The Entries And Ethics Of Orators And Paul (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12) -- By: Bruce W. Winter

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 44:1 (NA 1993)
Article: The Entries And Ethics Of Orators And Paul (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12)
Author: Bruce W. Winter

The Entries And Ethics Of Orators And Paul (1 Thessalonians 2:1-12)1

Bruce W. Winter


Did Paul take cognizance of the ‘entry’ conventions and the professional behaviour associated with the highly skilled and much admired public orators of his day? In 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 he recounts the nature of his original ‘entry’ to Thessalonica. His autobiographical account is framed in the light of the ‘entry’ protocol and is also contrasted with the ethics of first century orators and sophists. Paul’s concern is that his original ‘entry’ and projected re-entry might be perceived by Thessalonian Christians in these secular categories.

The world of Paul’s day was deeply enamoured with the public oratory of the virtuoso rhetors known as ‘sophists’.2 Because Christianity spread its message in part by means of speeches, the canons of rhetoric would have been used to judge its preachers’ performances by at least some of their hearers in the East of the Roman empire. Christian missionaries themselves needed to determine their attitude to the use of classical rhetoric for preaching.3

The early preachers also had to clarify in advance whether they would observe any of the conventions related to the initial ‘coming’ of orators into a city in the first century and their professional conduct as teachers and declaimers. The ‘entry’ was crucial because by it a reputation could be secured in public life and orators could recruit fee-paying pupils or ‘disciples’ as they were often called. Did Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 recount the nature of his original ‘entry’ into Thessalonica in the light of these established conventions and if so, why did he do it?

It is proposed to examine these questions concerning Paul’s ‘coming’ by (I) exploring it in the light of the conventions surrounding the initial visit or ‘entry’ of a virtuoso orator into a city whereby one secured a place there in ‘public life’ (πολιτεία) and also in ‘education’ (παιδεία), (II) rehearsing criticisms of the professional conduct of these highly influential public figures, (III) examining Paul’s autobiographical account of his motives and conduct on his ‘entry’, (IV) comparing briefly his autobiographical description of his coming to Corinth with the entry of orators (1 Cor....

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