New College, University of Edinburgh
Oral Fixation and New Testament Studies

Oral Fixation and New Testament Studies

A few weeks ago, Prof Hurtado presented his paper ‘Oral Fixation and New Testament Studies?’, a paper requested by and for publication in New Testament Studies.

 In his paper Prof Hurtado forcefully challenged Performance Criticism’s ‘fixation’ with orality, and its ‘over-simplifications’ regarding the place and function of orality in the Roman era. Drawing on historical evidence from the period, he illustrated the intricate relationship between texts and orality, but through a series of pertinent suggestions highlighted the significant status that written texts held, convincingly arguing that there is no evidence to support the claims of Performance Critics that texts were subordinated to orality, and that Early Christian Texts were composed to be performed from memory, or that they were composed in performance. Therefore, by using this historical evidence he successfully painted a more realistic picture regarding the place and function of Early Christian Texts in the Roman era.

 The paper was followed by two postgraduate student responses, Clement Grene and I. Clement’s emphasised the significance of orality, highlighting the importance of differentiating between a text that was composed to be read aloud and one that was composed to be read silently.  My response questioned, in light of ‘oral registers’ found in Early Christian Texts, whether there are aspects of Performance Criticism that can be used positively and constructively to better understand an author’s intentions and his audience’s expectations. The paper and responses positively engaged the audience and raised interesting and important questions.


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