The Epistle To The Galatians And Classical Rhetoric: Part 3 -- By: Janet Fairweather

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 45:2 (NA 1994)
Article: The Epistle To The Galatians And Classical Rhetoric: Part 3
Author: Janet Fairweather

The Epistle To The Galatians And Classical Rhetoric: Part 3

Janet Fairweather


It has been demonstrated in Parts 1 and 2 of this study (Tyndale Bulletin, May 1994) that rhetorical criticism was applied to Paul’s Epistles in late Antiquity and that Paul himself certainly displays a knowledge of some sophisticated terms and concepts derived from the Greek theory of rhetoric, though it may still be doubted whether he obtained this knowledge direct from pagan schools or textbooks. What justification did he have, then, for representing his discourse as alien to the σοφία of this world? It will emerge, first through a close reading of Galatians and then through more general consideration of Paul’s handling of the ‘five parts of rhetoric’ that, although at the more superficial levels Paul makes use of many of the techniques favoured by classical orators, the conceptual framework in which he operated was different from that of pagan sophists and the bases of his argumentation were distinct and innovative.

III. The Word Of The Cross And The Wisdom Of This World: Galatians Re-Examined

1. Proem-Narration-Arguments-Epilogue

As is well known, the greeting which opens the Epistle to the Galatians combines Jewish elements with Greek in an innovative synthesis. The rebuke-opening θαυμάζω τι has been shown to relate to Hellenistic epistolary convention,1 but there are elements in the proem to Galatians which, at first sight at least, seem deliberately anti-rhetorical. Chrysostom2 was right to point out the oddity of placing a final Amen in a preface, though actually it is not without

parallel in the Pauline epistles.3 There is nothing remotely conciliatory about the proem to Galatians: its vehemence is, indeed, startling, and to curse the opposition is an audacious opening ploy by any standards. This is the only extant Pauline epistle-opening which does not contain a thanksgiving. Here, then, is no conventional captatio benevolentiae. However, according to Aristotle, a deliberative speech might on occasion appropriately begin with exciting of prejudice and magnification of the importance of the subject at issue.4 Arguably, Paul’s prooemium falls within those guidelines. His denial of man-pleasing intent is an overt rejection of the kind of oratorical ideal set out by Cicero in Orator 21.69: erit igitur el...

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