PAUL’S RHETORICAL EDUCATION AND
Stanley K. Stowers
In the 1970’s at Yale, Abraham J. Malherbe led an ongoing and remarkably productive seminar on “The Hellenistic Moralists and the New Testament.” Much of Abe’s own insightful work in this area was tested there first, and the list of dissertations, books and articles that have been stimulated by that seminar is impressive.1 It was during this seminar that I was first put on to the topic of the diatribe, which became the focus of my dissertation.2 I find it appropriate then, in honoring Abe, to revisit the diatribe and Romans in order to clarify some interpretations for which I have argued and to make some points about Paul’s rhetoric. I can perhaps best do this by responding to the recent book by R. Dean Anderson, Ancient Rhetorical Theory and Paul.3
Anderson’s work is helpful just because it is the kind of book that challenges Pauline scholars to be aware of complacency and carelessness in the use of ancient rhetoric. I have some agreements with major points of the work that will emerge later in this essay and have learned from Anderson’s erudite scholarship. But the book argues that almost all of the scholars who have invoked ancient rhetoric in interpreting Paul’s letters have misinterpreted the primary sources on rhetoric. In my case, he argues that a correct understanding of(or “speech-in-character”) in rhetorical theory and in practice invalidates
1 So, to name but a few examples, his articles on “Hellenistic Moralists and the New Testament,” ANRW II.26.1 (1992) 267–33 and “‘Sell-Definition among Epicureans and Cynics,” in Jewish and Christian Self-Definition, vol. 3: Self-Definition in the GraecoRoman World, ed. by. B. F. Meyer and E. P. Sanders (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982); his collected essays on Paul and the Popular Philosophers (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989); and his anthologies The Cynic Epistles (SBLSBS; Atlanta: Scholars, 1978), Moral Exhortation: A Graeco-Roman Sourcebook (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1981)), and Ancient Epistolary Theorists (SBLSBS 19; Adanta: Scholars, 1988). The list of works by students of that seminar, many of whom have contributed to this volume, is far too lengthy to rehearse here.
2The: Diatribe and Paul’s letter to the Romans (SBLDS 57; Atlanta: Scholars, 1981).
3 (Kampen: Pharos, 1990).