Haggai: Master Rhetorician -- By: M.J. Boda

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 51:2 (NA 2000)
Article: Haggai: Master Rhetorician
Author: M.J. Boda

Haggai: Master Rhetorician

M.J. Boda


Although the prophet among the Book of the Twelve with the fewest words, save Jonah, Haggai takes his place among the prophetic tradition as one of its greatest rhetoricians. Utilising historical critical techniques, past scholars have often explained literary features in Haggai as evidence of the compilation of various sources and forms. This article reconsiders this evidence and argues that the same evidence reveals creative rhetorical technique. Several instances of this technique are explored and this study reveals the prophet’s sensitivity to influence the intended audience, creativity to sustain the audience’s interest and delay tactics to produce greater impact on the audience. Some of the trends identified are traced to the prophetic tradition in general, others to the Persian Period prophetic tradition, while others are seen as unique to this book.

The past year, as we have lived through the transition from one century to another, has seemed like one long retrospect over the heights and depths of the 20th century. Although many have reached saturation point because of the overuse of this retrospective genre, it is an appropriate exercise for all, especially for those whose focus is the study of the Bible.

This past century began with historical critical methods widely accepted as the appropriate tools for accessing the meaning of the ancient biblical texts. Source, Form, Tradition, and Redaction Criticism were designed to provide clear windows for observing the origins of a text and these underlying origins were considered the locus of meaning. Near the middle of the century, however, these diachronic methods were forced to share centre stage with emerging synchronic approaches. These approaches, including Rhetorical and Canonical Criticism and influenced by New Criticism and Structuralism, focused more attention on the structure of the text itself in its final form rather than searching for meaning in the earlier stages of the development of the text. In more recent years, however, the

stage has become crowded with the introduction of Reader Response, Feminist and Postmodern approaches, focusing more attention on the modern reader of the ancient text. This century has been witness to oft times confusing, always controversial shifts in the way in which scholars handle biblical texts, shifts which have moved the guild from focusing on the world behind the text to the world before the text.1

With these hermeneutical shifts has come a greater appreciation of the role of the audience in the communication act and their participation in the creation ...

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