I have been following the discussion about readers and narrators and narratees etc with a great deal of puzzlement. When any of the gospel writers putMessage 1 of 2 , Nov 30, 2001View SourceI have been following the discussion about 'readers' and 'narrators' and
'narratees' etc with a great deal of puzzlement.
When any of the gospel writers put quill to scroll or leather, what did
they expect would happen to their words?
They knew that somebody would stand up in an assembly of the faithful
and read out some of their words to those listening.
The only 'reader' was the one appointed to read the text aloud, and the
only 'listener' was those who had gathered on the Lord's Day to worship
and be taught in their faith.
The notion that any significant number of people would take a
scroll/book home and read it to themselves is ludicrous in the extreme.
As any history of reading will tell you, silent reading of texts/books
is very recent, at the most not more than five hundred years old.
All the letters in the NT were written to be read aloud in particular
congregations and communities. Only later were these circulated and
archived. But even then, private reading of these texts was almost
unknown, except by church teachers etc.
The FG was written for those believers in a particular community. We may
differ on where that community may have been. But the author/s designed
it for that community, and knew it would be read aloud and studied
within that community's worship environment.
Is there any evidence that any of the gospel authors expected their book
to be kept and revered as scripture?
We also need to bear in mind that the original writings for quite some
time had no word divisions or much at all in the way of punctuation or
upper case letters. The actual reading aloud of these manuscripts must
have been laborious and lengthy essays in public speaking.
I have just reread Luke 4:16-30. It is very revealing as an example of
the dynamics between a reader-aloud and the text. Jesus has just
returned after leaving home, being baptized and spending forty days
alone. He goes back to his boyhood synagogue and is asked to read from
the LXX of Isaiah. He opens the scroll and himself selects Isaiah
61:1-2. (I suspect this was not the lectionary reading for that
Sabbath.) Without further ado he reads it aloud. 'The Spirit of the Lord
is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight
to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the
Lord's favour.' Once he started on that text, I see him look round at
the congregation and recite it from memory, probably having reflected on
it in the wilderness.
The author does not say that Jesus named the author of the text. The
overall response of the congregation, together with Jesus' affirmation
that 'today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing' seems to
indicate that the first person pronouns of the text became the persona
of the reader, Jesus. The net result was that the congregation accused
Jesus of blasphemy and rushed him out, hoping to execute him.
Now, when, some thirty years or so after these events, a reader stands
up in a congregation somewhere and reads this passage out aloud to the
worshippers, what process is going on? How do we account for the layers
of stimulus-response going on here? 'Implied readers', 'ideal readers',
'narrator', 'narratee'--none of these systems of interpretation can
explain the link between the author/s of the text, the reader-aloud and
The author/s of the FG wrote for their own worshipping/studying
community, knowing that they would hear it in community meetings. Most
of those community members would not be able to read it for themselves,
I suspect that, as the FG began to circulate to other, different
communities, their response to hearing it may have been significantly
different from the community for which it had been designed.
I want to make this very clear: I am not in any way denying the value of
some of these methods of interpretation. I have found them valuable in
reading modern texts. The course in semiology I did as part of my first
degree was invaluable and a real eye-opener. But as a way of getting at
the connection between the author/s of the FG and the first community of
listeners, I find it seriously flawed. It presupposes a culture of
reading and writing that did not come into being for several hundred
Ross Saunders from Down Under.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Ross Saunders makes some interesting observations about reading/listening. I assume that most of us know the basic two points about reading in antiquity, asMessage 1 of 2 , Nov 30, 2001View SourceRoss Saunders makes some interesting observations
I assume that most of us know the basic two points
about reading in antiquity, as applied to John Gospel:
1) the gospel was likely written to be read aloud to a
2) even if read privately, the reader probably read
But it's good to point these out again. I suspect that
the phenomenological experience of hearing is quite
different from that of modern-day, private reading. I
know that I listen differently than I read.
As for number two, I find that in my private reading,
I sometimes read especially perplexing passages aloud
to see if I can understand them better (which means
that there must be some sort of phenomenological
difference there, too).
Anyway, if there are phenomenological differences,
then this should have implications for reader-response
theory. But would it mean the deconstruction of
categories like "narratee"? We can still make
distinctions among types of "hearers", can't we?
Couldn't we have:
If not, why not?
Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
Hanshin University (Korean Theological University)
447-791 Kyunggido Osan-City
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