Oral-Scribal Dimensions of Scripture, Piety, and Practice
In April 2008 a conference was convened at Rice University that brought together experts in the three monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The papers discussed at the conference are presented here, revised and updated. The thirteen contributions comprise the keynote address by John Miles Foley; three essays on Judaism and the Hebrew Bible; three on the New Testament; three on the Qur'an; and two summarizing pieces, by the Africanist Ruth Finnegan and the Islamicist William Graham respectively. The central thesis of the book states that sacred Scripture was experienced by the three faiths less as a text contained between two covers and a literary genre, and far more as an oral phenomenon. In developing the performative, recitative aspects of the three religions, the authors directly or by implication challenge their distinctly textual identities. Instead of viewing the three faiths as quintessential religions of the book, these writers argue that the religions have been and continue to be appropriated not only as written but also very much as oral authorities, with the two media interpenetrating and mutually influencing each other in myriad ways. ""'Bible' and 'Scripture' convey the sense of a written work, but Arabic 'Qur'an' and Hebrew 'Miqra' retain the original, oral sense of a message recited. This collection offers a ground-breaking remedy to the writing-centric bias on scriptural studies. Thirteen remarkable essays by some of the greatest scholars of the monotheist traditions interrogate past assumptions as well as the materials in question to present a nuanced and remarkably detailed study of the oral essence of sacred texts."" --Reuven Firestone, Regenstein Professor in Medieval Judaism and Islam, Hebrew Union College; Senior Fellow, Center for Religion & Civic Culture, University of Southern California ""A revealing collection of essays devoted to three great religions 'of the book'--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--demonstrating how fully intertwined oral and written traditions of reading, recitation, performance, and chant are in each. It will change the way scholars across many fields--anthropology, literature, social history, and religion--can assess the related power and authority of 'the written' and 'the oral' dimensions of culture, as complementary to each other and not in opposition."" --Mary Carruthers, Remarque Professor Emeritus of Literature, New York University, All Souls College, Oxford Werner H. Kelber is the Isla Carroll and Percy E. Turner Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at Rice University. His publications include Imprints, Voiceprints, and Footprints of Memory (2013) and The Oral and Written Gospel (1983). Paula A. Sanders is Professor of History and Vice Provost for Academic Affairs at Rice University. Among her publications are Creating Medieval Cairo (2008) and Ritual, Politics and the City in Fatimid Cairo (1994).
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