What’s in a Name? Analysing the Appellation “Reception History” in Biblical Studies

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This paper offers an analytical reflection on the reception theory/biblical studies relationship. In particular, it focuses on the issues surrounding the popular use of ‘reception history’ as an umbrella term for studies on the reception, interpretation, influence, and impact of the Bible carried out within the field of biblical studies. Exploring the roots of reception theory in the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer, Hans Robert Jauss, and Wolfgang Iser, I argue that their hermeneutical insights offer a rich resource for biblical studies. In view of the broad spectrum of literary and historically focused modes of approaching the reception and influence of texts offered by these three theorists, I suggest that ‘reception history’—a term predominantly associated with Jaussian methodology—does not satisfactorily describe the diversity of reception studies that have been conducted within biblical studies in the last twenty years. Instead, I advocate ‘reception criticism’ as a preferable term for describing the application of reception theory by biblical scholars, and explore the different modes of studying biblical reception that this might potentially encompass. The paper concludes by locating ‘reception criticism’ within the wider field of biblical studies, especially in relation to its compatibility with historical criticism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-264
Number of pages22
JournalBiblical Reception
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2015


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