Performing the Gospel

PDF-file by Richard A. Horsley

Performing the Gospel PDF ebook download With the dethroning of form-criticism, there is a search for a new means of approaching the gospels. Rather than seeing the gospels as solely literary texts, folks like Werner Kelber are proposing that we understand them first as oral texts. Though when Birger Gerhardsson first proposed this idea, many rejected it as ridiculous, it has been gaining ground over the last 40 years as further publications support the need to reevaluate the gospels in the light of orality.

One such contribution to the discussion is Performing the Gospel: Orality, Memory and Mark. Richard Horsley, along with Jonathan Draper and John Miles Foley, has put together a fine collection of essays that ought to work well for those seeking an introduction to orality in general.

The contributions to the volume are as follows:

Introduction, Richard A. Horsley
The Implications of Orality for Studies of Biblical Texts, Holly E. Hearon
Gendered and Otherness in Rabbinic Oral Culture: On Gentiles, Undisciplined Jews, and Their Women, Martin S. Jaffee
Many Voices, One Script: The Prophecies of George Khambule, Jonathan A. Draper
Form as a Mnemonic Device: Cultural Texts and Cultural Memory, Jan Assmann
Memory in Oral Tradition, John Miles Foley
Tradition in the Mouth of the Hero: Jesus as Interpreter of Scripture, Ellen Bradshaw Aitken
Jesus and the Canon: The Early Jesus Traditions in the Context of the Origins of the New Testament Canon, Jens Schroter
Interfaces of Orality and Literature in the Gospel of Mark, Vernon K. Robbins
Memory Technology and the Composition of Mark, Whitney Shiner
A Prophet Like Moses and Elijah: Popular Memory and Cultural Patters in Mark, Richard A. Horsley

I'll comment briefly on the overall impact of the work and on a few essays that stood out. First off, there is a ton of extremely interesting information in this volume. Anyone who reads through these contributions will certainly be well introduced to the kind of concerns and projects arising out of studies in orality. However, if you are buying this book for its handling of the Gospel of Mark, don't buy it. The only essay that really engaged Mark's Gospel was Shiner's, and though Horsley's was supposed to (it was in Part III: Orality, Literacy, Memory, and Mark), he only gave a couple pages to discussing Mark at all. My suggestion is that the publishers drop "Mark" from the subtitle, it's misleading at best. Actually, overall, it wasn't what I expected. Which isn't necessarily bad, but if you are buying it for the implications of its title, you may be disappointed. Even the issue of performance was not addressed nearly as much as I expected.

With that said, there were a couple essays contributed that certainly make the volume worth buying. For one, Holly Hearon's article was a great introduction to those interested in orality and its significance in Biblical studies. It was concise but contained a breadth of knowledge. Second, Jan Assmann's essay on form as a mnemonic device was excellent. I found myself underlining line after line of material. This was without a doubt the best contribution to the book. Lastly, I found Whitney Shiner's contribution rather interesting. Though, it was not very convincing in its overall project - very speculative - the information on memory technology was truly fascinating and it opened up many paths for future study.

In closing, this a good collection. Though, the title is misleading. It is really focused primarily on Orality, with a few secondary consideration of memory and the Gospel of Mark. I'd suggest it for those who are already familiar with the field, however, newcomers would likely still be able to glean from it. Horsley has brought many interesting articles together in one place, and for that, this book is to be commended.

NOTE: This book was provided free of charge in exchange for an honest review.

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