Sunday, September 10, 2017

I will be speaking at "The Prodigal: A Curated Experience of Art and Scripture" in Edmonton

For those readers who are near enough to Edmonton (Alberta, Canada), I am delighted to announce that I will be giving three lectures at what looks like will be an outstanding conference on the parable of the Prodigal Son.

The conference is sponsored by the E. P. Wahl Centre of Taylor Seminary on September 29-30, 2017. You can check out the program here.

Friday night I will begin with a short lecture: “Why Reception History?”

Saturday I will give two lectures, parts one and two of: “What do Parables Want?: The Afterlives of the Two Brothers in the Prodigal Son as a Test Case.”

In addition to all the other interesting lectures and discussions on the prodigal son's text, cultural context, and reception, there will be over twenty original works of Prodigal-themed art on display created just for this conferences.

The conference will conclude with a first-century-style feast that includes a fatted calf (to welcome all the attending prodigals home?).

I am grateful to Tim Willson--the Director of Communications and Marketing for Taylor Seminary and the E P Wahl Centre, and curator of the onWORD Conference--for inviting me to speak at this year's conference. I am really looking forward to it.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Review of James Through the Centuries

Although my book, James Through the Centuries, is about the Epistle of James and not the parables, I thought I should share excerpts of a recent review of the book, since it is about reception history.

This review, by R. Alan Culpepper, appeared in the Society of Biblical Literature's Review of Biblical Literature in July 2017.

RBL is available only by subscription at here, so I am only able to post "fair use" sections of it on this blog. I will include only the introduction and the conclusion of the review:

The aim of the Wiley Blackwell Bible Commentaries, according to the series preface, is to provide convenient access to the reception history of the Bible, book by book and chapter by chapter. The commentaries gather readings of the biblical text from the history of scholarship but also from such diverse sources as, to quote John Kloppenborg’s endorsement [of Gowler’s book] on the back cover of the volume, “the history of icons, mediaeval woodcuts and other representations, … monastic rules, hymnody, literature, political polemics, and much more.” Readers are therefore given an overview of the influence of the Bible on Western culture . . . .
David Gowler has taken this commission and carried it out in a breathtaking fashion as he has gathered and summarized readings of James “through the centuries.” For each section of the letter, Gowler addresses first the “Ancient Literary Context” and then “The Interpretations,” which generally follow a roughly chronological order: “Ancient and Medieval” followed by “Early Modern and Modern.” Gowler also makes explicit his ambitious hermeneutic. Appealing to Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogism, the principle that truth is not to be found in the understanding of an individual person but is the product of dialogic interaction in the collective search for truth, Gowler contends that the “meaning” of the Epistle of James “does not reside alone in the creative genius of its author; it exists in a relation between creator and contemplators” (4). In other words, it exists not in the text alone but in the readings and rereadings of the text through the centuries, in the dialogue of readers with the text and with each other. Interpreters therefore participate in the meaning of the Epistle. Accordingly, “voices that are sometimes silenced or marginalized receive a fair and equal hearing” (8). One of the collateral benefits of this approach is that “it makes explicit what in reality is inherent but usually implicit—that our own interpretations are incomplete without a dialogic response to the responses of those interpreters who have preceded us” (5) and whose readings have shaped our own. 
. . . .
[Gowler’s] James through the Centuries treats readers to a symphony of readings drawn from many generations and cultures, while pioneering an expansive understanding of the task of interpretation and showcasing important as well as marginalized and novel interpretations. The sheer effort involved in this research and the access it gives to such a wide range of resources insure that Gowler’s work will continue to be a part of the dialogue about James for years to come.

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