In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Performance Criticism

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Performance Studies
  • Performance Studies and the Bible
  • Performativity and Speech Acts
  • Performance and Translation Studies
  • Orality and Aurality in the Biblical World
  • Studies Based on the Hebrew Bible in General
  • Studies Based on Torah/Pentateuch
  • Studies Based on Former Prophets
  • Studies Based on Latter Prophets
  • Studies Based on Kethuvim/Writings
  • Studies Based on the New Testament in General
  • Studies Based on the Gospel Tradition
  • Studies Based on Other New Testament Writings
  • Studies Based on Other Ancient Texts
  • Performance in Liturgy

Biblical Studies Performance Criticism
Jin H. Han
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 April 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 April 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0301


Performance criticism investigates the formative force of performative contexts and their elements that contribute to the shaping and reception of the text (originally from the Latin textere “weave”). In this interpretive methodology, performance serves as an inclusive term that covers not only the oral delivery of the text but also the formation of tradition in performative contexts, ancient and modern. Performance criticism also studies the oral sound of the text and its aural reception by live audiences as well as accompanying performative features like gesture, vocal articulation, and the performer’s presence that brings the text to life. The Biblical Performance Criticism Series from Cascade Books has provided a vibrant outlet of publication.

General Overviews

Performance criticism explores the performative features of the ancient text, which was produced in the oral cultural matrix of antiquity and was aurally transmitted to the targeted audience and others as demonstrated in Iverson 2014 and Rhoads 2006. With performance criticism, Hearon and Ruge-Jones 2009 and Thatcher, et al. 2017 pays particular attention to the interaction of the text, performative context, and various media of communication. Lee 2010, Matthews 2019, Perry 2016, Perry 2019, Rhoads 2009, and Swanson 2010 chart the path for research and interpretations that can fruitfully uncover the rich meaning of the text through performance criticism. Ruge-Jones 2010 highlights the pedagogical application of insights from performance criticism.

  • Hearon, Holly E., and Philip Ruge-Jones, eds. The Bible in Ancient and Modern Media: Story and Performance. Biblical Performance Criticism. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2009.

    Marking the twenty-fifth anniversary of the program unit of the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media, this collection of articles discusses various modes of media, storytelling, and oral performance in multiple cultural settings in history.

  • Iverson, Kelly R., ed. From Text to Performance: Narrative and Performance Criticisms in Dialogue and Debate. Biblical Performance Criticism 10. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2014.

    This collection of essays compares narrative criticism with performance criticism, underscoring that the 1st-century audience experienced the text through a spoken performance.

  • Lee, Margaret E. “How Performance Changed My (Scholarly) Life.” Currents in Theology and Mission 37.4 (2010): 304–311.

    The author underscores the performed nature of ancient literature (see Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy: The Technology of the Word [London: Methuen, 1982] and Werner Kelber, The Oral and the Written Gospel: The Hermeneutics of Speaking and Writing in the Synoptic Tradition, Mark, Paul and Q [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983]) and recommends that the text be experienced in performance rather than in a linear reading.

  • Matthews, Jeanette. “Scripture as Performance: Biblical Performance Criticism—What Is It and How Do I Use It?” St Mark’s Review 249.3 (2019): 93–114.

    The article presents biblical performance criticism as a practice that facilitates reenactment of biblical traditions in contemporary contexts.

  • Perry, Peter S. Insights from Performance Criticism. Reading the Bible in the 21st Century Insights Series. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctt1c84g4c

    The author explores ways in which performance criticism unveils the meaning of the text.

  • Perry, Peter S. “Biblical Performance Criticism: Survey and Prospects.” Religions 10.2 (2019): 1–15.

    DOI: 10.3390/rel10020117

    The article provides an overview of biblical performance criticism, which investigates communicative features of the text, and observes the dynamics of performance in a heuristic rendition of the text in view of constructing a theoretical undergirding.

  • Rhoads, David. “Performance Criticism: An Emerging Methodology in Second Temple Studies—Parts I and II.” Biblical Theology Bulletin 36.3–36.4. (2006): 118–133, 164–184.

    DOI: 10.1177/014610790603600304

    This detailed introduction published in two parts elucidates the ancient context of performance and provides a lucid guide to the way performance criticism may enlist other disciplines.

  • Rhoads, David. “What is Performance Criticism?” In The Bible in Ancient and Modern Media: Story and Performance. Edited by Holly E. Hearon and Philip Ruge-Jones, 83–100. Biblical Performance Criticism 1. Eugene, OR: Cascade, 2009.

    This introduction to performance criticism proffers the matrix of performance criticism as an interpretive method.

  • Ruge-Jones, Philip. “Performance Criticism as Critical Pedagogy.” Currents in Theology and Mission 37.4 (2010): 288–295.

    This article proffers performance criticism as critical pedagogy that helps to unveil imperial power dynamics that prevailed in the Roman Empire and persist today.

  • Swanson, Richard W. “Truth, Method, and Multiplicity: Performance as a Mode of Interpretation.” Currents in Theology and Mission 37.4 (2010): 312–319.

    The article juxtaposes the pursuit of essential meaning in historical criticism with performance criticism that sponsors polyvalence in meaning. The author proffers the latter as a creative exercise that does justice to multiplicities of the text, life, and worship.

  • Thatcher, Tom, Chris Keith, Raymond F. Person, Elsie R. Stern, and Judith Odor, eds. The Dictionary of the Bible and Ancient Media. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.

    This reference work covers relevant topics relating to communications media of the biblical world including the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires.

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