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Riches, John [Ed.]


The New Cambridge History of the Bible. Vol. 4: From 1750 to the Present.


Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2015. 868 S. m. 5 Abb. Geb. US$ 196,00. ISBN 978-0-521-85823-6.


Jill Middlemas

The work stems from an effort to update the original volumes of the Cambridge History of the Bible (1963–1970) and represents the last in a four-part series that include Volume 1: From the Beginnings to 600, Volume 2: From 600–1450, and Volume 3: From 1450–1750. Volume 4 covers biblical research from the Enlightenment to the Modern period. As stated in the Preface, »One might say that the central task for this volume is to allow the diverse histories of the Bible in dif-ferent parts of the world over the last 250 years to come more sharp-ly into focus, in such a way that historians of the Bible and of world history may come to recognise its continuing contribution to cultural and social developments« (XIV). In providing an overview to the history of the production, distribution, interpretation, reception, and the interpreters of the Bible, it presents a global view of biblical interpretation and the impact of the Bible that extends beyond a narrow focus on Western scholarship, characterized by attention to North American and European study and reception alone. The volume consists of five parts with an introduction and conclusion by John Riches, its editor.
Part I, »Producing the Text,« lays a solid foundation for the subsequent parts of the volume by attending to issues related to establish-ing the text basis for translation and the global impact of the Bible in the Modern period. An introduction to textual criticism (New Testament textual criticism) by Eldon Epp, »Critical editions and the development of text-critical methods, part 2: from Lachmann (1831) to the present« is followed by two essays on the production and distribu-tion of Bibles by Leslie Howsam and Scott McLaren, »Producing the text: production and distribution of popular editions of the Bible« and Lamin Sanneh, »Translations of the Bible and the cultural im-pulse«. The first section essentially focuses on the text. Epp’s essay links to the previous volume and reveals how attention to many, global textual witnesses in the production of a Modern critical New Testament edition mirrors the breakdown of Enlightenment reason­ing and Church dominance. The other contributions turn to the nuts and bolts of Bible production and distribution as well as the impact of Protestant missionary activity in which the production of Bibles in local languages led to cross-fertilization as well as change and re-newal in local communities.
Part II, »New Modes of Study of the Bible,« contains sixteen essays that focus on dominant and lesser well-known methods used in biblical analysis. Research methodologies based on historical questions appear at the beginning and include Wayne A. Meeks »The History of Religions School,« Keith Whitelam, »The archaeo-logical study of the Bible,« and Janice Capel Andersen »Source, form, redaction and literary criticism of the Bible«. Andersen’s essay provides a transition to methodological approaches that turn away from a focus on historical categories of understanding alone to insights afforded by attention to interdisciplinary research as well as to questions from interpreters with particular interests or contextual foci. The essays include Halvor Moxnes »Social-scientific readings of the Bible,« Ian Boxall »Reception history of the Bible,« W. T. Dickens »The use of the Bible in Theology,« Peter C. Hodgson »Idealist/Hegelian readings of the Bible,« Mark Chapman »Liberal readings of the Bible and their conservative responses,« Timothy Gorringe »The use of the Bible in dialectical theology,« Robert Morgan »Existential(ist) interpretation of the New Testament,« Christopher Rowland »Liberationist readings of the Bible,« Jorunn Okland »Feminist readings of the Bible,« Stephen D. Moore »Post-colonial readings of the Bible,« Marc Zvi Brettler and Edward Breuer »Jewish readings of the Bible,« Werner G. Jeanrond »The Bible in philosophy and hermeneutics,« and Harriet Harris »Fundamentalist readings of the Bible«. All contributions offer valuable insights with short histories of research coupled with examples of important re­searchers and themes. Although there tends to be more detail from New Testament examples, Old Testament and other interpreters will find the essays of interest for the convenient summaries and for ideas for new directions research.
Part III, »Reception of the Bible Geographically,« covers an emerg­ing area of study and focuses on the regional impact of the Bible on Africa, North America (predominantly the U.S.A., but with some attention to Canada), Latin America (Central and South America, including the Caribbean islands), Asia (India, China, South Korea, Japan, and even Asian Americans), and Europe (predominantly Western Europe). The scholars are all recognized authorities on the study of geographical reception and include Gerald West »Recep-tion of the Bible: the Bible in Africa,« Mark Noll »The Bible in North America,« Néstor Míguez and Daniel Bruno »The Bible in Latin America,« R. S. Sugirtharajah »The Bible in Asia,« and David Thompson »The Bible in Europe«. Here, the role of missionaries comes to the fore, which underlines the fact that biblical interpretation is not just a university discipline or a matter for the church, but also the domain of a set of experienced interpreters who conveyed its message beyond the centers of interpretive authority to local communities that in turn adopted the biblical message and used it in their own ways to sustain their group identities and move beyond colonial ideology, for example. A fine addition to this section would be consideration of reception and even rejection in countries like Australia, New Zealand, or Indonesia as well as in the Middle East, where biblical interpretation is linked to the preservation of language as well as the sustenance and support of local minority communities and ethnic groups confronted daily with majority cultures with other ideological standpoints.
Part IV turns to the extent of the reception and interpretation of the Bible in Christian communities or the »Reception of the Bible Confessionally«. The essays include Constantine Scouteris and Constantine Belezos »The Bible in the Orthodox Church from the seventeenth century to the present,« Peter Neuner »The reception of the Bible in Roman Catholic tradition,« Mark W. Elliott »The Bible in Protestantism from 1750 to 2000,« Edmund J. Rybarczyk »New Churches: Pentecostals and the Bible,« and S. Wesley Ariarajah »The Bible in interfaith dialogue«. The issues surveyed here are broad and include the safeguarding of the biblical text and its distribution, matters related to the understanding of scripture, such as interpretation, inspiration, and authority, ecumenical efforts, hermeneutics, and ecclesiastical and personal use of scripture. The final essay with its focus on the Bible and interfaith dialogue provides a useful summary of many of the lines of discussion in Part IV and con-veniently explores the role of the Bible in fostering dialogue between faiths (among Christians, with Jews, Muslims, and African and Asian religions).
Part V, »Thematic Overview: Reception and Use of the Bible 1750–2000,« draws the volume to a close with a series of essays that present the reception of the Bible mostly outside of religious or theological disciplines. The essays include the interface of the Bible in society and politics by Willard M. Swartley, in literature by Elena Volkova, in film by Gaye Ortiz and William R. Telford, in music by Tassilo Erhardt, in art by Michael Wheeler, in science by Nicolaas A. Rupke, and in hymnody by J. R. Watson. Although much ground is covered here, the presenters offer valuable insights on these emerging fields of study with specific examples of how the Bible has been interpreted in non-theological or religious ways.
The volume brings together how the impetus to produce and distribute the Bible went hand in hand with efforts to study it critically. Methodological approaches varied widely among dif-ferent interpreting communities, with historical questions dominating research in Europe and North America, while a focus on context and response guided discussions in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. After the period of the Enlightenment, emerging discussions turn to the reception of biblical interpretation worldwide in many different Christian traditions and in other fields of study. In addition, the various essays present the Bible as a meeting place for discussion and debate about God and the human person and portray, thereby, the current changing face of Biblical Studies research and to some extent also the globalization and multi-culturalism that mark the Modern period. At the same time, its focus effectively shrinks globalization by depicting what is shared and by indicating the importance of cross-communication and awareness. When seen in this way, the volume presents a model for future work on the intersection of an inherited sacred text and its interpreters for other, non-Christian traditions and for inter-re-ligious and multi-contextual collaboration.
In the final summation, the fourth volume of the New Cambridge History of the Bible represents a seminal accomplishment that captures in an accessible work a number of past and emerging research foci that have rarely been gathered together in one place. The contributors cover in detail a range of topics that are of interest to students and researchers in the fields of Theology, Religious Studies, History, Sociology, Literature, Media, and Cultural Studies. This fourth vol-ume comes highly recommended as a handy overview for students and researchers interested in the Bible in the Modern period.