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The Oral Ethos of the Early Church: Speaking, Writing, and the Gospel of Mark
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The Oral Ethos of the Early Church: Speaking, Writing, and the Gospel of Mark


Wipf & Stock 2013

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Gathering Interest


To experience the gospel message as first-century people heard it is to move into an oral world, one with very little reliance on manuscripts. The essays in this book explore this oral world and the Gospel of Mark within it. They demonstrate the oral style of Mark’s Gospel, which suggests that it was composed orally, transmitted orally in its entirety by literate and non-literate storytellers, and survived to become part of the canon only because it was widely known orally. Women’s storytelling also thrived during the first centuries of Christianity. With the transition to manuscript authority beginning in the middle of the second century, women’s voices were often minimized, trivialized, or completely omitted in written versions. Further, when the Gospel of Mark was one of four written Gospels these voices were quickly ignored. An ancient audience hearing Mark performed, however, enjoyed a vibrant experience of the gospel message and its urgent call to follow.

In the Logos edition, this volume is enhanced by amazing functionality. Scripture citations link directly to English translations, and important terms link to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of other resources in your digital library. Perform powerful searches to find exactly what you’re looking for. Take the discussion with you using tablet and mobile apps. With Logos Bible Software, the most efficient and comprehensive research tools are in one place, so you get the most out of your study.

Key Features

  • Examines the oral traditions at the time when the Gospel of Mark came into being
  • Highlights the different sorts of oral traditions that helped to form the Gospel of Mark as we know it today
  • Explores the role that women played in oral traditions and the impact of the transition to written word


  • Part 1: The Oral-Written Media World
    • Textuality in Oral Culture: A Survey of Pauline Traditions
    • The Gospel of John in Its Oral-Written Media World
  • Part 2: Oral Patterning in Mark and Implications for Interpretation of Mark
    • The Literary Structure of Controversy Stories in Mark
    • Mark as Interwoven Tapestry: Forecasts and Echoes for a Listening Audience
    • Oral Methods of Structuring Narrative in Mark
    • The Gospel of Mark as an Oral/Aural Event: Implications for Interpretation
    • The Gospel of Mark as Oral Hermeneutic
  • Part 3: Wider Implications of the Oral Media World
    • From Storytelling to Written Text: The Loss of Early Christian Women’s Voices
    • Women on the Way: A Reconstruction of the Late First-Century Women’s Storytelling
    • The Survival of Mark’s Gospel: A Good Story?
    • Our Text of Mark: How Similar to First Century Versions?

Praise for the Print Edition

Dewey’s latest collection helpfully brings together key articles from a leading voice in the study of the Bible in its ancient media context. Taken together, the essays summarize and illustrate foundational problems in the study of Scripture as a product and shaper of early Christian performances of Jesus tradition. An essential reference tool for scholars interested in media, memory, and Mark.

Tom Thatcher, professor of New Testament, Cincinnati Christian University

In these beautifully crafted essays, Joanna Dewey explores with clarity, rigor, and insight what it means to hear the texts of the New Testament as oral texts. I am especially pleased to see the inclusion of her essays on women and storytelling, an often neglected subject. . . . This is essential reading for anyone interested in the area of orality.

Holly Hearon, T.J. and Virginia Liggett Professor of Christian Traditions and New Testament, Christian Theological Seminary

Joanna Dewey’s essays skillfully braid the strands of three scholarly approaches: narrative criticism, feminist interpretation, and orality studies, resulting in an engaging story of how New Testament texts, especially Mark’s Gospel, came to be and an inviting reflection on how that context can enrich our interpretation today.

Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, professor in the department of religion, Virginia Tech

Joanna Dewey, a leading voice in orality-scribality studies, has made an extremely valuable contribution to the lively and rapidly progressing debate on media and communication. Challenging our habits of equating early Christian identity with written texts, she demonstrates persuasively the oral-aural factor in Paul and Mark, illuminates the great significance of the storytelling tradition, and astutely develops links between oral-scribal media shifts and power relations.

Werner Kelber, Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies, Rice University

Joanna Dewey has been a pioneer in opening up the world of oral performance and the hearing of the gospel story, including the key role of women storytellers. Each new essay builds on the previous ones and leads to new insights as the gospel comes alive.

Richard Horsley, distinguished professor of liberal arts and the study of religion, University of Massachusetts, Boston

Product Details

  • Title: The Oral Ethos of the Early Church: Speaking, Writing, and the Gospel of Mark
  • Author: Joanna Dewey
  • Publisher: Wipf & Stock
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Pages: 222
  • Christian Group: Anglican
  • Resource Type: Collected Essays
  • Topic: Biblical Studies

About Joanna Dewey

Joanna Dewey is Harvey H. Guthrie Jr. Professor Emerita of Biblical Studies at the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She has written numerous articles and is the author of Markan Public Debate (1980) and a coauthor of Mark as Story 3rd ed. (2012).

Sample Pages from the Print Edition