Tuesday 12 July 2011

Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception

I know this won’t be to everyone’s taste, but for many years I’ve had an abiding interest in the study of the so-called ‘reception history’ of biblical texts, and here’s a brand new open access journal – Relegere – ‘established to promote and disseminate academic research on reception history, broadly understood, both within and across religious traditions’.

Here’s the longer blurb:

‘The journal has been founded on the conviction that the study of reception and religion must not limit itself to a mere cataloguing of influence or a simple recounting of the trajectories of foundational religious texts across time. Beyond this basic research, reception history needs to be more thoroughly understood on a conceptual and theoretical level; reception history must actively interrogate the taken-for-granted idea that foundational texts are somehow fixed, that their essential natures can be distinguished from their subsequent reception. In pursuit of this goal, Relegere actively encourages methodological, theoretical, and philosophical contributions relevant to reception history and religion, whether in relation to particular case studies or as stand-alone theoretical reflections. Through the production of a coherent body of theoretical and practical reflection by and for scholars in very different fields and with very different interests, it is our hope that such an approach will facilitate a fruitful and ongoing discussion among scholars.’

And here are the contents of the first issue:


Beyond Christianity, the Bible, and the Text: Urgent Tasks and New Orientations for Reception History


Mark Dennis

Rethinking Premodern Japanese Buddhist Texts: A Case Study of Prince Shōtoku’s “Sangyō-gisho”

This article examines the Sangyō-gisho 三経義疏 (Commentaries on the Three Sūtras), three Buddhist texts written in classical Chinese that have been attributed to Japan’s Prince Shōtoku (574-622 CE). I will focus on the different ways in which four figures from the Kamakura era (1185-1333 CE) understood, used, and valued these texts. Even among this small group of contemporary monks from the thirteenth century we will find distinct notions of what constitutes the “text,” some of which differ in important ways from modern scholarly conceptions of the Sangyō-gisho. Through highlighting these different perspectives, I offer an alternative approach to a large body of modern scholarly studies, which has focused on a set of technical concerns looking back to the moment of the texts’ composition.

James E. Harding

David and Jonathan between Athens and Jerusalem

This article seeks to explain what made it possible for modern biblical scholars to ask whether the relationship between David and Jonathan in 1-2 Samuel should be regarded as sexual. The answer is to be found in the way the David and Jonathan narrative was read in the nineteenth century alongside passages in Greek and Roman texts that refer to analogous pairs of friends who had already become, or were on their way to becoming, tropes for homoeroticism.

James G. Crossley

Life of Brian or Life of Jesus? Uses of Critical Biblical Scholarship and Non-orthodox Views of Jesus in Monty Python’s Life of Brian

It is often argued that Monty Python’s Life of Brian should not be regarded as blasphemous or offensive, largely because Brian and Jesus are two distinct characters in the film. Many religious opponents have claimed otherwise. This article argues that to some degree these pious opponents have a point: Brian does in someway represent Jesus. What Life of Brian does, through interaction with scholarly literature and ideas, is to attribute to Brian a whole host of mildly subversive and critical views about Jesus and effectively create a critical life of Jesus.

Gitte Buch-Hansen

Lars von Trier’s Antichrist, the Bible, and Docetic Masculinity

Lars von Trier’s Antichrist (2009) has been criticised by feminists for its perceived misogyny. This interpretation ignores the long afterlife of the biblical figure of the Antichrist, which is more complex than its traces in contemporary popular culture would suggest. Reading the film into the reception history of the Antichrist, drawing on both contemporary scholars and Friedrich Nietzsche – whose virulent critique of Christianity, Der Antichrist, has long been on the director’s bedside table – I argue that von Trier uses the figure to paint a scathing, even shocking, critique of masculinity as inscribed in the creeds of the early Church. The three interrelated poles of my analysis – the biblical, the aesthetic and the Nietzschean – all point in the same direction: Antichrist is not a film about the dangerous female psyche, but about a masculinity that has gone astray – or, to borrow a term from theological discourse, become “docetic.”


Philip R. Davies

Reading the Bible Intelligently

Book Reviews

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