Ancient Rhetoric and the New Testament
The Influence of Elementary Greek Composition
336 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 3 charts
- Published: August 2018
For the ancient Greeks and Romans, eloquence was essential to public life and identity, perpetuating class status and power. The three-tiered study of rhetoric was thus designed to produce sons worthy of and equipped for public service. Rhetorical competency enabled the elite to occupy their proper place in society.
The oracular and literary techniques represented in Greco-Roman education proved to be equally central to the formation of the New Testament. Detailed comparisons of the sophisticated rhetorical conventions, as cataloged in the ancient rhetorical handbooks (e.g., Quintilian), reveal to what degree and frequency the New Testament was shaped by ancient rhetoric’s invention, argument, and style.
But Ancient Rhetoric and the New Testament breaks new ground. Instead of focusing on more advanced rhetorical lessons that elite students received in their school rooms, Michael Martin and Mikeal Parsons examine the influence of the progymnasmata—the preliminary compositional exercises that bridge the gap between grammar and rhetoric proper—and their influence on the New Testament.
Martin and Parsons use Theon’s (50–100 CE) compendium as a baseline to measure the way primary exercises shed light on the form and style of the New Testament’s composition. Each chapter examines a specific rhetorical exercise and its unique hortatory or instructional function, and offers examples from ancient literature before exploring the use of these techniques in the New Testament.
By studying the rhetoric of beginners rather than experts, Martin and Parsons demonstrate that the New Testament was not simply the product of an elite scholastic culture. "Rhetoric was in the air," acting as a stock feature of the public discourse from which the New Testament arose. Martin and Parsons demonstrate that attention to the intimate relationship between medium (the how) and message (the what) is not new. The New Testament used common strategies to communicate its uncommon Gospel.
This unique study turns New Testament rhetorical criticism on its head. Rhetorical criticism began with the great rhetorical handbooks, but Parsons and Martin start from the ground up, with the cultural and educational formation of ancient writers. Each chapter surveys a basic compositional technique found in the progymnasmata, then demonstrates its relevance for understanding the New Testament. From now on, everyone who practices rhetorical interpretation will take account of this book.~Greg Carey, Professor of New Testament, Lancaster Theological Seminary
I wish Ancient Rhetoric and the New Testament had existed a decade ago. This extensive gathering of data into one volume is truly a groundbreaking contribution to the fields of both biblical and classical studies.~Vernon Robbins, Professor of New Testament and Comparative Sacred Texts, Emory University
In Ancient Rhetoric and the New Testament, Mikeal Parsons, professor of New Testament at Baylor University, and Michael Martin, professor of New Testament at Lubbock Christian University, provide a thorough study of a dimension of rhetoric that is rarely treated in detail in current literature~James W. Thompson, Restoration Quarterly
...New Testament scholars seeking to find ways to explore the possible rhetorical backgrounds of some New Testament authors or their texts will find this volume a useful and welcome supplement to the progymnasmata themselves. It is a very good introduction and guide.~L. Gregory Bloomquist and Michael Klaassen, Review of Biblical Literature
Ancient Rhetoric and the New Testament offers a much-needed introduction to the basics of the progymnasmata, the preliminary exercises in rhetoric presupposed by the writers of the oratorical handbooks and ancient Mediterranean literature more broadly.~Michal Beth Dinkler, Assistant Professor of New Testament, Yale Divinity School
First-rate scholarship, the book is copiously researched and garnished lavishly with citations…New Testament scholars will welcome this book with open arms.~Choice
In Ancient Rhetoric and the New Testament Parsons and Martin have made an important contribution to the study of the progymnasmata, both in the fields of the classics and biblical scholarship.~Sean A. Adams, Journal for the Study of the New Testament