Walking on the Water

Reading Mt. 14:22-33 in the Light of its Wirkungsgeschichte


The concept of Wirkungsgeschichte is gaining ground in New Testament Studies. It involves the gathering of diverse interpretations of a text, but can it offer significant exegetical results or is it merely a form of cultural stamp collecting? This book explores the background of Wirkungsgeschichte in the philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer and applies the theory to a single pericope, Mt 14:22-33. Traditional historical and literary examinations of this story are brought into conversation with six works of art and a number of nineteenth century theological texts. The result is an enriched interpretation which fruitfully alerts us to the narrowness of the vision of our own time and place.


EUR €144.00USD $177.00

Biographical Note

Rachel Nicholls, Ph.D. (2005) in New Testament Studies from the University of Cambridge is a priest in the Church of England. She regularly gives papers on the place of Wirkungsgeschichte in New Testament exegesis.

Review Quotes

"...throughout Nicholls entertains the readers with insights and interesting thoughts as well as with a fresh and thought-provoking way of looking at an all too familiar text." – Roland Deines, University of Nottingham, in: Expository Times, May 2009
"This cogent and fascinating book enriches our understanding of Matt. 14:22-33, while cautiously exploring Wirkungsgeschichte as a research procedure for biblical studies. Chapter 4 and 5 are particularly valuable, as they illustrate the scope of “effects” by showing how a biblical text may trigger serious theological debates and inspire captivating artworks. They also provide two models of study, looking at clusters of meaning in a particular period of time and in a particular medium so that proper contexts may be considered. Offering persuasive arguments on thorny hermeneutical issues with balanced judgments and vivid images, Nicholls has made a credible and strong case for Wirkungsgeschichte." – John Y.H. Yieh, in: Biblical Interpretation, 2010

Table of contents

List of Illustrations


Matthew 14:22-33 —Nestle-Aland 27th Edition and NRSV

Chapter One: Introduction to the Project and a Description of Wirkungsgeschichte

Chapter Two: A Historical Critical Examination of Mt 14:22-33

Chapter Three: A Literary Critical Examination of Mt 14:22-33

Chapter Four: ‘Effects’ of Mt 14:22-33 in some Nineteenth-Century Theological Texts
Chapter Five: Some Visual ‘Effects’ of Mt 14:22-33

Chapter Six: Conclusion





All those interested in new approaches in New Testament Studies, plus those exploring the connections between works of art and biblical stories: art historians, cultural historians, biblical scholars.


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