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Performative Force of Public Scripture Reading in Korean Protestantism: Comparative Analysis of Religious Scripture Reading Ritual

Yoo, Yohan 1

1서울대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Public scripture reading rituals, such as the Bible study meeting of early Korean Protestantism and contemporary protestant retreats for reading through the Bible, should be analyzed from a comparative perspective. This analysis provides a vivid illustration of the social function of the performative dimension of scriptures, but it also suggests the need to further define the meaning of “performative.” As to the first point, the particular ways in which the Bible was read in the Korean context contributed to the growing number of converts to Christianity. Most scholars agree that the Bible study meeting played a central role in the rapid growth of the early Korean Protestantism. The Bible study meeting, of which central feature was public scripture reading, promoted a fourfold increase in church membership in Korea between 1903 and 1907. Bible readings in the context of study groups in early Korean Protestantism facilitated the absorption of Christianity into Korean culture by building on traditional religious practices and by offering a way for native Koreans to take the lead in the growth of the new religion. Second, these scripture readings were performative in the way defined by J. L. Austin’s theory of performative speech and elaborated by Roy Rappaport’s description of the indexical function of ritual, because they affected Koreans’ conversions into Christianity and strengthened their Christian faith. Austin’s necessary conditions of performative utterances were satisfied through ritualization of the activity of reading and ritualization of the Bible itself.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.