Henning Graf Reventlow, that master of biblical exegesis and its history, has produced four important volumes on the history of biblical interpretation. The first volume, “From the Old Testament to Origen,” can be purchased here. The second volume, “From Late Antiquity to the End of the Middle Ages,” can be purchased here. The third volume, “Renaissance, Reformation, Humanism,” can be purchased here. The fourth volume, “From the Enlightenment to the Twentieth Century,” can be purchased here. These are excellent overviews of the major figures in the history of biblical interpretation.
Richard Popkin’s works tend to be little-known among biblical scholars. That’s unsurprising since biblical scholars tend to focus on literature directly in their field. Popkin is a philosopher, focusing on the history of philosophy in particular. His important (but neglected by biblical scholars) The History of Scepticism: From Savonarola to Bayle is incredibly important in discussing the important seventeenth century reception of earlier skeptical philosophy, which becomes an important context for understanding early modern biblical criticism, as I discuss in my earlier book, Three Skeptics and the Bible, and its sequel, Theology, Politics, and Exegesis (both of which are quite indebted to Popkin’s many works). Popkin’s volume can be purchased here.
Jonathan Sheehan’s The Enlightenment Bible: Translation, Scholarship, Culture, does important work in establishing the significance of the study (and translation) of the Bible in the Enlightenment. He discusses important figures like Johann Lorenz Schmidt, Johann Salomo Semler, and Johann David Michaelis, but also the importance of cultural trends and how the Bible was used within this process of Enlightenment. This is an important book that can accessed here.
Michael Legaspi’s The Death of Scripture and the Rise of Biblical Studies is such an important text for understanding modern biblical studies. I have an entire chapter devoted to this work in my own recent book, Theology, Politics, and Exegesis. Legaspi’s volume takes a look at the eighteenth century work in biblical studies at the German enlightenment university, focusing specifically on the way that Hebrew philologist Johann David Michaelis transformed the study of Scripture into modern biblical studies, as he built upon the work of what had been done in classical studies. I don’t think the history of modern biblical studies can be adequately understood without recourse to Legaspi’s volume. You can get Legaspi’s volume online here.
Henri de Lubac’s massive 3 volumes on medieval Christian biblical interpretation, Medieval Exegesis, remain classics in the field. You cannot study medieval biblical interpretation and safely ignore de Lubac’s volumes. Perhaps he overemphasized recourse to allegorical interpretation, and the Four-Fold Sense of Scripture, but he certainly brought needed attention to such interpretation, which was very important in the medieval period, and to medieval interpretation more broadly. For some reason, as of the writing of this post, all three volumes are available on Kindle for a mere $1.99 each!!! Volume 1 is available here. Volume 2 is available here. Volume 3 is available here.
Following the History of Interpretation Facebook community, I thought I would post the short book recommendations as short reviews for the holiday season. The first posted there was a plug for Hava Lazarus-Yafeh’s classic work on medieval Muslim biblical interpretation, Intertwined Worlds: Medieval Islam and Bible Criticism, published by Princeton University Press. Princeton University Press has brought this volume back into “print”—as well as all volumes they have previously published (through their print on demand), and for this, scholars should be very grateful. Lazarus-Yafeh’s volume is the most important on the topic. Most interesting for me is how she shows the potential influence of these medieval works on early modern biblical interpretation. You can get your copy of her book here.