Brennan W. Breed
A Theory of Biblical Reception History
Indiana University Press 2014
New Books in Christian StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Jewish StudiesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in ReligionNew Books in Religion & FaithNew Books Network April 1, 2016 Kristian Petersen
Modern Biblical Studies usually begins from an assumption that there is an established original text and clear exegetical genres that extend from the original. Reception History is structured around the premise that they are investigating how individuals and communities have interpreted and deployed the original in later contexts. But what if there is no original text? What if the border between origins and receptions are unable to be clearly drawn? If this is the case, isn’t all of biblical studies reception history? Brennan W. Breed, Assistant Professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, asks these provocative questions in Nomadic Text: A Theory of Biblical Reception History (Indiana University Press, 2014). After wrestling with questions of origins, borders, contexts, authors, and audiences, he offers a new general theory of reception history. He argues that instead of trying to contain texts and return them to their original context, we should understand them as mobile or nomadic. That would mean text’s significance are produced through movement and variation of interpretation. Of course, some readings have a stronger set of textual resources to justify an interpretive perspective. However, Breed argues that we should not prioritize the earliest applications of texts as the ‘true’ meaning. Breed’s nomadic reception history is illustrated through an analysis of Job 19:25-27 across time and space. From this example, we witness the broad spectrum of interpretations and how the text transforms across its historical and temporal trajectory. Breed’s theoretically rich and engaging methodology will be useful to anyone interested in how texts are interpreted and deployed in social life.
Kristian Petersen is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. His research and teaching interests include Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religion, Islamic Studies, Chinese Religions, Human Rights, and Media Studies. You can find out more about his work on his website, follow him on Twitter @BabaKristian, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.