Wednesday 20 July 2016

Currents in Biblical Research 14, 3 (June 2016)

The latest Currents in Biblical Research recently arrived, with titles and abstracts of the main articles as below.

Russell L. Meek
Twentieth- and Twenty-first-century Readings of Hebel (הֶבֶל) in Ecclesiastes
The meaning of הֶבֶל is a crux interpretum for the book of Ecclesiastes. Notwithstanding some variation, Jerome’s vanitas reading of הֶבֶל in Ecclesiastes dominated scholarship for several centuries. Since the rise of modern biblical scholarship, הֶבֶל as ‘vanity’ has been largely rejected; however, little consensus has been reached regarding the word’s meaning. The result has been a rich history of interpretation as scholars develop various suggestions for how הֶבֶל should be understood in Ecclesiastes. This essay briefly sketches the history of interpretation of הֶבֶל, then surveys proposals for the meaning of הֶבֶל in Ecclesiastes during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Amy Erickson and Andrew R. Davis
Recent Research on the Megilloth (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther)
Until recently, study of the Megilloth as a coherent canonical grouping has been minimal. On the whole, the lateness and fluidity of the collection within the Jewish canon has negated its value for biblical scholars, who have long preferred texts and categories thought to be ‘early’ or ‘original’. The state of the field has begun to shift, however, as scholars are giving more attention to connections between individual books of the Megilloth and the coherence of the collection as a whole. This new interest coincides with the growing recognition among scholars that the later (re)uses of a biblical text are constitutive of its interpretation; thus the lateness of the Megilloth (if the collection really is late) does not preclude interpretation but shapes it. Recent studies in the Megilloth as a coherent collection include canon-historical approaches, which trace the formation of the Megilloth within the Jewish canon; intertextual approaches, which focus on allusions to earlier biblical traditions and on literary connections within the five scrolls; and theological approaches, which adopt a synchronic method that puts the Megilloth in dialogue with contemporary theological discourse.

Garrick V. Allen
Scriptural Allusions in the Book of Revelation and the Contours of Textual Research 1900-2014: Retrospect and Prospects
This article traces the contours of the past century of discourse surrounding the underlying textual form of allusions embedded in the book of Revelation. Special attention is paid to the rapid developments on this issue in the past thirty years, a period in which New Testament scholarship has grappled with the textual complexity of the Hebrew Bible presented by the scrolls from the Judaean Desert. The question of textual form is of foundational importance for analysing the reuse or interpretation of Scripture in the book of Revelation. Despite this reality, it is common to find assumptions or misconceptions in recent studies that obfuscate the textual reality of the Hebrew Bible and its early Greek versions the first century CE. The appraisal of scholarship on this issue allows scholars to better contextualize their own approaches to the text of allusions in the light of previous research. This analysis also highlights the changing methods and approaches by which scholars analyse the text of allusions and suggests some avenues for future research on the allusions embedded in the Apocalypse.

Patrick Schreiner
Space, Place and Biblical Studies: A Survey of Recent Research in Light of Developing Trends
This article surveys developing research on the nature of space and place. It summarizes the arguments proposed by geographers and philosophers outside biblical studies, and then illustrates how biblical scholars have employed these theories in the study of the biblical text. The review focuses on the theoretical underpinning and then examines a number of scholars who have appropriated what they call ‘critical spatiality’ to historical, sociological, and narratival readings. In short, some now describe space in a tri-part division; the physical world in which people exist, the ideological underpinnings of understanding places, and the lived practices of people within those places that sometimes challenge and sometimes reaffirm the expected uses of such places.

Yael Shemesh
Directions in Jewish Feminist Bible Study
The article highlights various possible directions that Jewish feminist Bible scholarship can take. Even though this field has naturally been influenced by feminist scholarship in general, I believe that it does have a number of unique traits, with regard both to content (such as pointing out the Christian source of certain misogynistic interpretations) and form (commentaries oriented to the weekly Torah portion). The first part of the article deals with these unique features of Jewish feminist Bible scholarship. In the second part I look at four goals shared by feminist Bible scholarship in general and the Jewish subgenre, while focusing on the latter: (1) Emphasizing that the Bible is a patriarchal and androcentric – some would say misogynistic – text; (2) highlighting the voices for equality that can be found in the Bible; (3) focusing on biblical women and recounting her-story rather than the traditional his-tory that has been dominant for generations; (4) discovering the female authors of biblical texts, or at least the women’s voices that emerge from it. In the third section I draw on several Jewish feminist Bible scholars’ treatment of three issues to exemplify how the same underlying data led different readers to different and even contradictory attitudes and assertions about the biblical text. Two of these issues relate to narrative – the characterization of Eve and that of Ruth and Naomi and their relationship. The third issue comes from the legal corpus – the laws of menstrual impurity (Lev. 15.19-24). Here we saw not only the different positions taken by different scholars, but also the change over time in the view of Rachel Adler, which corresponds with the change in her religious perspective and move from one religious denomination to another.

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