Dale Allison on the History of Interpretation

Dale Allison observes how the patterns of most commentaries privilege recent works over older sources. Rather, he says the history of interpretation invites serious consideration for the following reasons. “Such history is intrinsically interesting in and of itself.” “It instills … Continue reading

De Gruyter: The Bible and Its Reception

De Gruyter is providing an invaluable collection of works that will assist those involved in History of Interpretation, Wirkungsgeschichte, reception theory, and more. They are attempting to set new standards in the field of research with The Bible and Its Reception series. For those involved in this field of study, I heartily recommend you keeping an eye on these publications.

All information is from De Gruyter’s website. Continue reading

Jon Laansma on the Future of Hebrews Scholarship: Theological Interpretation of Scripture

Jon C. Laansma, “Hebrews: Yesterday, Today, and Future; An Illustrative Survey, Diagnosis, Prescription.” In Christology, Hermeneutics and Hebrews: Profiles from the History of Interpretation. Library of New Testament Studies 423. Edited by John C. Laansma and Daniel J. Treier, 1–32. London, UK: Bloomsbury, 2012.

Christology Hermeneutics and HebrewsJon Laansma has provided a wonderful overview and contribution to the modern study of Hebrews. He provides a modern overview of history of interpretation and ways for scholarship to move forward.

I. Introduction

II. Survey: Hebrews in the Modern Period

III. Diagnosis: Hebrews within the Modern Research Program

IV. Prescription: Looking Ahead

Laansma observes modern approaches to Hebrews and concludes it is typically approached vis-a-vis historiography and historical research. Hence, it has not seen the amount of attention like James, or Paul, or the Gospels. Hebrews lacks an author, details about the audience, dating, etc. Therefore, historical questions have compartmentalized the document with the abundance of historical uncertainties. Continue reading

Grant Macaskill on Theological Interpretation of Scripture

I have recently picked up Grant Macaskill Union With Christ in the New Testament, published by Oxford University Press. In the introductory remarks, he briefly describes the historical and theological problems of New Testament theology and history. Theology of the New Testament is sometimes rather treacherous water. That is, can an interpreter maintain the diversity and coherence of the New Testament without “flattening” the interpretive enterprise?

In recent discussions of New Testament studies, Markus Bockmuehl has provided a helpful analysis of “where we are at” regarding the scholarly enterprise in Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study (*I highly encourage any New Testament Scholar to read it and then read it once more). Macaskill admittedly is influenced by John Webster, Keven Vanhoozer, Markus Bockmuehl, and portions of Theological Interpretation movements. This is helpful for multiple reasons. First, and foremost, is the inter-disciplinary influence upon Macaskill’s thinking as a biblical scholar. Second, Macaskill’s historical-critical work will be influenced by TIS. Continue reading

Recommended Summer Reading: Early Christian Literature

Summer Reading Lists PicI work as a researcher at the James P. Boyce Centennial Library. Recently, the staff compiled a list of suggested summer readings. We have three staff members involved in advanced New Testament studies, so I was given the task compiling texts in my other discipline of study.

Here are the books related to Early Christian Literature I suggested:

Continue reading

Recovering Patristic Biblical Exegesis in Historical and Religious Research

****Note this post will always be under review as I keep up with other sources (print and electronic resources) and continue to refine methodology. Please leave a note helping me add to this page.

Recently, I have been making my way through Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study (Studies in Theological Interpretation) by Markus Bockmuehl. Although he sees the NT discipline in state of decline (more on this in the coming month), he sees effective history and the spectrum of textual intention as way to move forward the disciplines. In other words, the history of interpretation and Wirkungsgeschichte are ways to move forward the conversations in the discipline.

Over the past year I have been trying to immerse myself in this. How can Patristic exegesis of New Testament texts aid our understanding of the Bible and other scholarly discussions.  So many variables exist when engaging early Christian texts, intertextual traditions, and overlapping traditions. Continue reading

QOTD: The Goal of Reception History (JSNT 33)

My academic interests have shifted drastically over the past number of years. One of these interests propelled forward into the spot-light is the Patristic studies. They have great value in shaping hermeneutics, theology, and piety. Over the next number of months, I am personally working through methodologies of History of Interpretation and Reception History (Wirkungsgeschichte); both of which, need defining (more to come on making sure these two methods are understood without conflating the two; they do two different things).

In this process of working through methodologies, I came across this quote. although Roberts and Rowland conflate the concepts of “History of Interpretation” and “Reception History,” this quote, nonetheless, is extremely remarkable.

The goal of reception history is to develop an open-ended dialogic form of hermeneutics that is not alienated from human experience, and which enables exegesis to regain its interpretative self-consciousness. Once this is understood, the social and existential relevance of reception history becomes more apparent.[1]

An “open-ended dialogic form of hermeneutics” is a clear description of the HoI and Reception History’s foundation.

[1]Jonathan Roberts and Christopher Rowland, “Introduction,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 33, no. 2 (Dec 2010): 133.

Dale Allison on the History of Interpretation (3)

Dale Allison provides a general rule of thumb, which he follows when interpreting a text of Scripture. We stand in the great line of interpretive tradition and why must we limit our sources to modern-critical works when there are hundreds of years of material preceding such works.

Whenever I am working on a particular passage, I make sure that, at some point, in addition to pawing through the unmanageable stack of contemporary critical literature, I find out what Origen and at least half a dozen other church fathers thought of it. I then check out Albert the Great and Aquinas and another medieval source or two; after which time I look at Calvin, Grotius, Matthew Poole, and several additional commentaries from the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.

I think it prudent always to keep an eye on the past and not to limit our teachers to those who just happen to be alive or have recently passed on. Current exegetical work is part of a much larger body of literature, and why should we limit the number of our teachers? The more the better, and the more the merrier. My experience in any case is that we should be able to bring out of libraries not only treasures new but also treasures old. (250)

Dale C. Allison, Jr. “What I have Learned from the History of Interpretation.” Perspectives in Religious Studies 35, no. 3 (Fall 2008): 237–50.

Dale Allison on the History of Interpretation (1)

Dale Allison on the History of Interpretation (2)

Dale Allison on the History of Interpretation (2)

Dale Allison reflects on the balanced approach of research. It is not merely listening to the old, it is not merely listening to the new; rather, why should we limit the treasure trove of sources? In “Reading Matthew through the Church Fathers”, Allison says the following:

I am not the exegetical equivalent of a political or cultural conservative who prefers the company of the deceased. On the contrary, I eagerly go to the new books shelves of my library every week. I am simply urging that it is foolish to imagine that the part is somehow greater than the whole. Current exegetical work is part of a much larger body of literature, and why should we wish to limit the number of our teachers? The more the better. [130]

He continues to add:

When we do enlarge our horizon to take in the Fathers, our respect for them likewise enlarges. It is not just that we may find them theologically edifying or spiritually uplifting or homiletically useful but that their exegesis, even judged by our own very different interests and standards, sometimes hits a target that we have missed. The Fathers are of course full of bad judgments and dated opinions on all sorts of matters, and they were ignorant of all sorts of things now known, most notably perhaps the Jewish context to the New Testament writings. And of course they had prejudices we cannot tolerate. But then all this will likewise be the future’s verdict upon us, and we like to think that we still have some useful things to say. I submit that it is the same with the church fathers, and that sometimes we may move forward by going backwards. [130–31]

Allison provides great balance and propriety when utilizing ancient and novel literature. Both are needed, both are useful, both are plagued with inadequacies.  But the Father’s sometimes provide a richer vision and interpretation of the biblical text that, sometimes, modern and post-modern readers have missed.

Dale C. Allison Jr., “Reading Matthew Through the Church Fathers,” in Studies in Matthew: Interpretation Past and Present (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 130–31.

Dale Allison on the History of Interpretation (1)

Dale Allison on the History of Interpretation

Dale Allison provides an exemplary analysis of historical interpretation and New Testament studies. In “Reading Matthew through the Church Fathers” (Studies in Matthew, 117–31), he says the following about historical analysis and the modern reader:

They (Church Fathers) were, in so many ways, closer to the first-century Christians than we are. Unlike most of us, they lived and moved and had their being in the Scriptures…They were accordingly attuned to hear things that we no longer hear, things which we can only see after picking up concordances or doing word searches on our computers. I have come to believe that if we find in Matthew or another New Testament book an allusion to the Old Testament that the Fathers did not find, the burden of proof is on us; and if they detected an allusion which modern commentators have not detected, investigation is in order.

Dale C. Allison Jr., “Reading Matthew Through the Church Fathers,” in Studies in Matthew: Interpretation Past and Present (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 119.