Reading Other Peoples' Texts

Identity-Formation and the Reception of Authoritative Traditions 

March 13-14, 2017 | Swift Lecture Hall (3rd floor)

How and in what ways have particular groups or individuals construed particular authoritative religious texts – as "their own" or "other peoples'" – in order to justify their reading, rewriting, reuse, and/or rejection of those texts? 

All reading is an encounter with someone else, an attempt to engage with others who do not share one’s own perspective, experiences or identity. This is possible due to the communal nature of language: Our words are inherently re-useable, meant to be understandable by a range of potential speakers. But this also means that anything we write is already someone else’s before we write it, and it becomes someone else’s the moment it is read. As such, language is a social phenomenon, reflecting the communities and cultures of its users, including their own perceptions of identity.

But this immediately presents problems when texts are read in and by communities other than those for whom they were originally composed. In that context, not only the meaning of the language, but also the text’s implicit and explicit claims of authority and identity must be negotiated anew. Perceptions of both the audience and the author of the text shift, just as all other aspects of interpretation do, as new groups and individuals read “other peoples’ texts” in new contexts.

The study of reception history is an attempt to organize and trace the endlessly variable streams of tradition, interpretation, influence and reuse that are fostered by this dialectic between text and reader. Particularly in Biblical Studies, the history of the text’s reception and influence has become a major focus of research, reflected in a host of recent monographs, as well as several encyclopedia and commentary series. In line with this emerging discipline, one particular aspect of reception history that warrants further attention is how religiously authoritative texts are read, reused and rewritten by communities other than those for whom they were originally composed.

A Manfred Lautenschlaeger Colloquium. All session will be in Swift Hall's Lecture Hall (3rd floor). 


9am Morning Session, Chair: Brennan Breed, Columbia Theological Seminary

9:15am Alison Joseph, Visiting Assistant Professor, Swarthmore College
“Redaction as Reception: Genesis 34 as Case Study” 

9:45am Discussion
10:30am Coffee Break 

10:45am Ken Brown, Research Associate, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
“Negotiating Identity through Interpretation: The Rebellion at Meribah between Jews and Christians” 

11:15am Discussion 
12noon Lunch Break 

1:30pm Afternoon Session, Chair: Ken Brown

Sonja Ammann, Research Associate, Humboldt University Berlin; soon-to-be Assistant Professor of Old Testament, University of Basel
“Iconoclastic Readings: Othering in Isaiah 44 and in Its Reception in Biblical Scholarship.” 

2pm Discussion 
2:45pm Coffee Break

3pm Brennan Breed, Assistant Professor of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary
“Biblical Scholarship’s Ethos of Respect: Qohelet, Original Meanings, and Reception History.” 

3:30pm Discussion
4:00pm Coffee Break 

4:30 pm Choon-Leong Seow, Cupples Chair in Divinity, Distinguished Professor of Hebrew Bible, Vanderbilt Divinity School
“Job as a Contested Classic.” 

5pm Discussion
5:45 pm Break
7:00 Dinner 


9am Morning Session, Chair: Sonja Ammann 

Courtney Friesen, Assistant Professor of Classics, University of Arizona, Tucson
“From Heracles to Christ: Literary Reception as Religious Appropriation.” 

9:30am Discussion
10:15am Coffee Break 

10:30am Kyle Wells, Senior Minister of Christ Presbyterian Church, Santa Barbara
“In Search of Fulfillment: Pseudo-Philo and Paul on God's Covenant with Abraham.” 

11am Discussion 

11:45am Lunch Break


1:00pm  Afternoon Session, Chair: Ryan Coyne

Robert Brawley, Albert G. McGaw Professor of New Testament, Emeritus, McCormick Theological Seminary
“What Happens to Precursor Texts in Their Successors?” 

1:45pm Discussion
2:30pm Coffee Break

2:45 pm Michael Satlow, Professor of Judaic Studies and Religious Studies, Brown University
“Reading without History.” 

3:15pm Discussion

4:00pm Closing Remarks: Ken Brown