School of Religion, Philosophy & Classics

Position Statement

Position Statement

Position Statement 

The Apocryphal/Deutero-Canonical literature of the Old Testament has been studied in various ways over the past century. Initially there was a focus on the different textual variations found in the manuscripts, and on the unity of individual books. Reference to the odd “theology” of the books was common, and usually included reasons why a certain book was not part of an accepted canon. Böckler (1899), Charles (1913) and Kautsch (1921) provide instances of these approaches. 

The next shift in emphasis was the study of the message of this corpus of literature. Literary critique applied to other books of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament was also applied to this corpus of books. Typical phrases like “Sitz im Leben”, “Gattung” and “Lebensraum” emerged in different commentaries. This enlarged the scope of applied critique to these books substantially. However this emphasis did not do justice to the Apocrypha as the corpus was regarded with suspicion and merely useful for reading. Examples of this approach are Lampartner (1972) and Kaiser (2004). 

Nevertheless, as further developments in literary theory emerged, they were also applied to the Apocrypha. A totally new appreciation for the Apocrypha as an important witness to biblical phenomena emerged. The Apocrypha were no longer regarded as strange and odd, but as “more of the same”. Examples of this approach are Athalya Brenner’s Feminist Companion to Judith, Susanna and Proverbs (2004). Here Brenner explores canonical and non-canonical books and shows that they all have the same prejudices. 

This latest type of approach to the study of the Apocrypha has certainly not been exhausted. Helen Efthimiadis-Keith’s psychoanalytic approach to Judith, The Enemy is within (2004), is another example of this. We can rightfully claim that we are only at the beginning of an era of these new approaches to the study of the Apocrypha. The theme of the forthcoming conference to be held at NWU from 14 – 17 July 2013, Body, Psyche and Space in OT Apocryphal Literature, seems very appropriate, pointing as it does to some recent critical approaches to interpreting texts. These approaches and theme will certainly open new and yet unexplored ways of understanding these texts and thereby add to their understanding and to the academic scientific community. 

The aim of the conference organizers is to bring together leading local and international scholars working in the field to share their research, in the hope of fostering dialogue around this corpus of literature and stimulating academic reflection on the light that it sheds on the biblical material in general.

Abstracts are invited relating to this position paper. They should be 150 – 200 words in length, and should be submitted to Dr Helen Efthimiadis-Keith by 28 February 2013 (

Abstract Format

Could you please ensure that your abstract is in the following format:

Surname, First Name (-s): Academic Institution
Title of Paper
Abstract of 150 – 200 words
Preferred e-mail address and alternate e-mail, if available