Hearing Between the Lines:

The Audience as Fellow-Worker in Luke-Acts and its Literary Milieu

by Kathy Reiko Maxwell

Hearing_Between_the_LinesThe audience, and its varying levels of participation, is a vital element for the communication of a story. The stories of Jesus Christ as told in the gospels, and of the early Church as found in Acts, rely on the audience members and their participation as do all others. In fact, without audience participation, the narrative fails. Audience-oriented criticism, while named only recently, is an ancient phenomenon as old as story telling itself. Kathy Maxwell explores ancient rhetoricians’ comments about ‘the audience’, as well as the kinds of audience participation they expected and the tools used to encourage such participation. Such tools were employed in ancient pagan, Jewish, and Christian literature – the concern being to engage the audience. Maxwell’s conclusions impact not only the way biblical scholars view the rhetorical abilities of the Evangelists, but also the way in which modern readers ‘hear’ the biblical narrative. The modern audience also bears the responsibility of hearing between the lines, of creating the story with the ancient author.

Read the Review by Jean-François Racine.

Call for Contributions

On the general theme of:

“Orality Studies, Performance Criticism and their Implications for Bible Translation”


BiblicalPerformanceCriticismLogoAim: This is a collection of essays that will join the Cascade Books (Wipf & Stock) series entitled Biblical Performance Criticism (on orality, memory, translation, rhetoric, and discourse).

Link to Bible Translation: Essays are welcome that deal with any of these orality/performance dimensions as it relates to our specific focus on Bible interpretation, translation, and transmission. Specifically, we seek essays that build on the exegetical insights from orality/performance studies and respond to this question: how does this affect Bible translation?

performance criticism,
in Shakespeare studies, a term for the kind of analysis of Shakespeare's plays which considers them as scripts only fully realized in performance, rather than solely as literary works to be read on the page.

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Reflections on Performing the Gospel of Mark

by Brian Middleswarth

middleswarth.jpgFor most of the past ten years I have been performing the Gospel of Mark on the evening of Palm Sunday.  My audiences tend to be small, but appreciative of the opportunity to hear the gospel performed.  I have to say, my reasons for continuing to perform the Gospel of Mark at this time of year are rather selfish.  The preparation for the performance has come to be part of my Lenten discipline and the act of hearing the story of Jesus' journey to the cross leading into Holy Week has been a wonderful way to deepen my experience of those services.
Every year that I perform the Gospel, I find something different in the character of Jesus.  Some years Jesus is very quick to get angry and frustrated with the disciples.  Other years, Jesus deals with these frustrations with humor and bemusement.  These years the humor in the Gospel really shines through.  Almost every year I hear something or make some connection I hadn't before and I also cement some of my understandings of the Gospel and its portrayal of Jesus.  I see even more clearly the humanity of the Jesus in Mark.  He is so full of humor, frustration, concern, thoughtfulness, and love.  I also identify with the disciples, who just can't quite seem to get what Jesus is saying about who he is and what that means.  They want him to fit their understanding of Messiah and refuse (or can't) see what he is really pointing them to.  How often do we do that in our own lives?
For my audiences, hearing the Gospel lets them make connections they cannot by hearing the readings scattered throughout the year by the lectionary.  They can hear the drum beat of "immediately", they can feel the shock of the abrupt ending of the Gospel with "And they told no one, because they were afraid."  Often they will come up to me afterwards with a particular question or comment based on something they heard.  Many will just say that it has made them think more about the text, and that is about all that anyone can ask.

Habakkuk the Faithful Dissident

A Performative Hermeneutic for Anglicans in Australia

by Matthew Anstey,

"I contend that both these criteria [doing justice to Habakkuk and Anglican hermeneutics] can be satisfied through a performative interpretation of Scripture. I concur with Stephen Barton: ‘I hope to show that the performance metaphor has significant potential for the revitalization of New Testament interpretation, as of biblical interpretation as a whole.’ Performative interpretation draws from the discipline of performance studies to offer an integrative conceptualisation of the task."

Habakkuk the Faithful Dissident: A Performative Hermeneutic for Anglicans in Australia

Matthew Anstey is an Anglican deacon and the recipient of an Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Fellowship (2006–2009, project number DP0663901), School of Theology, Charles Sturt University, and Lecturer in Old Testament at St Mark’s National Theological Centre.

published in St Mark’s Review, No. 203, November 2007. (Our thanks for permission to include here)
Kelber, W. "The Generative Force of Memory: Early Christian Traditions as Processes of Memory." Biblical Theology Bulletin 36 (2006) 15-22.