Chapter 6, Ronald J. Allen, “Performance and the New Testament in Preaching” pp. 99-116
Allen’s chapter draws a sharp dichotomy between written and oral communication. After stating his presupposition that the New Testament emerged from an oral culture as opposed to a literary culture, he builds a case for ongoing orality of biblical proclamation. One of the significant weaknesses of Allen’s argument is his view that the first century audience was non-literate. Counter to his argument, and even found within his statements, is the fact that the literature was just that, literature. It was intended for oral/aural use but it had its own, distinctly literary, style. Therefore, it is appropriate to interpret the New Testament as literature, but to gain insight from the orality. Allen seems to dismiss the literary quality in favor of orality alone. He commends the practice of reading large portions of text aloud, which is certainly a good practice. Yet the original lectors were those trained in public speaking. Their responsibility was to understand the text well and read it faithfully. This is not identical to preaching or dramatizing a text, both ideas which Allen endorses. Allen’s dependence on orality alone makes his presentation weak. It is further weakened by his higher critical and progressive theological biases, which show throughout the chapter. A few good nuggets, perhaps, but not solidly grounded.