One of the questions I had when I started looking at nonverbal communication in the Bible was, “Did the people in the Bible know about body language?” It didn’t take long before I realized the answer is “yes.”
Even back in the Old Testament, there are several examples of people who recognized and correctly interpreted the body language of others. Some people in the Old Testament even used body language to deceive their enemies, or their victims.
One example of correctly reading someone’s body language in the New Testament actually saved a life. When Paul and Silas were in jail there was a great earthquake. The chains fell off, and the doors swung open. The jailer, fearing that the prisoners had escaped, decided to take his own life.
When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. (Acts 16:27, NASB)
Notice that there are no spoken words recorded. The jailer’s actions revealed exactly what he was going to do.
Paul correctly interpreted the jailer’s nonverbal communication, and responded with urgency.
But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” (Acts 16:28, NASB)
How did Paul respond? He “cried out.” And, he didn’t whisper. He didn’t use his “inside voice.” Paul recognized the desperate situation, and he used the tone and intensity of his voice to communicate good news to the jailer.
Did people in the Bible know about body language? Absolutely. Maybe they didn’t call it nonverbal communication. Paul probably didn’t realize he was using body language and voice tone to communicate. But, he did accurately perceive the danger, and he responded in a way that led to salvation, not only for the jailer, but for his entire household.