Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Cartoon Rhetoric

Thanks to James McGrath at Exploring our Matrix for sharing this great cartoon.

The punchline is what we would call a pun, and what the Greeks called syllepsis, using a word differently in relation to two or more words that it modifies or governs.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Quote of the Day

"As prophesied some years ago by Wilhelm Wuellner, a tidal-wave of rhetorical analysis is currently pounding New Testament journals, conferences, and bibliographies. Its force is tsunamic and shows no sign of imminent ebb."
 Quote by C. Clifton Black, The Rhetoric of the Gospel, (St. Louis: Chalice Press, 2001), 1-2.  It is interesting to note that Black wrote this in 2001, and he is right that rhetorical criticism has indeed flourished, yet the field seems to be still relatively untapped with promising avenues of study continuing to open up.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Rhetoric and Story of Politics

This will be a rare political post on this site, but I think that the information is pertinent.

I have talked recently on this blog about the connection between rhetoric and story.  Rhetoric, as it is recognized is usually found in the micro, in bits and pieces of language, while story creates the overarching narrative. 

It is no different in politics. Rhetoric is usually noticed in politics in sound bites. A clever turn of phrase, or a repetition in the message.  Unfortunately, I think that the overarching story is often missed, if it is there at all. 

I would argue that there are essentially two competing stories in American political culture: the story of the Left, and the story of the Right. When these stories are told in a compelling manner, the corresponding party will usually win.

Here are the stories:

First, the Left: This story has a problem, a villain, a hero, and a solution.  The problem, according to the Left's story, is that there is inequality in society, there is a big gap between the rich and the poor, a big gap in freedoms between minority groups and WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestant Males).  The villain in this story is Big Business. Big Business, comprised almost entirely of WASPs, keeps the rest of the people in society down through their greed.  They have a stranglehold on almost all of the wealth in society and are in no mood to give it up.  The hero in this story is the crusading compassionate politician who will help to level the playing field. The solution to the problem is for this crusading polititian, through taxation and strong regulation, to take on the forces of Big Business, make sure that the redistribute some of their wealth to the poor and underprivileged, and make sure that the barons of Big Business are cut down to size.

Second, the Right:  This story also has a problem, a villain, a hero, and a solution.  The problem, according to the Right's story, is that people are not free to pursue life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness without unreasonable restrictions from the Government.  The villain in this story is Big Government. Big Government taxes and regulates all people too much which restricts their freedoms.  The hero in this story is the Big Business man or woman.  Not the villain from the Left's story, but someone who has pulled themselves up from the lower classes, and through hard work and ingenuity has become successful and wealthy. Far from being a greedy and nasty member of the elite, the hero in this story is compassionate and a philanthropist.  Not only does this hero provide jobs to masses of people, but he or she also donates heavily to charities, passing on their wealth to benefit society.  The solution in this story is to lower taxes and reduce business regulations to allow all people to become upwardly mobile, to contribute to society, and to grow the economy.

With the recent economic meltdown in America, both sides have been trying to tell their respective stories.  For the Left, they told their story best in 2008 and elected Barack Obama.  He was the perfect hero, one who would bring hope and change, one who would take on the greedy corporations and wall street fat cats who had, through their greed, caused this calamity.  He promised to take care of the poor, providing health care for all, end our energy crisis, bring racial reconciliation. The story worked and he won big.

The Right has not backed off of their story either during this economic crisis.  For the Right, the economic crisis was not caused by greedy corporations, but by government regulations. The Government's push to get the underprivileged into houses and to require lenders to grant loans to those who could not pay them back caused the collapse of the housing market, and in turn, the rest of the economy.  Now, in their story, the Left is doing things exactly backwards.  Instead of spending money that the Government does not have to get out of the crisis, the Government should reduce spending, cut taxes, and allow the ingenuity of the American people to create businesses (with their lower taxes), put more people to work, and to grow the economy.

Which story is more compelling?  You decide.  But, whichever side tells their story and makes it more compelling is in for a big win this November.  It will be interesting to see how the politicians handle their respective stories this Fall.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Review of Corin Mihaila

My review of Corin Mihaila's book The Paul-Apollos Relationship and Paul’s Stance toward Greco-Roman Rhetoric: An Exegetical and Socio-historical Study of 1 Corinthians 1-4, has now been published in the Review of Biblical Literature.  Link here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Friday Figure

This week's Friday Figure is found in all three synoptic gospels. 

ἡ πίστις σου σέσωκέν σε
he pistis sou sesoken se
Your faith has saved you
 This refrain of Jesus, used after several healing stories (Mt. 9:22; Mk. 5:34, 10:52; Lk. 7:50, 8:48, 17:19, 18:42), uses the rhetorical figure of alliteration. Alliteration is the repetition of the same consonant in rapid succession.  Unfortunately this figure is impossible to carry over in translation.  But, in the original Greek, reading the phrase aloud is quite striking.  Matthew uses the figure once in the story of the woman with the flow of blood (9:22). Mark uses the figure in the same story (5:34) and in the story of blind Bartimaeus (10:52). Only Luke latches on to the full power of this phrase and uses the figure four times throughout his gospel. 

Use good grammar, or else!

Always remember, correct grammar is important to rhetoric. 

I got several comments on my post Student Essay Fail.  One student sent me a link to a hilarious spoof of the movie Inglourious Basterds that deals with grammar, and I thought it was hilarious.  YouTube wouldn't let me embed the video, so here is the link.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Rhetoric and Story go Hand in Hand

The following is an example of how rhetoric and story complement each other, how they both work to convey a powerful message. 

Luke 10:25 Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Luke 10:26 He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?”
Luke 10:27 He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
Luke 10:28 And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”
Luke 10:29 But wanting to justify himself, he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
Luke 10:30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead.
Luke 10:31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
Luke 10:32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
Luke 10:33 But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.
Luke 10:34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, having poured oil and wine on them. Then he put him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
Luke 10:35 The next day he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said, ‘Take care of him; and when I come back, I will repay you whatever more you spend.’
Luke 10:36 Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?”
Luke 10:37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
 This passage, commonly known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan is a great combination of both rhetoric and story.  The passage begins and ends with a common rhetorical figure of speech, that of hypophora, which is a form of dialogue made up of questions and answers.  Notice that in this passage, the Lawyer begins the questioning, then Jesus turns the tables and asks his own question.  He takes control of the conversation.  Not to be outdone, the clever lawyer asks another question.  Then Jesus really sets the trap, not through another question, at leas not yet.  Instead, he tells a story.  Through this story he communicates several wonderful truths.  First, that being a neighbor has nothing to do with race or ethnicity, or those who are like us.  Moreover, being a neighbor has to do with compassionate actions, not with some other form of kinship.  Once the story is over, Jesus returns to the question and answer session and springs the final trap, getting the Lawyer to admit that the hated Samaritan was indeed the good neighbor.

Notice how neither part of the passage is enough on its own to convey the message. The rhetorical device is used to overcome Jesus' opponent, while the story conveys the message of the compassionate neighbor in a way that propositional language could not.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Changes to the Blog

I am currently updating my blog.  As I get more posts, some of my original, more foundational posts are getting pushed further and further back in my archive.  I have now created (and am still working on creating) few different page tabs at the top of my blog.  I hope these will help new readers to understand more about the purpose of this blog.  I also hope that these pages serve as a resource for those interested in rhetorical criticism of the NT.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Stylistic Virtue of Correctness

Recently I posted on the stylistic virtue of correctness.  To the rhetoricians, this virtue consisted of using proper Latin, and was called latinitas.  One advantage of correctness is that you actually know what the author is saying.

Well, it is that time of year again when I read a ton of freshman essays.  Some are quite good, most have some issues, but none have ever been able to top the following essay.  I have not edited this essay in any way, it appears exactly as I received it except for my removal of the name.  My reactions are in brackets and red type.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton born in 1815 played a huge role in the development and acknowledgement of women’s rights.  Although, her involvement with women’s rights sometimes over had owed [this was supposed to be "overshadowed] by her friend and colleague Susan B. Anthony, she was the one who wrote speeches and organized the movements (women rights movements [ahh, yes, the WOMEN rights movement]) important techniques [?] and documents.  Stanton worked closely with different women during the women’s rights [?] lucretia Mott helped Stanton led the Seneca Falls Convention, 1848.  This convention was encouraged after Lucretius [Obviously the brother of Lucretia Mott] Mott was denied a seat at the anti slavery meeting in London.  Many abolitionists anti slavery leaders worked with Stanton on women’s rights [punctuation?] Frederick Douglas attended the Seneca Falls convention.

Over the years Elizabeth Cady Stanton along [?] Susan B. Anthony, led the national women’s suffrage Association.  On [I find many of my students have problems with choosing the correct preposition] the many speeches and organized meetings on of Stanton’s most famous speeches was the 1845 address on women rights.  The address holds true to the idea the women are not inferior to men.  Stanton clearly states that women are cable of do accomplishing [I love that line] anything that a man can do.  Many women of the past have done a lot things that have man like qualities for example, Catharine of Russia, Elizabeth of England distinguished for their states manlike [Messed up quote, should read "statesman like"] things.  There as [?] been many more women that have done many acts to stand up for there rights because you have a lot people that believe that a woman can’t do a man’s job.

Stanton was woman that stood up for her rights she did not believe in taking a back set [I hate taking a back SET] for anyone, she had her own way of how she wanted things to go and she was not going to let a man determine her outcome on anything that she believe that was right.  “Let us now consider man’s claims to physical superiority.  Methinks I hear some say, surely you will not contend for equality here.  Yes, we must not give an inch lest you claim an ell, we accord to man even this much [Quote, should read "Cannot accord to man"] and he has no right to claim it until the fact be fully demonstrated.”  Stanton was a woman of knowledge and she learn look [?] to at the whole picture before acting on anything her beliefs was to show mankind that she was a woman that was able of doing just about anything that a man can do and she was not going to let any “man” stop her from what she wanted to do [Preach, Preach!].

I believe in what Elizabeth Cady Stanton stood for because I feel that there is nothing wrong with standing for what you believe in, it takes courage and a lot of will power stand and to take on challenges that people have to offer you so in many words she was woman that had her mind made up, she was going to fight the good fight faith [Ahh, yet, the good fight faith] and that takes a special woman or human being to do something like that [tears are forming in my eyes].

Stanton apes [It took a little while for me to figure this one out, but I figured on Microsoft word, if you type "aoes" if automatically corrects it to "apes." The student obviously meant to type "goes."] on to say that men have the advantages to educate themselves, travel and observe, but yet they act like a bunch of barbarians.  “Who have the advantage of observing their race in different countries, climes, and under different phases, but barbarians they be entertaining such an opinion.” 

In all Elizabeth Cady Stanton was a women [Wow, she was such a woman that she deserves the plural] that would not take no as her final answer [She was actually the first host of Who wants to be a millionaire] but she was a woman of heat [?] and she stood up for rights that is why is a [?] woman that would always be remembered because of her actions that she took on behave [?] of all the women in the world, cause [why not just say CUZ] of Stanton [?] actions women today have a freedom [insert preposition here] speech to do what any man can do [?] that’s why Elizabeth Cady Stanton she is on the great leaders of the past [Is she sitting on them? Standing on them, can't decide].
 Notice how much the lack of correctness gets in the way of reading and understanding. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Rhetoric for Sundays

In my recent Rhetoric for Sundays posts, I have pointed out the unintentional ways in which the church communicates messages to the community.  Some of these are more serious than others, and today I bring you another humorous example from a church marquee.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Importance of Memory and Delivery

A few days ago I posted on the five tasks of rhetoric, culminating with the tasks of memory and delivery.  This guy is a prime example of why these tasks are important.  Imagine this guy reading the gospel of Luke to you on a Sunday morning.

My favorite points in the speech are where he  gets all riled up and then even scares himself, backs away, and takes several moments to recompose himself.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Friday Figure

This week's Friday Figure comes from I John.   John writes:
1John 2:12     I am writing to you, little children,
        because your sins are forgiven on account of his name.
1John 2:13     I am writing to you, fathers,
        because you know him who is from the beginning.
    I am writing to you, young people,
        because you have conquered the evil one.
1John 2:14     I write to you, children,
        because you know the Father.
    I write to you, fathers,
        because you know him who is from the beginning.
    I write to you, young people,
        because you are strong
        and the word of God abides in you,
            and you have overcome the evil one.
 These verses include two figures. The first is anaphora which consists of repeating the same word at the beginning of successive clauses.  In the first triplet, each clause begins with the word γράφω (I am writing).  In the second triplet, each clause begins with the past tense of the same word, ἔγραψα (I write, I wrote).  The repetition drives these words deep into the mind of the hearer.

The second figure is that of pleonasm in which the author repeats the same thought be varies the words used to communicate it.  The second triplet mirrors the first triplet, but varies the language slightly.  Once again, repetition is used to cause these phrases to lodge in the memory.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Figures of Speech

In a previous post I talked about rhetorical style.  In this post, I want to introduce a sub-category of style, that of rhetorical figures of speech (σχῆμα).

There are three subtypes of “figures.”  Tropes, which deal with single words, figures of speech, which deal with the artful ordering of multiple words, and figures of thought which deal with the artful ordering of thoughts. 

For Quintilian, a trope (which means a turn) is “the artistic alteration of a word or phrase from its proper meaning to another (Inst. Or. 8.6.1).” Thus, a trope is what we might call a “turn of phrase.”  A trope consists of using single words in a different way from their proper meaning in order to adorn one’s style.

According to Ps-Cicero, figures confer “distinction (dignitas)” on a composition (Rhet. Her. 4.13.18).  If a trope is the change of meaning for a single word, figures of speech are the uncommon ordering of words for rhetorical ornament.  Figures of speech give “fine polish” to the language.  A figure of thought on the other hand conveys distinction based upon the uncommon ordering or juxtaposition of thoughts, not the words themselves.

I refer to all three types of figures as  “figures of speech,” or sometimes merely “figures.”  While the distinctions are good from a conceptual or teaching basis, the function of tropes, figures of speech, and figures of thought are dependent on context, not on whether the given example is a trope, figure of speech, or figure of thought.

Check out my blog every Friday for the recurring post "The Friday Figure."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

West Wing Rhetoric and the Bible

This is one of my favorite clips from the West Wing, a show which is riddled with remarkable rhetoric.  Watch and enjoy.

In this passage President Bartlett uses two rhetorical figures of speech to lay a smackdown on the apparent Christian fundamentalist.  He uses the figure exemplum, which is the citation of an authority, in this case, the Bible.  He also punctuates each example with a biting rhetorical question. Rhetoric is everywhere, we just need to pay attention.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Rhetoric for Sundays

I have done a few posts recently on church architecture and church signage and what these various things communicate about the church.  Well, this last week scotteriology posted the following picture and I could not pass up re-posting it.  If you understand textspeak you will get it, if not, sorry because it is classic.

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Friday Figure

Isocolon is an elegant figure in which multiple clauses have the same number of syllables. This figure creates a rhythm in speech and is highly pleasant to the ear.

Here is an example from Simeon's proclamation about the birth of Jesus:

Phos eis apokalupsin ethnon
Kai doxan laou sou israel
Luke 2:32
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.
In Greek each clause has exactly 9 syllables.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Rhetorical Task of Style

Style is one of the five rhetorical tasks laid out in the rhetorical handbooks (See my previous post on the five rhetorical tasks)

Style, more than any other aspect of rhetoric, is attacked the most.  I think that style is at the heart of the negative connotations that rhetoric has in our society.  One can give a stylistically elegant and rousing speech that keeps the audience entertained and engaged, while saying almost nothing.  Yet, does that make style evil?  Just because style can be used to mask ignorance, or lies, or half truths, does not mean that rhetorical style cannot be used for good purposes as well (see my post on the neutrality of rhetoric).

The third task of rhetoric, style, includes guidelines an orator should follow in order to make his or her speech/composition rhetorically powerful.  There are four virtues of style according to Quintilian and Ps-Cicero: (1) correctness, (2) clarity, (3) ornamentation, and (4) propriety. 

The virtue of correctness deals with grammar and syntax.  The rhetor should make sure that he uses correct grammar, correct syntax, correct words.  In short, the rhetor should be a competent writer. 

Clarity is a very important aspect of rhetoric because if your argument is not clear, it will not be heard or heeded. The following is a quote from Quintilian regarding the stylistic virtue of clarity:
For we must never forget that the attention of the judge is not always so keen that he will dispel obscurities without assistance, and bring the light of his intelligence to bear on the dark places of our speech. On the contrary, he will have many other thoughts to distract him unless what we say is so clear that our words will thrust themselves into his mind even when he is not giving us his attention, just as the sunlight forces itself upon the eyes. Therefore our aim must be not to put him in a position to understand our argument, but to force him to understand it (Inst. Or. 8.2.23-24).
Ornamentation is the virtue of style that deals with the pleasantness of the sound of the speech.  Figures of speech fall under the category of ornamentation. Of all of the areas of rhetoric, this one raises the most concern.  It is with ornamentation that the rhetor can really pull the wool over the eyes of the audience and wow them with his or her skills while not really making an argument.  Shouldn't people just try to get the facts across without dressing up their language?  Can ornamented speech be used for good as well as ill?  I hope so, because biblical writers use ornamented language all of the time (see my recurring post series the Friday Figure).  Ornamentation should not be thought of as mere flourish or window dressing.  At times, an appropriate figure of speech can highlight an important point that might otherwise have been missed.  As Quintilian writes:
But rhetorical ornament contributes not a little to the furtherance of our case as well.  For when our audience find it a pleasure to listen, their attention and their readiness to believe what they hear are both alike increased (Inst. Or. 8.3.5).
The last virtue of style is propriety or appropriateness.  Is the form of the speech appropriate to the context?  Does the level of style match the content?  If the content is of some lofty issue, the style should be lofty.  If of the mundane, a more plain style should be used.  Only a hearer can judge the appropriateness of any given speech.

All of these virtues of style can be used to make sure that an argument gains a fair hearing. Therefore, even though style can sometimes be used to impede the pursuit of truth, it can also lay it bare.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Five Rhetorical Tasks

There are five tasks enumerated in the rhetorical handbooks to be completed by the rhetorician.  They are: (1) inventio (invention), (2) dispositio (arrangement), (3) elocutio (style), (4) memoria (memory), and (5) pronuntiatio (delivery).  Ps-Cicero lays out these tasks as follows:
The speaker should possess the faculties of Invention, Arrangement, Style, Memory, and Delivery.  Invention is the devising of the matter, true or plausible, that would make the case convincing.  Arrangement is the ordering and distribution of the matter, making clear the place to which each thing is to be assigned.  Style is the adaptation of suitable words and sentences to the matter devised.  Memory is the firm retention in the mind of the matter, words, and arrangement.  Delivery is the graceful regulation of voice, countenance, and gesture (Rhet. Her. 1.2.3).
 Of these five tasks, the last two are of the least interest to the biblical scholar.  NT texts were not ancient speeches.  They probably were not memorized in preparation for delivery on a regular basis.  Nevertheless, NT texts were written to be read aloud, and thus some things might be noted from a study of the tasks of memory and delivery (right now the source is slipping my mind, but some have argued that the phrase "let the reader understand" in Mark 13:14 is a textual note to the one performing the text to make a certain gesture or to inflect his voice in a specific way while reading this verse).

The first three tasks are very enlightening to biblical critics.  One of the primary tools for the task of invention is the topos. A topos, which just means "place" is the rhetorical term for a stock argument or a stock image, or more simply, a "topic.".  These are arguments or images that are common and are known to work.  Here is a list of topoi from Theon's preliminary exercise of syncrisis: Birth, education, offspring, offices held, reputation, bodily condition, other external conditions, and actions/deeds (expounded upon greatly). Drawing in further categories from Theon’s discussion of encomium, the list also includes the following: city of origin, ancestors, relatives, wealth, health, strength, beauty, virtues (prudence, temperance, courage, justice, piety, generosity, magnanimity), death, and results of death.

Michael Martin has argued that these topoi lists from the progymnasmata served as templates for the writing of the gospels (Michael Martin, "Progymnastic topic lists: a compositional template for Luke and other bioi?" New Testament Studies 54 (2008) 18-41).

Arrangement is also of use for biblical critics.  Arrangement dealt with how the rhetorician should lay out his speech.  The usual order of arrangement for a speech went like this: an exordium, which was the introduction, the narratio or narration of the facts, the partitio where the speaker would outline his argument, the confirmatio, in which the speaker would give proofs, the refutatio where the rhetorician would refute his opponents, claims, and finally, the exordium or conclusion.  This standard arrangement is of some limited use for biblical scholars because NT texts were not ancient forensic speeches.  Yet, this type of arrangement has been helpful in analyzing the defense speeches of Paul in Acts.  Moreover, the theory behind the task of arrangement can shed light on biblical writers' organization of their material.

A study of the rhetorical task of style, which is my current area of expertise, can be extremely useful to the biblical critic.  It is usually in the area of style that Rhetoric gets tagged with all of its pejorative connotations.  Because rhetorical style is at the heart of my current NT research, I will create a separate post to talk about its importance to biblical scholarship. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Three Persuasive Appeals

In addition to the three genres of rhetoric which I covered previously, there are three general forms of argumentation or persuasion.  These are called persuasive appeals.  Aristotle refers to them as ethos, pathos, and logos.  An argument from ethos is based upon the character of the speaker.  Pathos arguments deal with the ability of the orator to sway the emotions of the hearer.  Finally, logos arguments deal with logical proofs.

Aristotle called these types of appeals or proofs "artistic (ἔντεχνοι )" as opposed to "nonartistic (ἄτεχνοί)."  Artistic proofs were devised through the art of rhetoric and were in contrast to nonartistic proofs such as what we might call "evidence:" witnesses, contracts, public records, etc.

All three persuasive appeals can be found in the Bible.

Paul gives a great example of an ethos argument in Galatians 1:
1:13 You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. 14 I advanced in Judaism beyond many among my people of the same age, for I was far more zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. 15 But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased 16 to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles, I did not confer with any human being, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were already apostles before me, but I went away at once into Arabia, and afterwards I returned to Damascus. 18 Then after three years I did go up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and stayed with him fifteen days; 19 but I did not see any other apostle except James the Lord’s brother. 20 In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!
Every argument in this passage is meant to build up Paul's character, to portray him as a trustworthy source for the authoritative gospel that he is preaching.

A great example of a pathos argument can be found in Jesus' lament over the city of Jerusalem in Luke 13:34.
Luke 13:34 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 
 Beginning this sentence with a repetition of the city's name demonstrates the use of a powerful and gripping figure of speech (epanalepsis) and lays Jesus' emotions bare.  This figure is then followed up by the touching and evocative simile in which Jesus is compared to a mother hen trying to gather her scattered chicks.

1 Corinthians 15 is an example of a logos appeal as Paul tries to convince his audience of the importance of the resurrection of Jesus.
15:16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised. 17 If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have died in Christ have perished. 19 If for this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 
 This passage is a good example of what Aristotle called an enthymeme, which is also called a rhetorical syllogism.  A rhetorical syllogism, which is aimed at persuasion, is a logical syllogism with an unstated premise.  The logical syllogism in this passage would go something like this, premise 1: our ultimate hope is resurrection; premise 2: Christ is not raised from the dead; conclusion: Therefore we have no hope.  What is left out is the first premise.  It is left out because it is a rhetorical assumption of the enthymeme that his audience expresses its ultimate hope in the resurrection.

Try looking through your NT sometime and try and assign given passages to one of these three persuasive appeals.  I think you will find it interesting and enlightening in trying to get at the heart of any given passage.  Ask yourself, what is the author trying to persuade me of, how are they doing that, how effective is it?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Rhetoric for Sundays

This week I will continue on my recent theme of church architecture and what it represents.

Take a look at the first two images, they are similar with some subtle differences (Disclaimer: these images come from a google image search for "church sanctuary", I have no personal knowledge of or axe to grind about any of these churches).

In this first image on the left, one can see several things.  First, the central and dominating image is the stained glass window of the cross.  Below that, in a central location is a table with a Bible and the sacramental elements.  There are various Christian symbols throughout the sanctuary.  This church has both a lectern (on the left) and a pulpit (on the right).  The lectern used for scripture reading and the pulpit used for sermon delivery are pushed to the left and right, to the periphery of the sanctuary.  This church wants to place the focus on the cross, the Bible, and the Lord's supper.

In the second image on the left, there are similarities and subtle differences.  The Cross is still prominent, placed high and in the center.  Also in the center is a table bearing a Bible.  Instead of Christian symbols spread throughout, this church has electronic equipment.  Finally, in the biggest but very subtle shift, the pulpit has been moved to the center.  This church is communicating something entirely different to the congregation.  The pulpit, and thus the preaching and the preacher are now central to worship.  The presence of the electronic equipment is more of a sign that this church is in the process of trying to update their worship style,  yet the architecture remains just as telling.

Alright, one final picture.  This image bears almost no similarity to the previous two.  There is not one cross that I can see.  There are no Christian symbols.  The pulpit is still in the center, but in this church it is clear what the central focus is.  The preacher/motivational speaker/slash rock star.  Notice how the preacher is not only the central focus on stage, he also has his face on the big screen.  The colors and bright lights are reminiscent of a rock concert.  This church elevates the pastor to the center of worship.  Interesting.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Genres or Oratory

According to Aristotle (Rhet. 1.3), there are three genres of oratory: Deliberative, Judicial (Forensic) and Epideictic.  The genre is determined by the hearer of the argument.  One audience judges the things of the future (deliberative), one the things of the past (judicial), and one is a spectator of the rhetorician's skill (epideictic). 

Deliberative speeches were often given in the assembly as orators would debate the course a polis should steer.  Judicial speeches were given in the courts as orators (serving the function of lawyers) would present their case and try to sway the judges.  Epideictic speeches were given on public occasions and would include the praise of some subject, either a city, country, or person.

All three genres of rhetoric can be found in the New Testament, and no book can be classified as just one or the other.  No book of the NT was an ancient speech, at least not in the rhetorical sense.  The gospels and Acts are narratives, the Pauline books are all letters.  Yet, they were meant to be read aloud and thus, they carry many elements from rhetorical theory.  Small sections of different NT books can be considered to fall into one or another of these three genres of rhetoric.

A good example of deliberative oratory in the New Testament is the Sermon on the Mount and its parallel, the Sermon on the Plain.  The audience of these passages is supposed to deliberate about things of the future, namely, how to live their lives.  The following is a good illustrative section from the Sermon on the Mount (All quotes NRSV):
Matt. 6:25  “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? 28 And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
A good example of Judicial oratory comes from the defense speeches in Acts.  Paul goes through several trials before being delivered to Rome.  During these trials there are examples of more or less complete forensic speeches on the part of both the accuser (prosecuting attorney) and Paul (the defendant/defense attorney).  The following passage from Acts 24 demonstrates one of Paul's defense speeches:
Acts 24:10  When the governor motioned to him to speak, Paul replied: ¶ “I cheerfully make my defense, knowing that for many years you have been a judge over this nation. 11 As you can find out, it is not more than twelve days since I went up to worship in Jerusalem. 12 They did not find me disputing with anyone in the temple or stirring up a crowd either in the synagogues or throughout the city. 13 Neither can they prove to you the charge that they now bring against me. 14 But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our ancestors, believing everything laid down according to the law or written in the prophets. 15 I have a hope in God—a hope that they themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. 16 Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience toward God and all people. 17 Now after some years I came to bring alms to my nation and to offer sacrifices. 18 While I was doing this, they found me in the temple, completing the rite of purification, without any crowd or disturbance. 19 But there were some Jews from Asia—they ought to be here before you to make an accusation, if they have anything against me. 20 Or let these men here tell what crime they had found when I stood before the council, 21 unless it was this one sentence that I called out while standing before them, ‘It is about the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial before you today.’
 Finally, a good example of epideictic oratory can be seen in Paul's praise of agape in 1 Corinthians 13.
1Cor. 13:4 Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. 7 It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. 9 For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; 10 but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Knowing what genre of rhetoric a certain passage falls into can help the critic make interpretive decisions about what the audience would expect and how well the text is able to persuade according to the goal of each genre. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Friday Figure

The Friday Figure this week comes from the book of James.  James is fond of metaphor and simile.  Chapter one alone contains several of each figure.  Below is the first simile from James chapter 1.
James 1:6 But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
Similes draw a comparison of one thing to another usually using the words "as" or "like." The simile is great for conjuring up images in the mind.  From this simile one can just picture the waves of the ocean and their mindless drifting, being completely at the mercy of the wind.

See what other similes you can find in James .

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Neutrality of Rhetoric

As I pointed out in a recent post, the common view of rhetoric is that it is a bad thing, it is merely the use of language to cover up lies.  Rhetoric is usually used as a dismissive term, as a way to ignore one's opponents arguments by claiming that any force their position has is due to the rhetorical use of language.  If this were in fact the case, that rhetoric could only be used to hide the truth and to cover lies, then my whole blog would be in vain. 

Instead, I would like to argue that rhetoric is in fact a neutral art.  In itself, the art of persuasion and speaking well has no moral component.  Yet, it can be used by the moral and the immoral alike.

One of my favorite movie quotes sums up this sentiment nicely.  In the 2006 blockbuster movie V for Vendetta, the heroine Evey says the following:
“artists use lies to tell the truth, while politicians use lies to cover the truth up.”
 What she means of course is that an artist use "lies" to get at some truth through the medium of their art.  A painter does not paint reality as it really is, and thus, "lies," but is trying to portray a greater truth through that "lie."  A storyteller tells "lies," but only to proclaim a deeper truth.  Jesus, in this sense, was a big "liar" in that much of his teaching consisted of fictional (read lies) stories in the form of what we call parables.  In a sense, storytelling is very much like rhetoric, one uses the story as a means of persuasion.

If I were to reformulate this quote to apply to rhetoric, one might say, "The good person uses rhetoric to persuasively communicate the truth, while sophists use rhetoric to persuasively obscure the truth."  Rhetoric is in itself neutral, it can be used for good or evil, to proclaim the truth or to obscure it.  Now, rhetoric in this sense is a weapon.  It is like the nuclear bomb of communication.  Perhaps unfortunately, rhetoric, like the nuclear weapon, cannot be unmade.  We cannot revert to a time when persuasive speech was not used any more than we can revert to 1943.  Once this weapon is introduced, it cannot be undone. 

So, what should good men and women do?  Should they leave this weapon only to those of ill will?  Or should they harness this weapon as a means of communicating the truth?  Either way, it is not rhetoric that carries lies or evil, but it is only the will and character of the speaker who determines to what end rhetoric is used.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Just a quick note that my dissertation is being picked up for publication by Brill in their "Biblical Interpretation Series."  I am working out the details and preparing the manuscript for them and will update you all when a publication date is announced.