3 Observations about First-Century Oral Culture and Biblical Studies

If the New Testament was composed in a predominately oral-aural Mediterranean culture of the first century – then why is there an almost obsessive, reliance on print methods not found in the first century? This, and other, questions rise as I dig deeper in my research.

Here are three initial observations in my research:

1. Oral culture was the accepted norm in antiquity, even with printed materials available – there was a preference for the spoken word done in community.

2. Performance (storytelling, speaking, etc.) was a communal event with interaction between audience and storyteller.

3. Seeking to understand oral event and transmission of the gospels in their first century milieu is largely missing in NT scholarship – it is a gap in biblical studies (Rhoads 2010: 164).

Whatever one thinks on the subject, it is worth being aware of as current scholarship (within biblical studies and without – see Ong, Havelock, Lord, etc.) is slowly recognizing the value in understanding and appreciating the oral composition and transmission of the NT, and in my case, of Mark’s Gospel.

 

See David Rhoads. 2010. Biblical Performance Criticism: Performance as Research. Oral Tradition. 25(1), 157-198.

Paying attention to “sounds”

I am reading through the Gospel of Mark in the Greek  in preparation for writing my dissertation. I have noticed something new in my appreciation of the text and the implied author’s narrative voice. The “sounds” of the text.

Too often I read the Biblical text with an eye for grammatical constructions and sentence structure, etc. Meanwhile, I have missed the forest for the trees (pardon the cliches…). In my reading of Mark, I’ve thought about for the first time about the sounds of the words. The sounds of words when spoken with the narrative intent of the word and author. For example, in the story about the demon-possessed man in Mark 1:21-28, the words used illustrate my point. Reading these words in typical fashion can miss the emotional impact of the narrative.

Mark writes that the man with the unclean spirit cried out (anakraxen). Actually crying out what the demon says is an interesting exercise. It makes one aware of the tension and drama in this passage. It usually isn’t a pleasant experience when someone screams at you with a loud voice. Then Jesus rebukes the spirit with a command of his voice. The spirit makes the man convulse and then cries out again with a loud (megale) voice. This isn’t’ a quiet, submissive demon.

Imagine how that might have sounded if you were there. The scene in this text is ripe with drama and tension. A screaming demon and Jesus able to rebuke him with authority. I think the people in the synagogue would’ve have been afraid of the screaming man and wondering what to do. But their fear turns to amazement and awe.

Performing this text in a way that expresses the words Mark choses in his text would be impactful. If a preacher were to cry out, shout or scream I’m sure people would take notice. Perhaps, even hear the spoken Word anew for the first time.

Research Proposal – Draft One

Research Proposal – Draft One

First draft finished! (On May 26, but I haven’t updated my blog yet…) I wrote this proposal in two months, and I’m hoping that it should be ready to send to the doctoral committee by early fall (deadline is mid-November).

I’m in a bit of a research slump as I wait – and that’s not a favourable place to be – my task over the next few weeks is to be diligent with my evenings for research and building support for my proposed thesis. As I research for my doctorate, I am also trying to do book reviews for SBL – as if I have more spare time. But research can be hard when I have a book case of Euro games just itching to be played….Colt Express anyone?

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Accepted

Unisa-logoI’m happy to note that on Monday Mar 9 I was accepted to UNISA for entrance into the Doctor of Literature and Philosophy in Biblical Studies (New Testament). I plan on working in the area of Performance Critical Method in Mark’s Gospel and the theme of offense. (I am finalizing registration with UNISA and then I need to connect with my Supervisor Professor PJJ Botha).

Career Update…

So I am no longer with The Light Magazine (as of May 13, 2013). I was offered a position at Northwest Baptist Seminary, part of ACTS Seminaries and Trinity Western University as the Executive Assistant to the Dean. I am thrilled to be joining NBS in this role. I start on Aug 15. Now I am looking for options for a research PhD, but not sure where to look. (I’m thinking of starting perhaps within 5 years).

Working for a Christian Publication

11 months later – I need to dust off the moth balls off my biblioblog. I am now working for a publication called The Light Magazine out of Southern B.C., Canada. It is a Christian lifestyle magazine that seeks to encourage, engage and connect its readers in the Christian community and beyond. I get to write once and a while, but my main role is as the advertising sales rep. In the meantime I continue working on Greek, try to stay afloat of current literature and the current atmosphere of NT studies. Plus write on my blogs more than than once every 11 months!

I’ve been published!

Last november I received a copy of a research piece I assisted in for the Canadian Society of Church History. It was an appendix to their 50 year anniversary issue, listing all papers, speeches presented. It includes a subject index, author index, papers presented list and so forth. It’s great to finally be published in some capacity.

Bruce Guenter, Eric P. Fehr and Paul Lavedure. “Canadian Society of Church History Fiftieth Anniversary Cumulative Index: 196-2009.” Historical Papers: Canadian Society of Church History (2009): Appendix: 1-218.

This spring I will be published with Canadian Evangelical Review with a piece I assisted on with Dr. Larry Perkins of Northwest Baptist Seminary on Mark 6 and a reevaluation of the meaning of skandizesthai in Mark 6:3. I look forward to seeing it in print this spring.