SansBlogue  
Saturday, August 04, 2007
  Mouth-feel and the Bible
How do you (I/we) read the Bible? Since many of us are biblical scholars, and others are students, theologians and the like (I'm guessing from the readers of SansBlogue whom I know about from the comments you leave - I suppose it's possible there are a hundred lurkers who are all bakers, or candlestick makers but somehow I doubt it ;-)
Withering Fig has has a nice post Of Ancient Texts and Hypertexts which begins from noticing how we read hypertexts differently. (Though perhaps we should note that many of us read newspapers and magazines more like we read hypertexts - and perhaps some of us [I did NOT say this, so do NOT quote me!] read academic articles similarly, until we have to respond to them in an academic article of our own ;-)

But goes on to describe the different relationship to and feel of a biblical text if it is read aloud. He wonders:
if it might be better for me to read the words aloud. Let them wrap around me. What does the scansion tell me? Where does the stress fall naturally? Perhaps rhythm is more important than word order.
Since biblical texts were written to be read, that is read aloud to an audience - not scanned more or less carefully with the eyes in a study, and since many of them may well have existed orally before being written at all, this question seems to me a no brainer. Never mind the syntax, get the mouth-feel first. Then analyse. (Since the Bible is an ancient text, separated from us in time, culture and by language, we MUST analyse.) Then, return to reading the text, and get the mouth-feel again informed by the analytical study.


Incidentally, I think much the same applies to non-scholarly readers, hear the Bible as well as looking at it. Just looking at the Bible risks making you into a Bible idolater, hearing the Bible risks making you try to follow its advice - much more dangerous, and worthwhile... but that's another post.

PS: See also How to avoid reading books for advice on reading academic texts in non-linear manner!

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