Public Reading and Aural Intensity : An Analysis of the Soundscape in John 1–4

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)

Abstract

This study investigates the public reading of New Testament writings in early Christian communities during the first two centuries C.E. from the perspective of the lectors who prepared and performed the readings. A survey of literary and pictorial sources from the Greek and Roman world indicates that only oratory and drama were delivered from memory, whereas most literary writings were read aloud directly from a manuscript. Public reading from a manuscript is also the type of oral delivery that best fits the descriptions found in early Christian sources.
A second part of the study introduces a method of sound analysis, which utilizes the correspondence between composition and delivery of ancient literary writings. Since lectors identified structural components of a text and communicated them through vocal expression in public reading, we can better understand such reading events by reproducing the lector’s analysis. By adding a survey of aural intensity to the sound analysis, it is also possible to identify the passages that attract most attention in public reading.
The method of sound analysis is finally applied to John 1–4. The sound structures of the first four chapters of John’s gospel are identified and it is argued that they comprise a coherent introduction to Jesus, in which the shifting soundscape produced in public reading affects how Jesus is understood. This is especially true in passages characterized by dissonant sounds and in segments with first- and second-person plural statements.
The study concludes that early Christian communities in Greek and Roman cities regularly used lectors of servile status for public reading, which primarily took place in the context of weekly meal gatherings. The method of sound analysis furthermore generates fresh insights into the content and theology of John’s gospel, produces new arguments that support or dispute earlier suggestions to interpretational problems, informs our understanding of public reading and oral delivery in antiquity, attracts our attention to the imperative role of lectors in directing how listeners interpret a text, and has the potential to be fruitfully applied to other New Testament writings.

Details

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Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Philosophy, Ethics and Religion

Keywords

  • Gospel of John, Public Reading, Lector, Oral Delivery, Oral Performance, Sound Analysis, Sound Mapping, Sound Structure, Soundscape, Aural Intensity, Comma, Colon, Period, Colometry, Performance Criticism, Rhetorical Figure, Manuscripts, P46, P66, P75, Lectional Signs, Reader’s Aids, Private Reading
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Assistant supervisor
Award date2014 May 30
Print ISBNs978-91-7473-985-5
Publication statusPublished - 2014
Publication categoryResearch

Bibliographic note

Defence details Date: 2014-05-30 Time: 14:15 Place: Edens hörsal, Paradisgatan 5, Lund External reviewer(s) Name: Keith, Chris Title: Professor Affiliation: St Mary’s University, Twickenham, England --- The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015. The record was previously connected to the following departments: Centre for Theology and Religious Studies (015017000)

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