David Rhoads utters Jesus’ words, as recorded by Mark, when he proclaims, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” (Mark 4:9).
But it’s clearly his message too. Performing New Testament books and
teaching seminarians how to do that, Rhoads strives to give Christians
today an experience of listening to the spoken word that echoes all the
way back to the first century.
what he teaches, David Rhoads performs Scripture from the heart, from
memory, during a gathering at the Lutheran School of Theology at
Chicago where he is professor of New Testament.|
“The New Testament writings were originally performances to a communal
audience—because 95 percent of the people weren’t literate,” said
Rhoads, professor of New Testament at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago
“Each writing is like a score for a musical concert or a script for the
theater. We’ve lost the experience of the oral performance of the New
Testament. It’s like we read the score but we never hear the music. Or
we read Shakespeare but we never see a play.”
Rhoads has been
on a mission to change that for some 30 years.It started when a back
injury confined him to bed for a month, and he spent the time
memorizing the Gospel of Mark. He’s since performed Mark more than 300
times—sharing his passion for the spoken word with congregations and
other audiences nationwide.
“My initial motivation for
learning it was that I thought it would help people experience the
Gospel through a different medium,” Rhoads said. “It would be fresh for
them. I don’t try to repeat how the ancients did it. I just try to
bring it alive for today’s audiences. And it does seem to have that
effect on people. But it also turns out that memorization and
performance of Scripture have become my main tools for doing research.”
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