Biblical Performance Criticism

Orality, Memory, Translation, Rhetoric, Discourse, Drama

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Performance Criticism at

SBL 2015 International Meeting

Buenos Aires, Argentina

July 20-24,2015

7/21/2015

Philip Ruge-Jones, Texas Lutheran University

Discovering Where the Bodies are Hidden

The end of Mark’s Gospel leaves its hearers with an empty tomb and a promise to see Jesus in Galilee. Eschatology erupts geographically. Resurrection does not reside in the end of the narrative where the women fear that Jesus has become one more of the desaparecidos. Resurrection occupies another terrain, occurring throughout the whole narrative wherever those hidden in the margins erupt into view as agents of God’s reign. This paper brings Brazilian theologian Vítor Westhelle’s “latitudinal eschatological perspective” into conversation with Mark’s narrative construction showing how Mark’s marginal characters (Simon’s mother-in-law, the man with the withered hand, the paralyzed man, the bleeding woman) become the threshold through which God’s reign “takes place” (Westhelle). While these characters may be passed over quickly when the narrative is limited to a printed page, in performance they rise to the center and take on flesh as dramatic exemplars of God’s transforming work. In a critical performance of their “dangerous memory” (Metz), the narrative is raised off of the two-dimensional page and takes up space. In performance, more is discovered than an additional dimension to add to the other two dimensions. Rather, dimensionality itself is restored to the narrative! It occupies space. When storytellers from the margins of our world perform the narrative, their enactment becomes a “rehearsal of revolution” (Augosto Boal) or, as the evangelist might say, a rehearsal of God’s reign. They occupy a place of precarious potentiality, the “margins in which possibilities can be born but where the tragic, the terrible lurks, and annihilation impends (Westhelle).” Raising up these hidden bodies opens up a way for the community to move in new directions. Their telling “takes place” and we find ourselves in Galilee where the risen Jesus promises to be found.

Marcelo Carneiro, Faculdade Presbiteriana Independente de São Paulo

Orality, Collective Memory and Identity in Synoptic Gospels: a study in the Sabbath issue on Mk 2.23-28, Mt 12.1-8 and Lk 6.1-5

In this paper, we will study the collective memory as oral tradition formative, as well the orality and textuality relation in Synoptic Gospels narratives and memories. For us, the Gospels narratives are evidenciary of the communities identity that generate them, in the Greek-roman World, that orality and textuality has the same influence. Still nowadays are many indigenous cultures wherein the oral culture is predominant. The our study object is the pericope of the Sabbath in Mk 2.23-28, Mt 12.1-8 and Lk 6.1-5, that read the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees, about Plucking of the Grain on the Sabbath.

7/22/2015

Shabo Talay, Freie Universität Berlin

The Bible in Modern Aramaic: Oral and Literary Translation Efforts

In their liturgies, Syriac Christians have traditionally read the Bible in Syriac, in the Peshitta version. Since the majority of the faithful do not understand the classical language, the priests have to translate the text simultaneously into a modern language, most often Modern Aramaic. Contrary to Eastern Syrians (Assyrians and Chaldeans), Western Syrians do not possess a modern literary language. Thus, there are no literary translations of the Bible into their version of the Aramaic language, called Turoyo. Instead, Western Syrians have produced several oral translations that are recorded on audio material or published via the Internet as MP3 files. Moreover, for several years already efforts are on their way to create a standardized modern Aramaic language based on the language that is in use in the Turabdin. This version of Aramaic has been used to produce a translation of the Bible. By now, three such translations have been published. Other translations are in progress. This paper will present and analyze the translation techniques used in the process and offer a comparative study, considering the pros and cons, of oral vs. literary Bible translations into the Neo-Aramaic language of the Turabdin.

7/23/2015

Lee A. Johnson, East Carolina University

Paul’s Letters Re-Heard: Investigating the Reception and On-going Role of Paul’s Correspondence through Performance Critical Questions

Performance criticism has inspired questions about the initial delivery of Paul’s letters to his churches. In orally-focused societies, it is not the written text, but the oral message that is primary, precisely the inverse roles that are acknowledged in current Western culture. With this view in mind, more focus needs to be put upon the actions of the couriers who presented the contents of the letters, interpreted ambiguous or troublesome sections, responded to questions from the listening community, and attempted to mollify passionate audience members. This paper focuses upon Paul’s correspondence to two communities—Corinth and Galatia—and examines passages from letters to each church from the perspective of the performer and the audience. These two churches are selected because they stand as examples of a successful letter (2 Corinthians) and an unsuccessful letter (Galatians). This paper explores the role of the courier in the delivery, performance, and aftermath of the performance, and will envision the respective responses of receptive and recalcitrant audiences to various passages in the letters. Following the discussion of the initial performance, a model for the on-going life of the letter is constructed, attending to issues of editing, abridgement, and adaptation for future use for Paul’s successful, and not so successful correspondence. This paper concludes that the model of Paul’s authority vis-à-vis his writings, which has been the long-standing approach in biblical scholarship, is at odds with the model of letter composition, delivery, and performance in largely non-literate societies.

Jerome Douglas, Valley Forge Christian College

Moses—Center Stage: A Performance Criticism Analysis of the Use of the Moses-Figure in 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch

Products of an oral culture, 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch stand in the shadow of the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C. E. Both of these texts employ the figure of Moses to convey a message relevant to the contemporary context. Scholarly discussion on the composition and inter-relationship of these two documents has ranged from the fruits of source criticism to arguing for the primacy of one document over the other. More recent scholarship, however, has posited the interdependence of the two in a climate of both oral and textual composition. The discussion concerning the use of the Moses-figure in these two texts has yet to fully explore this Mosaic-figure employment through the lens of the original oral/ aural nature of these two texts. With its emphasis on reading texts as resulting from oral-aural events, performance criticism has emerged in recent decades as a tool to examine Second Temple era texts as performance events. As a “discreet” discipline, performance criticism intersects with historical, genre, rhetorical, orality, and ideological criticisms—to name a few. This paper will utilize performance criticism analysis to examine the use of the Moses figure in the apocalypses of 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch. It will seek to consider the Mosaic-figure engagement, in these texts, from the standpoint of oral/ aural performance events and evaluate the rhetorical impact, thereof.

Andrew Montanaro, The Catholic University of America

The Use of Memory in the Old Testament Quotations of John’s Gospel

The Gospel of John, like other ancient documents, was produced in a culture that was predominately oral, wherein the handing on of tradition depended primarily on memorization. Recent research in human memory has shed light on the specific kinds of mistakes that occur in memory recall. These “memory variants” have certain definable characteristics that correspond to observed human memory lapses and have also been observed in homeric and Old Testament studies. They have not been widely studied, if at all, in the New Testament. About half of the quotations of the Old Testament in John’s Gospel differ from their source texts. These variances have often been explained as John’s theological re-appropriation of his sources. However, this paper proposes that the peculiarities of the Old Testament quotations in John’s gospel can more easily be described in terms of memory variants, ultimately showing that John was recalling the Old Testament from memory. Furthermore, the verbatim quotations are usually taken from poetic texts, which inherently contain constraints (e.g., rhyme, meter) that enhance memory recall. These observations reinforce the assertion that the differences noted can be explained as memory variants.

Max Stern, Ariel University Center of Samaria

Song of Moses Ha’azinu: A Musical Exegesis for Contrabass and Orchestra: Lecture-DVD Presentation

Deuteronomy, the last of the Five Books of Moses consists in the final addresses, teachings, and testimonies of Moses to the children of Israel. Shortly before his death, the Lawgiver crystallizes his message in a visionary epilogue, Ha’azinu or Song of Moses, a poetic addition to earlier prose orations, reviewing the people’s history and destiny, and giving lyricism full reign, Give Ear O Ye Heavens, and I will speak; And let the earth hear the words of my mouth (Deut. 32:1). Conceived as a cantata for contrabass and orchestra, Ha'azinu by Max Stern is an instrumental characterization of Moses’ farewell song to the children of Israel. It foretells the history and prophetic mission of the Jewish people, and contrasts God’s promise of loving-kindness and faithfulness with Israel's ingratitude and faithlessness. Slow of speech and heavy of tongue, the contrabass, as Moses is purported to be in the Bible, takes on the part of the Lawgiver: exhorting, reproving, and justifying the ways of God to man.

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