Friday, February 4, 2011

The Friday Figure

This week's Friday Figure comes from the first letter of John.  There are actually several figures at play here.
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.
The first figure to notice is distributio.  According to the Rhetorica ad Herennium, distributio "occurs when certain specified roles are assigned among a number of things or persons."  Ps-Cicero then gives this example:
“The Senate’s function is to assist the state with counsel; the magistracy’s is to execute, by diligent activity, the Senate’s will; the people’s to chose and support it by its votes the best measures and the most suitable men.” (Ps-Cicero, Rhet. Her. IV.xxxv.47).
While the things that John writes are note strictly "roles" as set out by Ps-Cicero, they are attributes of these three different classes: Fathers, young people, and children.  John separates these classes to say something specific about each one.

The second figure to notice is pleonasm, which is the repetition of the same thought in different words (Quintilian, Inst. Or. 9.3.45-46).  John addresses each of the three groups twice, varying his thoughts and words only slightly, but essentially repeating the same material. 

The third figure to notice is anaphora, or the repetition of the same word as the first word in successive clauses (Quintilian, Inst. Or. 9.3.30).  Here we get two three fold repetitions, I write, I write, I write (γράφω, γράφω, γράφω),  and I wrote, I wrote, I wrote (ἔγραψα, ἔγραψα, ἔγραψα).  Notice even the variation of tense here, which once again uses the figure of pleonasm.

1 comment: