#Book Review Part 1: From Text to Performance

From Text to Performance: Narrative and Performance Criticisms in Dialogue and Debate (Biblical Performance Criticism)

Edited by Kelly R. Iverson

About the Author

Kelly R. Iverson is Associate Professor of New Testament at Baylor University. He is the author of Gentiles in the Gospel of Mark (2007), and coeditor of Mark as Story (2011) and Unity and Diversity in the Gospels and Paul (2012).


  • Series: Biblical Performance Criticism
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Cascade Books (October 31, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1625649878
  • ISBN-13: 978-1625649874

I’d like to thank the kind folks at Wipf & Stock for providing me the a review copy of this volume in exchange for my honest review.

A hat tip goes to Dr. Christopher Skinner who blogged about this book here. I also want to mention for those who may not be familiar with Narrative and Performance Criticism (like me) there is a website devoted to this genre, click here to enjoy the site.

There are 8 essays in this volume.

The first essay it Titled:

Performance Criticism: A Paradigm Shift in New Testament Studies. By David Rhoads & Joanna Dewey.

The essay explains the genre of Performance Criticism is all about informing the reader that the paradigm shift comes as a result or our recognition of the 1st century biblical words as cultures in which orality and memory predominated over writing. Lets face it, if most of the ancient world didn’t have the means to read and write, it’s really not that much of a jump to agree with this opening introduction.

As the essay unpacks the details, using Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolution to understand the nature of paradigm shifts. I really liked how the authors’ provided clarity (on pages 7-8) explaining the importance of observing how they are indeed not setting up an oral/written divide or a binary opposition but a model that encompasses interrelationships of speech, memory and writing. They are advocating a major shift in gravity to a focus on orality, memory and writing that are actualized performances. As I read this, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus and the Apostles in theaters, and places they visited, having emotionally charge speeches and debates, loved it.

The 2nd essay is from Philip Ruge-Jones and is titled:

Those sitting around Jesus, subtitled Situating the Storyteller within Mark’s Gospel.

What this essay does is explain the details of the orator and the narration methods as the story teller using the Gospel of Mark. An example of this (on page 37) gave me clarity, when speaking about the narrative stance of the narrative that comes out of the storyteller’s (The Gospel of Mark) narrating the shapes your portrayal of various characters’ speech and actions. If this sounds like acting, to me, you’d be correct. This doesn’t downplay the high view of Scripture one may have.

The 3rd essay is from Holly E. Hearon and is titled:

The Gospel of John

The author explains how the Canonical Gospels are  considered and how the characters in the Forth Gospel stand out. The reasoning is, in part, several characters who engage in sustained and sometimes complex conversations with Jesus, giving them a high level of visibility and individualism. In the essay the author focuses on Nicodemus her reasoning is regarding the variety of interpretations of Nicodemus’s character are to be found. This makes him a particularly interesting character to explore from the perspectives of both narrative and performance criticisms. Also, noting this essay was completed prior (and didn’t have access) to Characters and Characterization in the Gospel of John, edited by Chris Skinner. Holly’s hope is to give readers a sense of how each methodology works, what is to be gained from each approach, and how the two, at many points, compliment each other.

The forth essay is from Thomas E. Boomershine and is titled:

Audience Asides and the Audiences of Mark, subtitled The Difference Performance Makes

The author explains the reassessment of Mark as performance literature, rather than as a text read by the readers, invites a reexamination of some details that have been foundational for the identification of Mark’s audience in recent Markan scholarship. Thomas uses two statements in Mark that have a central role in the definition of Mark’s original historical context: Mark: 7:3-4 (Jewish ceremonial washings) and Mark 15:21 (identification of Simon of Cyrene as the father of Alexander and Rufus). The thesis here is that these statements were not narrative comments by the author/narrator to readers, but were storyteller asides to the audiences to whom Mark’s story was told. So when the audience asides are heard in the context of ancient performance, the exegetical focus shifts from private communication for the readers to public communication for multifaceted audiences and points to a larger setting and purpose for the whole story.

Part two will be completed tomorrow.

You can purchase this volume at Amazon & Wipf & Stock Publishers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s