University of Bristol)
'The Letter that Never Arrives': Reception in and of the Book of Esther

23rd Jan
Prof Christopher Rowland (University of Oxford)
William Blake and the New Testament

6th Feb
Prof John Harvey (University of Wales, Aberystwyth)
Hussey Seminar: 'The Vision ... as the Words of a Book' (Isa. 29.11)

20th Feb
Dr Helen Leneman (University of Amsterdam)
The Scroll of Ruth Re-told through Librettos and Music: Biblical Interpretation in a New Key ('Biblical Women and their Afterlives' series)

6th Mar
Dr Liliana M. Nutu (University of Sheffield)
Framing Judith ('Biblical Women and their Afterlives' series)

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SBL sessions on Reception

Having failed miserably to discuss the SBL sessions in which reception issues are of primary interest before the call for papers closed, I want here to begin to collect together some of the material relating to them. With that in mind here is the session data from Philadelphia for each of the three sessions of the two main seminars involved—‘History of Interpretation’ [chaired by Mark Granquist] and ‘The Use, Influence, and Impact of the Bible’ [chaired by Ken Newport]--and the data from two text-specific sessions on the reception of Revelation and Romans. I close by noting two sessions focused on reception but in areas that most biblical scholars would find obscure to say the least. Needless to say, anyone putting reception into the SBL conference book search engine will discover hundreds of events—but the reception of drinks etc, is, and will no doubt always remain, a much more prominent feature of the annual meeting than anything to do with the reception of texts!

History of Interpretation (1)

Rabbinic and Patristic Biblical Interpretation
Stacy Davis, Saint Mary's College, Always Chosen: Divine Protection of the Jewish People in Esther Rabbah
Zhou Ping , University of Reading, From Bible to Bible?—Josephus’s Reconstruction of Solomon as a Military Conqueror
William John Lyons, University of Bristol, When is a Jew not a Jew? Gamaliel the Elder and the Reception of Acts in the Early Church
Dan Clanton, Jr., University of Denver, A Hard Headed Woman? Eve in the Hebrew Bible and Later Jewish Interpretations
Ellen Muehlberger, Indiana University at Bloomington, A New Source of Scripture in John Chrysostom's Homiles on Matthew

History of Interpretation (2)

Biblical Interpretation since the Reformation
Lloyd Pietersen, University of Bristol, 2 Timothy 3:12 and ‘the Ideal of Good Christian Citizenship’: An Anabaptist Perspective
Chad Eggleston, Duke University, The Priestly Office in Calvin’s Interpretation of the Prophets
Michael C. Legaspi, Harvard University, From Sacred to Sublime: Robert Lowth, Johann David Michaelis, and the Reinterpretation of Biblical Poetry
Mark Gignilliat, Beeson Divinity School, Karl Barth's Theological Reading of Isaiah

History of Interpretation (3)

A Panel Review of John Collins' The Bible after Babel. Historical Criticism in a Postmodern Age (Eerdmans, 2005)
Carol Newsom, Emory University, Panelist
Walter Brueggemann, Columbia Theological Seminary, Panelist
Phyllis Trible, Wake Forest University, Panelist
John Collins, Yale University, Respondent


The Use, Influence, and Impact of the Bible (1)
The Use and Influence of the Bible in the Construction of World Views
Jeremy Punt, University of Stellenbosch, Using the Bible in post-Apartheid South Africa: Its Influence and Impact with Reference to the Gay Debate
John S. Vassar, Louisiana State University in Shreveport, The Impact of Psalms in Times of War
Susanna Bede Caroselli, Messiah College, The Moralized Bible as Paraenesis
Valerie A. Stein, University of Evansville, A Minor Character Plays a Major Role: Naaman's Servant Girl in Religious Education
Roger Baker, Brigham Young University, Alexander Cruden's Bible Concordance: Two and a Half Centuries of Verse Mining and Prooftexting

The Use, Influence, and Impact of the Bible (2)
The Visual and Aural Reception of Biblical Texts
R. Christopher Heard, Pepperdine University, Contesting the Test: Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, and Genesis 22
Dan Clanton, Jr., University of Denver, Susanna and Spiritual Songs in the Renaissance
Steven W. Holloway, American Theological Library Association, Assur is King of Persia: Illustrations of the Book of Esther in Some 19th-Century Sources
Burke O. Long, Bowdoin College, Biblical Spectacles: Entertainment, Instruction, Nationalist Affirmation
Katie Edwards, University of Sheffield, Jesus is my Homeboy: The Function of Jesus Images in Contemporary Popular Culture

The Use, Influence, and Impact of the Bible (3)

Biblical Use and Influence: Theory and Practice
Mayer Gruber, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, The Book of Daniel in Jewish Liturgy
David Parris, Fuller Theological Seminary, Hans Robert Jauss’ Summit-Dialogue and its Appropriateness for Biblical Hermeneutics
John Granger Cook, LaGrange College, Porphyry's Reception of the Bible
Brennan Breed, Princeton Theological Seminary, Job as a Maieutic Text: Kierkegaard and the Incarnation of Indirect Communication


John's Apocalypse and Cultural Contexts Ancient and Modern (1)

Cultural Perspectives on the Apocalypse

Panel discussion of Brian Blount, Can I Get a Witness? Reading Revelation Through African-American Culture(Westminster John Knox, 2005)
Brian Blount, Princeton Theological Seminary, Panelist
Stephen Moore, Drew University, Respondent
Tina Pippin, Agnes Scott College, Respondent
Thomas Slater, Mcafee School Of Theology, Respondent
Brian Blount, Princeton Theological Seminary, RespondentDiscussion

David Arthur Sanchez, Mount Saint Mary's College, Recontextualizing Resistance: The Appropriation and Subversion of Dominant Myths: From Patmos to East Los Angeles
Carla Sulzbach, McGill University, Of Angels, Lambs and Temples: What a Jewish Counter-Reading of Revelation May Contribute to Understanding its Social Milieu
Lynn R. Huber, Elon University, Virginity in the Book of Revelation: Reflections and Responses to Roman Social Discourse

John's Apocalypse and Cultural Contexts Ancient and Modern (2)

Lynne St. Clair Darden, Drew University, "To Everyone Who Conquers and Continues to Do My Works To the End I Will Give Authority Over the Nations to Rule Them with An Iron Rod" (Revelation 2:26): The Book of Revelation Through a Postcolonial Perspective
David Barr, Wright State University Main Campus, RespondentElaine Pagels, Princeton University, Jews? Christians? “Others”? What Intimate Enemies Does the Author of Revelation Have in Mind?
Paul Duff, George Washington University, RespondentDiscussionStephen Moyise, University College, Chichester, Is the Book of Revelation the Death of Scripture?
Robert Royalty, Wabash College, Respondent


Romans through History and Cultures

Reformation Readings of Romans
Mark W. Elliott, University of St. Andrews, Scotland, Behind and Beyond Parker: The Key Moments and Voices in Reformation Romans Commentating
Ekkehard Stegemann, University of Basel, Switzerland, The Alienation of Humankind
R. Ward Holder, Saint Anselm CollegeCalvin's Hermeneutic and Tradition: An Augustinian Reception of Romans 7
Stanley Stowers, Brown University, Respondent
Cristina Grenholm, Karlstad University, Respondent
David Steinmetz, Duke University, Respondent
William Campbell, University of Wales, Respondent


Christian Late Antiquity and Its Reception

Patristic Theology and Its Reception: Doctrines of Christ
Mark Weedman, Crossroads College, Hilary of Poitiers and the Pro – Nicene Abandonment of Logos – Sarx Christology
Stephen J. Davis, Yale University, Alexandrian Christology on the Nile: Monastic Controversy, Ritual Practice, and Shenoute’s Doctrine of the Incarnation
David Maxwell, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, What Was "Wrong" with Augustine: The Sixth-Century Reception (or Lack Thereof) of Augustine's Christology
Brian E. Daley, University of Notre Dame, Ontology as Gospel: The Person of Christ as the Structure of Salvation in Post-Chalcedonian Greek Theology


Rethinking Plato's Parmenides and Its Platonic, Gnostic and Patristic Reception

Patristic Use or Lack of Use of Plato’s Parmenides

Mark Edwards, Christ Church, Oxford, Christians and the Parmenides
Jean Reynard, Institut des Sources Chrétiennes, The Influence of Plato’s Parmenides upon the Cappadocian Fathers
Daivd Runia, Queens College, Early Alexandrian Theology and the Parmenides of Plato
Serge Cazelais, Universite Laval, Platonic Receptions of the Gospel of John: Marius Victorinus and his Predecessors
I am especially fascinated by the title of this last session--use or lack of use--more on that later in the year, I think.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Having a cold and blogging in the middle of the night

Perhaps this is the truth about Jim Davila and Mark Goodacre. They are sick all the time. I am blogging away at 3-4am because I have a cold and can't sleep. Aha, got it! Now how to keep it up....

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My own beliefs in the classroom

One of the weirder things about teaching courses with a focus on Reception is that students often can't work out what you think personally. My webpage includes a publication on the Toronto Blessing with a subtitle identifying me as a charismatic (not that I was ever a very good one and not that I am any longer). I find it fascinating that this blog gets listed with 'blogs by Christians' on, but that my students can't work it out. If they are ever my witnesses, then I think there is not enough evidence to convict me!

I have no problems with students knowing what I think and believe (despite some University of Sheffield PhD hangups which occasionally rear up with a "mind you own business" response), and tend to have a 'fess up' attitude to such things. I don't think it makes you a bad scholar, and I think attempts to define what constitutes 'scholarship' on such grounds are ultimately a waste of time. Ideas are ideas and if a person wants to take part in the debate [a la Paul Feyerabend], then God bless them for that--the Popperian 'open society' is my model and anything that closes discussion down by sectioning the academy seems unhelpful to say the least. It just doesn't seem to be an issue in my teaching. Maybe I should attack those we look at more, but the empathy needed to try to understand why someone sees what they see in a biblical text doesn't really lead me to want to do that. Maybe that's why I like a wide range of readers. Ever interesting, ever enlightening, ever inventive. Maybe that's why I like the Jesus Seminar.

Of course, some are real 'gits' too, and ideological critiques are ever necessary. But then I found too with Childs that dissing people at the end of trying to understand them is not necessarily the easiest thing to do. Damn, maybe Reception just leads to a loss of critical edge (as one or two of my old lecturers might have said). But it seems to me that I always like to understand first, and then either develop a critique later or clear the ground for someone else to do so. There are too many strawman arguments in this discipline anyway.

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Latest RBL Newsletter

Interesting to see the latest RBL newsletter has a section entitled HISTORY OF INTERPRETATION. So in the spirit of Mark Goodacre, here are the reviews.

"Das vollkommene Pasch": Gnostiche Bibleexegese und Ethik
Grypeou, Emmanouela
Reviewed by Ulrike Kaiser

Discerning Paralleleism: A Study in Northern French Medieval Jewish Exegesis
Harris, Robert A.
Reviewed by Hanna Liss

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Friday, March 17, 2006

Playing catch up and plans for the Summer

Well, term is coming to an end and hopefully a chance to get at the research again. And to the (blue moon) blogging! There was I hoping to talk about SBL seminars and the due date for proposals came and went. Oh well, if anyone submitted proposals for seminars like the History of Interpretation session, I’d like to hear about what you are doing. For the present I am rather distracted from reception issues, attempting to write a piece on the Jesus Seminar and the status of the red/pink sayings. In the next issue of JSHJ I have a piece on Simon of Cyrene, at the end of which I kind of bow out of the whole Questing business. But then I immediately get back into it again. Can’t quite work out how seriously scholars on both sides take the Jesus Seminar publications (Five Gospels and Acts of Jesus) that I find so interesting, but then that’s a major reception task in itself. I suspect I won’t ever take it on, but someone one day should. So, soon it is back to the reception of Acts, and then the reception of Hebrews.
But first, I have to look at the reception of Revelation. In September, we will be holding a colloquium at Bristol with thirteen participants from a variety of disciplines. The general idea is to build on the publication of the Blackwell Commentary on Revelation, written by Chris Rowland and Judith Kovacs. The assumption is that such a text should raise questions about its own take on reception and also open up possibilities for future study. Chris will take part in the Bristol meeting and the proceedings will be published, most likely in 2008. So a summer of Revelation…

Must be mad!

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