I’ve been thinking lately about the rhetoric of the New Testament. Rhetoric in its classical form is, I believe, a very much neglected discipline in our age of cheap soundbites and endless emotional manipulation via image-based advertisement. And yet, rhetoric was very much a part of the intellectual “air” that the writers of the New Testament breathed. That is not part of our intellectual “air” makes me wonder whether or not we are all that well-equipped to really understand a lot of what we read in the New Testament in more than a superficial “grammatical-literal” manner.
It is one thing to be able to read the Greek and to properly grammatically construe the participles and subjunctives and prepositional phrases and so forth so as to determine a bare-bones “face-value” and “literal” meaning of a New Testament text. But it is something else entirely to have real insight into the way that the writer’s mind worked, an insight born not just of the mastery of the technical details of grammar, but of a sympathetic grasp of the intellectual and cultural conditions that made his mind work the way it did.
With this in mind, I’m (hopefully soon) going to begin exploring the topic of how rhetoric was used by the Apostle Paul in his presentation of the Gospel to various audiences. Note well, please that I am billing the upcoming posts as “exploration,” not as some sort of “revelation from on high” from an expert-specialist trying to tell everyone else what to think. I’m far more interested in issues of how to think than of what to think, anyway. If this topic sounds like it would be of interest to you, stay tuned.