The Analysis of Sound Patterns: Exploiting Aural Exegesis of Ancient Texts

Jeffrey E. Brickle, Urshan Graduate School of Theology

SBL23-137 Performance Criticism of Biblical and Other Ancient Texts Consultation
11/23/2008 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

In recent decades, biblical scholars have become increasingly attentive to the oral/aural nature of ancient texts. In antiquity, texts were typically performed before audiences by being read aloud or recited from memory. Authors thus composed principally for the aural medium, incorporating an array of sound patterns that facilitated retention, interpretation, and response. Although noteworthy advances have been made in identifying these patterns and investigating their role in the composition and auditory reception of documents, the potential of aural exegesis for probing biblical texts still remains largely untapped. This paper attempts to redress this issue by describing various aural devices and underscoring ongoing efforts by scholars to develop methodological approaches to sound analysis. It will also consider how the nature of Greek grammar and syntax lends itself well to aural manipulation, and ways in which pronunciation impacts the overall enterprise. The paper seeks to stimulate discussion on how ancient works were composed for the ear as well as promote the further refinement and application of aural exegesis to biblical texts.