Borders, Boundaries, and the Bible

Article excerpt

Borders, Boundaries, and the Bible. Edited by Martin O'Kane. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, Supplement Series 313. London and New York: Sheffield Academic Press, 2002. xii + 358 pp. $125.00 (cloth).

The shift in biblical scholarship away from modernity's concentrated focus on original authorial intent to postmodernitys interest in creative responses to biblical texts has revitalized reception history in recent years. This volume gathers fifteen papers presented at conferences at Newman College, Birmingham in 1999 and 2000, addressing the reception of biblical themes in art, music, film, and literature from ancient times to the present, with a focus on ways in which the Bible has engaged the cultural imaginations of Western Europe and North America. Forty illustrations (regrettably, not in color) add to the visual power of this handsomely produced volume.

In this intriguing collection, we are given to consider the lionization of the patriarch Joseph in Hellenistic-era Jewish texts; portrayals of the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt by painters of such diverse artistic vision as Caravaggio, Picasso, and Chagall; romanticized and camp characterizations of Delilah in contemporary North American cinema; and much more. Postmodernist reading practices are well represented in these learned reflections: significant attention is given to popular culture, suspicion of meta-narratives suffuses many essays, and a lively interdisciplinarity is the rule. But there is a good deal of traditional historical contextualization here as well, so the book should prove valuable to scholars of diverse temperaments and intellectual loyalties.

Unevenness in a collection such as this is inevitable. Some of the essays are notable for their scholarly agility and methodological sophistication. Larry J. Kreitzer deftly explores the ways in which Rudyard Kipling ironizes British imperialism and Christian missionizing in the satirical short story "The Man Who Would Be King. …