A ‘history of influence’ study of John Baptist de La Salle’s recourse to the Bible, with particular reference to the Gospel of Matthew 4.23-10.8

Author: John Cantwell

Cantwell, John, 2015 A ‘history of influence’ study of John Baptist de La Salle’s recourse to the Bible, with particular reference to the Gospel of Matthew 4.23-10.8, Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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This thesis proposes that a ‘history of influence’ (Wirkungsgeschichte) hermeneutic provides a critical framework within which to appreciate John Baptist de La Salle’s (1651-1719) recourse to the Bible. De La Salle, a well-educated and initially wealthy French, Roman Catholic priest, established and led a new community of lay, male teachers dedicated to the education of boys for whom no realistic educational alternative existed. His substantial writings, of a pedagogical, catechetical and spiritual nature, are replete with biblical quotations and allusions. In many cases, these are interpreted as having direct relevance to the teachers’ life and work, and even of being personally addressed to them.

De La Salle’s works reflect a consciousness of his and his teachers’ being part of a ‘history of influence’: his approach to biblical interpretation is influenced by a wide range of Church Fathers (leading figures from the second to eighth century), and he draws inspiration for Christian practice from a similarly wide range of women and men throughout history.

Nine ‘principles’ derived from two short works of De La Salle reflect his appreciation of the Bible as a means of communion with God and a living word to be actualized in the lives and ministry of his Brother-teachers. These principles are seen to align well with the characteristics of a ‘history of influence approach to biblical interpretation as expounded by Ulrich Luz.

The particular textual focus for the thesis is the Gospel of Matthew, 4.23-10.8, as interpreted by De La Salle. This section of the Gospel is also suggested as a potential paradigm for a contemporary understanding of ‘human and Christian education’, especially when viewed from the perspective of an ongoing ‘history of influence’ that integrates De La Salle’s insights, those of contemporary biblical and theological scholarship, and the experience of educators in their relationships and work with young people.

Keywords: Biblical interpretation, Gospel of Matthew, Wirkungsgeschichte, history of influence, John Baptist de La Salle

Subject: Theology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2015
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Rev Dr Michael Trainor