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Australian Biblical Review


ISSN 0045-0308

BOOK REVIEW  Published in Volume 63, 2015

JOHN RICHES (ed.), The New Cambridge History of the Bible, Volume 4: From 1750 to the Present (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015). Pp. xviii + 851. Hardback. £125.00.

This volume completes the New Cambridge History of the Bible and, like its three companions, consists of entirely new contributions to the subject. The aim of the editor was to secure contributions that together reflect the significant cultural changes that affected the place of the Bible in Western culture, as well as the role the Bible has played in social movements and struggles globally. John Riches has chosen well, and contributes a useful introduction and epilogue that orient the reader to the essays and offer helpful broader reflections in the light of them.

The essays are all written by highly qualified specialists, aimed at the general reader but of interest to scholars not least as summaries of the state of scholarship in key areas. There are 36 chapters in total, arranged into five parts. Part I contains articles on text criticism from Lachmann to the present (Eldon Epp, focussing exclusively on NT text critical history), production of the Bible as a material artefact (Leslie Howsam and Scott McLaren), and translations of the Bible in the global context (Lamin Sanneh).

Part II, the lengthiest section, discusses a variety of interpretative approaches to the Bible as these emerged in the modern period. Wayne Meeks discusses the History of Religions School. Keith Whitelam surveys the relationship between archaeology and the Bible. Janice Capel Anderson provides a brief overview of source, form and redaction criticism, while Halvor Moxnes outlines the main features of a social-scientific approach to the Bible, and Ian Boxall considers the theory and practice of biblical reception history. A cluster of essays explore the relationship between the Bible and major theological movements in the 18th–20th centuries: a survey is offered by W. T. Dickens; Idealism/Hegelianism are treated by Peter Hodgson; the role of the Bible in liberal theology is explored by Mark Chapman; the contrasting use of the Bible in dialectical theology is discussed by Timothy Gorringe and this is closely related to Robert Morgan’s treatment of existentialist interpretation of the New Testament. The final essays in this section unpack some of the dominant modes of biblical interpretation within the academy and church: liberationist (Chris Rowland), feminist (Jorunn Økland), post-colonial (Stephen Moore), Jewish (Marc Zvi Brettler and Edward Breuer), philosophical-hermeneutical (Werner Jeanrond), and fundamentalist (Harriet Harris) approaches are all discussed.

Most of the essays to this point have explored perspectives on the Bible and its role that respond in one way or another to the legacy of modernity and its (possible) aftermath in the West. While Part III offers a more general account of the place of the Bible in North America (Mark Noll) and Europe (David Thompson) this is extended into the global context. Gerald West discusses the Bible in Africa, while Néstor Míguez and Daniel Bruno consider Latin America and R. S. Sugirtharajah considers the Asian context.

Part IV considers the way that the Bible is received in diverse confessional traditions in the modern period. Constantine Scouteris and Constantine Belezos survey the place of the Bible in Orthodoxy. Peter Neuner considers the Catholic tradition and Protestantism is tackled by Mark Elliott. More recent ecclesial realities are reflected in the essays by Edmund Rybarczyk on Pentecostals and the Bible, and Wesley Ariarajah on the place of the Bible in interfaith dialogue.

The final Part V contains essays on the reception of the Bible in various kinds of social and artistic media, namely: society (Willard Swartley); literature (Elena Volkova); film (Gaye Ortiz and William Telford); music (Tassilo Erhardt); art (Michael Wheeler); science (Nicolaas Rupke); hymnody (J. R. Watson).

The above list of names and subjects indicate the riches available in this volume. Each essay, with an average length of 20 pages or so, would form a useful introduction to some of the questions, history, and participants in each area of enquiry. In many ways we have here a survey of the reception of the Bible in the different but related worlds of university, church and culture. The decision to broaden the scope of topics and contributors to include perspectives from beyond Western Europe and North America is to be commended, although much of the Asia-Pacific region is conspicuous by its absence and Australia is only mentioned once. There is clearly still work to be done in documenting the global impact of the Bible.

Review by
Pilgrim Theological College / University of Divinity