The long running SNTS seminar ‘Paul and Rhetoric’ has produced some excellent discussion about Paul’s use of Greco-Roman rhetoric, and various collections of essays have been published on this subject, as a direct product of this seminar, and on the basis of other such seminars in the SBL and elsewhere. This particular volume with the same title as the SNTS seminar includes various essays, variously revised or translated or both (everything is in English), from the period of about 2002 to 2008 (the book itself came out in 2010 from T+T Clark– $130.00 hb/ 261 page), and the chairs of the seminar were also the editors of this volume–J.P. Sampley (Boston) and P. Lampe (Heidelburg). Having spent considerable time in the rhetorical vineyard and looked at many of these sorts of collected essay volumes, I am pleased to say that this is surely one of the best or the best such collection from the point of view of giving a review of where the state of the scholarly discussion of Paul and Rhetoric is, what are its strengths and weaknesses and where it is going. T+T Clark and the editors are to be commended for doing such a fine job, as the book is remarkably free of typos and errors, and is nicely bound in a hardback edition. But what of the content itself?
There are four major sections to the book– Part One Setting the Stage, Part Two The State of the Art, Part Three Relation of Rhetoric to Other Disciplines, and Part Four Studies of Specific Pauline Texts. The papers published under these headings represent only some of the papers presented in this SNTS seminar, and one also has to wonder, in regard to the very large essay by Troy Martin which comprises a full third of the book (some 70 pages on ‘Invention and Arrangement in Recent Pauline Rhetorical Studies’) how much of this was actually presented in the seminar anyway. Be that as it may, there are some excellent overview or review articles in this volume which is what makes it invaluable.
It is interesting that we have three essays by Peter Lampe, and two by Duane Watson, which in the end means we have exactly seven contributors to this volume, and Paul Sampley merely offers an Introduction so there are in fact only six essay contributors really. Of these the following are must reads: 1) the aforementioned Forschungsberichte by Martin; 2) the two detailed essays by Watson on ‘The Three Species of Rhetoric and the Study of the Pauline Epistles’ and ‘The Role of Style in the Pauline Epistles’. In my judgment, no one has done more than Watson to help us have overviews of the discussion of this subject over the years, both in his essays and in his bibliographical resources he has provided; 3) a very helpful discussion on ‘Ancient Rhetoric and Ancient Letters’ by Chris Forbes, and 4) Peter Lampe’s methodological reflections under the heading ‘Rhetorical Analysis of Pauline Epistles– Quo Vadit?’. Also interesting is his further essay on Quintilian’s ‘Psychological Insights in his Institutio Oratoria’ 5) Johan Vos’s ‘Rhetoric and Theology in the Letters of Paul’ is helpful as well. The other two essays, by Lampe on verbal warfare in speeches and letters, and on Pauline metaphors by Michael Winger are interesting, but not as important, and one suspects this is why they ended up at the end of this volume.
This book is clearly a great resource for those trying to get a handle on the discipline of NT rhetorical criticism, especially of Paul, and it provides copious bibliography from most of the major English, German, or French speaking scholars who discourse on this subject. While the essays are all in English, I should be clear that this volume is often written at a level of technicality that if you do not already know Greco-Roman rhetoric, then this is not the volume for you (see my NT Rhetoric instead). But for those students well immersed in this subject and sort of discourse, consider this book an essential tune up course indicating the state of the discipline and its further likely trajectories. What is perhaps most helpful about this volume is that you have seasoned veteran scholars who know the discussion forwards and backwards and are quite honest about where it has been, is now, and is going, and both the promise and the pitfalls of rhetorical analysis of Paul’s discourses. I have learned a good deal from reading this book, and I say this after having written socio-rhetorical commentaries on all the letters of Paul and most of the NT.
The book has good indexes, good bibliography, but more entry level students consulting it could have used a glossary of terms for sure.