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Reading Acts

The Lector and the Early Christian Audience

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William Shiell

William Shiell proposes that the book of Acts was performed orally by a lector in the early church following Greco-Roman rhetorical conventions for recitation and delivery rather than directly read by an audience that was minimally literate. Shiell’s study outlines the function of the lector in Greco-Roman times as a filter through which an audience would receive a text. He describes the conventions for performers’ gestures, facial expressions, and vocal inflections found in material from Greco-Roman literature and art that are mirrored in the book of Acts. He examines how a reading of Acts in this light can fill interpretive gaps left by literary and rhetorical-critical studies that focus on the reading rather than the hearing of biblical texts.