Rhetorical Criticism

So I’m currently planning to follow my Ignatius/Paul paper with a more focused defense of Ignatius. The last paper focused a bit too much on Paul and not enough time on Ignatius. In doing so, I’m planning to defend him on rhetorical and theological grounds. Of course, this requires me understanding rhetoric and its function. I’ve found a terrificly useful rhetorical analysis of Ignatius here. I’ve also got my hands on some of the ancient writing on rhetoric, notably Aristotle’s “The Art of Rhetoric” and Quintilian’s work (Ars Rhetorica?).

That said, I’m curious to see other works on Rhetoric. What are some commentaries that do a good job with rhetorical analysis? Works on Pauline letters in particular would be useful. Or are there books which simply introduce rhetorical criticism that might be useful? I know this tool can be overdone, but I definitely recognize its usefulness when employed correctly.

Thoughts? Suggestions?


4 thoughts on “Rhetorical Criticism

  1. Hey I’m enjoying your Greek reflections on psalms – even tempted to try it myself!

    In terms of rhetorical criticism, I’m not thrilled with much of the stuff that’s around. Ben Witherington has a new (2009) introduction to rhetorical criticism and its new testament application, which is not bad – although, like most works in this niche, it focuses only on Greco-Roman rhetoric in the Aristotelian tradition, and neglects Jewish rhetoric. But it’s still a good introduction. In terms of rhetorical criticism & the patristics, Margaret Mitchell’s book on John Chrysostom, ‘The Heavenly Trumpet’, is really good. (Her book on 1 Corinthians, however, ‘Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation’, is really unconvincing for me).

  2. Thanks about the psalms! I’ve found that writing in Greek is terrificly useful (and fun ;-) ). When I’m taking notes on a Greek text, I try to write as much in Greek as I can. I’ll hopefully put a few more up soon.

    Thanks for the suggestions on rhetoric. I actually have Mitchell’s The Heavenly Trumpet out from the library now, but I’ve only looked through it briefly. It sounds like I’ll have to give it a more thorough look! What are some approaches that you’ve found helpful in approaching 1 Corinthians?

  3. Yeah Mitchell’s book on Chrysostom is very worthwhile.

    The thing that I’m hesitant about in terms of rhetorical analysis of 1 Corinthians is that, for Mitchell and Witherington, there are effectively only 3 options considered: It’s either epideictic, deliberative or forensic entextualised Greco-Roman speech rhetoric. But are those really the only resources open to Paul (the “Hebrew of Hebrews”) and Sosthenes (the synagogue leader)? I don’t doubt that Paul is competent with the devices of Greco-Roman rhetoric – he certainly uses many, such as digression, reductio ad absurdum, covert allusion, etc etc… but I think better justice needs to be done to Paul’s Jewish heritage when considering the macro-structure of his epistles.

    (Sorry to rabbit on – this is pretty much the topic of my dissertation)

  4. Interesting stuff! It does seem mistaken to make Paul a disciple of Aristotle ;-). That does raise the question of Jewish rhetoric. I wonder what sort of stuff had been done in that arena. I suppose the rabbinic tradition would have had antecedents in the first century, but I’ve no idea how one would sort that stuff out.

    With Ignatius, I’m mostly interested in stuff that he could have learned intuitively through preaching. He may have been well versed in formal rhetoric, but even if he was not, he would have picked up skills by preaching during his tenure at Antioch. My suspicion is that he was more shaped by the early liturgy than anything else.

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