Baker Academic

Friday, May 13, 2016

Written Texts and Oral Expression in Early Christianity

Despite the occasional presence of nascent—and, at times, flowering—animosity between them, the interchange between Larry Hurtado and Kelly Iverson, in a series of articles published in New Testament Studies, is well worth reading. Hurtado and Iverson sometimes talk past one another, and it's not always clear whether they recognize that they are not really talking about the same things. I do think, in the end, that Iverson provides some important correctives to Hurtado's engagement with performance criticism, and Hurtado's clarification that he was correcting "the work of 'some scholars' and 'some of the crucial claims and inferences' (Abtract), referring to 'some advocates' (pp. 327, 329 n. 34), and 'some studies taking a performance criticism approach' (p. 334; emphasis added [by Hurtado])" (Hurtado 2016: 201) represents an important qualification that was not necessarily obvious in the original essay.

Even so, their essays present helpful and significant information about and interpretation of early Christians' production and use of written texts. These are the kinds of discussions from which all of us, I think, benefit in our efforts to understand traditioning processes in the earliest Christian movements.

Larry W. Hurtado. "Oral Fixation and New Testament Studies? 'Orality,' 'Performance,' and Reading Texts in Early Christianity." NTS 60 (2014): 321–40.

Kelly R. Iverson. "Oral Fixation or Oral Corrective? A Response to Larry Hurtado." NTS 62 (2016): 183–200.

Larry W. Hurtado. "Correcting Iverson's 'Correction.'" NTS 62 (2016): 201–6.


  1. Memories and oral accounts are, believe it or not, sometimes accurate.

  2. What I want to know is what does Paul Foster think?