Insights from Cicero on Paul's Reasoning in 1 Corinthians 12–14 Love Sandwich or Five Course Meal? -- By: James Patrick

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 055:1 (NA 2004)
Article: Insights from Cicero on Paul's Reasoning in 1 Corinthians 12–14 Love Sandwich or Five Course Meal?
Author: James Patrick


Insights from Cicero on Paul's Reasoning in 1 Corinthians 12–14
Love Sandwich or Five Course Meal?

James Patrick

Summary

The ‘love chapter’ in 1 Corinthians is usually thought to be a digression by Paul from his main argument about spiritual gifts. However, applying the tool of classical rhetoric to the passage reveals a previously unnoticed structure behind our chapter divisions. From the principles of good speech preparation (explained by Cicero in De Partitione Oratoria) Paul has arranged his discussion of spiritual gifts into the five standard parts: introduction, statement of facts with thesis statement, presentation of positive arguments, refutation of opponents’ views and conclusion. In this way one can identify the key summary statements, the skilful argumentation of Paul, the apparent views of his opponents, and the contextual function of chapter thirteen. This paper makes a thorough analysis of these chapters according to the theory in Cicero’s handbook, summarised in a chart at the end.

I. Introduction

In Grant’s article which outlines ‘Hellenistic Elements in 1 Corinthians’, he summarises his conclusions regarding chapter thirteen by explaining that

the rhetorical skill with which Paul has worked out his clauses and his sentences in this chapter is by no means spontaneous. It reflects a careful study either of rhetorical manuals or of some literary model or models. Admittedly we have no idea of what Paul’s sources were. It seems certain that they existed.1

The quest for ‘sources’ is invariably difficult and inconclusive, but in this paper I propose a specific rhetorical pattern, reflected in one ‘manual’ in particular, which apparently significantly influenced Paul’s construction not only of 1 Corinthians 13, but also of the whole argument of 1 Corinthians 12 to 14.

Why should we use rhetorical criticism?

Recent rhetorical studies of 1 Corinthians generally agree that chapters twelve to fourteen form a single distinct argument in the epistle, primarily because of their unity of subject matter and the clear literary breaks indicated in 12:1 and 15:1.2 Witherington recognises that the introduction with Περὶ δέ (‘But concerning …’) in 12:1 marks a new topic within the broader section...

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