Orality and Gospel Research: Revisiting Mark’s Gospel

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The oral dimension of the Gospel became a key explanation for the Synoptic problem in nineteenth century gospel interpretation (Westcott). The burgeoning, critical hunt for the ipsissima verba of Jesus drove two subsequent modulations: the retroversion of the written Greek sources to a postulated Aramaic original (for at least some of Jesus’ sayings) (Dalman); the form-critical excisions of authorial embellishments on gospel traditions, which were content with reliance on the Greek language of the written gospels (including Thomas and other apocryphal texts) for their reconstructions (Bultmann, Robinson). The assumption of substantial continuity and unity between the oral and written gospels was challenged in the second half of the twentieth century (Kelber). A reaction against the resultant polarisation of oral and written has swung attention to the oral/aural dimensions of the written gospels (Dewey; Horsley). A bifurcation of research has developed, one accenting the performantial elements in the delivery of the gospels, a second returning to the poiesis of the text, particularly emphasising what is called “sound-mapping” (Lee-Scott; Nässelqvist). This paper seeks to provide an overview of the changes in the understanding and development of orality in relation to gospel research and then to apply some insights from socio-anthropological linguistics to Mark’s Gospel to explore three elements crucial to its oral/aural dimensions. Firstly, what poetic and rhetorical structures are found in the text that invite an audiential response so as to produce a speech event — here reference is made to the mega-euphonic opening of Mk 1:1, the onomatopoeic extension of Mk 5:38, the assonantial associations of Mk 8:11 and the iambic abuse of Mk 7:27; secondly, what might these constructed speech events imply about the personnel involved in the delivery of Mark’s gospel demanded in Mk 13:14; and thirdly, what settings or spatial contexts can be inferred from such elements, building on the expansive territory of Mk 4. It will be argued that there is yet considerable mileage to be gained from studies in the oral dimensions of the gospels.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJournal of Gospels and Acts Research
EditorsPeter G. Bolt
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherSCD Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781925730364
ISBN (Print)9781925730357
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Grant Number

  • Orality, Gospel of Mark, Textuality


Dive into the research topics of 'Orality and Gospel Research: Revisiting Mark’s Gospel'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this