BNTC paper, Durham
I'd forgot about this abstract but it is now up on the BNTC website as the first paper in the Use and Influence seminar. Many of the seminar sessions are now on-line, so why not have a look.
John Lyons (University of Bristol)
'What is Reception History and How Should it Affect Biblical Studies in the Academy?'
In this paper an attempt is made to discuss two prominent, but supposedly separate, modes of discourse within Biblical scholarship — ‘Historical Criticism’ and ‘Reception History’ – and to examine the exact nature of their inter-relatedness. The former finds the meaning of these texts in a virtual encounter with an imaginary audience constructed by the scholar/theorist (i.e. the ‘what they meant’ to the kind of audiences envisaged by much of current historical criticism) whereas the latter sees the meaning of these texts in a visible encounter with a real audience (i.e. the “what they have meant” to the specific individuals and groups whose recorded responses form the core subject of much of the history of exegesis). Historical critical approaches will be illustrated here by the account of the person and actions of Joseph of Arimathea in Mark’s Gospel and its meaning for the otherwise unknown audience constructed by historical critical scholars. Reception History will be illustrated by the actual response to the Markan account of Joseph preserved in the Gospel of Matthew. The paper will go on to argue, however, that the role of the scholar/theorist in the construction of the imaginary audiences of the historical critics inevitably means that such methods can only be understood as a specific sub-set of ‘Reception History’, one in which the real response of the contemporary critic is enfolded within and re-categorised as the imagined response of the original audience(s). The paper concludes by discussing how an acceptance of this re-description of our discipline might affect the kinds of academic activities associated with Biblical Studies, here primarily the teaching of that subject to undergraduates.