Further Reading

Wondering where to start? We recommend these works:

Barr, James. The Semantics of Biblical Language. SCM-Canterbury Press Limited, 1983.

Lambert, David. “Refreshing Philology: James Barr, Supersessionism, and the State of Biblical Words,” Biblical Interpretation 24:3 (2016), 332-356

Abstract: This article considers the legacy of James Barr’s The Semantics of Biblical Language. Ideally, his criticisms of theology’s use of philology would have been assimilated already into the field. But the kinds of abuses that Barr so clearly identified and critiqued are still commonly found. Barr’s thoroughgoing critique of its specious appropriation for theology has left many justifiably skittish about employing it to any significant effect and has contributed, perhaps, to the sense that ongoing engagement with the original languages of biblical literature is not a necessity and, certainly, not an avenue to creative scholarship. The article concludes with the suggestion that we might move the practice of philology forward in biblical studies by attending more fully to the positionality of its practitioners. In particular, what emerges throughout the study is the dominance of a certain interiorizing language of the self, whereby biblical Hebrew terms are made to conform to a modern dichotomy of mind and body.

Legaspi, Michael. The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Abstract: Beginning with the fragmentation of biblical interpretation in the centuries after the Reformation, Michael Legaspi shows how the weakening of scriptural authority in the Western churches altered the role of biblical interpretation. Focusing on renowned German scholar Johann David Michaelis (1717-1791), Legaspi explores the ways in which critics reconceived the role of the Bible. This book offers a new account of the origins of biblical studies, illuminating the relation of the Bible to churchly readers, theological interpreters, academic critics, and people in between. It explains why, in an age of religious resurgence, modern biblical criticism may no longer be in a position to serve as the Bible’s disciplinary gatekeeper.

Lin, Yii-Jan. The Erotic Life of Manuscripts: New Testament Textual Criticism and the Biological Sciences. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

Abstract: The traditional goal of modern textual criticism has been to reconstruct an “original text” from surviving manuscripts, adjudicating among all the variant texts resulting from the slips, additions, and embellishments of scribal hand-copying. Because of the way manuscripts circulate and give rise to new copies, it can be said that they have an “erotic” life: they mate and breed, bear offspring, and generate families and descendants. Yii-Jan Lin shows how the use of biological classification, genealogy, evolutionary theory, and phylogenetics has shaped-and limited-the goals of New Testament textual criticism, the greatest of which is the establishment of an authoritative, original text. She concludes by proposing new metaphors for the field.

McKenzie, D.F. Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Abstract: In Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts, D. F. McKenzie shows how the material form of texts crucially determines their meanings. He unifies the principal interests of both critical theory and textual scholarship to demonstrate that, as all works of lasting value are reproduced, re-edited and re-read, they take on different forms and meanings. By witnessing the new needs of their new readers these new forms constitute vital evidence for any history of reading. McKenzie shows this is true of all forms of recorded information, including sound, graphics, films, representations of landscape and the new electronic media. The bibliographical skills first developed for manuscripts and books can, he shows, be applied to a wide range of cultural documents. This book, which incorporates McKenzie’s classic work on orality and literacy in early New Zealand, offers a unifying concept of texts that seeks to acknowledge their variety and the complexity of their relationships.

N.B. Eva Mroczek recommends especially “The book as an expressive form,” “The broken phial: non-book texts,” and “The sociology of a text: oral culture, literacy, and print in early New Zealand.”

Orlemansky, Julie. “Philology and the Turn Away from the Linguistic Turn.” Florilegium 32 (2015): 157-181.

Abstract: In North American academia, the word ‘philology’ pulls in two directions – towards a broad, idealist sense corresponding to the roots philia and logos and towards a narrower conception of ‘mere’ philology, a historicist sub-discipline centred on etymology and textual editing. This essay examines the role of ‘philology’ before, during, and beyond the period known as the ‘linguistic turn,’ with special focus on Speculum’s 1990 special issue, The New Philology. Against the many invocations of ‘philology’ pitting the lofty ideal against fallen disciplinary practice, I argue for the institutional re-elaboration of philological study in the present.

Pollock, Sheldon. “Philology in Three Dimensions.” Postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies 5/4 (2014): 398-413.

Abstract: Philology, the discipline of making sense of texts, orients itself along three planes of meaning: the text’s genesis, its tradition of reception and its presence to the philologist’s own subjectivity. While the three meanings may all resolve into forms of historicism, they are typically not disaggregated; instead they are viewed as mutually hostile if not exclusive. The conflict between the first, the ‘historicist’ more conventionally viewed, and the third, the ‘presentist,’ is ubiquitous in everyday philology. What is generally ignored, however, is the ‘traditionist,’ pertinent here both for the moment of what its supersession in early capitalist Europe and for the means and meaning of its reclamation. Enacting philology in three dimensions requires a delicate balance —essential if we are to cultivate the important political-ethical values that are only possible by learning to read well.

Turner, James. Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.

Abstract: Many today do not recognize the word, but “philology” was for centuries nearly synonymous with humanistic intellectual life, encompassing not only the study of Greek and Roman literature and the Bible but also all other studies of language and literature, as well as history, culture, art, and more. In short, philology was the queen of the human sciences. How did it become little more than an archaic word? In Philology, the first history of Western humanistic learning as a connected whole ever published in English, James Turner tells the fascinating, forgotten story of how the study of languages and texts led to the modern humanities and the modern university. The humanities today face a crisis of relevance, if not of meaning and purpose. Understanding their common origins—and what they still share—has never been more urgent.