Thomas E. Boomershine

Oct 4, 2023

First-Century Gospel Storytellers and Audiences

The Gospels as Performance Literature

Cascade Books 2022

Tom Boomershine, one of the pioneers of performance criticism for biblical texts, joined the New Books Network to discuss the publication of First-Century Gospel Storytellers and Audiences: The Gospels as Performance Literature (Cascade Books, 2022), a collection of his essays dating back to 1981. On this episode, we discuss his life and career in scholarship, his conviction that the New Testament be studied as an oral/aural (spoken/heard) experience, and his compelling argument that the Gospel of Mark was not first written and not merely experienced as a performance but also composed in a performance setting concurrent with the major events of the Jewish-Roman War (ca. 66–73 CE). Among other findings, Boomershine’s work provides insight into the narratively dissatisfying ending of the Gospel of Mark, which he performs on this episode, and although the extension of performance theory to other books of the New Testament is only presently in its infancy, he makes a case for its broad applicability beyond just the Gospel of Mark—even if, as can be argued, the composition of other gospels, letters, and books betrays their production within a more explicitly textual culture.

Thomas E. Boomershine (Ph.D., Union Theological Seminary, 1974) is the Founder of the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media group (1982) at the Society of Biblical Literature and the Network of Biblical Storytellers International (1977). He has taught both in the academy and the church since his graduate studies, including serving as the G. Ernest Thomas Distinguished Professor of Christianity and Communication at United Theological Seminary (Dayton, Ohio) from 2004–2006 and as Professor of New Testament for over 20 years before that. His passions and research interests include telling the stories of Jesus by heart, the pedagogy of performing the gospels, and situating the gospels—especially the Gospel of Mark—in the context of ancient media culture as performance literature. His prior publications include Story Journey: An Invitation to the Gospel as Storytelling (Abingdon, 1988), The Messiah of Peace: A Performance-Criticism Commentary on Mark’s Passion-Resurrection Narrative (Cascade, 2015), and numerous journal articles and book chapters.

Rob Heaton (Ph.D., University of Denver, 2019) hosts Biblical Studies conversations for New Books in Religion and teaches New Testament, Christian origins, and early Christianity at Anderson University in Indiana. He recently authored The Shepherd of Hermas as Scriptura Non Grata: From Popularity in Early Christianity to Exclusion from the New Testament Canon (Lexington Books, 2023). For more about Rob and his work, or to offer feedback related to this episode, please visit his website at https://www.robheaton.com.

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Rob Heaton

Rob Heaton (Ph.D., University of Denver, 2019) hosts Biblical Studies conversations for New Books in Religion and teaches New Testament, Christian origins, and early Christianity at Anderson University in Indiana. His research focuses on the New Testament canon and other early Christian literature, especially subcanonical books like The Shepherd of Hermas and the Apostolic Fathers. For more about Rob and his work, or to offer feedback related to his podcast episodes, please see his website at https://www.robheaton.com.
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