Romans 16: A Call to Embrace One Another in Love
Keywords:performance criticism, embodiment, emotion, audience, Bible, Romans
As a storyteller performs biblical compositions for live audiences, the way in which the body moves will not only communicate meaning to the audience in the live performance moment, but also to the storyteller through preparation, performance and reflection. This article considers how the body moves, speaks and feels as invitation to an audience to also move, hear and feelâ€”and thus enter the call to enact relationships of mutual embrace as followers of Christ themselves. As the body moves, the repeated gestures of embrace in Romans 16, extending the hands in â€œwelcomeâ€ or â€œembraceâ€ will challenge accepted interpretations, as well as translation (the Greek ajspÎ¬sasqe aspasasthe from á¼€ÏƒÏ€Î¬Î¶Î¿Î¼Î±Î¹ is most often rendered in English as â€œgreet greetâ€). In hearing the body speak, this performance employs an elevated tone of joy and reverence in celebration of Godâ€™s love for all. This tone carries the flow of this chapter (Romans) to respect its integrity as a whole, and is integral to the entire letter with its teaching on a body richer for its diverse gifts. The body feels emotions of joy and love throughout Romans 16, enhancing the performerâ€™s understanding of Paulâ€™s love for his fellow followers of Christ. As the performer feels and thus knows that Paul cares deeply for these people, their lives, and their witness to the Liberator Jesus as a community of love, she interprets the â€œadmonishmentsâ€ not as words from an angry preacher, but as concerns of a loving pastor. This article demonstrates through the discussion outlined hereâ€”together with a linked video recording of a performance of Romans 16â€”an embodied performance approach to biblical interpretation that honours the body, emotion and audience as lenses through which to make meaning of these compositions.