Sunday, May 24, 2020

Contemporary relevance of Reception History of the Bible

I just wrote this unproofed and unedited section for the revised and expanded edition of my What Are They Saying about the Parables?.

Here's the part that seems most germane:
“the burning concerns of the German nation”: (a) the moral indifference of wealthy Christians in light of extreme inequalities of wealth that doomed many to great suffering while others lived in “callous opulence,”

A decade later, Wailes published a second book with a narrower focus: the reception of the rich man and Lazarus parable in German drama during the Reformation.[i] The book examines ten German dramas that begin chronologically with “The Zurich Play” (1529) and end Jakob Ayrer’s Tragedie vom rechen Man und armen Lazaro (1598). Part One examines four “South German Plays” (49-164), since they appear “to have given birth to the dramatic tradition” of the rich man and Lazarus. Part Two explores six “Lutheran Plays” (167-303) In sixteenth-century Germany, the rich man and Lazarus parable inspired more plays than the prodigal son parable, which usually dominates drama elsewhere primarily because of its theme of penitence and reconciliation. In Germany in this era, however, the rich man and Lazarus parable is more popular because of “the burning concerns of the German nation”: (a) the moral indifference of wealthy Christians in light of extreme inequalities of wealth that doomed many to great suffering while others lived in “callous opulence,” and (b) the “strongly etched story line” with few details that “readily accepted” further developments and amplification (304-305).   
The opening sentence in the book’s conclusion, while limited to the Reformation in Germany, is also applicable to many other places and eras, and it underscores the need for careful explorations of reception history and the Bible: “It is not easy for educated people at the end of the twentieth century to appreciate the power of the Bible to organize the beliefs and inspire the actions of Germans during the Reformation” (304).  


[i] Stephen L. Wailes, The Rich Man and Lazarus on the Reformation Stage: A Contribution to the Social History of German Drama (Selinsgrove: Susquehanna University Press, 1997).

Evan Christensen's "Virtual Museum" Reception History Website

"The Rich Epicure and Poor Lazarus" by Jose Arana Included in Evan Christensen's "Virtual Museum" My thanks to Dr....