Expository Times online is now posting articles in advance as they are in line for publication. One such article, by Steve Walton (London School of Theology) is entitled “What is Progress in New Testament Studies.” This article is a slightly revised version of his public lecture that marked his promotion to full professor. As a public lecture it is appropriately meant to be non-technical and does a fine job of promoting the study of the New Testament as a true academic discipline in the university.
While Walton makes several very good points, one matter he addresses is the profit and ills of reception study. On the cautionary side, Walton warns Biblical scholars not to confuse study of the history of the interpretation of the NT with the study of the NT documents itself. He goes as far as saying study of reception fits more as a sub-discipline of “Cultural Studies.” For NT interpreters, it should go without saying (but nowadays actually needs to be said) that such scholars need to study the actual NT texts themselves in their own historical and literary context.
Of course Walton has some positive things to say about reception study. For example, he looks at Acts 1:15-26 where the apostles are selecting a disciple to replace Judas. Peter seems to be addressing men (1:16) as the cohort of leaders entrusted with this task: “Men, brothers.” Were women there? John Chrysostom (whom Walton refers to as the first commentator on Acts) understands there to have been present both men and women. Does Chrysostom encourage us to take more time and effort to see whether there actually were women there?
Reading Chrysostom prompts looking further, and it is noteworthy that in Acts 17:34 the same expression can include women. Thus reading Chrysostom, an interpreter more likely to be alert to ancient Greek usage after the writing of Acts, suggests that the group being addressed in Acts 1:15-26 consists of both women and men. (p 7)
This is just one nice discussion in the whole article. There is much here that reminds me of Markus Bockmuehl’s reflection on the trajectory and state of NT studies.
Congratulations again, Steve, and I often recommend students try and do their doctoral studies with you, so keep up the good work! Also, finish up that Acts commentary so I can buy it!