Tuesday, December 28, 2010

ἐνκομίον or encomium

ἐνκομίον (enkomion) or encomium is the eighth of the ancient progymnasmata and is, according to Hermogenes,
"an exposition of the good qualities of a person or thing." (Hermogenes, 14, Kennedy).
This is a very broad definition, but an encomium is merely a speech of praise about a person.  The progymnasmatists expand greatly on this topic, providing several areas or topics one can use to praise a person. For example,  there are external goods such as place of birth, occurrences at birth, nurture, upbringing, education. Goods of the body (health, strength, etc.).  Then there are internal goods such as goods of the mind (intellect, wisdom), virtues (justice, bravery).  Then there are actions and deeds (to which I would also add speech).  Finally, there is the manner of death and what happened after death.  The student, taking these topics, can pick and choose from them which would be most flattering to his or her subject.

About manner of birth, Hermogenes says,
"You will mention also any marvelous occurrences at birth, for example, from dreams or signs or things like that." (Hermogenes, 15, Kennedy).
 Reading the birth narratives of Jesus in the gospels of Matthew and Luke read like an encomium of Jesus.  Especially in regard to Hermogenes' last comment, the birth of Jesus was surrounded by numerous "dreams or signs or things like that."  From Matthew, Jesus birth is preceded by a miraculous star in heaven.  Dreams are given to Joseph.  The baby is born of a virgin.  From Luke's gospel, angels appear, visions are given to Mary.  The baby is born of a virgin.  All of these things are commonplaces for the birth of an important individual.

The genealogies also function as part of the encomium.  In both Matthew and Luke, Jesus is given a royal lineage with many impressive figures. 

We get nothing from Matthew about Jesus' nurture upbringing, or education.  But, in Luke, we get one scene that pertains to Jesus' education.  There is the short episode in Luke chapter two about Jesus in the Temple at the age of 12.  We are told that those who heard Jesus speak "were amazed at his understanding and his answers." (Luke 2:47).  This verse serves to fill in the education portion of the encomium of Jesus.  It does not give the means of Jesus' education, but the outcome, namely that Jesus at the age of 12 was able to amaze the experts in the Temple.

The rest of the gospels fill out the encomium, dealing with Jesus' actions, deeds, and speech, finally ending with his death and what happened after his death.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Friday Figure

This week's Friday Figure is a two for one and comes from the Gospel of Luke:
Luke 6:46    Τί δέ με καλεῖτε· κύριε κύριε, καὶ οὐ ποιεῖτε ἃ λέγω;
Ti de me kaleite: kyrie kyrie, kai ou poieite ha lego
Why do you call me Lord Lord and do not do what I say? 
This verse contains two figures.  The first is with the repetition of Lord (kyrie) twice in a row which forms the figure epanalepsis.  Epanalepsis is usually used for emphasis or to heighten the emotional appeal.  The second figure is that this verse, unlike Matthew's parallel material (Mt. 7:21) is a rhetorical question.  By using the rhetorical question, Luke draws the audience into his argument as participants. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Inception and the Rhetorical Question

One of the best movies of the year, imho, is Inception.  The remarkably creative, mind bending, surreal story of dream invasion and manipulation, is, at its heart, a story about persuasion.  The story is about implanting an idea in someone's head so that they take it on as their own, so that they own the idea, believe in the idea, and act on the idea. 

This got me thinking about how the rhetorical figure of speech rhetorical question aims at much the same goal.  The cleverly worded rhetorical question is a question that needs no answer, that only has one answer.  Yet, the effect on an audience of a rhetorical question comes in actually answering the question, of giving one's own answer, of owning the answer.  Therefore, through rhetorical question, the speaker makes his or her idea that of the audience.

Take for example the Lukan Jesus' exchange with the synagogue leader in Luke chapter 13.  On the Sabbath Jesus has just cured the "bent" woman after her 18 years of suffering.  Here is the exchange:
Luke 13:14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”
Luke 13:15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water?
Luke 13:16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”
Luke 13:17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
The Synagogue leader makes this an issue of law.  Jesus makes it an issue of compassion.  Jesus does not directly respond to his opponents accusation.  Instead, he takes his position, that it is right to heal on the Sabbath, and crafts two rhetorical questions.  To both questions, there is only one answer.  Yes, those listening will have compassion on their donkeys on the Sabbath, and Yes, this woman ought to be set free on the Sabbath.  Yet, instead of just stating his idea, Jesus places his view in the form of the rhetorical question so that his idea now becomes that of the audience.  They supply the answer to the question.  They now own the answer.  They are now convinced.  Luke's narration of the response of Jesus' opponents is telling: the audience has now owned Jesus' view and thus put Jesus' opponents to shame.  Jesus, through rhetorical question has implanted this idea in the minds of the audience and they have made it their own. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Friday Figure

I have been derelict in my duty, not posting a Friday Figure in a few weeks.  But here is this week's Friday Figure, from Matthew's gospel.
Matt. 7:2 ἐν ᾧ γὰρ κρίματι κρίνετε κριθήσεσθε, καὶ ἐν ᾧ μέτρῳ μετρεῖτε μετρηθήσεται ὑμῖν.
en ho gar krimati krinete krithesesthe, kai en ho metro metreite metrethesetai humin
for with the judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with the measure you measure out it will be measured to you. 
 This verse has two examples of the figure paronomasia, which the Rhetorica ad Herennium defines as:
"The figure in which by modification of sound or a change in letters, there is a close resemblance between verb or noun, so that similar words mean dissimilar things" (Ps-Cicero, Rhet. Her, 4.21.29-4.23.32). 
I have tried to translate this verse to keep some of the figure.  In this case, the words that are similar are the three words dealing with judgment and the three words dealing with measurement.  In English, even trying to keep the figure does not quite replicate the Greek language.  In the Greek, all three words that are similar come in direct succession with no intervening words.  This makes for a nice ornamental effect that is unfortunately impossible to reproduce in translation. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Rhetoric Wars: Church Marquees

In general I dislike church marquees.  I think that most of the messages on church marquees are so banal that that they should be left off altogether.  Then my attention was drawn to the following use of church marquees: start a battle of words and wits with a cross town church.  If done right, like here, I love it.  HT to Scott McKnight at Jesus Creed.

Round 1: Draw, two unprovable claims
 Round 2: Our lady of the Martyrs, unsubstantiated claim and premature attempt to stop debated by the Presbyterians.
Round 3: Our Lady of Martyrs: levity, Presbyterians, too caught up on this "soul" thing.
Round 4: Our Lady of Martyrs: Levity, Presbyterians, What?
Round 5: Our lady of Martyrs: How do you come back from that>  At least the Catholics still have a sense of humor.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

τοπός and κοινός τοπός, topic and commonplace

Seventh in the list of ancient progymnasmata was the exercise of τοπός (topos, topic) or κοινός τοπός (koinos topos, commonplace." Topos literally means place, and a commonplace, in practice is a fount of stock arguments.  Theon says the following:
"It is called a topos because starting from it as a 'place' we easily find arguments." (Theon, 106, Kennedy).
Theon gives examples of commonplaces of good and bad men.  For example, bad commonplaces for people are "tyrant, traitor, murderer, profligate," and for good people, "tyrannicide, hero, lawgiver."

Once one has established a commonplace, one can elaborate it in several ways, through comparison, past events, future events.  Theon gives an example of a comparison between a temple robber and a thief.  He writes:
"If the thief is punished for taking men's money, how much more will this man be punished for looting the possession of the gods?" (Theon, 108, Kennedy).
 In many ways then, the commonplace is a way of labeling someone or something, and then using stock arguments that are common to that type of person or thing.

There are several good examples of the commonplace in the New Testament.  The following example comes from I Peter, where the author gives a commonplace, i.e., Gentiles, and then lists deeds common to Gentiles:
1Pet. 4:3 You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry.
Once the label "Gentile" is used, it opens up an entire list of stock arguments against Gentiles. Thus, the commonplace is a starting place from which to draw arguments.  Notice, that commonplaces are always general, and they border on the stereotypical, but are nonetheless useful for finding arguments. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

ἀνασκευή and κατασκευή, refutation and confirmation

ἀνασκευή (anaskeue, refutation), and κατασκευή (kataskeue, confirmation) are the fifth and sixth in the list of the ancient progymnasmata.  These two exercises consist of arguments for or against some argument, narrative, fable, maxim, etc.  In teaching students to refute an argument, the exercise draws on stock arguments, or topoi (topics).  These are the unclear, implausible, impossible, inconsistent, inappropriate, or not beneficial.  To confirm an argument, narrative, fable, maxim, etc., one should use the opposites.

A good example of a refutation from the inconsistent comes in Luke 20:41-44.  Jesus is apparently responding to a certain conception of the Messiah as the Son of David.  In what I believe is an attempt to confuse his opponents, Jesus refutes the concept of the Messiah as the son of David by pointing out inconsistencies in his opponents narrative.
Luke 20:41  Then he said to them, “How can they say that the Messiah is David’s son?
Luke 20:42 For David himself says in the book of Psalms,
    ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
    “Sit at my right hand,
Luke 20:43         until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’
Luke 20:44 David thus calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?”
 In this case the refutation lies in the inconsistency of David calling his son Lord. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

γνώμη or maxim

The Greek γνώμη (gnome) or maxim is the fourth exercise in the list of the classical progymnasmataTheon does not treat maxim as a separate exercise but discusses it along with the exercise on chreia.  Nicolaus the Sophist defines maxim as follows:
"Maxim is a general statement, giving some counsel and advice for something useful in life." (Nicolaus 25, Kennedy).
Maxim is also a figure of speech and is defined by the author of the Rhetorica ad Herennium as,
"A saying drawn from life which shows concisely either what happens or ought to happen in life." (Ps-Cicero, Rhet. Her. 4.17.24).
Maxims are therefore usually short sayings giving some advice.  They differ from chreia in two ways: 1) they are always sayings whereas chreias can be either sayings or actions, and 2) Maxims are usually anonymous whereas chreias are always attributed to a specific person. 

There is obviously a significant amount of overlap between chreias and maxims, and the distinctions do not seem to be overly important except for classification purposes.  This is especially true because all of the exercises used for chreias are also suggested for maxims.  Thus, with a maxim, one can expand or contract, elaborate, confirm, refute, and repeat with slightly different language.

If we hold to the strict definitions given by the progymnasmatists, all of the sayings of Jesus are chreias and not strictly speaking maxims.  Yet, if one is going by the lists of figures of speech, maxim seems to be the proper figure for the sayings of Jesus.

Several good examples of maxims come in the Sermon on the Mount with the antitheses of Jesus where he says, "You have heard it said... but I say to you."  In each case Jesus gives a saying that was common, usually from the Old Testament, but he does not give a specific attribution.  In one case, the text is not from the OT:
Matt. 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
In these cases Jesus cites some commonly held saying in the form of a maxim only to refute it with his own chreia.