«THE RECEPTION HISTORY OF 2 THESSALONIANS WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, HAIMO OF AUXERRE, AND JOHN CALVIN ANDREW RHETT TALBERT, B.A., ...»
This is the crux of Jauss’ third and fourth theses (discussed below) and much of his methodology. Ibid., 25–32; Hans Robert Jauss, Question and Answer: Forms of Dialogic
Understanding, trans. Michael Hays, Theory and History of Literature 68 (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1989), 224–26; David Paul Parris, Reception Theory and Biblical Hermeneutics, Princeton Theological Monograph Series (Princeton: Pickwick Publications, 2009), 148–52.
historically-effected9 reading of the epistle, as well as an exploration into how Calvin interprets 2 Thessalonians in The Institutes, his commentary on the letter, and other theological works.
Following this chapter, I offer concluding remarks on the importance of reception history for biblical studies and the insights that the respective scholars bring to the interpretation of 2 Thessalonians specifically and Scripture more generally. I suggest that a theologically-modified reception history both challenges the dominant, historicist model of exegesis as the primary means of arriving at biblical meaning and that this form of reception history offers a more advantageous hermeneutical model. It does not reject classical historical research methods, but ably incorporates them within its paradigm.
Before proceeding on the topic of reception history, we must address two preliminary questions. First, why 2 Thessalonians? There are four parts to the answer. Most notably, the size of the epistle enables us to examine the reception history of the entire letter and therefore to construct a fuller picture of the paradigm within which it is understood. Secondly, 2 Thess 2:1-12 has a rich history of interpretation, and therefore offers an excellent case study for our hermeneutical model. Thirdly, and related to the previous point, the very nature of apocalyptic literature results in a referential openness that allows for ongoing appropriation and reinterpretation.10 Lastly, the apocalyptic “Wirkungsgeschichtlich”— Gadamer, Truth and Method, 267–74; for the appropriate retranslation as “historically effected,” see Anthony C.
Thiselton, Thiselton on Hermeneutics:
The Collected Works and New Essays of Anthony Thiselton (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 291–92.
Taking Antichrist as his sample figure, Hughes speaks of him as “a symbol that ‘gives rise to thought’ along several different vectors, and his meaning is not exhausted in any one interpretation.” Kevin L. Hughes, Constructing Antichrist (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 2005), 6–7.
eschatology of 2 Thessalonians appropriately orients attention toward the “subject matter” of Scripture and the world that the Scriptures project,11 rather than concentrating solely on what lies behind the text. This becomes particularly clear in the work of the pre-modern scholars.
The second question has to with the dubious nature of 2 Thessalonians’ authorship. This challenge does not affect Rezeptionsästhetik, per se, though it certainly engenders issues with divine speech, meaning, and authority.
Engaging with the weighty arguments of Wrede and Trilling12 against the authenticity of 2 Thessalonians detracts from the overall aim of this project.
This author accepts the Pauline authorship of the epistle primarily on the grounds of the early Church’s overwhelmingly negative view and reception of pseudonymous literature.13 The debate over this issue is for another place and time.
We turn first to consider preliminary critical issues of biblical interpretation that contribute to the false notion of an insurmountable division between pre-modern and modern biblical scholarship. This will proceed into the methodology (i.e. Rezeptionsästhetik) of the dissertation that reflects a different perspective of the distinctions between these historical eras of scholarship and proffer a constructive way forward.
I.e. the eschatological consummation of history in Jesus Christ. J. Christiaan Beker, Paul the Apostle (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1980), 11 and 20.
These two scholars offer the most substantial cases against the Pauline authorship of 2 Thessalonians. This is not to deny other significant figures in this debate, such as Schmidt, Kern, Holtzmann, Baur, Masson, and Marxsen.
For significant defenses of this position, see Armin D. Baum, Pseudepigraphie und literarische Fälschung im frühen Christentum: mit ausgewählten Quellentexten samt deutscher Übersetzung, WUNT 2:138 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001); Terry L. Wilder, Pseudonymity, the New Testament, and Deception: An Inquiry into Intention and Reception (Lanham: University Press of America, 2004).
Chapter 1: Modern Biblical Studies and Rezeptionsästhetik
1. The Dis/continuity of Pre-Modern and Modern Biblical Scholarship Though the distinctions between pre-modern and modern biblical scholarship materialise most immediately in the exegetical conclusions of the interpreters, these conclusions are the results of the presuppositions1 and frameworks of understanding under which the scholars operate. They may announce these assumptions explicitly, or they may only appear implicitly in the structure and content of their interpretation. It is in these presuppositions and frameworks that the critical issues lay. Therefore, we will examine the key presuppositions that perpetuate not only a sense of discontinuity between premodern and modern biblical scholarship, but also a position that perceives modern interpretation as definitively superior. The primary modern assumption that will initiate and guide the discussion is the idea of objective interpretation. This topic and has been well-rehearsed in recent decades,2 but we include it because it lays an important foundation for the other presuppositions that flow from this discussion: perspectives on history, meaning, and revelation.
I. Objectivity/Neutrality The push for objectivity/neutrality in biblical interpretation finds its roots in the Enlightenment. In the Medieval Church and society, knowledge “Presuppositions” ought not to be taken pejoratively. Rather the usage here reflects Gadamer’s construal of the term, namely that presuppositions are the very elements that make understanding possible. This receives further clarification below.
See particularly Francis Watson, Text, Church and World: Biblical Interpretation in Theological Perspective (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1994), 3–14; Francis Watson, Text and Truth: Redefining Biblical Theology (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1997), 305–29. Critiques of the historical critical trajectory, however, already appear in the works of Stäudlin, Nietzche, and Troeltsch. Hans W. Frei, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative: A Study in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century Hermeneutics (London: Yale University Press, 1974), 167; Friedrich Nietzsche, Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen, vol. 2 (Leipzig: E. W. Fritsch, 1874); Ernst Troeltsch, Der Historismus und seine Probleme (Tübingen: Mohr, 1922).
received its stability and foundation in the concept of the immutable ‘God,’ “which functioned as the highest truth to which all other truths referred as their ultimate guarantor. But from the time of the Enlightenment onward, ‘knowledge’ was redefined as what is knowable by the historical human subject through the exercise of observation and reason.”3 Contending for the sovereignty of reason, philosophers of the Enlightenment advocated a position of neutrality in philosophical inquiry that entailed setting aside all presuppositions in order to arrive at true, value-free understanding. Beginning with Descartes, this program advanced with increasing assurance of the priority of reason and an empirical approach to philosophy.4 As the movement progressed, the philosophers discovered more biases to extirpate, including theological presuppositions (i.e. traditions) that tainted their empirically-derived conclusions. For Gadamer, the “global demand of the [E]nlightenment” that still plagues scholarship is not just setting aside biases, but the “overcoming of all prejudices.”5 Kant is a decisive figure in the transition between the Enlightenment and Romanticism, for he delineated between determinative (i.e. empiricallyassessed) and reflective/aesthetic judgments. This latter category is a matter of Bradley H. McLean, “The Crisis of Historicism: And the Problem of Historical Meaning in New Testament Studies,” HeyJ 53, no. 2 (2012): 225. The Radical Orthodoxy movement, though not dealing specifically with historicism in biblical studies, points beyond the Enlightenment to Duns Scotus (d. 1308) for the philosophical basis of this position in which epistemology is elevated above ontology, rather than placed alongside it. Catherine Pickstock, “Duns Scotus: His Historical and Contemporary Significance,” in The Radical Orthodoxy Reader (London: Routledge, 2009), 116–46.
It is important to note that Descartes held theology in special regard and considered “revealed truths” to be beyond understanding and would not “submit them to the frailty of [his] reasoning.” René Descartes, Discourse on Method and Meditations on First Philosophy, trans. Donald A. Cress, 4th ed. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1637), 5.
Pickstock shows how this is truly (false) pious posturing that subordinates ontology to epistemology and results in the secularization of the “finite” realm; Catherine Pickstock, “Spatialization: The Middle of Modernity,” in The Radical Orthodoxy Reader (London:
Routledge, 2009), 164–73. See also Harrisville’s introduction in Peter Stuhlmacher, Historical Criticism and Theological Interpretation of Scripture (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), 8.
Gadamer, Truth and Method, 244.
taste, though Kant allows that they can make universal, communicable claims.6 Aesthetic judgments govern morals, law, art, literature, theology, etc.
and preferences therein, extending to the operative traditions in culture. By nature of his proposition, Kant establishes a divide between the humanities and sciences, advancing that the determinative judgments (i.e. of the sciences) are “knowledge.” This proves problematic for biblical scholars who want their work to be taken seriously as contributions to “knowledge.”7 Following on the Enlightenment, Romanticism took an (seemingly) inverse position toward tradition. Romantic philosophers saw the aesthetic judgments of tradition as formative of human behaviour and thus a “constitutive element of human life.”8 It was able to do this by positing that tradition remained beyond the reach of rationality. Yet this maintained the Enlightenment’s antithesis between reason and tradition, rather than seeing the former as operative in the latter, and thereby rendered its vision of the elevated status of tradition as untenable.9 The transitional perspective between the Enlightenment and modern, historicist biblical studies materialised decisively in the work of the Romantic scholar Johann Gabler. He cleft a deep divide in theology, describing dogmatic theology as the rationalistic application of philosophy of divine things unique to a given age that is continually in flux and articulated by a theologian, while biblical theology, or biblical studies, is essentially the task of the historian, who must set aside convictions and whose vision pierces
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgement, 1.2.55-57. ed. Nicholas Walker (Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2007), 165–69.
Parris sees Schiller taking this division of judgment even further. Parris, Reception Theory, 70–72.
Gadamer, Truth and Method, 281.
through “the thick gloom”10 of theological encrustation on the text to perceive them at face value. Diverse interpretations of any biblical text in the history of the Church were methodologically problematic for Gabler, for the original author could not have intended to convey all of the meanings that the theologians of history had discerned. Biblical theology required streamlining and limiting the results of interpretation.
Accused by the Catholic Church that the Reformation would lead to interminable ecumenical fractures through diverse interpretations of Scripture, Luther (and perhaps Calvin more so) articulated a doctrine of claritas Scripturae that pointed toward a singular meaning of a text with the intention of limiting exegetical preponderances. Still experiencing the shockwaves of this instability, Gabler wanted to indicate “where firm truth could be found in a situation where all the old certainties seemed threatened”11 by distinguishing between the truths of different eras (dogmatic theology) and the simple truth of religion (biblical theology). This entailed researching the historical context of biblical texts, but also isolating historical elements (i.e. elements of historical context that affected the biblical author) and extracting them so that the religious truth of the text could stand on its own.12 Gabler sought a John Sandys-Wunsch and Laurence Eldredge, “J. P. Gabler and the Distinction Between Biblical and Dogmatic Theology: Translation, Commentary, and Discussion of His Originality,” SJT 33, no. 2 (1980): 137. For a similar appraisal, see Frei, The Eclipse, 165–67.
Sandys-Wunsch and Eldredge, “J. P. Gabler,” 144.
Ibid., 145–46. Differently, Hengel locates the roots of “historical criticism” in Barthold Niebuhr (d. 1831). Perhaps this is because Gabler still sought “religious” meaning as the end of his enquiry. Martin Hengel, Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: The Unknown Years, trans. Anna Maria Schwemer (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997), 322 n. 8.
Gabler represents for us a particular turn on this path. McLean describes Leopold von Ranke (d. 1886), a historian proper, as the “father of historicism,” but this is entirely too late in the prioritisation of a particular understanding of history, particularly in biblical studies.
Nevertheless, it represents an important turn in the development of the understanding of history that rejects transcendence, teleology, and the ability of philosophy to envisage meaning and value. McLean, “Crisis of Historicism,” 218; Gadamer, Truth and Method, 195–