Sound Mapping the New Testament

By Margaret Ellen Lee and Bernard Brandon Scott (editors)

An exploration of the writing technology in the Greco-Roman world that applies sound theory to the New Testament.

ISBN: 9780718897574


In the ancient world, writings were read aloud, heard, and remembered. In contrast, modern exegesis assumes a silent text. For Margaret Lee and Brandon Scott, the disjuncture between ancient and modern approaches to literature obscures the beauty and meaning in writings such as the New Testament. As the structure of an ancient Greek composition derives first from its sounds, and not from the meaning of its words, sound analysis, analysis of the signifier and its audible dimension, are crucial to interpretation.

Sound Mapping the New Testament explores writing technology in the Greco-Roman world, and uses ancient Greek literary criticism for descriptions of grammar as a science of sound and literary composition as a woven fabric of speech. Based on these perspectives and a close analysis of writings from the four Gospels, Paul, and Q, Lee and Scott advance a theory of sound analysis that enables modern readers to hear the New Testament afresh. This second edition includes a new introduction which reviews a decade of sound mapping scholarship.

Additional information

Dimensions 229 × 152 mm
Pages 432

Trade Information LPOD

About the Author

Margaret E. Lee is retired as assistant professor of humanities at Tulsa Community College. She is the editor of Sound Matters: New Testament Studies in Sound Mapping (2018).

Bernard Brandon Scott is the Darbeth Distinguished Professor of New Testament Emeritus at Philips Theological Seminary, Oklahoma. He is a charter member of the Jesus Seminar, and served as chair of the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media Section of the Society of Biblical Literature. Scott is the author of numerous books including Hear Then the Parable (1989).


Preface to the Second Edition
Introduction: Why Sound?

Part 1 A Theory of Sound Analysis
Chapter 1 The Technology of Writing in the Greco-Roman World
Chapter 2 The Woven Composition
Chapter 3 The Grammar of Sound
Chapter 4 Repetition: Sound’s Structuring Device
Chapter 5 Developing Sound Maps
Part 2: Illustrations from the New Testament
Chapter 6 Listening to the Centurion: Mark’s Crucifixion
Chapter 7 Sound and Persuasion: Paul’s Letter to Philemon
Chapter 8 Hearing is Believing: Resurrection in John 20
Chapter 9 Sound and Narrative: Luke’s Nativity
Chapter 10 Sound and Structure: The Sermon on the Mount
Chapter 11 Manuscript and memory: Q on Anxiety

Conclusion: Next Steps


Endorsements and Reviews

With precise detail and careful articulation, Lee and Scott indicate how sound – the basis of language – works integrally with language to produce meaning. Their groundbreaking study discloses how sound patterns provide interpretive force that makes meaning memorable. The importance of their insights should not be ignored, as knowledge of the science of sound and language are vital to a well-educated and savvy populace.
Nina E. Livesey, University of Oklahoma

Based on a comprehensive survey of the grammarians and rhetoricians of ancient Greek literary theory, Lee and Scott establish sound as the medium and the colon as the basic form of New Testament literature. The reconception of its compositions as sound constitutes a manifesto for a new paradigm of New Testament scholarship. This new edition integrates current research and provides an authoritative foundation for the future that every second testament scholar will want to own.—Tom Boomershine, United Theological Seminary

Noting the burgeoning scholarship on sound analysis as well as the surrounding relevant critical advances, Lee and Scott double down on their compelling argument that historical criticism has been seriously flawed by its inability to detect the full resonance and texture of New Testament texts. Just as the arrival of sound utterly transformed the silent world of film, so Sound Mapping radically deepens the way biblical interpreters detect the texture of the material.
Arthur J. Dewey, Xavier University

Updated, expanded, and provided with a superbly informative preface, this second edition effectively reinforces the authors’ central concept of sound as a medium of intelligibility. Rather than viewing the New Testament as a bookish environment divided into chapters, verses, and literary units, we are invited to rediscover its breath units, sound patterns, and audible features. Since its inception some thirteen years ago, the book has steadily grown in importance.
Werner H. Kelber, Rice University, emeritus

While retaining the intense focus on the transmitted text that characterises biblical scholarship, the sound mapping approach includes a vast array of methods and topics: from orality and the functions of writing, over the interpretation of ancient literary criticism, to various recent developments in linguistics. This second edition of Lee and Scott’s 2009 primer is a welcome reminder of the methodological openness and the great potential of this emerging research tradition.
Frank Scheppers, author of The Colon Hypothesis