a1 University of Nottingham, University Park, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK email@example.com
Formation constitutes the key link between reception theory, Jauss and scripture. The Bible shapes readers by showing them what lies beyond the self. Hans Robert Jauss (1921–97) remains the effective founder of reception theory or reception history. He was a literary theorist, who specialised in romance literature. Following Hans-Georg Gadamer, he insisted that texts carry ‘a still unfinished meaning’, and focused on their historical influence. The exposition of how communities or thinkers have received texts includes de-familiarisation; sometimes the ‘completion’ of meaning, as in much reader-response theory; and instances of when a text ‘satisfies, surpasses, disappoints, or refutes the expectations’ of readers. Reception theory can often trace continuity in the reception of texts, as well as disjunctions, reversals and surprises. It offers a more disciplined approach to scripture than most reader-response theories. Clearly horizons of expectation play a major role in the interpretation of biblical texts. I suggest six direct parallels with biblical interpretation. (1) Like Francis Watson and others, Jauss rejects any value-neutral objectivism in interpretation. (2) The readers’ horizon of expectation derives partly from earlier readings of the text. (3) Horizons can move and change, and thus transform readers as these change. (4) Biblical genres display all of Jauss’ accounts of the responses of readers. For example, parables of reversal may surpass what the Christian believer expects, or disappoint the unbeliever. (5) Like Gadamer, Jauss emphasises the importance of formulating constructive questions in approaching texts. (6) Jauss’ ‘levels of reading’ correspond closely with Bakhtin's notion of polyphony. I compare Ormond Rush's work on reception and otherness, and Luther's insistence that the Bible often confronts us as our adversary to judge and to transform us. Finally, we illustrate the history of reception from Ulrich Luz on Matthew, from Childs on Exodus, and from my commentaries on 1 Corinthians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians.