Invisible Presences: Translation, Dramaturgy and Performance

Drama and Film Centre
Queen’s University Belfast
18‐20 April 2011

This international conference will explore the dramaturgical processes of translation in performance practice, whether across language and culture or the translation of ideas into material production. Rather than seeing the processes of writing (whether collaborative or singleauthored), translation, rehearsal, production, and audience reception as separate and discrete, the conference will engage with approaches that view the process as more of a continuum, one that is perpetually at work. In this way the conference offers the opportunity for dialogue between contemporary practitioners, both translators and theatre makers, and for new insights into dramaturgy and translation that seek to map the growing convergence between theatre practice and translation.

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For more information, David Johnston at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

To register click here (Registration deadline in 20 Mar 2011)

Prophets Performing as Public Theologians

by Jeanette Mathews

Paper presented at 2010 Global Network for Public Theology Triennial Consultation, 1-5 September 2010

In 2008, Tracy Davis, professor of performance studies at Northwestern University, wrote of the “performative turn” (2008:1) as a movement that has become increasingly influential across a wide range of academic disciplines. While for many the term “performance studies” remains grounded in the aesthetic arts, there is also a broader view of performance as a heuristic device to account for the social and cultural interactions that are being analysed, in linguistics, anthropology and sociology, for example. Theology and Biblical studies are two academic fields that have begun recently to use performance as a methodological tool in researching the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Scriptures.

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The Bible in Ancient and Modern Media Section after Twenty-Five Years

Hearing Voices

Arthur J. Dewey

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So here I am, in the middle way, having had twenty years -

Trying to learn to use words ...

And so each venture is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate.
                                                      T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

                        Those who have ears to hear, let them listen!
                                                      Mark 4:9

Thirty years ago I experienced my first profound disconnect from the SBL. As I walked from what was the farthest hotel to the Convention Center, I passed newsstands that offered a rather unintelligible headline: "Congressman Missing."  When I walked by the following day the headline of the Times Picayune read, "Congressman killed."  This led me to buy a paper and begin to learn of the horror that was Jonestown.  Each day brought more of the mounting tragedy.  Yet, while I was intermittently becoming aware of this gruesome news, I found myself going to sessions and discussions that never alluded to this developing religious story.  Of course, I can only speak from my limited perspective.  But the "sounds of silence" were deafening to me.  While the print and electronic media concussively made their presence felt, the academy seemed to be blithely unaware of events as the lecturers droned on and the applause occurred on cue.

I begin my remarks with that startling experience of disconnect because it illustrates the very condition that BAMM has been disclosing since this project began. The BAMM session came into existence on the premise that there was more to the task of interpretation than the text itself. Without sensitivity to the atmosphere that surrounds the text, particularly, without the recognition of the media of communication there can be no genuine understanding of culture and cultural transmission.  The pioneering work of Walter Ong, followed by Marshall McLuhan, and then advanced in biblical studies by Werner Kelber, had opened this interpretive realm to the academy.  Yet, this insight into the ways that the oral, written, print and electronic media predispose our thought and shape our communication was not shared by the biblical guild.  The general focus was already embedded in the age of print, where things were black and white, fixed and clear - or, at least, this is where biblical investigations wanted to go. BAMM has tenaciously attempted through the years to expose the biblical guild to the experience of how the media affect the enterprise of interpretation. Yet the guild seemed to shy away from what might happen if they were to take into account the very ways and means of the traditions under investigation.  Wasn't this going outside the competence and sphere of biblical scholarship?  What control would there be if scholars started to "hear voices"?

Let me begin my observations with the necessity of "hearing voices."  First of all, I would make the point that our concern with voices, that is, voices distinctive for their period and place, comes very much because of the invention of the phonograph.  Without that invention there would not be any way of gauging the actual sound difference between voices over time.  I was struck some years ago over the fact that, while I remember the distinctive sound and rhythm of my grandfather's voice, I cannot reproduce it. Sadly there are no recordings of his voice. I can deliver his words; but not the tone. Yet with the phonograph we begin not only to become conscious of vocal distinctions but also to set voices side by side for comparison and for unknown effect. Without recording the folk poets of Yugoslavia, we would not be aware of what happens in the performance and transmission of oral poetry.  A new medium has a ricocheting effect of what we once knew and took for granted.

Another way of saying this is that the introduction of new technology allows us to double back on our data.  The electronic medium has re-introduced us to the possibilities of orality.  Our ability to make distinctions due to the capacities of the electronic medium has actually raised our horizon regarding the interpretation of orality.

Let me illustrate this by pointing to what BAMM has done in regard to the interpretation of Paul. From the outset it was evident that BAMM interpreters of Paul began off the page.  Even when we looked closely at the text, we tried to "hear" it by attending to the hints and suggestions of orality within the written passages.  In effect, we were making critical distinctions, differentiating the oral cues from or within the written text.  David Rhoads' performance of Galatians threw a totally new light on the interpretation of Paul's letter for many in the academy.  A number of Paul actually had to rethink Paul rhetorical intent and play.  Indeed, many caught for the first time some glimmer of humor in what formerly had seemed a rather sober defense.  Here the embodied performance doubled back on the interpretation of the text.

In "A Re-Hearing of Romans 10:1-15, I paid close attention to the oral and written clues in Rom 10, (namely, the personification of the speaking Dikaiosune, the enfolding of the written scripture from Deut 30:12-14within the oral field of the letter's argument, and the anticipation of the oral experience of the audience), in arguing for a distinctly oral bias of this passage. I concluded that Paul's rhetorical choices had to be placed within an appreciation of the letter's performance and response of the Roman community.  In other words, I was trying to adjust my reading of Romans to the larger acoustic of social space, where the language Paul employed was invented to echo the experience of the community. Paul attempted an antiphonal effect where the true experience of the relationship of trust would be discerned and felt within the oral interaction itself. In fact, Paul was playing upon the depths of utopian dreams and desires of the first century in declaring that genuine access to ultimate power was within the grasp of his listeners.

What I did not consider directly at that time was the imperial echo chamber in which these words of Paul swirled-despite pointing out that Rom 10:13 would carry an association with an appeal to the emperor.  Furthermore, although I distinguished the utopian strains of Paul and Philo, I did not throw into relief what affect Rom 10: 4-13 would have upon an audience quite familiar with imperial propaganda.  

This led me to a further investigation.  As I began to consider the acoustical atmosphere which the letter to the Romans presupposed, I began to realize that the echo chamber that must be reckoned with is that of the Roman Empire itself.  It is not simply a recognition that the political-theological realities must be taken into consideration. Rather, it is a matter of understanding that Rome was intent on controlling the acoustic space of the Empire.  This point can be graphically illustrated through inspecting what Romans did to cities they conquered.  A major changed occurred.  The town hall lost its place as the locus of power. The bema or rostrum became the focal urban point.  This is where things were said; where Rome spoke.  But we can also see this is by exploring the Roman euaggelion.  The world news of Rome came in inscriptions, altars, temples and coins; in poetry and prose, on walls and even in privies. What becomes clear to the interpreter of Romans is that attention to the imperial surround sound, disclosed from the mute remains of pots and stones, has an enormous echoing effect.  Without such mute witnesses we cannot begin to hear the counter-cultural sounds of Paul.  

Indeed, to work through the sounds of Paul, I have recently used the groundbreaking work of Brandon Scott and Margaret Lee in regard to Greek sound-mapping, which was introduced in BAMM some years ago. By taking seriously what Scott and Lee maintain about sound-mapping, one can set Rom 1:1-7 within the rhetorical context of its performance.  What do these technical notions yield for our understanding of Paul's efforts? By constructing an introduction that achieves what the ancients considered a "polished" style Paul has attempted to present a sound pattern that would be taken seriously as an elevated piece. The letter to the Romans has entered into competition with the elegant embodiment of the Empire.  Such formality of speech would represent an intention to demonstrate that Paul's discourse was on equal (or greater) footing with imperial claims.

Commentators on Romans have noted that Paul's opening greatly differs from his other letter openings both in length and elegance.  It is not simply the case, however, that Paul was trying to impress an unfamiliar audience.  If we recall that such sounds would echo within the very heart of the Empire, we get the distinct impression that these sounds would have been heard as fundamentally dissonant and treasonous.  Not only does Jesus' earthly lineage have royal ties; Jesus has been "deified as "son of God' in power." His name ("Jesus - anointed - our lord"), is acclaimed, just as Augustus' name was hymned, and echoes from Paul's lips to those who call on this name with "corresponding trust".  Furthermore, all nations have been "summoned" to respond. Thus, we can see in these opening words that Paul is establishing himself as an emissary in grandiloquent terms.  He represents a new and alternative regime and his rhetoric matches his mission. The performance of this letter opening would have offered to the Roman communities the opportunity to become co-conspirators with Paul in acknowledging that a regime change had occurred and that they were acclaiming the true ruler of the universe.  Paul's euaggelion (1:16) is thus a dynamic communication overturning the default euaggelion of the Roman world itself.

In short, the recognition of the "surround sound" of the letter to the Romans opens up onto the political implications of discerning acoustic space.  The investigation of the acoustics of Romans doubles back onto our own political realities. The presence of BAMM within the SBL has represented a fifth column, a counter voice to the way in which the guild has maintained critical control.  To avoid the variety and plethora of voices either in the ancient past or in the present world is to choose a gated intellectual community. Scholars may prefer to stay out of the noisy give-and-take, to maintain an objective distance and neutrality, but that disguises what actually happens.  We have settled for a ghetto existence. Reports of a religious massacre can be pouring in and they are not even on our critical radar.   

On the other hand, to speak openly also has consequences. To allow strange voices into the discussion brings about a marked unbalance. But this insight has allowed us to imagine what Paul might have been about. Was he not claiming that those who had no voice now had a right to appeal, that those who had no access to power could speak freely in assemblies around the world?  Moreover, in utilizing the recognition of the dialectic of media and message are not our investigations actually bringing a distinctive voice to both Paul and ourselves?  In fact, is the very manner in which we have continued our critical work actually contributing and advancing the freedom of speech within the academy?

Lastly I would like to address a concern that a number of us (myself included) in BAMM have had for some time. Since we are so far-reaching and transgress in going beyond the borders of the page, is there any way in which we can provide some control, that is, some way to check our apparently impressionistic interpretations?  How can we have any assurance that we are in conversation with the momentum of this mute historical material? Actually we have a number of ways.  Let me mention two. First, we can and have drawn on the results of rhetorical criticism.  Especially in regard to Paul one must be constantly alert to the rhetorical strategies and options Paul employs. Of course, one can check these over against other ancient authors.  The second manner of control is through the analysis of deep metaphors that are used in speech.  One can, for instance, make a detailed mapping of the underlying metaphors in Paul.  Moreover, as Lakoff and Johnson have argued, such deep metaphors arise from the experience of embodiment. Metaphor is not some frosting on the cake of prose; rather, thought is essentially metaphorical as humans try to imagine the "more" to their experience. Thus, a performance of Paul would have to take into account the rhetorical strategies Paul used in inventing his speech as he envisioned his audience and of what he wanted to persuade them.  Further, by recognizing the original bodily basis for metaphors, one can actually suggest the options of physical movement for the performer as well as the imaginative leaps achieved by these metaphoric motions. The texts may well be mute but, for those who have ears and ipods, the echoes are hardly silent.

Performing the Torah: The Rhetorical Function of the Pentateuch in the Second Temple Period

James W. Watts, Syracuse University

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

The Torah comes equipped with instructions for its own performance: a public reading of the entire scroll before the assembled people of Israel (Deut 31:9-11). The books of Kings and Nehemiah portrays similar ceremonies occurring in 7th and 5th century Jerusalem (2 Kgs 22-23; Neh 8). Yet later liturgical readings have rarely presented the entire Torah scroll at one time. Juxtaposition of biblical depictions of public readings with rhetorical analysis of the Pentateuch’s contents as well as evidence for its uses in the Second Temple period provides a test case for evaluating the possibilities and limitations of performance criticism of ancient texts.

Holly Hearon, "The Implications of 'Orality' for Studies of the Biblical Text." Oral
19/1 (2004): 96-107.

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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The Performance of a Lifetime: Audience Participation in the Sermon on the Mount

Kathy Maxwell, South Texas School of Christian Studies

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

This paper explores ancient comments about the audience and its participation in rhetorical performance, evidence that is complemented by studying the ancient stage: audience participation was expected and even vital for a performance’s success. Strangely, a prominent tool used to encourage such participation was silence. The striking number of rhetoricians’ comments is supported by evidence that a strategy of silence was used in ancient literature. This literature was likely received aurally—the silences, as well as the words, were to be heard. Modern rhetoricians have named this strategy of silence literary gap theory, and modern audiences have the luxury of the printed text. Passages may be compared and dissected, and many gaps can be filled with relative ease. Long before post-Enlightenment storytelling strategies, however, ancient orators left gaps in narratives, encouraging audiences to become “fellow-workers” (Mor. 48:14) with the speaker. Hearing the silences and working to fill them reveals the power of the gospel performance to capture attentive listeners. The passive listener becomes a fellow-worker, one who also acts and finally, in a sense, “lives” the performance of the gospel. Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount highlights the evangelist’s concern for engaging the audience. An engaged audience at least paid attention and often even helped create within the silent sections of the story, an act that inclined them toward moral formation. This project impacts not only our view of rhetorical abilities of ancient authors, but also the way in which modern readers “hear” narratives. The responsibility of audience participation did not end with the ancient audience. We also bear the responsibility of hearing between the lines, entering into performance with the ancients. We are all the more likely to be persuaded by the argument we help complete, astonished by the words we help speak, and formed by the story we live.

Holly Hearon, "Listen to the Voices of the Women," (with Linda Maloney). In Distant Voices Drawing Near:  Essays in Honor of Antoinette Clark Wire, ed. Holly Hearon.  Collegeville: MN: Liturgical Press, 2004.

The Interface of Orality and Writing


March 13-14, 2009

San Francisco Theological Seminary


  A Conference Honoring

Antoinette Clark Wire

Robert S. Dollar Professor of New Testament Emerita
at San Francisco Theological Seminary and the Graduate Theological Union

More information to follow

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.

The Emergence of the Gospels as Storytelling

in Oral and Written Media Contexts of the Ancient Mediterranean World

Holly E. Hearon, Christian Theological Seminary

Presented at the University of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan June 21, 2008 hollyhearon.jpg

Recent years have brought forward a growing number of studies engaging the relationship between written and spoken word in early Christian communities.

These studies fall into roughly three groups:
those which examine the increasing emergence of scribal activity,
those which argue for eyewitnesses as the locus of spoken and written tradition; and
those which identify oral features in written word.

Absent from these studies is a close examination of how ancient texts themselves describe the crossover between written and spoken word, and, in particular, the social dynamics that inform this process. In this paper, I draw on a ‘core sample' of primary texts representing a variety of genres, authors, and social perspectives and dating from 300 BCE to 200 CE in order to describe the ancient communication practices surrounding storytelling and the social dynamics that inform the oral and written media contexts in which it occurs.

  pdf Download a complete pdf of "The Emergence of the Gospels as Storytelling"

Holly Hearon, The Mary Magdalene Tradition:  Witness and Counter-Witness in Early
Christian Communities.
Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2004.

Mayhem in Nahum

Jin H. Han, New York Theological Seminary

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

The book of Nahum makes a harsh reading due to its gruesome discourse of devastation. In the Masoretic Text, the scene of destruction is further augmented by the grouping of consonants with plosive qualities (e.g., Nah 1:1; 2:2) and the use of onomatopoeia (e.g., 1:4, 6). Versions and translations leave this feature largely unrepresented except in 2:10a (cf. bûqâ ûmebûqâ ûmebullaqâ “Desolation, devastation, and destruction!” JPS; “Devastation, desolation, and destruction!” NRSV). The paper demonstrates how the audible quality of the Hebrew text of Nahum heightens the portrayal of Nineveh’s downfall.

Oral and Manuscript Culture in the Bible:

Studies on the Media Texture of the New Testament—Explorative Hermeneutics

by J. A. (Bobby) Loubser loubser_book.jpg

Stellenbosch: Sun Press, 2007. Pp. vii + 205. Paper. ISBN 9781920109189. 

From the Review by Alan Kirk (James Madison University, Harrisonburg, Virginia):

  This volume (published just prior to Prof. Loubser’s untimely death last year) is an important addition to the growing number of studies that approach biblical texts in light of ancient compositional and media realities. Loubser’s core concern in this wide-ranging study is to describe the manuscript medium as the outcome of a complex convergence of oral, writing, and memory practices. 

Read Alan Kirk's full review (in Review of Biblical Literature) 

Holly Hearon, "The Story of 'the Woman Who Anointed Jesus' as Social Memory: A Methodological Proposal for the Study of Tradition as Memory, in Memory, Tradition, and Text: Uses of the Past in Early Christianity. Semeia Studies 52, ed. Alan Kirk and Tom Thatcher. Atlanta: SBL, 2005.

Singing Moses’ Song

Keith Stone, Harvard University

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

The Song of Moses (Deut 32:1–43) may have a much earlier origin than the materials that surround it in the later layers of Deuteronomy, and conjectures about the Song’s original performance setting cannot be more precise than those made in general for early Hebrew poetry. However, the framing material in Deuteronomy makes certain explicit prescriptions for the Song’s performance, very similar to what is prescribed for the Torah itself. Observing that performance implies the enactment of characters appearing within a composition as well as the recollection or re-enactment of the personas of earlier performers—when this takes place within a tradition of performance—this paper will examine the elaborate ways in which performing and performed characters interact in the Song of Moses and will relate this interaction to what may be surmised about the goals of the Deuteronomic writers.

Holly Hearon, "The Implications of Orality for Studies of the Biblical Text," in Performing the Gospel: Orality, Memory and Mark, ed. Richard A. Horsley, Jonathan A. Draper, and John Miles Foley. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006. 

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.

Memory of the Conquest or the Conquest of Memory?

The “Conquest Tradition” of Joshua in the Book of Psalms—A Social Memory Reading

Ovidiu Creanga, King’s College London

  SBL22-122  Mapping Memory: Tradition, Texts, and Identity

11/22/2008  4:00 PM to 6:30 PM


Returning to a classical debate regarding the ‘re-presentation’ of history in the Book of Psalms, well established in the German scholarship of the latter half of the last century (Lauha 1945; von Rad 1958; Noth 1960; Westermann 1981), this paper investigates the depiction of Joshua’s conquest of the land (Josh. 1-12) in the Psalter from the point of view of social memory theory. While it is generally known that references to the Mosaic period occur frequently in the historical Psalms, the conquest of the land by Joshua struggles to achieve literary expression. Briefly, the situation can be presented in this way: references to the exodus from Egypt occur far more frequently than those to the conquest of the land, and allusions to the conquest of Transjordania under the leadership of Moses crop up far more commonly than to the conquest of Cisjordania by Joshua. This state of things invites a close examination of why the Psalter dis/(re)members Joshua’s conquest tradition in the way it does, and how to relate the Psalms’ portrayal of Israel’s settlement with that of the Hexateuch and/or the Deuteronomistic History. Starting with the newly developed theory of ‘repositioning of cultural memory in literature’ (van Gorp & U. Musarra-Schroeder 2000; Grabe 2005), the paper first identifies which layers of the memory of settlement exist in what literary genres. Since the cult is the main laboratory of Israel’s public memory, offering ‘un cadre social and mate´riel’ to the settlement tradition, tracing its reformulation in the preexilic, exilic and postexilic psalms offers an opportunity to reveal, in the second part of this paper, the intricate politics of remembering/forgetting with the tradition of Joshua's conquest and the re/formation of Israel’s identity as a settled people.

Holly Hearon, "Storytelling in Oral and Written Media Contexts of the Ancient Mediterranean World." In Jesus, the Voice, and the Text, ed. Tom Thatcher. Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2008

Charting Memory Cycles in the Gospels: A Case for Historical Triangulation

Anthony Le Donne, Durham University

SBL22-122  Mapping Memory: Tradition, Texts, and Identity

11/22/2008  4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Historical memory is a cyclical process of projection and assimilation. New perceptions are refracted through the lens of previous categories and old categories are forced to evolve to remain intelligible. One of the central tenets of Social Memory theory is that memory (both personal and historical) is a fluid process, able to accommodate new perceptions. The function of memory is to conceptually reinforce and be reinforced by new perceptions for the purpose of creating cognitive continuity and stability. Because of this, many prominent memory theorists such as Michael Schudson and Jan Assmann readily assert that all "memory is distortion" since there is no such thing as an "undistorted memory." This insight helps to dismantle the historical-positive tendency to draw a dichotomy between reliable memory and distorted perception. This paper will adapt previous historiographical discussions of the “hermeneutical circle” by discussing the ebb and tide from novum to pre-conception. I will argue that recent research on memory distortion (what I call mnemonic refraction) sheds new light on the circle model. When applied the Jesus tradition, the historian is able to navigate past the authenticity vs. redaction dichotomy that has bankrupted historical-positivism. I will argue that when redaction tendencies are treated as “mnemonic refraction” certain memory trajectories become evident in the Jesus tradition. Once located, these trajectories can be charted backward to a sphere of historical plausibility. If a single saying or story is refracted along multiple trajectories there is warrant for postulating (i.e. triangulating) what an early and widespread memory of the historical Jesus might have looked like—one that best accounts for the refraction trajectories manifest in the Gospels.

Kelber, W. "The Generative Force of Memory: Early Christian Traditions as Processes of Memory." Biblical Theology Bulletin 36 (2006) 15-22.

The Memory of Moses and the Israelites in Paul’s Appeal to Reconciliation in 1 Corinthians

Finn Damgaard, University of Copenhagen

SBL22-122  Mapping Memory: Tradition, Texts, and Identity

11/22/2008  4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

I take as my starting point, Margaret M. Mitchell’s illuminating approach to 1 Corinthians as an appeal to reconciliation in her "Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation" (Louisville 1992). It is my thesis that the memories of Moses and the Israelites’ seditions in the wilderness play a crucial role for Paul’s appeal to reconciliation not only in 1 Cor 10:1-11 but throughout the letter. In the paper, I examine the way these narratives function as master commemorative narratives. By pointing to the narratives of Moses and the Israelites as a narrative frame for the founding of the Corinthian congregation and the present conflict, Paul tries to revise and re-establish the identity of the Corinthians. It is argued that the factions with which Paul is concerned in 1 Corinthians are keyed to the memories of the factions against Moses. Paul read these narratives in 1 Corinthians in the light of the ancient topos of factionalism (stasis) and uses them to make certain points about the proper behaviour of the Corinthian community. Just as he propagates a memory of Moses as struggling for concord (omónoia) among the Israelites in the wilderness, so Paul pictures himself as playing a crucial role in this strategy of identification as the one who continues the struggle of Moses in his own day. By invoking a memory of these narratives that fits Paul’s aim, he seeks to structure the collective memory of the Corinthians and reconstruct their identity as a unified community. Paul’s appeal to reconciliation is an appeal through collective memory.

Mnemonic Socialisation in Ephesians: Tradition, Ideology, and Otherness in the Communal Remembering

Minna Shkul, University of Helsinki

SBL22-122  Mapping Memory: Tradition, Texts, and Identity

11/22/2008  4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

This paper explores three ways in which Ephesians uses remembering to transform and guide the community of non-Israelite Christ-followers it addresses. The text uses remembering to provide ideological resources and to reinforce social boundaries, selecting and deselecting different mnemonic components, shaping early Christian tradition and identity through the text. Firstly, Christ is remembered in a unique way that sanctions appropriate cultural performances. Secondly, the reputation of Paul is constructed to legitimate the writer’s socio-ideological positionings and to delegitimate alternative views. The reputations of both of these contested Israelites are shaped to connect the community with the agents of God who fulfilled his eternal plans and inaugurated a multi-ethnic people of God celebrated in the discourse. Thirdly, Ephesians remembers Israel as the covenant people and other nations as having deficient identity, superimposing a negative view of other ethnicities for the purposes of resocialisation and communal coherence. Ephesians rejects non-Israelite cultural heritage and anchors ‘the nations’ to Israel’s God remembering their otherness and inclusive work of Christ. Thus Ephesians invents traditions, transforms reputations and decomposes existing memories to suit the ideology of the group, the writer’s cultural position and the communal goal of self-enhancement. Thus in Ephesians we have a post-apostolic text which demonstrates that the shaping and controlling of remembering is an essential part of the emerging early Christian tradition and social orientation. Furthermore, it highlights the fluid and negotiable connections between social environs and ideology of the mnemonic community, and the way communal influencers may shape both memory and forgetting.

The Role of the Sage: Ben Sira at the Boundary

Benjamin G. Wright III, Lehigh University

SBL22-38 Wisdom and Apocalypticism in Early Judaism and Early Christianity

11/22/2008  9:00 AM to 11:30 AM


The Wisdom of Ben Sira has been held up as one of the parade examples of wisdom literature, and over the years that the Wisdom and Apocalypticism Section has been in business, we have set this book against a variety of texts, both those usually designated wisdom, such as 4QInstruction, and those designated apocalyptic, such as 1 Enoch. But a closer look at Ben Sira reveals why the categories of wisdom and apocalyptic are so problematic. In this paper, I want to try to pull together a nexus of issues to illustrate this claim and that connect the three questions we are focusing on this year. Ben Sira’s use of sources, the performance modes signaled by the text, and the reception mode along the orality-textuality spectrum are linked together by the way that Ben Sira constructs the place of the sage in his social world and the authority that he claims for his instruction. In short, as Richard Horsley and Pat Tiller have argued, in this period the scribe/sage occupied an important position in the Judean Temple state. As one who prepares young students to assume the role of the scribal retainer in the centers of power, Ben Sira not only teaches them the things they need to know, he must work to construct their identities so that they can play their proper role. In order to accomplish these ends, Ben Sira legitimates the authority of his teaching and his position as a sage through a number of legitimacy conferring strategies. So, for example, he exploits the discourse of parenthood to construct his students as his children. The ways that he uses the first person creates an ideal sage, an exemplar, to whom they can look and with whom he identifies himself. In this light, the fact that Ben Sira does not employ citations of Hebrew scripture in his book, but thoroughly incorporates his sources into his instruction becomes more readily understandable. These issues have been discussed in relative isolation from each other, but in this paper, I want to examine them together in order to see what kind of a picture of the sage that Ben Sira offers us. The mechanisms that he employs to pursue these goals further highlight the conflicted boundaries between wisdom and apocalyptic.

Ritual in the Biblical World

1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Room: Salon 3 - Marriott Marquis

Russell C.D. Arnold, DePauw University, Presiding

James R. Getz Jr., Temple University
Sacrificial Typology and Nazarite’s Burning Hair (25 min)

Discussion (5 min)

Daniel Belnap, Brigham Young University
If The Lord Delight In Us: Divine Reflexivity in the Hebrew Bible (25 min)

Discussion (5 min)

Petra Dijkhuizen, University of South Africa

Investigating Ritual Risk, Ritual Failure and Ritual Efficacy in Pauline Corinth (25 min)

Discussion (5 min)

Jade Weimer, University of Toronto

Musical Ritual in the Pauline Churches: The Slippery Slope of a Necessary Social Practice in Antiquity (25 min)

Discussion (5 min)

Jonathan Schwiebert, Lenoir-Rhyne University
Ritual and Ethics: The Didache as Test Case (25 min)

Discussion (5 min)

John, Jesus, and History (S19-327)

 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: 2001 - Convention Center

Theme: Media and Method: Reading John and Jesus in an Oral/Aural Context

Jaime Clark-Soles, Southern Methodist University, Presiding

Richard A. Horsley, University of Massachusetts Boston

The Whole Story: Rethinking John's Gospel as a Source for Jesus in Its Ancient Media Context (30 min)

Tom Thatcher, Cincinnati Christian University

There Are No "Aporias": Orality, Memory, and Narrative Aesthetics (30 min)

Hellen Mardaga, Catholic University of America

Bis repetita placent. Some Reflections on Repetitions, Orality and John 18:36 (30 min)

Catrin Williams, University of Wales: Trinity Saint David

Memory, Scripture, and Tradition in the Gospel of John: Insights from Ancient Media Studies (30 min)

Break (5 min)

Discussion (25 min)

Bible in Ancient and Modern Media

Joint Session With: Bible in Ancient and Modern Media, Mark

4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Room: Salon 10 - Marriott Marquis

Theme: The Case for Mark Composed in Performance

Joanna Dewey, Episcopal Divinity School, Presiding

Antoinette Wire, San Francisco Theological Seminary, Introduction (15 min)

Ancient Media Context

Whitney Shiner, George Mason University, Respondent (20 min)

Pieter Botha, University of South Africa, Respondent (20 min)

Break (5 min)

Markan Literature

Rikki Watts, Regent College, Respondent (20 min)

James Voelz, Concordia Seminary, Respondent (20 min)


Antoinette Wire, San Francisco Theological Seminary, Respondent (15 min)

Discussion (35 min)

Social History of Formative Christianity and Judaism

 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM  
Room: Golden Gate C2 - Marriott Marquis

Theme: Sight and Sound in Early Judaism and Christianity

Gil Klein, Franklin & Marshall College, Presiding (5 min)

Kim Haines-Eitzen, Cornell University

Imagining Sound and Silence (25 min)

Amy Papalexandrou, University of Texas at Austin

Listening to the Late Antique Soundscape in Early Christian and Jewish Sacred Space (25 min)

Georgia Frank, Colgate University

Last Sensed: Ritualizing the Ascension of Jesus in Late Antique Christianity (25 min)

Rachel Neis, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Hath Not a Jew Eyes? (25 min)

Discussion (30 min)

Business Meeting (15 min)

Performance Criticism of Biblical and Other Ancient Texts

  1:00 PM to 3:30 PM 
Room: Intercontinental Ballroom B - Intercontinental

Theme: Repetition in Performance

Glenn Holland, Allegheny College, Presiding

Shamir Yona, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Repetition of a Word or Root in Biblical Poetry, Once as an Isolated Word and Once in a Construct Genitive Chain (25 min)

Gary A Rendsburg, Rutgers University
Repetition with Variation: Element of Style and Facet of Performance (25 min)

Jeanette Mathews, Charles Sturt University

Rethinking Repetition in the Book of the Twelve as Examples of “Ready-mades” in Improvised Performance (25 min)

Break (10 min)

Meda Stamper, Anstey United Reformed Church
Performing the Ending of the Gospel of John (25 min)

Lee A. Johnson, East Carolina University

Paul’s Damascus Road Experience: A Thrice-Told Tale in Acts (25 min)

Discussion (15 min)

John, Jesus, and History

Joint Session With: John, Jesus, and History, Bible in Ancient and Modern Media

  9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Room 3003 - Convention Center

Theme: The Fourth Gospel in First-Century Media Culture

This session is a panel review of The Fourth Gospel in First-Century Media Culture, ed. Anthony Le Donne and Tom Thatcher (T&T Clark, 2011). The main themes of the book will be summarized by the editors, and the panel and open discussions will focus on general themes raised by the book (interpreting FG within its ancient media context), not on its specific contents. Panelists will assume that those who attend the session have NOT read the book beforehand.
Anthony Le Donne, Lincoln Christian University, Presiding

Overview: The Fourth Gospel in First-Century Media Culture

Tom Thatcher, Cincinnati Christian University, Introduction (20 min)

The Ancient Media Context

Jonathan Draper, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Respondent (20 min)

Holly Hearon, Christian Theological Seminary, Respondent (20 min)

Break (5 min)

The Johannine Literature

Jaime Clark-Soles, Southern Methodist University, Respondent (20 min)

R. Culpepper, Mercer University, Respondent (20 min)

Break (5 min)

The sounds of a living tradition

A performance by Tracy Radosevic and interview


Because Bible stories were initially communicated orally -- with breath, sound and movement -- the sounds of the story still matter today, said storyteller Tracy Radosevic. Asking questions such as “Who was the audience?” and “What was going on socially, politically and economically?” when the story wasfirst told allows the current meaning of the story to express itself through the teller, she said.

Radosevic is currently the dean of the Academy for Biblical Storytelling. After earning a master’s degree in religious education at Duke Divinity School, Radosevic worked as director of Christian education at First United Methodist Church in Cherryville, N.C. She later earned a master’s degree in storytelling from East Tennessee State University.

View the full interview at


Call for Papers:

Testimony, Witness, Authority: The politics and poetics of experience

The Oral, the Written, and Other Verbal Media 2011

December 12-14, 2011

Hosted by Victoria University (Melbourne, Australia) at its City Campus

OWOVM_PicHow do performances or texts bear witness, either to the events they narrate or to the subjective consciousnesses that produce them? How do the dynamics of transmission circumscribe and transform them? How do they become embedded in the knowledge systems of the cultures they work through? And what of the limits to verbalisation – when voice, text, and/or more visceral media are tasked with creating and communicating meaning in the absence of language grammars?

This is a call for proposals of language art performances and installations and of scholarly papers and sessions that address these questions. Regular sessions will be 90 minutes, normally containing three individual presentations. As much as possible, the organisers aim to generate a mix of scholarly and creative presentations in each session, grouped around common thematic concerns. Keynote presentations will be announced in the second call for proposals.

The fields covered at OWOVM will include, but not be limited to: Acoustics; Communications and Media; Cultural Anthropology; Folklore; Gender Studies; History; Indigenous Studies; Linguistics; Literary Studies; Music; Narrative approaches to social research; Oral-traditional poetics and narrative; Performance Studies; Philosophy; Qualitative approaches to law and criminology; Rhetoric; Visual Arts.

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?

John E. Sawyer Seminar

Part of the Classical Traditions Initiative at Northwestern University

Theatre_After_AthensThis interdisciplinary seminar will compare how Athenian drama was received and adapted in antiquity and in the United States since 1776.

The juxtaposition of different temporal periods and geographical regions raises productive questions about the reception of Athenian drama in radically different socio-political contexts. With the participation of specialists from Classics, Theatre, English, Political Science and History, we will consider how and why adaptations and reproductions of ancient Greek plays are so often used in democracies and totalitarian states alike and what this reception history can tell us about the adaptable aesthetics and political potency of ancient Greek drama.

Click here for a schedule

Other Papers at SBL 2009


Ideology, Culture, and Translation

4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Studio 7 - MR

Theme: Jewish-Christian Difference and the Politics of Translation

James Maxey, Lutheran Bible Translators
Performance Criticism and Bible Translation
(25 min)


Wisdom and Apocalypticism in Early Judaism and Early Christianity

4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Gallier AB - SH

Theme: Wisdom and Apocalypticism in Performance

Rodney A. Werline, Barton College
Ritual Performance in the Parables of 1 Enoch
(30 min)



Wisdom in Israelite and Cognate Traditions

4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Balcony J - MR

Theme: The Book of Proverbs

Knut M. Heim, The Methodist Church, The Queen's Foundation
Proverbs 26:1-12: A Hermeneutics of Proverb Reception and a Case Study in Proverb Performance Response
(25 min)



Synoptic Gospels

9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Waterbury - SH

Theme: Synoptic Parables

Shawn Kelley, Daemen College, Presiding
John S. Kloppenborg, University of Toronto and Callie Callon, University of Toronto
The Parable of the Shepherd and the tranformation of discourse
(30 min)



Wisdom in Israelite and Cognate Traditions

9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

St. Charles Suite - MR

Theme: Proverbs and Qoheleth

Christopher Ansberry, Wheaton College
The Discourse Setting of the Book of Proverbs and Its Hermeneutical Significance
(25 min)




1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Balcony L - MR

Dorothy Jean Weaver, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Presiding
Walter T. Wilson, Emory University
Inconspicuous Piety and Communal Differentiation in Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
(20 min)



Hellenistic Judaism
Joint Session With:
Hellenistic Judaism, Early Jewish Christian Relations

4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Studio 5 - MR

Theme: The Late Antique Afterlives of Hellenistic Judaism

Todd Berzon, Columbia University
Scholastic Stylings: The Jewish Sources in Eusebius's Preparatio Evangelica
(20 min)



History and Literature of Early Rabbinic Judaism

9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Grand Ballroom B - SH

Carol Bakhos, University of California-Los Angeles, Presiding
Kimberly Stratton, Carleton University
Exodus and Identity in Rabbinic Exegesis
(20 min)


Social Scientific Criticism of the New Testament
1:00 PM to 3:30 PM
Room: La Galerie 5 - MR

Theme: The Social Sciences and Paul
Patron-broker relationships, insights from social-psychology, and the conceptual tools central to enthnomedical anthropology will be applied to various passages from 2 Corinthians. In addition, the power/potency of Paul’s written word among nonliterate people will be assessed, and the claim that early Christians were sectarians will be reevaluated.

S. Scott Bartchy, University of California-Los Angeles, Presiding
Lee A. Johnson, Methodist Theological School in Ohio
Paul's Letters as Artifacts: The Value of the Written Text among Non-Literate People (26 min)


Synoptic Gospels

1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Rhythms Ballroom 3 - SH

Theme: Synoptic Theology and Rhetoric

Gary Yamasaki, Columbia Bible College
Performance Criticism Meets Perspective Criticism: Critiquing the Use of Point of View in David Rhoads' Performance of Mark
(30 min)
Rene A. Baergen, Emmanuel College, University of Toronto
Mapping (Marginal) Memory in Mark 1-8
(30 min)


Social Scientific Criticism of the New Testament11/23/2009

4:00 PM to 6:30 PM
Room: Studio 7 - MR

Theme: The Social Sciences and the Gospels

Pieter F. Craffert, University of South Africa, Presiding

John H. Elliott, University of San Francisco
Jesus the Gesturer and the Gospel of Mark: Communication Lost in Translation? (26 min)

SBL 2009 New Orleans

NewOrleansNovember 21-24 2009

Sections related to Performance Criticism


Bible in Ancient and Modern Media

1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Napoleon B1 - SH
Theme: Performance Criticism: An Emerging Discipline in New Testament Studies by David Rhoads (2009)


Bible in Ancient and Modern Media

9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Studio 8 - MR
Theme: Telling and Retelling Constitutive Stories


Ritual in the Biblical World

9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Grand Ballroom E - SH
Theme: Theoretical and Methodological Explorations


Mapping Memory: Tradition, Texts, and Identity

9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Grand Ballroom E - SH
Theme: Memory, Manuscript, and Oral Composition


Performance Criticism of Biblical and Other Ancient Texts Consultation

9:00 AM to 11:30 AM
Room: Bacchus Suite - MR

Other Papers relevant to Performance Criticism

Biblical Storytelling

Online Workshop

led by Beth Galbreath

bethforwebLearning sacred stories by heart and sharing them with others is both an ancient-future art and a powerful spiritual practice. This workshop’s methods, developed by the Network of Biblical Storytellers International, are for everyone who wishes to learn, to tell and to connect with God and other people through sacred story – yes, you can do it too! By the end of the two-week workshop you will be able to share at least one story with others by heart, and you will understand how this completely non-technological art fits into a digital-communications world. Whether you work with children in Sunday School or dream of bringing Scripture to life in worship or in other venues, your ministry and your spirit will be enriched by this art. The second two-week workshop, Biblical Storytelling II, will be an opportunity to develop your unique storytelling “voice,” to expand your technique and polish your art.

For more information, see

Orality, Print Culture and Biblical Interpretation

A film by Eugene Botha

Orality_Print_Culture_VideoIn this controversial new film the ramifications of Orality Studies and its impact on New Testament Studies are explored by a number of prominent Biblical scholars like Werner Kelber, Jimmy Dunn, Phil Towner, David Rhoads, David Carr, Gosnell Yorke, James Maxey and others. The interface of Orality Studies and Performance Criticism and the implication of this for Bible Translation are also explored. The film is based on the work of an SNTS Seminar which met from 2005-2008.

For more information or to purchase see

To download a trailer click here.

Hearing Voices

The Bible in Ancient and Modern Media Section after Twenty-Five Years

by Arthur Dewey

Presented to the  Bible in Ancient and Modern Media Section in Boston, November 23, 2008

Without sensitivity to the atmosphere that surrounds the text, particularly, without the recognition of the media of communication there can be no genuine understanding of culture and cultural transmission.  ...Yet, this insight into the ways that the oral, written, print and electronic media predispose our thought and shape our communication was not shared by the biblical guild.  The general focus was already embedded in the age of print, where things were black and white, fixed and clear – or, at least, this is where biblical investigations wanted to go. BAMM has tenaciously attempted through the years to expose the biblical guild to the experience of how the media affect the enterprise of interpretation. Yet the guild seemed to shy away from what might happen if they were to take into account the very ways and means of the traditions under investigation.  Wasn’t this going outside the competence and sphere of biblical scholarship?  What control would there be if scholars started to “hear voices”?

Read the full presentation


Bible in Ancient and Modern Media


4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Room: Room TBD - Hotel TBD

Theme: Remembrance and Adaptation


Holly Hearon, Christian Theological Seminary, Presiding


Timothy Stone, University of St. Andrews-Scotland

Ruth, Figured In, Figured Out, and Reconfigured: The Compilational History of Ruth in the Canon (30 min)

Emily Cheney, Athens, GA

Retelling Ruth’s and Naomi’s Journeys Home (30 min)

Cynthia M. Baker, Bates College

Job’s Rabbinic Descendant (30 min)

Linzie Treadway, Vanderbilt University

The Sire of Sorrow or the Story We Hate to Tell? Popular Media’s Response to and Construction of the Job Narrative (30 min)

William John Lyons, University of Bristol

The Apocalypse and Its (Many, Modern) Mediators: John's Revelation, Johnny Cash’s The Man Comes Around, Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead, and the Videographers of YouTube (30 min)


Performance Criticism of Biblical and Other Ancient Texts Consultation


1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Room: Room TBD - Hotel TBD

Theme: Book Review: Terry Giles & William B. Doan, Twice-Used Songs: Performance Criticism of the Songs of Ancient Israel (Hendrickson)


Glenn Holland, Allegheny College, Presiding



Linda Day, Pittsburgh, PA, Panelist (20 min)


Shimon Levy, Tel-Aviv University, Panelist (20 min)


Terry Giles, Gannon University, Respondent (15 min)


William Doan, Miami University, Respondent (15 min)


Discussion (20 min)


Orality, Textuality, and the Formation of the Hebrew Bible


9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Room: Room TBD - Hotel TBD

Theme: Toward a More Adequate Theory of the Verbal Art


David Carr, Union Theological Seminary, Presiding



Amir Eitan, Ben Gurion University of the Negev

The Oral Origin of the Resumptive Repetition (30 min)


Edward Silver, University of Chicago

Entextualization and Prophetic Action: Jeremiah 36 as Literary Artifact (30 min)


Stefan Schorch, Kirchliche Hochschule Bethel

Reading and the Creation of Texts in the Course of the Literary History of the Hebrew Bible (30 min)


Cynthia Edenburg, Open University of Israel

Intertextuality, Literary Competence, and the Question of Readership (30 min)


Aaron Demsky, Bar-Ilan University

From Writing Exercise to Literary Composition: The Book of Lamentations (30 min)


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."

pdf 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)


Performance Criticism of Biblical and Other Ancient Texts Consultation


4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Room: Room TBD - Hotel TBD


Theme: Provoking Audience Action and Reaction



Margaret Lee, Tulsa Community College, Presiding


Keith Stone, Harvard University

Singing Moses’ Song (25 min)

Jin H. Han, New York Theological Seminary

Mayhem in Nahum (25 min)

Jeffrey E. Brickle, Urshan Graduate School of Theology

The Analysis of Sound Patterns: Exploiting Aural Exegesis of Ancient Texts (25 min)

James W. Watts, Syracuse University

Performing the Torah: The Rhetorical Function of the Pentateuch in the Second Temple Period (25 min)

Kathy Maxwell, South Texas School of Christian Studies

The Performance of a Lifetime: Audience Participation in the Sermon on the Mount (25 min)

Bernhard Oestreich, Theologische Hochschule Friedensau

Oral Performance before a Split Audience: Letter Reading in Rome, Galatia, and Corinth (25 min)


Mapping Memory: Tradition, Texts, and Identity


4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Room: Room TBD - Hotel TBD

Theme: Memory, the Past, and Identity


Alan Kirk, James Madison University, Presiding


Ovidiu Creanga, King’s College London

Memory of the Conquest or the Conquest of Memory? The “Conquest Tradition” of Joshua in the Book of Psalms—A Social Memory Reading (25 min)

Anthony Le Donne, Durham University

Charting Memory Cycles in the Gospels: A Case for Historical Triangulation (25 min)

Finn Damgaard, University of Copenhagen

The Memory of Moses and the Israelites in Paul’s Appeal to Reconciliation in 1 Corinthians (25 min)

Minna Shkul, University of Helsinki

Mnemonic Socialisation in Ephesians: Tradition, Ideology, and Otherness in the Communal Remembering (25 min)

Break (5 min)

Werner Kelber, Rice University, Respondent (15 min)

Discussion (30 min)


Bible in Ancient and Modern Media


4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Room: Room TBD - Hotel TBD

Theme: Bible in Ancient and Modern Media Section after Twenty-Five Years


Richard Swanson, Augustana College, Presiding


Thomas Boomershine, United Theological Seminary, Panelist (30 min) 

Holly Hearon, Christian Theological Seminary, Panelist (15 min) 

Joanna Dewey, Episcopal Divinity School, Panelist (15 min) 

Arthur Dewey, Xavier University, Panelist (15 min) 

Break (15 min)

Robert Fowler, Baldwin-Wallace College, Panelist (15 min) 

David Rhoads, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Panelist (15 min) 

Discussion (30 min)

The Fourth Gospel in First-Century Media Culture

Edited by Anthony Le Donne and Tom Thatcher

Fourth_GospelWerner Kelber’s The Oral and the Written Gospel substantially challenged predominant paradigms for understanding early Jesus traditions and the formation of written Gospels. Since that publication, a more precise and complex picture of first–century media culture has emerged. Yet while issues of orality, aurality, performance, and mnemonics are now well voiced in Synoptic Studies, Johannine scholars remain largely unaware of such issues and their implications. The highly respected contributors to this book seek to fill this lacuna by exploring various applications of orality, literacy, memory, and performance theories to the Johannine Literature in hopes of opening new avenues for future discussion.

Other Papers at SBL 2008 to consider



Academy of Homiletics

11/21 2:45 PM to 5:30 PM

Theme: Workgroup: Performance Studies



Wisdom and Apocalypticism in Early Judaism and Early Christianity

11/22 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Theme: Conflicted Boundaries and Sapiential Modalities?


Benjamin G. Wright III, Lehigh University

The Role of the Sage: Ben Sira at the Boundary (30 min)



Wisdom and Apocalypticism in Early Judaism and Early Christianity

11/22 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Theme: Conflicted Boundaries and Apocalyptic Modalities?


Matthias Henze, Rice University

The Other Synoptic Problem: 2 Baruch and 4 Ezra (30 min)


Ellen Bradshaw Aitken, McGill University

Singing in a Heavenly Vision: Scriptural Practices in the Songs of Revelation (30 min)



Religious Experience in Early Judaism and Early Christianity

11/22 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Theme: Case Studies in Religious Experience


Samuel Thomas, California Lutheran University

Vision, Interpretation, Mediation: Textuality and Experience in Qumran Literature (20 min)



Hebrew Scriptures and Cognate Literature

11/23 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM


John W. Hilber, Dallas Theological Seminary

Egyptian Prophecy in Broader Ancient Near Eastern Perspective (30 min)



Ecological Hermeneutics

11/23 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM


Peter Perry, Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago

“The Things Having Lives”: Ecology, Allusion, and Performance in Revelation 8:9 (25 min)



Homiletics and Biblical Studies

11/23  4:00 PM to 6:30 PM


Ruthanna Hooke, Virginia Theological Seminary

Performance as a Bridge between Biblical Interpretation and Proclamation (25 min)



Bible, Myth, and Myth Theory

11/24 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Theme: The New Testament and Myth


Christopher Mount, DePaul University

“I Know a Person in Christ Who Fourteen Years Ago Was Caught up to the Third Heaven”: Myth and Religious Experience in the Religion of Paul (30 min)




11/24 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM


Hans Arneson, Duke University

Theatricality in 4 Maccabees (30 min)



Writing / Reading Jeremiah Group

11/24 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM


John Hill, Yarra Theological Union

Jeremiah the Book (30 min)



Ritual in the Biblical World

11/25 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Theme: Ritual and Iconography


Gerald A. Klingbeil, Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies and Martin G. Klingbeil, Helderberg College

“Mirrors of the Dance”: Finding the Interplay between the Static and the Dynamic in Biblical Ritual and Ancient Near Eastern Iconography (25 min)



Theology of the Hebrew Scriptures

11/25 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM


Helmut Utzschneider, Augustana-Hochschule

“… But Mine Eye Seeth Thee!” (Job 42:5): The Book of Job and an Aesthetic Theology of the Old Testament


Mark as Story

Retrospect and Prospect

Edited by Kelly R. Iverson and Christopher W. Skinner

Mark_as_Story_revisitedMark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel, originally published in 1982 and extensively revised in 1999, was a turning point in Gospel studies, both for the contribution it made to Markan scholarship and for the methodological insights that it advanced. This volume celebrates Mark as Story and offers critique, engagement, and exploration of the new hermeneutical vistas that emerged in the wake of this pioneering study. In these essays, leading international Markan scholars discuss various texts and themes in the Second Gospel, reflect upon the rise of narrative criticism, and offer a glimpse at future trends in Gospels research.

boston.jpg SBL 2008 Boston

November 22-25 2008

Sections related to Performance Criticism


SBL22-103 Bible in Ancient and Modern Media

11/22 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Room: Fairfax B - SH

Theme: Bible in Ancient and Modern Media Section after Twenty-Five Years


SBL22-122 Mapping Memory: Tradition, Texts, and Identity

11/22 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Room: Meeting Room 310 - CC

Theme: Memory, the Past, and Identity


SBL23-137 Performance Criticism of Biblical and Other Ancient Texts Consultation

11/23 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Room: Meeting Room 309 - CC

Theme: Provoking Audience Action and Reaction


SBL24-33 Orality, Textuality, and the Formation of the Hebrew Bible

11/24 9:00 AM to 11:30 AM

Room: Lincoln - HI

Theme: Toward a More Adequate Theory of the Verbal Art


SBL24-87 Performance Criticism of Biblical and Other Ancient Texts Consultation

11/24 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM

Room: Beacon H - SH

Theme: Book Review: Terry Giles & William B. Doan, Twice-Used Songs: Performance Criticism of the Songs of Ancient Israel (Hendrickson)


SBL24-105 Bible in Ancient and Modern Media

11/24 4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Room: Meeting Room 301 - CC

Theme: Remembrance and Adaptation


Other Papers relevant to Performance Criticism

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.

lundbild.jpgThe New Testament, Oral Culture and Bible Translation

Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas

the University of Lund, Sweden,

29 July-2 August, 2008.

(Drs P. H. Towner and G. L. Yorke; Advisory co-chair, Prof. J. D. G. Dunn).

This seminar will not meet but bring its work to conclusion with a presentation by one of its participants, Eugene Botha. The presentation will be made in one of the offered short paper slots in order to give the wider SNTS membership the opportunity to offer reactions and input that might help to clarify future directions. Prof. Botha will present the fruits of the seminar's work over the last three years in a medium that will demonstrate (visually and audibly) precisely the elements explored by the seminar: NT Research, Oral Culture, and Bible Translation.

Look at for more information on this video resource as it becomes available.

A Review by Amir Eitan

of Twice Used Songs: Performance Criticism of the Songs of Ancient Israel by Terry and William J. Doan

twice_used_songsFrom the review:

To sum up, this is an important book that paves the way of performance criticism into the study of the Old Testament. Still, in order to understand its innovation, the reader must alter one’s default approach on how texts were used in the ancient world. In other words, one cannot understand the performative nature of the Old Testament without the ability to identify materials with the potential of immediacy, such as those of Twice Used Songs. In this respect, the fact that the authors refer to the performance audience both as readers and as listeners is rather unexpected. Reading is a distant and solitary action that cannot achieve the response a storyteller is hoping for; there is no reading community in the ancient world. Performance criticism offers a paradigmatic shift, and its proponents must insist and maintain that the texts were experienced aurally.

Read the full review.

Aural Design and Coherence in the Prologue of First John

By Jeffrey E. Brickle

(forthcoming from Continuum, 2011)

Brickle-Jeffrey-EThis new study constitutes the first sustained investigation of the oral patterning of 1 John 1:1-4, arguing that this passage reflects an underlying design and organization.  After discussing contemporary techniques of sound analysis and establishing the study's methodological approach, we first examine the Prologue's aural profile.  Here we begin to explore, describe, and depict graphically the patterns of sound that emerge as the text is read aloud.  As a means to uncover additional aural features of our text largely imperceptible to modern visually-oriented readers, we next exploit the approaches to Greek pronunciation and orality advocated in the recent research of New Testament scholar, Chrys Caragounis.  In this section we bring to bear Caragounis' "Historical Greek Pronunciation" to determine the impact on the Prologue's soundscape, followed by an analysis employing the principles for beautiful and effective composition elucidated by the ancient teacher of rhetoric, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, in his treatise, On Literary Composition.  A final section draws together the results and implications of the study before suggesting further ways to apply research in orality, performance, and memory to the Prologue and other ancient texts.

The Case for Mark Composed in Performance

by Antoinette Clark Wire

(Cascade 2010)

Wire-CaseforMarkIs it possible to make a case that the Gospel of Mark was not composed by a single man from scattered accounts but in a process of people's telling Jesus' story over several decades? And what can we say about the tellers who were shaping this story for changing audiences?

After an introduction showing the groundwork already laid in oral tradition research, the case begins by tracing the Mark we know back to several quite different early manuscripts which continue the flexibility of their oral ancestors. The focus then turns to three aspects of Mark, its language, which is characterized as speech with special phrases and rhythms, its episodes characterized by traditional forms, and its overall story pattern that is common in oral reports of the time.

Finally several soundings are taken in Mark to test the thesis of performance composition, two scenarios are projected of possible early tellers of this tradition, and a conclusion summarizes major findings in the case. Mark's writer turns out to be the one who transcribes the tradition, probably adhering closely to it in order to legitimate the new medium of writing.

Theorizing Performance: Greek Drama, Cultural History, and Critical Practice

Edith Hall, Stephe Harrop (ed.),

(Duckworth, 2010)

Reviewed by Eric Dodson-Robinson, University of Texas at Austin

for Bryn Mawr Classica Review

This groundbreaking collection of essays, inspired by a conference held at the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama, opens a dialogue about the relations between critical theory and modern performances of ancient Greek drama. The book, which is the first in this subfield to focus exclusively on theory, raises several engaging questions about performance reception and its relevance to classics: what role does the text play in performance? The body? History? How does translation impact reception? The collection comprises an introduction, four sections of essays, a bibliography, and index. Contributions come not only from prominent scholars of reception, but also from theatre professionals. The book's first section grapples with defining performance reception and exploring what is special about the performance and reception of classical drama. Essays in this section also address a few of the theoretical and methodological contentions between the principal contributors, while briefly and accessibly alluding to their conflicting intellectual genealogies. The second section considers the embodied mind as it relates to performance, and the third explores the problem of text and translation. The final section offers illuminating perspectives from theatre practitioners about the performance of ancient drama.

Read the full review

Mark's Memory Resources and the Controversy Stories (Mark 2:1-3:6)

An Application of the Frame Theory of Cognitive Science to the Markan Oral-Aural Narrative

by Yoon-Man Park

(Brill, 2009)

Marks_Memory_ResourcesThis book is a study of the New Testament using the insights of modern linguistics. Its principal concern, above all, is to examine how the Gospel of Mark, produced in an oral-aural culture, may be illuminated by frame theory from cognitive linguistics, a linguistic theory in which the meaning of a word, phrase, clause, sentence, paragraph and thematic unit can only be properly understood against the background of a particular body of knowledge and assumptions. The reason this theory is particulary useful for understanding Mark's ancient text is because as an oral-aural narrative it heavily relies on human memory (cognitive) resources; and so the cognitive theory leads us into a better understanding of ways in which the text is communicated in terms of cognitive processing.

The Interface of Orality and Writing

Hearing, Seeing, Writing in New Genres

edited by Annette Weissenrieder and Robert B. Coote

coming in Sept 2010 from Mohr Siebeck

The essays in this collection address the competing and complementary roles of visual media, forms of memory, oral performance, and literacy and popular culture in the ancient Mediterranean world. Incorporating both customary and innovative perspectives, the essays advance the frontiers of our understanding of the nature of ancient texts as regards audibility and performance, the vital importance of the visual in the comprehension of texts, and basic concepts of communication, particularly the need to account for disjunctive and non-reciprocal social relations in communication.

Metrics and Rhythmics: History of Poetic Forms in Ancient Greece

by Bruno Gentili and Liana Lomiento

(Trans. E. Christian Kopff; Studi di metrica classica 12. Pisa/Roma: Fabrizio Serra Editore, 2008)

From the review by Andrea Tessier (Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.11.31):

The brief but important chapter that follows ("Modes of Performance," pp. 89-110) not only gives an informative synthesis of the practice of performance and the instruments of antiquity, but along with the first chapter contributes to delineating Gentili's and Lomiento's vision of the relationship of meter, rhythm and performance. This vision, in my opinion, represents one of the book's most interesting aspects. Gentili and Lomiento base their argumentation on an assumption that they are well aware is debatable. For Gentili and Lomiento the Hellenistic "poetry book," and especially the division "in cola" of the lyric sections (which is structured by brief sequences, essentially in dimeters with occasional trimeters and tetrameters), preserves significant information about the traces of the original performances available to the Alexandrian philologists and is the basis of the slightly later metrical and rhythmic theory that has survived (Gentili and Lomiento p. 31). Therefore the division into cola of the melic sections of drama and choral lyric, the "colometry" (which continued to be found in the printed tradition up to the beginning of the nineteenth century) is not the work of inept "Grammatiker" but preserves otherwise lost information about their rhythmic and musical articulations.

Read the full review.

Intricacy, Design, and Cunning in the Book of Judges

by. E. T. A. Davidson

(Xlibris 2008)

Intricacy_Design_CunningIntricacy, Design, and Cunning in the Book of Judgesby literary critic and biblical scholar E. T. A. Davidson aims to decipher all the many complex, hidden meanings of the 7th book of the Bible. It was written for those who-whether religious or secular-love literature and want to improve their knowledge of ancient texts.

Judges is a deeply-disturbing anthology of short stories created during a preliterate era, possibly earlier than the writings of Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and even Joshua. It is about a frontier society whose daily life is beset by devastating internal and external dangers during a time of war. It is a veritable comedy of horrors during a period of lawlessness, battles, skirmishes, ambushes, assassinations, murders, dismemberments, spies, deceptions of all kinds, dysfunctional families, tricksters, concubines, prostitutes, gang rapes, the book ending in a devastating civil war. It depicts a time when the society needed to control its wild men and women, develop cooperation among the tribes, and find wise leadership if Israel was to survive as a nation. Read aright, moreover, it speaks as much to us today as it once did to ancient listeners.

But it is probably also the least liked and the least understood book of the Bible. What is missing from the Book of Judges as it came down to us is the actual performance and interaction with the text as they must have existed in the world of orality.

Hippocratic Recipes

Oral and Written Transmission of Pharmacological Knowledge in Fifth- And Fourth-Century Greece

by Laurence M.V. Totelin

(Brill, 2009)

Hippocratic_Recipes"Hippocratic Recipes" is the first extended study of the pharmacological recipes included in the "Hippocratic Corpus". The recipes, found mostly in the gynaecological and nosological treatises, are here examined both from a philological and a sociocultural point of view. Drawing on studies in the fields of classics, social history of medicine, and anthropology, this book offers new insights into the production and use of pharmacological knowledge in the classical world. In particular, it assesses the deep interactions between oral and written traditions in the transmission of this knowledge. Recipes are addressed as texts, but the existence of 'missing links' in the written tradition are acknowledged.

For a review by Magali de Haro Sanchez click here.

Between Author and Audience in Mark

Narration, Characterization, Interpretation

Edited by Elizabeth Struthers Malbon

(Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2009)

To hear, read, and interpret the Gospel of Mark is to become involved in the dynamic relationship between author (real or implied) and audience (implied or real). So we have learned from the ‘literary turn' in biblical interpretation. But there remains another dynamic relationship in which we are of necessity involved: that of the literary and the historical questions surrounding the text. Clearly, multiple approaches are called for by anyone who wishes to claim a place in the on-going audience of the Gospel of Mark.

The first three essays in this volume move in different ways between real and implied Markan realities: from implied audience to real (ancient) audience, from real (contemporary, oral) narrator to implied (ancient, oral) narrator, and from implied audience to various real (or ‘unimplied') audiences. The next three essays treat the central Markan reality of parable as it connects author, narrator, and audience in challenging ways. The final three essays concern the relation of Mark's characters among themselves or the relation of narrator and character, recognizing the complexity of characterization in the Gospel as a form of communication between author and audience.


Introduction: Elizabeth Struthers Malbon

Relating Implied and Real Audiences in Interpretation
1. Ian H. Henderson, Reconstructing Mark's Double Audience
2. Philip Ruge-Jones, Omnipresent, not Omniscient: How Literary Interpretation Confuses the Storyteller's Narrating
3. Stephen D. Moore, The SS Officer at the Foot of the Cross: A Tragedy in Three Acts

Relating Author, Narrator, and Audience in Interpreting Parabolically
4. Stephen P. Ahearne-Kroll, Mysterious Explanations: Mark 4 and the Reversal of Audience Expectation
5. Robin Griffith-Jones, Going back to Galilee to See the Son of Man: Mark's Gospel as an Upside-Down Apocalypse
6. Annalisa Guida, From Parabol? to Semeion: The Nuptial Imagery in Mark and John

Relating Narrator and Character in Interpretation
7. Elizabeth Shively, The Story Matters: Solving the Problem of the Parables in Mark 3:23-27
8. Joel F. Williams, Jesus' Love for the Rich Man (Mark 10:21): A Disputed Response toward a Disputed Character
9. Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, The Jesus of Mark and the ‘Son of David'


Greek Laughter

A Study of Cultural Psychology from Homer to Early Christianity

by Stephen Halliwell

(Cambridge University Press, 2008)

GreekLaughterThe first book to offer an integrated reading of ancient Greek attitudes to laughter. Taking material from various genres and contexts, the book analyses both the theory and the practice of laughter as a revealing expression of Greek values and mentalities. Greek society developed distinctive institutions for the celebration of laughter as a capacity which could bridge the gap between humans and gods; but it also feared laughter for its power to expose individuals and groups to shame and even violence. Caught between ideas of pleasure and pain, friendship and enmity, laughter became a theme of recurrent interest in various contexts. Employing a sophisticated model of cultural history, Stephen Halliwell traces elaborations of the theme in a series of important texts: ranging far beyond modern accounts of ‘humour’, he shows how perceptions of laughter helped to shape Greek conceptions of the body, the mind and the meaning of life.

Read the review by Catherine Conybeare

From Orality to Orality:

A New Paradigm for Contextual Translation of the Bible

By James A. Maxey

(Wipf & Stock, 2009)

MaxeyOralityIn this groundbreaking work, Bible translation is presented as an expression of contextualization that explores the neglected riches of the verbal arts in the New Testament. Going beyond a historical study of media in antiquity, this book explores a renewed interest in oral performance that informs methods and goals of Bible translation today. Such exploration is concretized in the New Testament translation work in central Africa among the Vuté people of Cameroon.

This study of contextualization appreciates the agency of local communities—particularly in Africa—who seek to express their Christian faith in response to anthropological pauperization. An extended analysis of African theologians demonstrates the ultimate goals of contextualization: liberation and identity.

Oral performance exploits all the senses in experiencing communication while performer, text, and audience negotiate meaning. Performance not only expresses but also shapes identity as communities express their faith in varied contexts. This book contends that the New Testament compositions were initially performed and not restricted to individualized, silent reading. This understanding encourages a reexamination of how Bible translation can be done. Performance is not a product but a process that infuses biblical studies with new insights, methods, and expressions.

A Vehicle for Performance

Acting the Messenger in Greek Tragedy

by Margaret Dickin

(University Press of America, 2008)

VehicleForPerformanceFrom the review by Simon Perris:

In this thought-provoking study of tragic messengers, Margaret Dickin examines role-divisions in Greek tragedy with a view to better understanding 'Dramatic Messengers'. Departing from the premise that such constraints as the Three-Actor Rule were treated as aesthetic principles rather than formal limitations, A Vehicle for Performance (re)appraises this 'rule' and its consequences for performance and interpretation of fifth-century Greek tragedy. Dickin concludes that tragic poets developed messenger speeches into histrionic show-pieces, and that the DM part could be -- and was -- combined with other parts in the drama to create a 'star vehicle' for actors.

Read the whole review in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Ancient Literacies: The Culture of Reading in Greece and Rome

(Oxford University Press, 2009)

William A. Johnson (with Hold N Parker)

ancient_literacies_book.jpg Classicists have been slow to take advantage of the important advances in the way that literacy is viewed in other disciplines (including in particular cognitive psychology, socio-linguistics, and socio-anthropology). On the other hand, historians of literacy continue to rely on outdated work by classicists (mostly from the 1960's and 1970's) and have little access to the current reexamination of the ancient evidence. This timely volume attempts to formulate new interesting ways of talking about the entire concept of literacy in the ancient world--literacy not in the sense of whether 10% or 30% of people in the ancient world could read or write, but in the sense of text-oriented events embedded in a particular socio-cultural context. The volume is intended as a forum in which selected leading scholars rethink from the ground up how students of classical antiquity might best approach the question of literacy in the past, and how that investigation might materially intersect with changes in the way that literacy is now viewed in other disciplines. The result will give readers new ways of thinking about specific elements of "literacy" in antiquity, such as the nature of personal libraries, or what it means to be a bookseller in antiquity; new constructionist questions, such as what constitutes reading communities and how they fashion themselves; new takes on the public sphere, such as how literacy intersects with commercialism, or with the use of public spaces, or with the construction of civic identity; new essentialist questions, such as what "book" and "reading" signify in antiquity, why literate cultures develop, or why literate cultures matter. The book derives from a conference (a Semple Symposium held in Cincinnati in April 2006) and includes new work from the most outstanding scholars of literacy in antiquity (e.g., Simon Goldhill, Joseph Farrell, Peter White, and Rosalind Thomas).

Gottes Vorstellung

Untersuchungen zur literarischen Ästhetik und ästhetischen Theologie des Alten Testaments

by Helmut Utzschneider

BWANT 175, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer: 2007

This collection of studies on literary aesthetics in the Hebrew Bible considers reading the bible in the light of fundamental literary questions, such as “text dialogue – intertextuality and translation, and, aspects of performance. The studies focus among others  on  Gen 32:23-33; Am 7:10-17; Maleachi 1:6-2:16; Hos 5:8-6:6; Micah 4:8-5:3. For scholars interested in performance criticism, the considerations on the form and the dramatic outline of the prophetic books are of utmost interest. Utzschneider’s suggestion are well considered. His interest in the performative aspect of biblical prophets dates back to his attempts to define performative aspects in prophetic books in his dissertation on Hosea 25 years ago. Utzschneider also focuses on scenes in Micah 4:8-5:3, discussing the theory of the German scholar Hans Walter Wolff. Wolff had understood parts of the books of the latter prophets as so-called “Auftrittsskizzen”, i.e. an outline of a performance, a snapshot of a prophet’s appearance, containing mainly a written note of the once orally spoken prophetic word. Utzschneider carefully considers Wolff’s suggestions and comes to the conclusion that the dramatic character of the prophetic poetic texts is not so much a “historical”, but rather a literary dimension of Israelite prophetic texts. Micah 4:8-5:3 offers a sequel of three scenes in which different personae appear “on (a literary) stage”: the screaming of the abandonees and the turnout into the exile is heard in 4:9-10; the besieger’s mock themselves about themselves in Micah 4: 11-13), and, a third scene features a humiliated king 4:14 together with the announcement of a new ruler in 5:1-3. The dramatic interpretation of the prophet Micah is more fully spelled out in Utzschneider’s 2005 commentary on Micah in the Theologischer Verlag Zurich. The articles in a following last passage of this book, reflect broader on aesthetic theology in the Old Testament, referring more specifically to drama as a universal genre, especially on attic tragedy and Egyptian cultic drama. With this volume, Utzschneider offers fascinating perspectives on the Old Testament scholarship in the field of aesthetic theology and performance criticism.

Jesaja 40-48

by U. Berges

Herders Theologischer Kommentar zum Alten Testament, Freiburg and others: Herder 2008 (esp. p. 64-73)

Parts of the so-called prophet II-Isaiah (Is 40-55) are certainly part of the most often performed pieces of biblical literature, consider alone the many quotations in Handel’s “Messiah”. The inherently dramatic character of this work in antiquity and the matter’s long reaching scholarship history may, however, have escaped many modern scholars in biblical performance criticism. This first half-volume of the new Herder commentary series, written by Ulrich Berges, Muenster, offers an erudite summary on more than twenty scholarly contributions on Isaiah 40-55 that all focus on this prophecy’s dramatic character. Berges evaluates contributions that begin with the myth-and-ritual scholarship of J. H. Eaton, Festal Drama, 1979 and that lead until discussions about dramatic interpretations of II-Isaiah early in this century. Berges himself refers to Isaiah 40-55 as “dramatic” in the sense of a literary category, not as an on stage event.


Finding and Translating the Oral-Aural Elements in Written Language

The Case of the New Testament Epistles

by Ernst Wendland

Edwin Mellen Press 2008

ISBN: 0-7734-4959-0

wendland.jpgFrom the Preface:

...communicative Bible translation also requires the use of literary (oratorical) verbal forms which somehow reproduce at least part of the artistic beauty and rhetorical power that are present in the original text. This involves not only the attractiveness of imagery, ... but it entails also the energy and vibrancy of the language as a whole, including in particular the entire phonological dimension of biblical discourse in translation—the varied rhythms and euphony of speech as it is orally communicated to a listening audience, which, I argue, is the primary setting envisaged for the transmission of the Scriptures. That is what is needed, ideally, to engage the full sensorium of listeners more adequately, evoking their visual imagination coupled with that of sound, of course, and to a lesser extent also the associated senses of taste, smell, touch, and feeling in general. That is what good literature “does” to people—in addition to conveying a “message” of some type—and the Bible is, in fact, excellent literature (in Hebrew and Greek; cf. Wendland 2004a:6-12). Therefore, we may expect this same sort of impact and appeal in a given translation, that is, over and above the varied information, exhortation, consolation, etc., which is thereby also underscored in the process.

Twice Used Songs: Performance Criticism of the Songs of Ancient Israel

by Terry Giles and William J. Doan

(Hendrickson, 2008)

Featured at SBL 2008 on November 24 1:00 PM to 3:30 PM


Terry Giles and Bill Doan have teamed up to apply the methodologies of performance criticism to the “performances” found in songs that are used in the Old Testament narrative. These songs were first used elsewhere and thus are “twice-used.” The result is a serious, helpful, innovative appraisal of Scripture portions that often seem “out of place” within their narrative contexts. With the aid of this new application of insights from the theatre arts, portions of Scripture spring up fresh and alive, giving the present-day reader valuable insights into why these “twice-used songs” are found where they are, and how they were designed to draw in the original readers/hearers to these passages.

Performance criticism tries to understand the significance of the history of this material as something that was performed—sung, in a community, with various participants and with responses expected from the audience. The authors explore how the Old Testament writers imbedded these songs in their prose so as to add persuasiveness to the narration. The work includes two extensive bibliographies, one related to the biblical passages and the second to the emerging methodology as an aid to those encountering this inter-disciplinary work for the first time.

The Bible in Ancient and Modern Media

Story and Performance

Edited by Holly Hearon, Philip Ruge-Jones


This cutting-edge volume has been brought together in honor of Thomas Boomershine, author, scholar, storyteller, innovator. The particular occasion inviting this recognition of his work is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Society of Biblical Literature's section on The Bible in Ancient and Modern Media (BAMM), which Tom was instrumental in founding. For two and half decades this program unit has provided scholars with opportunities to explore and experience biblical material in media other than silent print, including both oral and multimedia electronic performances. This book explores many, though by no means all, of the issues lifted up in those sessions over the years.

A. K. M. Adam, Adam Gilbert Bartholomew, Arthur J. Dewey, Dennis Dewey. Joanna Dewey, Robert M. Fowler, Holly E. Hearon, David Rhoads, Philip Ruge-Jones, Whitney T. Shiner, Marti J. Steussy, Richard W. Swanson

Jesus, the Voice, and the Text:
Beyond the Oral and the Written Gospel

edited by Tom Thatcher

(Baylor, 2008)

Werner Kelber's The Oral and the Written Gospel (1983) introduced biblical scholars to interdisciplinary trends in the study of ancient media culture. The book is now widely recognized as a milestone and it has spurred wide-ranging scholarship. On the twenty-fifth anniversary of its publication, new developments in orality theory, literacy theory, and social approaches to memory call for a programmatic reappraisal of past research and future directions. This volume address these concerns. Kelber himself is interviewed at the beginning of the book and, in a closing essay, he reflects on the significance of the project and charts a course for the future.