Practical Pointer: Listening for Jesus' Tone of Voice
By Jeanne Kun

Most of us have probably wondered at some time or another what Jesus really looked like and have tried to picture him in our mind's eye. But have you ever wondered what Jesus sounded like and how he spoke? We do not know whether his voice was deep and resonant or had a mellow timbre. But surely the tones in which Jesus spoke reinforced the meaning of his words. Remember Jesus rebuking the demons; we can hardly imagine him doing that I a soft-spoken manner. But when he forgave the sinner and consoled the sick, the sound of his voice brought peace and confidence to them.

We express a wide range of emotion and nuance the meaning of our words by the way we alter our voice. Stern words can be softened with a smile that carries through in our tone. Or the gravity of a situation can be underscored by the sober way in which we speak of it.

I suggest that you read the gospel texts for this month's study aloud. Find a place by yourself where you won't feel embarrassed about being overheard. Put aside your inhibitions and read naturally and unselfconsciously. (In earlier centuries, reading aloud was the normal way one read; reading "to yourself" is a fairly modern development). You do not have to be dramatic - you are not auditioning for the theater. But do adjust your tone of voice and your verbal expression to the meaning of the words and the actions that accompany them.

Reading the daily texts this way, especially the dialogues, will bring them to life for you. Conversations that you have always read to yourself silently will have a fuller dimension to them as you "dub" in voice, restoring to the written word its original spoken quality.


This article originally appeared in © God's Word Today, Volume 18, Number 6, June 1996,
published by The University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN.

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