The Art of Listening in the Gospel of Matthew and Paul’s Letter to the Romans


  • Samuel Byrskog Lunds universitet


This revised lecture highlights two aspects of listening in the Bible, that of listening as an obedient act of confession according to the Gospel of Matthew and that of listening to and interpreting the oral performance of Paul’s letter to the Romans. The former aspect is specific to the socio-religious commitment in ancient Israel and Judaism, including the Jewish Christ-believers, and identifies this particular act of listening regardless of the oral mode communication and with a focus on the Jewish Shema῾. It is argued this confession serves as the interpretative key to several Matthean texts, being an important means of incorporating the Jewish notion of obedience into the early Christian understanding of Jesus’ obedience to his Father and the disciples’ obedience to Jesus and to God. This, in turn, indicates the importance of the confession elsewhere in the New Testament, especially in Paul’s insistence that Jews and Gentiles together owe their love and obedience to the one and only God. The latter aspect reflects the broad Greek and Roman sensitivity to the oral character of the written text and focuses on the interpretive clues of orality encoded into the writing and decoded at the moment of its public reading and hearing. The two examples from Paul’s letter to the Romans are on the awareness of how ancient experts on performance dealt with sound and the combination of cola into periods, illustrating that attention to the aural impact of texts helps the interpreter to enter into the sounding-setting of the first audience and fosters sensitivity to both the cumulative aural effects of sounding syllables and words as well as to the aural syntax of structuring the linkage between individual clauses. As is evident especially in the complex problem of Rom 9:5 if Christ is seen as God or not, the sound analysis has potential to solve crucial theological issues and, in addition, to provide historically based hermeneutics and theology.