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From Orality to Orality: A New Paradigm for Contextual Translation of the Bible
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From Orality to Orality: A New Paradigm for Contextual Translation of the Bible


Cascade 2009

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In this groundbreaking work, Bible translation is presented as an expression of contextualization that explores the neglected riches of the verbal arts in the New Testament. Going beyond a historical study of media in antiquity, this book explores a renewed interest in oral performance that informs methods and goals of Bible translation today. Such exploration is concretized in the New Testament translation work in central Africa among the Vuté people of Cameroon.

This study of contextualization appreciates the agency of local communities—particularly in Africa—who seek to express their Christian faith in response to anthropological pauperization. An extended analysis of African theologians demonstrates the ultimate goals of contextualization: liberation and identity.

Oral performance exploits all the senses in experiencing communication while performer, text, and audience negotiate meaning. Performance not only expresses but also shapes identity as communities express their faith in varied contexts. This book contends that the New Testament compositions were initially performed and not restricted to individualized, silent reading. This understanding encourages a reexamination of how Bible translation can be done. Performance is not a product but a process that infuses biblical studies with new insights, methods, and expressions.

This volume in the Biblical Performance Criticism Series is a great addition to your electronic library if you’re wanting to learn more about oral tradition and performance. In the Logos edition, this subject is easily searchable and more convenient than ever before, with Scripture references linked directly to your favorite Bible translation and cross references linked to other resources in your digital library.

Key Features

  • Presents biblical translation as contextualization
  • Explores the orality, literacy, and performance of Scripture
  • Offers bible translation in the contexts of Africa


  • Translation as Contextualization
  • Bible Translation in the Contexts of Africa
  • Orality, Literacy, and Performance
  • Literacy and Orality in Relation to the New Testament
  • Biblical Performance Criticism and Bible Translation
  • Bible Translation for Performance: A Case Study with the Vuté People of Cameroon

Praise for the Print Edition

What does ‘orality’ and public performance have to do with translating the written Scriptures of God? Many misconceptions about the nature of the biblical texts and their communication in modern world languages are corrected in this thoroughly engaging, wide-ranging book that offers an innovative, multidisciplinary approach to the subject. I can heartily recommend James Maxey’s pioneering work on contextualizing the New Testament for effective contemporary, multi-sensory re-presentation. This is a vital resource for all students, exegetes, commentators, teachers, translators, and other communicators of the Word.

—Ernst R. Wendland, instructor, Lusaka Lutheran Seminary

In this volume, which brings together studies on Bible translation, orality, and performance criticism, James Maxey leads us into new and exciting ways of thinking about and doing Bible translation that takes into serious consideration the local context of the translation. The specific reference to the New Testament translation in Cameroon takes the reader from theory to actual practice and shows the exciting future of Bible translation for performance.

Roger L. Omanson, translation consultant, United Bible Societies

Discarding simplistic communication models and insisting on the role of receptor community in the construction of meaning, James Maxey’s From Orality to Orality deploys a strategic array of tools (orality studies, postcolonial critique, performance criticism, contextual case studies) that allows development towards a (contextual) ‘missiology of Bible translation’ and aids in the much needed redefinition of Bible translation as a power activity. In this way, Dr. Maxey also contributes significantly to the relocation of Bible translation within the broader context of translation studies.

Philip H. Towner, dean, The Nida Institute for Biblical Scholarship

Product Details

  • Title: From Orality to Orality: A New Paradigm for Contextual Translation of the Bible
  • Author: James A. Maxey
  • Series: Biblical Performance Criticism
  • Publisher: Wipf and Stock
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • Pages: 234

About James A. Maxey

James A. Maxey is director of Program Ministries for Lutheran Bible Translators in Aurora, Illinois.