The Bible in Art, Music and Literature Seminar Series

Hilary term 2018
Mondays at 5pm, The Danson Room, Trinity College

Professor Jaś Elsner, University of Oxford
22 Jan (week 2): ‘Imagining the Divine’: exhibition as exploration of questions of religion’ (Biblical Art in Oxford series)

Dr Chlöe Reddaway, King’s College, London
5 Feb (week 4): ‘The problem of painting Christ: strange responses to the greatest artistic challenge’

Professor Jan Stievermann, University of Heidelberg
19 Feb (week 6): ‘Prophecy, piety and the problem of historicity: interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures in Cotton Mather’s Biblia Americana (1693-1728)’

Dr Cathy Oakes
5 Mar (week 8): ‘Local news: annunciation imagery of the English Late Middle Ages explored through four Oxford examples’ (Biblical Art in Oxford series)

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‘The Bible in Art, Music and Literature’ seminars for Michaelmas term 2017

Centre for the Reception History of the Bible

The Bible in Art, Music and Literature Seminar Michaelmas Term 2017

Week 2:

Tools of Persuasion: The Illustrations of Luther’s (16 Oct) Bible of 1534 as Propaganda

Dr Ann Jeffers

(Heythrop College, London)


Week 4: (30 Oct)

Biblical Art in Oxford series

Biblical Manuscripts from Medieval Europe in the Bodleian Library *

Dr Martin Kauffmann

(Head of Early and Rare Collections and Tolkien Curator of Medieval Manuscripts, Bodleian Library)

* This seminar will take place at the Weston Library and has limited spaces. Booking is essential. To reserve a place email


Week 6: (13 Nov)

Reversing the Roles in Late Medieval and Early Modern Christian Thought: Jews, Christians, and the ‘Literal’ Sense of Scripture

Prof. Jon Whitman

(Hebrew University, Jerusalem)


Week 8: (27 Nov)

Kipling and the Bible

Prof. John Batchelor

(Newcastle University)


Mondays: 5pm
The Danson Room, Trinity College

Convenor: Dr Christine Joynes



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Publication of Volume 15 (Kalam-Lectio Divina) of the Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (EBR)

Volume 14 of  Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (EBR) is now published. More details as well as an offer of free trial access are found at this URL:

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Publication of Volume 14 (Jesus-Kairos) of the Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (EBR)

Volume 14 of  Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception (EBR) has just been published. De Gruyter is offering free access to three of the articles in this new publication. Follow this link to download them! The same page also includes an offer of free 30-day online trial access.

General information on the EBR is available at this link. (Click on the “link.”)




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Forthcoming Events

Dr Christine Joynes, Trinity College, Oxford, invites your attention to these three forthcoming events relating to the reception history of the Bible.

(in the order of the events)

1. Showing at the Royal Opera House from 29 June-1 July 2016, Welsh National Opera presents a new opera from acclaimed British composer Iain Bell, ‘In Parenthesis‘, adapting David Jones’s epic poem. Many thanks to Dr Anne Price-Own for this piece of information.

2. ‘Seeing More Clearly with the Eyes of Love: A New Liturgy for Voices based on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

First Presentation: Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, Tuesday 2 August 2016, 5.30 pm. Free entry.

Second Presentation: St Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London, Wednesday 3 August 2016, 7.00 pm. Retiring Collection.

In this ‘Liturgy for Voices’ excerpts from the play, words from the biblical poem ‘Song of Songs’, and elements from the traditional Christian liturgy are woven together to enable those present to explore Shakespeare’s own theme of clarifying the vision which belongs to love. The liturgy also includes newly commissioned pieces from five contemporary poets who will be present to speak their poems based on characters in the play.

3. ‘Shakespeare and the Bible’ Day Conference, Sat 24 September 2016. 10am-5pm. Trinity College, Oxford. The event is organized by the Centre for Reception History of the Bible, Oxford. Further information will be available in a very near future. Please save the date.

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The Bible in Music – a unique new reference work

Check out the recently published The Bible in Music. A Dictionary of Songs, Works and More by musicologist Siobhan Dowling Long and series editor John F. A. Sawyer.

The Bible in Music lags behind the Bible in Literature, the Bible in Art and the Bible in Film. It is the aim of the present volume to make a small contribution towards rectifying this situation and, for the first time, seek to do justice to the vast range and frequency of musical settings of biblical texts and texts inspired by the Bible, ancient and modern, Christian and Jewish, classical (oratorios, operas, etc.) and non-classical (musicals, hymns, spirituals, pop, rock, etc.). The material is arranged in such a way as to enable readers with an interest in the Bible to access as many musical uses and interpretations of the Bible as possible, while at the same time providing, for the benefit of musicians and musicologists, a convenient reference tool covering biblical, liturgical and theological information that contributes to the appreciation of the music. Alongside examples of classical music from the Middle Ages down to our own day, there is a deliberate emphasis on popular culture in the numerous entries on hymns, spirituals, musicals, film music, contemporary rock and the like. Special attention has also been given to works by some woman composers, many of whom, like Camilla de Rossi and Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, have been neglected until quite recently.

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Reception Exegesis of Lamentations. A Review Article.

John Riches, author of the Galatians volume (2008), has written an important review article on Paul Joyce and Diana Lipton’s Lamentations through the Centuries in the Blackwell Series, where the term “Reception Exegesis” first appears. See the March issue of The Expository Times available on line.

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Special “Reception History” issue of HeBAI

Of enormous interest to everyone is the special “Reception History” issue of the journal Hebrew and Ancient Israel, edited by Carol Newsom, with articles by John Sawyer, Hermann Spieckermann, Gary Anderson, Choon-Leong Seow and Martin O’Kane. HeBAI 1, 3 (2012), pp.295-423

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New prize established for budding reception historians

The Society of Biblical Literature released the following announcement today:


De Gruyter, in partnership with The Society of Biblical Literature, has launched an annual “Prize for Biblical Studies and Reception History” to support biblical scholars in the early stages of their careers who are working in the field of reception history. The inaugural prize will be awarded at the SBL Annual Meeting in November 2014.

De Gruyter’s sponsorship of the award will include an annual cash prize of $1,500 for the best recent unpublished dissertation or first monograph in biblical studies, with special attention to the field of reception history. The prize will also include a commitment to publish the winning work after it has been revised into a publishable book acceptable to De Gruyter.

SBL will manage the submissions, support the committee of scholars to evaluate the works submitted, and select the winning dissertation or monograph. The award committee will consist of seven persons, five of which will be appointed by SBL’s Research and Publications Committee, with two scholars appointed by De Gruyter.

The award promotes the study of the reception history of the Bible and aims to highlight the broad impact of the Bible in a wide variety of historical contexts and cultural settings. “De Gruyter has taken an active and leading role in this growing field in biblical studies, one that cultivates interdisciplinary studies in the humanities,” said John Kutsko, SBL’s Executive Director. He added, “In addition to SBL’s attention to its member’s increasing focus on reception history of the Bible through its own publishing program, SBL is grateful to De Gruyter for investing in this area of research and teaching.” “Reception history illustrates the remarkable influence of the Bible throughout history and in all aspects of society and culture, including literature, film, music, politics, and the visual and performing arts,” said Albrecht Döhnert, De Gruyter’s Editorial Director of Religious Studies. “SBL scholars cover a breathtaking range of knowledge, including the origins and context of biblical texts, as well as the reception of the Bible in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and beyond. Its membership will be a rich pool for groundbreaking work.”

Details for eligibility, dates for submitting manuscripts for the 2014 inaugural prize, and submission guidelines are available here.

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In defense of reception history

Last month, the Bible and Interpretation website published an op-ed piece in which Roland Boer comes out ‘against “reception history”’ (and, implicitly, the Blackwell Bible Commentaries series for popularizing the term; see footnote 1). Ironically, the occasion for this criticism seems to be Boer’s completion of Cave Droppings: Nick Cave and Religion (to be published by Equinox in 2012), a book that those of us involved in the Blackwell Bible Commentaries might consider an exercise in reception history to the extent that ‘Cave has written novels, plays, poetry and, above all, music which often engages with the Bible in creative ways’ (Boer). Whence the disconnect between Boer’s attention to ‘Nick Cave and his interpretations of the Bible’ and his stance ‘against “reception history”’?

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