Bible Reading and/after Theory

Valentine Cunningham

in The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199204540
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 Bible Reading and/after Theory

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The nature of modern Bible study changed in or about September 1969 when the French Catholic Association for the Study of the Bible got the already renommé structuralist Roland Barthes to analyse Acts 10-11 (the conversion of Cornelius) for its Chantilly Congress. This introduction of those curious Catholic Biblicists to the new ways of handling texts that were burgeoning in the nouvelle vague of French (post)structuralism, or, as we would now say, of the Linguistic or Theoretical Turn in literary studies, was quickly followed by the two even more momentous evenings in February 1971 at the Faculté de Théologie of the University of Geneva when the nouveau critic Jean Starobinski offered ‘A Literary Analysis of Mark 5.1-20’ and Roland Barthes, now a neo-Biblicist mage, pulled out of his analytical hat his ‘Textual Analysis’ of Genesis 32:23–33, ‘The Struggle With the Angel’ — soon to be widely recognized as innovatively absorbing structuralist approaches into post-structuralist ones and highlighting a major way forward for biblical (and literary) studies. These tentative Biblicist dips into the Barthesian well of Theory dramatically opened the portal for the revolution in recent times in Biblicist hermeneutic practice, the great recent shaking of Biblicism to its established historicizing core, the door through which would rush the literary Theory and theories then muscling their way into the secular literary-critical world — the mixed postmodern bag, or coat of many postmodern colours, sheltering structuralists, Derridean deconstructionists, neo-Freudians, Konstanz School reader-responders, interpretive communitarians, and power-spotting Foucauldianized new-historicist/new-wave feminist/Queer-theorist/post-colonialist body-baggers.

Keywords: modern bible study; Roland Barthes; Jean Starobinski; hermeneutics; French Catholic Association

Article.  11502 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Religious Studies ; Christianity ; Judaism and Jewish Studies

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