You have before you the first issue of the new Journal of the Bible and Its Reception (JBR), which will be published twice yearly. It is part of De Gruyter’s growing commitment to biblical reception studies, which started with the multi-volume reference work Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception (EBR) and now expands to include a monograph series (SBR), a handbook series (HBR), and last but not least, a journal. The Society of Biblical Literature is a partner in this adventure, offering the journal to members at a comfortable rate and organizing with De Gruyter the prize for Biblical Studies and Reception History, to be awarded for the first time at the Annual Meeting this year.
The function of the journal within this larger picture is to promote the study of the reception of the Bible in terms of both theory, methodology, and content. With De Gruyter’s other initiatives the journal shares the aim to shed light on the broader horizon of the use and influence of the Bible in a wide variety of historical and cultural settings. Moreover, JBR also aims to provide a forum for working out theories and methodologies of reception history. It will therefore give space to the more experimental, cutting-edge areas of interest, including the questioning and theorizing of biblical reception history required as the field becomes more established. It is fully possible that topics first raised in a JBR article will later find their way into encyclopedia entries or fill a whole monograph in the book series.
In accordance with its more experimental approach, the journal welcomes a broader range of writing genres: articles; interviews; reviews of art exhibitions, film, and staged versions of the Bible; as well as “reports from the field” describing ongoing initiatives, projects, or centers of biblical reception history around the world. While scholarly articles will still take up most of the pages, we consider it important to include these other genres as well, because they can open up new areas of research and stimulate further discussion.
For JBR, inter/transdisciplinarity is not just icing on the cake; rather, a deep commitment to inter/transdisciplinarity has guided the set-up and scope of the journal as well as the composition of its first board of editors. Each article submitted will be reviewed by scholars in more than one discipline, in order to ensure the quality not only of its biblical aspects but also of its engagement with other disciplines. The journal invites contributions from a range of academic fields and covers a wide array of topics, including transmission and reception of bible(s) in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and other religious as well as non-confessional traditions around the globe; in rabbinic, patristic, medieval, modern, contemporary, and postcolonial contexts; in literature, film, music, and the visual and performing arts; and in relation to politics and economics, gender and sexuality, race and ethnicity, and a variety of other social and cultural issues. It also invites contributions reflecting on the material sides of biblical reception, including such topics as the reception of the Gospel of John in various early manuscripts and translations, marginal illustrations in Medieval bibles, and the significance of varying levels of literacy and illiteracy for biblical currency and engagement with biblical content. Scholars have become more aware that some historical and contemporary cultures are more conversant in visual images than in languages and texts, but we need to reflect more on how this difference affects our perception of what exactly biblical reception is. This journal will provide space for such reflection.
The study of biblical reception history is still in its infancy and even now is sometimes regarded with suspicion or disdain by practitioners of traditional exegetical methods. Yet a consensus is steadily developing within the scholarly community that how biblical texts have been interpreted through the centuries is just as significant and interesting (often more so) as the text’s so-called “original” meaning. The editors of JBR recognize that biblical texts have never existed in a singular, static form. Moreover, we recognize that no clear boundary exists between a text’s “original” meaning and its later receptions. Biblical authors and redactors appropriate and rework earlier material as surely as do later biblical interpreters.
To those who argue that reception history fixes and essentializes the Bible and reduces biblical studies to a positivist research project, we maintain that the opposite is the case. Reception history deconstructs the Bible as a unitary, fixed book by drawing attention to differences with regard to content (in the case of Jewish, Catholic Christian, and Protestant Christian traditions where the differences are most visible in the sheer selection of books included) and the enormous variety of meanings created from these texts by interpretive communities through the centuries. This journal in particular sees its role as the forum where these discussions about the nature of reception history can take place. It is our hope that they will be lively and in this way help to make the field more theoretically and methodologically robust.
We extend our thanks to the editorial and advisory boards of JBR, to the scholars who provided painstaking reviews of these articles, as well as to research assistant Chantal Jackson for her diligent work in preparing the articles for publication. For their patience and publishing expertise, we also thank the JBR team at De Gruyter, most especially Albrecht Doehnert, Alissa Jones Nelson, Anna Barkhoff, and Allie Struzik.
23 May 2014