A Theory of Biblical Reception History Open Access

Breed, Brennan William (2012)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/dv13zv07k?locale=en


A Theory of Biblical Reception History

While reception history, otherwise known as Nachleben or Wirkungsgeschichte, offers a promising new tool to biblical scholars, a dearth of theoretical reflection on the practice of reception history limits its rigor and potential contribution to the field. In this dissertation I reflect upon the presuppositions of current approaches to biblical criticism and reception, and in turn I propose a new theoretical approach to reception history that seeks to avoid the least helpful of these assumptions. In the last two chapters, I offer a practical example of this approach.

In general, biblical scholars assume that reception history is a study of the meanings and forms of a text that arose after that text's origin. Yet where does one draw this boundary between the original text and its original meaning, and its receptions? Many scholars define "the original" as the ideal form of the original text, and thus determine later versions and derivative readings of those texts to be "receptions." Yet in light of textual pluriformity, I argue that a biblical text should be understood as a dynamic process, not a static product. I propose an alternate approach to textual criticism that highlights its deep connections with reception history. Since there is no objective, necessary hierarchy that organizes the different stages of redaction and transmission, I conclude that reception, understood as the act of appropriating and reworking previously existing material, constitutes the entire textual process.

Other scholars, however, claim that readings of any biblical text that occur outside the semantic, generic and historical boundaries of the original context would constitute receptions of that text. In response, I argue that texts function precisely by flowing between contexts; I conclude that there can be no firm boundary between an original context for a biblical text and later receptions, since each original context can be located as part of a larger textual continuum. Following these arguments, I propose a theory of reception history that replaces an essentialist view of literature with a focus on process. As an illustration of my theory, I briefly survey one avenue of the reception of Job 19:25-27.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Chap. 1: The Constitutive Divide of Reception History...1

1 Introduction to the Introduction: Where to Begin?...1
2 Mind the Gap?...4
3 Problems Originating on the Border (Native Frontier Problems)...23

Chap. 2: The Concept of the Original Text...24

1 Introduction...24
2 E. Tov: Telos and Authority...29

2.1 Tov's Telos...34
2.2 Tov's Authority...48

3 R. Hendel and M. Fox: From Urtext to Archetype...61

3.1 Ronald Hendel: Containing Diversity...61
3.2 Michael Fox: Imagining Intention...74

4 S. Talmon and M. Goshen-Gottstein: The Great Divide...84
5 E. Ulrich and J. Bowley/J. Reeves: Pluriformity in Context(s)...102

Chap. 3: The Concrete Universal: An Alternate Ontology of Text...111

1 Introduction: Miltonesque Textual Criticism...111
2 Living in Pottersville: Thinking Without an Original Text...117

2.1 Is Thought Possible Without an Original Text?...118
2.2 Thinking without Hierarchies...132

3 The Ontology of the Text: Identity and Difference...137

3.1 Realism: Recovering the Ideal Work...138
3.2 Nominalism: Every Manuscript is an Island...143
3.3 Text as Process, Différance, and Concrete Universal...151

3.3.1. Text as Process...151
3.3.2. Text and Différance...156
3.3.3. Text as Concrete Universal...168

Chap. 4: The Concept of the Original Context...177

1 Introduction: The Anchor and the Spandrel...177
2 The Role of Context in Biblical Criticism...185
3 Semantics as Context...188
4 Genre as Context...201
5 History as Context...208

Chap. 5: Parts/Wholes, or Partings/Holes: Re-Thinking Context...219

1 Introduction: On Tigers and Cages...219
2 Text and Context: A Disjunctive Synthesis?...223

2.1 Contexts are Open, Not Closed...225
2.2 The Inside of a Context Must Already be on its Outside...237
2.3 Texts as Exemplars of Contextual Mobility...242
2.4 The Many Contexts Within a Biblical Text...246

3 Author and Audience: Who is Talking Now?...249

3.1 Authorship in/and biblical contexts...250
3.2 Intentions and Significances...258
3.3 Audience and Author...263

4 Meaning and Significance: Original or Reception?...267

4.1 Meaning as a Function of Relations...269
4.2 Context and Meaning...274
4.3 Conclusion...275

Chap. 6: Mapping a Garden of Forking Paths: Processual Reception Theory...278

1 Introduction: What Can a Text Do?...278

1.1 The Need for a New Theory of Reception...278
1.2 A Deleuzian Approach to Reception History...286

2 Framework for A Processual Reception History...295

2.1 The Virtual and the Actual...296
2.2 Problems and Solutions...305
2.3 Topology and Readings...314

3 A Nomadic Reception History...330

3.1 Four Processes: Text, Reading, Transmutation, Impact...331

3.1.1. The Process of Transmutation...334
3.1.2. The Process of Non-Semantic Impact...340
3.1.3. The Process of Textual Formation...341
3.1.4. The Process of Reading...344

3.2 Reception History as the Story of the Text's Capacities...352
3.3 The Nomadic Distribution of Reception...354

Chap. 7: Justice, Survival, Presence: Job 19:25-27...362

1 Introduction...362
2 The Question of the Initial Context...364
3 The Initial Context(s) of Job 19:25-27...370

3.1 Determining Literary Contexts...373
3.2 Degrees of Semantic Freedom...379

4 Semantic Nodes: Justice, Survival, Presence...404

4.1 Justice...407
4.2 Survival...415
4.3 Presence...424
4.4 Moving on from the Initial Context...429

Chap. 8: Trajectories of Job 19:25-27: The Example of Survival...431

1 Introduction...431
2 Survival...432

2.1 Old Greek Job: Recovery of Life...435
2.2 Reading Survival: The Immanence of Resurrection...446
2.3 Performing Survival: Liturgy...463
2.4 Inscribing Survival: Funerary Monuments...472
2.5 Job 19:25-27 and Survival...484

3 Presence...487

3.1 Syriac Peshitta:Revealing the Divine...489
3.2 Reading Presence: By Human Flesh, Seeing God...493
3.3 Reading Presence: Seeing God, in Human Flesh...497

4 Justice...500
5 Conclusion...510


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