New Series: The Apocrypha in the History of Interpretation

Over the past year or two, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some extremely talented people – chief among them my good friend Michael Law – in crafting a proposal for a series of volumes devoted the reception history of the apocrypha. I’m glad to report that the series has been taken on by Oxford University Press, and we have a stellar line up of contributors. The very notion of ‘apocrypha’ is itself a category of reception, so we are excited to see what light is shed on the nature of these books by the actual uses to which they have been put over the past two thousand years. We hope to have a companion website up soon, but in the meantime here is the series prospectus. As ever, feedback warmly welcomed.

The Apocrypha in the History of Interpretation

General Editors: Timothy Michael Law (Göttingen) and David Lincicum (Oxford)

Editorial Advisory Board:

Mark W. Elliott (St. Andrews)
Heidi J. Hornik (Baylor)
John C. Reeves (UNC Charlotte)
Christopher Rowland (Oxford)
Alison Salvesen (Oxford)

Oxford University Press
(Tom Perridge)

The Apocrypha in the History of Interpretation (AHI) is a series of scholarly monographs devoted to the history of the use and interpretation of the books of the so-called Apocrypha from their origins to the present day.

Interest in the reception history of Scripture has burgeoned in recent years. The publishing world has witnessed a flood of publications on the theme, ranging from de Gruyter’s sprawling Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception to more compact works like The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible, from the several commentary series devoted to the history of interpretation to numerous monographs, scholarly articles and essays. But in the midst of this fertile interest, attention to the so-called Apocrypha has been strangely lacking. The Oxford Handbook only mentions it a handful of times in passing, while the Blackwell Bible Commentary series omits the Apocrypha from its current scope. The Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series devotes a single volume to the whole collection.[1]

The canonicity of the various books that make up the collections of the Apocrypha has been contested since antiquity, and this conflicting evaluation is reflected in the varying canons of Christianity to this day: Protestant, Roman Catholic, and the varieties of Orthodox churches in the east. But it is precisely this conflict of evaluation that makes the reception history of these books so interesting, and such a vital field of investigation. The present series of scholarly monographs aims to move beyond the bare question of canonical status to ask about the use, influence and interpretation of the constituent books of the Apocrypha, generously conceived, from the time of their inception to the present day. In this series, the highly contested term ‘Apocrypha’ will refer to those books included in the NRSV, which has struck a balance between Roman Catholic and Orthodox lists, and to the additional books of Enoch and Jubilees, which are regarded as canonical in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and were important in early Judaism. Individual monographs have of course been devoted to elements of the reception of these books,[2] but there has as yet been no comprehensive attempt to grapple with this long and varied effective history.

The series is comprised of monographs devoted to books or clusters of books that make up the Apocrypha, intentionally inclusive of influential works whose status as Scripture has only been affirmed by select groups (e.g., 4 Maccabees, 1 Enoch and Jubilees).[3] As we could not envisage a sprawling and unmanageable series which includes all of the apocryphal and pseudepigraphal books in antiquity, we have chosen a restricted corpus of books which have functioned as Scripture in some significant ways in history. The precise shape of each monograph will naturally be determined by the reception history of the individual books: some will range widely in full consideration of works that have inspired homilies, liturgical forms, poems, plays, operatic librettos and works of art (e.g., Judith or 1-2 Maccabees), while our knowledge of the reception of other works is more lacunose (e.g., 1 Enoch or Jubilees). In all instances an attempt at a full but not exhaustive account of the reception history of these books will be made, taking into consideration the manuscript tradition as witness to the reception of these works; their interpretation in commentaries, liturgy, and theological treatises; multiple afterlives in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic tradition; and where possible the artistic inspiration they supply in music, sculpture, painting, drama, fiction and everyday life. Given the large amount of material, as a means of retaining focus the volumes will concentrate especially on the active reception of these books expressed in hermeneutical stances toward the texts as authoritative literature, even when that authority is in dispute. That is, the volumes will be concerned with intentional reception rather than effects, with Auslegungsgeschichte (broadly conceived to include artistic and liturgical forms) rather than Wirkungsgeschichte. Since our primary focus is on the history of interpretation, which seems to us an important foundation for an unprecedented series, the Nachleben of these books in the artistic, musical, and literary domains will be tributaries of the main stream. The resulting volumes should add considerably to our knowledge of the influence of these books, and provide a standard resource especially for scholars and advanced students of biblical interpretation and the histories of Judaism and Christianity, and secondarily to art historians, musicologists, medievalists, cultural historians, and all others interested in the preservation of religious history.

The initially planned volumes with confirmed contributors are as follows (volumes in bold have not been assigned):

The Apocrypha through Jewish and Christian History, 1: From Origins to Late Antiquity (T.M. Law, Göttingen)

The Apocrypha through Jewish and Christian History, 2: From the Middle Ages to the Present Day (Frans van Liere, Calvin)

Tobit (Alison Salvesen, Oxford)

Judith (Dan Machiela, McMaster)

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus (Brennan Breed, Columbia Theological Seminary, Atlanta)

Wisdom of Solomon (David Lincicum, Oxford)

1 Esdras = 2 Esdras in Slavonic = 3 Esdras in the Appendix to the Vulgate

2 Esdras = 3 Esdras in Slavonic = 4 Esdras in Vulgate Appendix (Lorenzo DiTommaso, Concordia)

1 Maccabees (T.M. Law, Göttingen)

2-4 Maccabees (David A. deSilva, Ashland Theological Seminary)

Baruch, Epistle of Jeremiah, Prayer of Manasseh, and Psalm 151 (Michael Graves, Wheaton)

Esther, with Additions

Additions to Daniel (Jennifer Barbour, Duke)

1 Enoch (Loren Stuckenbruck, Munich)

Jubilees (William Adler, North Carolina State University)

*Note: Additional volumes may be commissioned to gather some of the smaller works whose stories, themes, or entire forms that have been treated as Scripture at various points in various communities (Ascension of Isaiah, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, Psalms of Solomon, etc.).


[1] Sever J. Voicu, ed., Apocrypha (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2010).

[2] By way of example: J. Gamberoni, Die Auslegung des Buches Tobias in der griechisch-lateinischen Kirche der Antike und der Christenheit des Westens bis um 1600 (SANT 21; Munich: Kösel, 1969); Bruce Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), esp. 175-238; Margarita Stocker, Judith – Sexual Warrior: Women and Power in Western Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998); D. Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, Christian Memories of the Maccabean Martyrs (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

[3] Apart, then, from the addition of 1 Enoch and Jubilees, this corresponds to the contents of the Apocrypha in the Oxford Bible Commentary.

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  1. #1 by abramkj on September 27, 2013 - 4:25 pm

    Looks great! Can’t wait to read as much of this as I can get my hands on.

  1. Words on the Word | Septuagint Studies Soirée #2

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