Saturday, June 20, 2015

Thomas Boomershine and the Quote of the Day

Thomas E. Boomershine, Professor Emeritus of New Testament and of Christianity and Communications at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, has a fantastic quote in his new book, The Messiah of Peace: A Performance-Criticism Commentary on Mark's Passion-Resurrection Narrative (Cascade) on the importance of hearing a story performed orally and what is missed by the modern practice of silent reading and the distance of the reader from the narrative.

He states:
One of the reasons why hearing the story rather than reading it in silence makes a difference is that the storyteller narrates the events and the words of the characters in a tone communicating more than factual information, and draws listeners into identification with characters who may be outwardly different. Full engagement with sympathetic identification with the characters of the story is fully possible also with silent reading if readers are attentive to and psychologically open to the clues to the storyteller's invitation. But if readers maintain a high degree of psychological distance in the reading of the story, its actually meaning can become virtually the opposite of the intended meaning, communicated inherently in the structure of the story. The source of that distance, therefore, may be a change either in the self-identity of the listener( from identifying oneself in the post-war first century as Hellenistic Judean to identifying oneself in the post-Nicea fourth century as a Christian) or in the psychological distance to the story(sympathetic hearing to critical silent reading) or both in combination. But, regardless of the cause of this shift, the story can undergo a radical transformation in its meaning. Thus, the story of the man and the woman in the garden can change, especially for male readers and theologians, fro meaning 'we violated God's covenant and our effort to blame it on the woman is a joke' to 'the woman violated God's covenant.' Likewise in Mark's story, the meaning of the story, especially for later Christians who did not identify themselves as Jews, can shift from 'we were involved in the death of the Messiah' to 'the Jews killed Jesus.' (30; italics original)

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