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Thesis submitted to the University of Nottingham for the degree of Doctor

of Philosophy



Taking up the concept of reception history/Rezeptionsästhetik, as

described by its founder, Hans Robert Jauss, this project considers the way in which diverse contexts shape the ways in which readers of 2 Thessalonians have historically interpreted the epistle. Supplementing Jauss’ methodology with insights from theological scholars, the larger questions of biblical meaning and continuity between biblical interpreters enters the discussion. In the former case, this research discounts the bifurcated directions of historical positivism that equates biblical meaning either with historical background or authorial intent. Related to this, the research proposes the continuity between historical interpreters of 2 Thessalonians be construed in terms of historical dialogue, which constitutes the being of the work.

Three historical interpreters of 2 Thessalonians from different

historical periods of the Church serve as the receptive foci in this dissertation:

John Chrysostom (early Church), Haimo of Auxerre (Medieval Church), and John Calvin (Reformation). Following Jauss’ Rezpetionsästhetik, these interpreters are placed in their compositional contexts and in dialogue with modern interpreters of the same epistle. By passing through the various dimensions of the letter’s otherness, the research brings to the fore potential present appropriations of meaning.

i Acknowledgements I would like to begin by acknowledging and thanking my wife, Bethany, for all of the support and encouragement that she has offered in this process. She has been exponentially more helpful than she realises. Her willingness to go anywhere that this academic path will take us is something that she has always freely and joyfully displayed.

Our son Langston has been a constant source of joy and a reminder each day that there is more to life than reading and writing about theology.

My father, Rhett, and brother, Ansel, have been important, pastoral gauges for my thoughts. My work would be poorer if it lacked their insight.

Together with my sisters, Katie and Callie, they have encouraged our family as a whole on this journey.

My mother, Beth, whom we lost too young, was that foundational source of encouragement in all that I have done. She never accepted laziness in academic endeavours and was one who constantly provoked theological reflection. On a daily basis she remains dearly missed.

I would also like to thank my in-laws, Mark and Sylvia Rogers, who opened their home to usin the closing months of the writing-up period while we transitioned back from England.

Were it not for an e-mail response from Prof. Anthony Thiselton, I would not be in the position that I am now. Anthony is a deep source of wisdom and has helped this process through corrections, resources, balance, and pastoral consideration.

I am also very grateful to Prof. Richard Bell for taking over supervision after Anthony retired. He has helped greatly in offering advice and corrections.

Prof. Roland Deines is a necessity for every Ph.D. candidate in that he does not allow careless remarks to slide and he challenges students to attend to any weakness in their arguments. Like Richard and Anthony, Roland has suggested engaging a wealth of materials (mostly German) as essential for my research.

I would also like to thank Christoph Ochs, Peter Watts, Matthew Malcolm, Emily Gathergood, Eric Lee, and Joseph Vnuk— members of our informal seminar group— for their valuable feedback. Joseph I thank in particular for his assistance with Latin and Christoph, Peter, and Matt for their detailed comments on the entire dissertation.

Additional scholars who deserve mention are Joel Green, who directed me toward this topic initially through Angus Paddison’s monograph on 1 Thessalonians; Mary Cunningham, who continually offered invaluable insights on patristic scholarship; Wendy Mayer, for her responses to e-mails about John Chrysostom; and Johannes Heil, who gladly offered a prepublication article on Haimo of Auxerre for my research.

I appreciate greatly the financial support of Christuskirche FGUMC, Pasadena Presbyterian Church, Pawleys Island Presbyterian Church, and the Gathergood family, as well as the fellowship at Beeston Free Church and Cornerstone Evangelical Church.

Lastly I should acknowledge the revelation of God in Jesus Christ that propels this research.

–  –  –

the levels of continuity between pre-modern and modern interpreters of 2 Thessalonians. The respective methodologies and results of pre-modern and modern biblical scholars often appear so vastly divergent, that it is questionable whether one can argue that their works reflect any continuity rather than a dramatic break.

Furthermore, modern biblical commentators often perpetuate a sense of discontinuity with and superiority to pre-modern commentators, even if only implicitly in their lack of interaction with their forebears and their insistence on engaging with only the latest biblical scholarship. I propose that both a more holistic conception of history and a reconsideration of the assumed evolutionary advancement of knowledge1 will lead to a comprehensive, more dynamic sense of understanding that illuminates continuity between interpretive eras, challenges biblical scholars to expand their understanding, and reads Scripture from an appropriate vantage. The current, dominant structure that has militated against such an approach might be termed historical positivism,2 which manifests particularly in biblical studies as “historicism.”3 Second, this project explores the location of biblical meaning, looking particularly at the variety of meanings drawn out in the history of interpreting Described by Gadamer as “law of progress.” Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, trans. Joel C. Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall, 3rd ed. (New York: Continuum, 2004), 253.

Hans Robert Jauss, Toward an Aesthetic of Reception, trans. Timothy Bahti, Theory and History of Literature 2 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982), 8 and 20–21.

Following Paddison’s definition. Angus Paddison, Theological Hermeneutics and 1 Thessalonians, SNTSMS 133 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 18–20; see also Jauss, Toward an Aesthetic, 46–48.

2 Thessalonians, meanings attained through different hermeneutical paradigms. The broader ramifications of such a project lie, 1.) in its abilitiy to expand the questions and concerns that readers bring to Scripture beyond those of historical positivism and; 2.) its reorientation of biblical studies toward the “subject matter”4 of Scripture. Such a dedication to this “subject matter” should indicate the pursuit of this project from a Christian perspective.

Accomplishing the above-mentioned proposals demands the cessation of the historicist hermeneutical model and the advancement of a framework of understanding the history of a text, in this case 2 Thessalonians as an example, that is capable of putting these differing interpretations and methodological assumptions in dialogue. The system that presents a convincing and helpful challenge to historical-positivism and places the historical variety of biblical interpretations in dialogue, I contend, is the literary hermeneutical approach of Rezeptionsästhetik developed by Hans Robert Jauss.

More specifically, I propose that Jauss’ Rezeptionsästhetik and, more broadly, reception history offer an approach to biblical interpretation that can demonstrate continuity between interpretive eras through its more holistic understanding of history and meaning, which challenges a prevailing, limited concept of history within biblical studies as “what lies behind the text” and From a canonical perspective, Seitz describes the subject matter as “the Triune God,” while Paddison speaks of it as God revealed in Jesus Christ. The points are complementary rather than exclusive. Christopher R. Seitz, The Character of Christian Scripture: The

Significance of a Two-Testament Bible, Studies in Theological Interpretation (Grand Rapids:

Baker Academic, 2011), 18 and 25; Paddison, Theological Hermeneutics, 25–27. Both exhibit the influence of Barth, who saw Scripture’s subject matter as exerting “hermeneutical control.” Daniel Treier, Introducing Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Recovering a Christian Practice (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 16; see also Morgan’s definition of Sache in Sachkritik. Robert Morgan, “Sachkritik in Reception History,” JSNT 33, no. 2 (2010): 177.

singularising notion of meaning often formulated as “authorial intention.”5 The aim of this research is not simply to record a history of interpretation of 2 Thessalonians, but to explore how particular actualisations, or concretisations, of the epistle have shaped the history of interpretation, so that the old continues to speak through the new,6 and how the interpreters from various time periods provoke the presuppositions and reveal a distinct historical perspective of the text from those of modern readers.

Rezeptionsästhetik functions as a summons to remain open to the content and claims of the text, to perceive the questions that the text and interpretations open for later generations, and to recognise the reader’s productive role in establishing meaning. These aims are a sharpening of the proposals mentioned above. As the hermeneutical framework of this dissertation, Rezeptionsästhetik receives more detailed attention later.

Though the bulk of this research concentrates on the interpretation of 2 Thessalonians during discrete historical occasions, it would be insufficient to explore these actualisations without first articulating several critical issues and a methodology that propel this research. Additionally, the scope of this dissertation requires a selection of pre-modern and modern representatives.

Therefore, I have chosen scholars from general periods of church history— John Chrysostom, Haimo of Auxerre, and John Calvin— to demonstrate a perspective from their era, and to situate them in the exegetical contexts in which they arose through dialogue with contemporaries. The selection of these See, for example, Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 6–9; 41; see a similar critique in Markus Bockmuehl, “A

Commentator’s Approach to the ‘Effective History’ of Philippians,” JSNT 18, no. 69 (1995):


Jauss reverses this formulation for a particular emphasis about the history of a text, but it serves our point for the present. Hans Robert Jauss, “Tradition, Innovation, and Aesthetic Experience,” The Journal for Aesthetics and Art Criticism 46, no. 3 (1988): 375.

three readers of 2 Thessalonians has to do with their place in its history as “epochal” interpreters. That is, they have exerted significant influence in the reception history of 2 Thessalonians. We will describe the concept of “epochal” moments in literary history more fully under the discussion of Rezeptionsästhetik.

Further to this selection of pre-modern interpreters, I have extended the dialogue to modern biblical scholars in order to draw out various (dis)continuities and the expansion of the conversation in different directions.

Bearing these points in mind, the research plan proceeds in the chapters as


The first chapter concentrates on background issues that generate a perspective of discontinuity between pre-modern and modern biblical scholarship by looking at guiding presuppositions and principles of historical positivism in biblical studies. This includes an exploration of the notions of historical objectivity, history, meaning, and revelation. After addressing these critical and seemingly disparate issues, I describe Rezeptionsästhetik/Jaussian reception history, modified by insights from theological scholarship, as a combined model for exploring the historical receptions of a text and as a model that rigorously challenges any understanding (i.e. presuppositions and actualisations) of a text, with the expected, positive outcome of expanding one’s horizon of understanding. In so doing, Rezeptionsästhetik will illuminate the continuity between the historical eras of biblical interpretation and bring to the fore exegetical conclusions reached in the history of interpreting 2 Thessalonians.

The remaining three chapters (excluding the conclusion) engage with pre-modern exegetes in a pattern that attempts to reveal the “aesthetic value”7 of their readings in their “horizon of expectation”8 through dialogue with their contemporaries. As mentioned above, these chapters will also include interaction with modern scholars in order to maximise the “horizontal

expansion” as it relates to understanding. The chapters progress as follows:

Chapter three introduces John Chrysostom; the primary example of patristic interpretation of 2 Thessalonians. In this chapter, we explore a number of his interpretive assumptions (e.g. biblical inspiration and canon) as well as his exegetical decisions in both his homilies on 2 Thessalonians and other texts in which he incorporates the epistle.

Haimo of Auxerre represents a medieval voice in chapter four. His brief commentary on the epistle became a standard interpretation in the generations that followed, and his ability to blend patristic thought with his own insights make his work what Jauss would call an “epochal” moment in the history of 2 Thessalonians. The combination of the fact that few modern biblical scholars are familiar with his work and his perspective as a monk at the height of the Carolingian era who asks historically-shaped questions of this biblical book provides a provocative engagement with modern horizons of expectations as they relate to 2 Thessalonians.

The final chapter of this dissertation examines the work of the Swiss Reformer, John Calvin, on 2 Thessalonians. This includes a discussion on his Jauss, Toward an Aesthetic, 25.

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