Rhetoric and Reality in Early Christianities

Rhetoric and Reality in Early Christianities

Rhetoric and Reality in Early Christianities

Rhetoric and Reality in Early Christianities


One of the most pressing issues for scholars of religion concerns the role of persuasion in early Christianities and other religions in Greco-Roman antiquity. The essays in Rhetoric and Reality in Early Christianities explore questions about persuasion and its relationship to early Christianities. The contributors theorize about persuasion as the effect of verbal performances, such as argumentation in accordance with rules of rhetoric, or as a result of other types of performance: ritual, behavioural, or imagistic. They discuss the relationship between the verbal performance of rhetoric and other performative modes in generating, sustaining, and transmitting a persuasive form of religiosity.

The essays in this book cover a wide chronological range (from the first century to late antiquity) and diverse topical examples contribute to the collection's thematic centre: the relations among formalized and technical verbal performances (rhetoric, texts) and other forms of persuasive performances (ritual, practices), the social agendas that early Christians pursued by means of verbal, rhetorical performances, and the larger social context in which Christians and other religious groups competitively jockeyed to attract the minds and bodies of audiences in the Greco-Roman world.


This volume had its beginning in the form of a seminar held in conjunction with the Congress of the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, which took place at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, in the spring of 2000. The seminar was co-sponsored by the Canadian Society of Biblical Studies and the Canadian Society for the Study of Rhetoric, taking advantage of funds made available by the Federation for cross-disciplinary collaboration. A Conference Grant awarded by the Research Services Office of the University of Alberta provided additional support.

Not all the papers presented at the 2000 seminar are published here, nor were all the essays in this volume first presented at the seminar. All articles presented here, however, contribute to the original aim of the seminar to explore the rhetoricality of early Christian discourses and practices around the overarching question of how to account in cogently explanatory terms for the persuasions of and to early Christian groups, ideologies, and practices.

Funds in aid toward the publication of this volume were provided in part by the Office of the Vice-President (Research) and the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta. I thank Harvey Krahn, the former Associate Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Arts, for his effective role in securing these funds. Additional funds were provided by the Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion. The preparation of this volume for Studies in Christianity and Judaism/Études sur le christianisme et le judaïsme (ESCJ) was encouraged by Peter Richardson, the former editor . . .

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