Reflections on “Nomadic Text” (Part II)

Open BibleIn this first half of Nomadic Text, Breed does much to complicate a notion of biblical reception history.[1] The problematic nature of borders frames this argument, specifically the murky ways in which biblical scholars often define (or fail to define) the differentiations between the composition and reception of texts. No longer may complicated zones be neglected and ontological assumptions about the character of the biblical text be allowed to dictate the approaches of biblical scholars to the biblical formation and reception. Instead, Breed highlights the problem of determining where authorship and editing mix, how textual combination, redaction, and editing indistinguishably merge with the beginnings of scribal copying and textual corruption. Reception history involves more than just what happens after the final form of a text comes into existence. Rather, this field of inquiry should encompass the complex and pluriform ways in which the multiplicity of biblical texts have arisen, the difficulties of explanatory contextualization, and the recognition of the sign/signifier/substitution realities of language. Continue reading

Reflections on “Nomadic Text” (Part I)

2370005851562As someone planning a dissertation on “reception history” (albeit it somewhat differently defined and undertaken than Breed), Brennan Breed’s concept of reception history and his application in Nomadic Text offer several potentially fruitful routes forward.

Foremost, Breed offers numerous opportunities for raised awareness of the issues surrounding the field of reception history. First, he rightly highlights the need for a careful definition of reception history and argues for his own take on the application of that definition to biblical studies—“everything is both its own original and own reception” (206). Second, Breed brings his readers into conversation with the semiotic debates and concerns with how to do biblical studies which are informing the development of reception history. His discussions of text, context, and interpretation, even when not directly applicable to my own thought or projects, nonetheless shed light on the flavor and limitations of the field as it is currently constituted. Third, this text helpfully raises awareness of borderlines and their importance in transmission and reception history. For a field which can often unconsciously reify borders and then proceed as if inquiry cannot transcend those limitations, Breed’s engagement with liminality and identifying and traversing borderlines provides a much needed paradigm correction. Finally, the engagement with Hebrew Bible-centered biblical studies provides a much needed expansion of horizons and methodology. For this reader, at least, Breed’s presentation stands as a stark reminder that other (even closely related) fields bring different concerns and practical realities to the table, factors which may fruitfully be brought to inform conversations within our own studies. In all of these ways, Breed rightly raises awareness about the field of reception history in such a way as to better inform the operations of biblical studies and the history of Christianity. Continue reading