In another post I hope to discuss briefly the history of the current discipline of rhetorical criticism. For now though I merely want to state what I mean when I refer to rhetorical criticism.
Why is this necessary? Because, depending on who you are and whom you have studied, rhetorical criticism might mean various and sometimes quite different things.
When I speak of rhetorical criticism, I am speaking of the use of classical rhetorical materials as a lens through which to view New Testament texts. By classical rhetorical materials, I mean rhetorical handbooks and treatises, the progymnasmata (preliminary exercises) and works by classical rhetoricians (speeches, court defenses, etc.). Since I am concerned with New Testament texts, I prefer to use rhetorical materials that either predate or closely follow the writing of the NT.
The primary texts on classical rhetoric that I have found useful to this point are those by Cicero (de Inventione, Orator, Rhetorica ad Herrenium, de Oratore), Quintilian (Institutio Oratoria), Aristotle (Ars Rhetorica, Rhetorica ad Alexandrum), and the extant progymnasmata by Theon, Apthonius, Nicolaus, and Hermogenes.
We will see in upcoming posts why I have chosen this specific form of rhetorical criticism.