Official Blog of the Bishop of Durham

Archive for the ‘Criticism’ Category

Primacy of Text versus Primacy of Utility of Text

Posted by NT Wrong on June 25, 2008

“I personally wouldn’t be happy in the context of a believing community or any group that roughly knows the answers beforehand (we could parallel this sort of theology with forms of Marxism, Freudianism etc, could we not?).”
James Crossley

Anthony Thistelton, relying on Gadamer, writes that readers must avoid “premature assimilation of perspective of text into the horizon of the reader”. The danger of such “premature assimilation” for Thistelton is that the event of interaction between reader and text might appear “uneventful, bland, routine, and entirely unremarkable”.

“Within the Christian community the reading of biblical texts often takes this uneventful and bland form. For the nature of the reading process is governed by horizons of expectation already pre-formed by the community of readers or by the individual. Preachers often draw from texts what they had already decided to say; congregations sometimes look to biblical readings only to affirm the community identity and life-style which they already enjoy.” ( p. 8 )

Thistelton then notes that this particular danger occurs, in much the same way, in radical reader-response theories — in which meaning is “wholly determined by community horizons”, inhibiting the creative dimension of the texts themselves.

Or as the late, great James Barr observed, any approach governed primarily by questions of (theological, marxist, feminist, psychoanalytic, etc) utility “will inevitably corrupt its accuracy in representing the biblical material itself”.

    – Anthony C. Thistelton, New Horizons in Hermeneutics: The Theory and Practice of Transforming Biblical Reading. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992: 8-10.

    – James Barr, “Evaluation, Commitment, and Objectivity in Biblical Theology.” Pages 125-152 in Heikki Räisänen, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, R S Sugirtharajah, Krister Stendahl, James Barr, Reading the Bible in the Global Village: Helsinki. SBL: Atlanta, 2000.

Posted in Criticism | 3 Comments »

Crossley Never Expected the Papal Inquisition

Posted by NT Wrong on June 25, 2008

James Crossley gives his report on The Pope and Jesus of Nazareth Conference, 19-20 June, 2008, University of Nottingham.

After hobnobbing with the overtly theological crowd, James made this surprising summary about their application of historical criticism:

“Many theologians wanted historical criticism to give them the answers they wanted for theology and discard views that were not helpful.”

(What surprises me is that it’s only “Many”…)

Update: See the comments of Mystical Seeker on theologians diverting historical criticism.

Posted in Criticism, Historiography | 5 Comments »

New Reviews in The Review of Biblical Literature – June 12, 2008

Posted by NT Wrong on June 13, 2008

There’s some interesting reviews in the latest Review of Biblical Literature:

Andreas Wagner, editor, Primäre und sekundäre Religion als Kategorie der Religionsgeschichte des Alten Testaments

There are 20 articles in what the reviewer calls an “unusually well coordinated collection of essays”. The authors examine whether the categories of “Primary and secondary religion” developed by T. Sundermeier and J. Assmann can be usefully used to describe the change in Jewish religion occuring in the post-exilic period. Contributors and respondents include Sigrun Welke-Holtmann, Pierre Bordreuil, Bernhard Lang, Marttii Nissinen, Paolo Xella, Walter Berkert (on Greek religion) and Gerd Thiessen (on Christianity). There are replies by Sundermeier and Assmann themselves.

Jim W. Adams, The Performative Nature and Function of Isaiah 40-55 (2006)

Speech-Act theory applied to Deutero-Isaiah – a revision of the author’s doctoral thesis. According to the review, it provides a good introduction to Speech-Act theory, including JL Austin and JR Searle.

David T. Runia and Gregory E. Sterling, editors, The Studia Philonica Annual: Studies in Hellenistic Judaism: Volume XIX, 2007 (2007)

The latest Studia Philonica Annual takes a special look at the Dead Sea Scrolls (and Philo, naturally), with an intro by the ubiquitous J. J. Collins, and articles by both the usual suspects and the unusual suspects: García Martínez, Stuckenbruck, Hindy Najman, Katell Berthelot, and Joan E. Taylor.

Posted in Books, Criticism, Dead Sea Scrolls, Early Jewish literature, Historical Books, Historiography, Prophets | 2 Comments »

Intertextuality is not a Buzzword for Source Criticism

Posted by NT Wrong on May 12, 2008

For Kristeva, anyway, the idea of intertextuality replaces anthropomorphizing approaches to text (as intersubjective communication) with the idea that every text is at the same time an intertext.

“[A]ny text is constructed as a mosaic of quotations; and text is the absorption and transformation of another. The notion of intertextuality replaces that of intersubjectivity, and poetic language is read as at least double” (Kristeva 1980: 66).

So, for Kristeva, intertextuality is nothing less than a reconception of what text is. Even though the practicalities of textual criticism limit discussion of intertextuality to those intertexts of which we are aware, the wider implications of intertextuality must be borne in mind if we are employing the term. And if not, saying ‘intertextuality’ is useless monkey-chatter, jargon, a buzzword–when what you’re actually talking about is old-fashioned source criticism.

Kristeva dismisses such a banal approach to ‘intertextuality’ as:

“le sens banal de ‘critique des sources’ d’un texte”
(1974: 59)

Some scholars have observed the tendency in others to dress up source criticism in the trendy clothes of ‘intertextuality’. Interestingly, many have recourse to the same hypotext (“old wine in new bottles”) …

“One may well ask whether intertextuality in its restricted sense presents us with an approach to literature that is really new. Is it not in effect a specious term for a well-known practice–old wine in a new bottle?
– A. Maria Van Enp Taalman Kip, “Intertextuality and Theocritus 13.” Pages 153-169 in Irene JF de Jong & JP Sullivan, Modern Critical Theory and Classical Literature (Leiden, New York & Köln: Brill, 1994).

“The midrash realizes its goal via a hermeneutic of recombining pieces of the canonized exemplar into a new discourse. We thus see how its intertextuality served both the revolutionary and conservative needs of the midrash and its authors, preserving the old wine by pouring it into new bottles.”
– Daniel Boyarin, “Old Wine in New Bottles: Intertextuality and Midrash.” Poetics Today 8.3/4 (1987): 539-556, 555.

Plett notes two complaints about intertextuality. The first is against progressive formulations, and criticises it as “incomprehensible” and “irrational”. The second is against traditionalist formulations, which are equivalent to the old source criticism, and thus represents “old wine in new bottles”.
– Heinrich F. Plett, “Intertextualities,” in Intertextuality, ed. Heinrich F. Plett (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1991), p. 5

… Now, I wonder, are you asking yourself, ‘Were Plett and Kip dependent on Boyarin for their formulation?” …

Posted in Criticism | Comments Off on Intertextuality is not a Buzzword for Source Criticism