“Can These Bones Live?” A Performance Criticism Study of Ezekiel 37:1-14

  • Amelia C. Boomershine Director of GoTell Communications, Inc. Dayton, Ohio, USA; Ordained Deacon in the United Methodist Church
Keywords: biblical performance criticism, experiential exegesis, Ezekiel, storytelling, prison ministry


We live in a time when a paradigm shift is occurring from the study of the Bible as a series of texts read in silence by readers, to the study of the Bible as a set of compositions performed for audiences. Biblical performance criticism is the emerging paradigm. It begins by recognising the essential nature of the biblical tradition as oral events, where transformative meaning is created in the interplay of story, storyteller, telling, and audience. Experiential exegesis is a proposed new methodology for the study of particular compositions as performance literature. This approach to biblical study enables the re-creation of a meaningful resemblance of the original performance experience for a contemporary audience. In this article, the processes of experiential exegesis are applied to the story of the Dry Bones, recorded in Ezekiel 37:1–14. The study of the Dry Bones as a story performed for audiences reveals that the interaction between the storyteller and the audience occasions a transformation of despair into hope. Experiences of telling the story to a church congregation and to incarcerated women confirm the viability of performance criticism study to interpret biblical tradition such that, in the words of Walter Wink: “the past becomes alive and illumines our present with new possibilities for personal and social transformation.”

Performance Crtitisism and Scripture