“Performance Criticism”: A Critique
I’m pleased to announce that my critique of “performance criticism” as advocated by a small but enthusiastic number of NT scholars has just been published in the online advance format of the journal New Testament Studies 60 (2014): 321-40 (DOI: 10.1017/S0028688514000058). By permission of Cambridge University Press, I’m also allowed to post the published version on this site. See “Oral Fixation in NT Studies” under the “Selected Published Essays” tab, or click here. Here is the abstract of the article:
In recent decades, emphasizing the ‘orality/aurality’ of the Roman world, some have asserted that in early Christian circles texts were ‘performed’, not ‘read’ (and could not have been read), likening this action to descriptions of oratorical delivery of speeches (from memory) or theatrical performance. Some have even proposed that some texts, particularly the Gospel of Mark, were composed in ‘performance’, and not through an author working up a text in written form. These claims seem to be based on numerous over-simplifications (and so distortions) of relevant historical matters, however, and also involve a failure to take account of the full range of relevant data about the use of texts in early Christianity and the wider Roman-era setting. So, at least some of the crucial claims and inferences made are highly dubious. In this essay, I offer corrections to some crucial over-simplifications, and I point to the sorts of data that must be taken into account in drawing a more reliable picture of the place of texts and how they functioned in early Christianity.