Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JETS 43:3 (Sept 00) p. 529
Rhetorical Analysis: An Introduction to Biblical Rhetoric. By Roland Meynet. JSOTSup 256. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1998, 386 pp., $85.00.
In 1753 both J. Astruc and R. Lowth published works of Biblical criticism. Astruc is remembered as the father of historical criticism, and Lowth’s famous study of Biblical parallelism is considered a cornerstone of poetic analysis. Because source-critical methods held sway for two centuries after Astruc, Meynet sets out to show that those who extended Lowth’s work became the forerunners of contemporary rhetorical criticism. He reproduces large portions of books he believes have been overlooked, works by J. Jebb, T. Boys, and N. Lund. This historical review takes up nearly half of the book; it shows how each labored to discern larger patterns of organization, particularly the concentric or chiastic pattern.
Meynet then states his intention to present a clear exposition of the different levels of organization in texts. His presuppositions are that Biblical texts are composed and well composed, that there is a specifically Biblical rhetoric that differs from Greco-Roman rhetoric, and that the critic should trust the composition to possess its own inner logic. Thus rhetorical criticism is also a critique of approaches that assume interpreters should look for signs of assembly, concentrating on the seams instead of the intentional design of the whole.
The book can be helpful to the teacher of Biblical interpretation in its focus on a few basic principles. First, the interpreter should look for “figures of composition which all obey the great law of symmetry” (p. 199). Two forms of symmetry are parallelism (elements recur in the same order) and concentrism (elements recur in reversed order). Second, the interpreter should look for relations of identity and difference between the elements. If the primary relation between elements (e.g. lines of a parallel verse) is identity, one should look for difference; if the primary relation is difference, then one should look for what identifies them.
Meynet’s observations on the differences between Biblical and classical rhetoric are especially useful. First, Biblical rhetoric is concrete. Greek rhetoric states and illustrates, whereas the Bible most often describes reality, leaving the reader to draw conclusions. “The Hebrew shows, the Greek demonstrates” (p. 173). Second, Biblical rhetoric uses parataxis, not syllogisms and enthymemes; words such as “whereas,” “therefore,” and “consequently” are not used. Instead, Biblical rhetoric relies on juxtaposition, such as the comparison of Jairus’s daughter and the woman with a hemorrhage. Finally, Biblical rhetoric is more innovative than linear, and this is the ...
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