Nomadic Text: A Theory of Biblical Reception History

Nomadic Text: A Theory of Biblical Reception History

Nomadic Text: A Theory of Biblical Reception History

Nomadic Text: A Theory of Biblical Reception History


Brennan W. Breed claims that biblical interpretation should focus on the shifting capacities of the text, viewing it as a dynamic process rather than a static product. Rather than seeking to determine the original text and its meaning, Breed proposes that scholars approach the production, transmission, and interpretation of the biblical text as interwoven elements of its overarching reception history. Grounded in the insights of contemporary literary theory, this approach alters the framing questions of interpretation from "What does this text mean?" to "What can this text do?"


You begin by saying, that when, in my discussion with our friend Bassus,
I used the Scripture which contains the prophecy of Daniel when yet a
young man in the affair of Susanna, I did this as if it had escaped me that
this part of the book was spurious. … [C]onsider whether it would not
be well to remember the words, “You shall not remove the ancient land
marks which your fathers have set.”

I guess I’m supposed to say that I believe in the line that exists between
the US and Canada, but for me it’s an imaginary line. It’s a line from
someone else’s imagination; It’s not my imagination. It divided people
like the Mohawk into Canadian Mohawks and US Mohawks. They’re
the same people. It divided the Blackfoot who live in Browning from the
Blackfoot who live at Standoff, for example. So the line is a political line,
that border line. It wasn’t there before the Europeans came.
—Thomas king

Introduction to the Introduction: Where to Begin?

This book begins here, as many books do, with a sketch of the contours of my general argument. I attempt to delimit its borders and situate it within the context of recent scholarship. Immediately, a problem arises: this book is concerned with the concept of borders. In particular, it challenges the ways in which borders function throughout critical biblical studies. Perhaps the best way to begin is to sketch this border problem itself.

Initially, I imagined this project as a study of the reception history of a particular passage from the biblical book of Job. But from the very start the question of where to begin the study proved troublesome. Following in the footsteps of most reception-historical studies of biblical texts, I could have opened with a chapter titled “Job in Early Jewish and Christian Interpretation,” thus bypassing the problem of the border by starting after the close of the presumed original “biblical” period. Or perhaps I could have opened with a chapter titled “Job in . . .

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