Apostle of Persuasion– Part Ten

Apostle of Persuasion– Part Ten March 6, 2022

Q. At the end of your first full chapter, you make the point that Paul’s telos or goal of moral formation determines the nature of his rhetoric. I would say it often determines the content of his rhetoric, but frankly does not explain its rhetorical form. I don’t think Paul saw himself as inventing new rhetorical tropes, arrangements, etc.  But the content is another matter. Here apocalyptic, prophetic speech come into play. Yes, the content is in-house content, but the rhetorical forms he uses would be recognizable by a wider audience. Would you agree?

A. Yes, I agree that an audience would have recognized an exordium and propositio as well as ethos, pathos, logos. They would have recognized his argument from what “is fitting” (1 Cor. 11), speech in character (perhaps in Rom. 7), the fool’s speech, etc. I think they would have known analogies to that.

Q  While your book is about Paul’s letters, I do wonder what you think about the speeches of Paul in Acts, which definitely take rhetorical forms of various sorts and certainly do suggest that the content of Paul’s preaching or testimony to non-believers was not notably different from the content of his letters with rare exception (the Areopagus speech is of a mixed nature, one part quoting Greek philosophy, one part Jewish theology). Do you think Luke mis-represented Paul’s public discourse (recognizing of course that Luke says nothing really about Paul as a letter writer)?

A. As Acts 17 indicates, Luke presents Paul as a polished orator, in contrast to Paul’s own self-assessment. Luke has numerous summaries of Paul’s sermons, but only Acts 13 gives one at length (and it sounds like Peter’s sermon in Acts 2). I see considerable difference in the two portrayals. In Acts 13 and other sermons to a Jewish audience, his proofs are based on Scripture. In the letters, he works from Scripture primarily in Galatians and Romans, but little elsewhere. I don’t know if I would say that Luke misrepresented Paul, but he certainly gives a different portrait from what we have in the letters.


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