Classical Rhetoric & Its Christian & Secular Tradition from Ancient to Modern Times

By George A. Kennedy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7
Judeo-Christian Rhetoric

Judaism, Christianity, and, outside the western tradition, Buddhism and Islam, are religions of the word. They are based on sacred writings, and they developed preaching as a feature of their rituals. This was not the case with paganism; pagan priests performed rituals and sometimes delivered prophecies, but they did not preach. Christianity, in particular, had a commandment to preach the gospel. It sought to convert the world through the grace of God and by claims of miracles, testimony, sermons, biographies of saints, epistles, and other appeals or demonstrations; by example or a way of life, including martyrdom in the final necessity; and later in its history by the use of the rhetoric of architecture, sculpture, painting, music, and pageantry. This chapter will examine some rhetorical features of the Old and New Testaments, and the relationship between Christianity and classical rhetoric during the first four centuries of the Christian era, culminating in Saint Augustine's influential treatise, On Christian Learning.1


Old Testament Rhetoric

The books of the Old Testament were written at different times (some material perhaps as early as 900 B.C., other parts as late as the third century), not in the sequence in which they now appear, and are often the product of redaction, or composition by editors out of earlier material that was sometimes different in form and purpose. What is known as “form criticism” has brought about the recognition of types of biblical narrative, prophecy, poetry, and wisdom literature and of their Sitz

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