Insinuatio and Paul’s Areopagus Speech in Acts 17:22-31
I am posting my 2017 SBL paper presented in Boston, MA on November 20, 2017 entitled “Insinuatio and Paul’s Areopagus Speech in Acts 17:22-31.” This was for the Greco-Roman Religions program unit with the theme of Interactions with Cultic Spaces. The paper is taken from portions of my dissertation (still finishing). You can listen to the recording above, use the PowerPoint below, and read along with the paper below. The presentation with feedback lasted 52 minutes! Not the normal length at SBL, but this was because I presented last, they had extra time for the session, and there was a business meeting afterwards for the program unit. They questioned me for about 20 minutes, some people being polite and others (ignorantly) mocking (the consensus among scholars that Greeks and Romans did not accept the Jewish-Christian theology of future, bodily, transformative resurrection).
Please properly cite this paper as such (SBLHS):
Christian, Timothy J. 2017. Insinuatio and Paul’s Areopagus Speech in Acts 17:22-31. Paper presented at the annual meeting of SBL. Boston, MA. November 20.
I gave this video lecture as a Teaching Intern in BS710 (Advanced Greek: Septuagint) at Asbury Theological Seminary during the Spring 2017 semester. Please make good use of the attached PDF above. This lecture is my summary of the entry for καί (“and” – the most common Greek conjunction) in BDAG (the most important New Testament Greek-English lexicon). I have counted 35 different uses that BDAG identifies of καί in biblical Greek! Good grief! Good Greek!
Timothy J. Christian. Summary of Ben Witherington III, “‘Almost Thou Persuadest Me…’: The Importance of Greco-Roman Rhetoric for the Understanding of the Text and Context of the NT,” JETS 58 (2015): 63-88.
In this article, Witherington puts forth and all out defense of NT rhetorical criticism (RC), refuting common objections in part I, confirming/validating the practice in part II, and demonstrating its important use to interpreting the NT (using examples) in part III.
I. REFUTATIO: OBJECTIONS TO NEW METHODS
Rhetorical analysis of the NT is not a “new method.”
It was practiced by many Greek Fathers
Origen, Cappadocian Fathers (Gregory of Nyssa, Basil, Gregory Nazianzus), and John Chrysostom, etc.
Problems lies with scholars who have not kept up with classicists and patristic scholars.
Nothing is new about RC of the NT.
RC is time-honored
Been in use for well over a 1,000 years.
Predates epistolary analysis by 1,000 years.
The rise of all the biblical criticisms during the 19th-21st centuries are “new.”
RC is not an antique method.
RC was used up until WWI.
RC fell out of usage in the 20th century due to changes in university curriculum.
Major universities dropped requirements for classical courses.
Major universities AND seminaries dropped requirements for rhetorical courses.
RC was a pattern of NT interpretation for the Western Church and Protestant tradition.
Augustine, De Doctrina Christiana
Philip Melanchthon –commentaries analyzing NT with Greco-Roman (GR) rhetoric, and handbook of GR handbooks for NT.
If this is correct, then scholars have misread the NT for a long time.
Yes – We’ve missed out.
No – We shouldn’t ONLY use rhetoric to interpret the NT. Other methods are helpful/useful/valid.
However, those who ignore rhetoric are missing enormous insights into the NT.
Most objectors to NT RC espouse that early Christians were not highly educated, which means that they could not have known GR rhetoric, and rather argued mainly from the OT.
Below are 12 responses to 12 common objects like this.
Response to 12 objections
Historically, Hellenization swept the Jewish world (Jews, Galilee, Judea) so much so that GR rhetoric was taught in Jerusalem schools.
Early Christianity was not led by illiterate Jewish peasants (contra John Dominic Crossan).
Peter and John were probably educated in Galilee.
Acts 4:13 (agrammatoi kai idiotai) – doesn’t mean they were uneducated idiots, but that they did not study with scribes in Jerusalem.
This is typical snobbery of Jerusalem elites.
Greek education was all over the world, even in the Holy Land.
Josephus (historian), Theodorus (rhetorician), Meleager (poet), and Philodemus (philosopher) were all educated in GALILEE!
Both grammarians (grammateus) and rhetoricians (rhetors) taught each other’s subjects – they both taught grammar and rhetoric.
And this in SAMARIA and GALILEE (where Jesus was raised and disciples were from)!
Rhetoric was the basic education of the day.
Rhetoric could be used in epistles.
letters of Demosthenes; Fred Long’s Ancient Rhetoric and Paul’s Apology.
Rhetorical discourses could have epistolary frameworks.
Many ancient documents had epistolary openings in non-epistle genres.
A high, formal education in rhetoric was not needed to use and recognize it.
The Roman Empire was rhetorically saturated.
In education, public speeches, inscriptions, Imperial propaganda, etc.
Most Greek speakers were either “producers or avid consumers of rhetoric” (69).
“If early Christianity really was an evangelistic religion wanting to persuade a Greek-speaking world about the odd notion that a crucified manual worker from Nazareth rose from the dead and was King of kings and Lords of lords, this was going to take some serious ‘persuasion,’ and the chief tool in the arsenal of all well-known persuaders, orators, rhetoricians in the Greco-Roman world was rhetoric” (69).
This quote helps demonstrate the contribution that RC gives to explaining the rise of early Christianity (contra Scott Hafemann in DPL [IVP] article on “Paul and His Interpreters”  where he states that rhetorical and sociological studies of the NT do not contribute much to the perennial discussion of the rise and development of early Christianity).
Early Gentile Christianity was led by gifted, educated people – Paul, Apollos, Luke – who used oral means (rhetorical preaching) for an oral culture.
Paul’s letters are surrogates for oral messages.
Ancient book trade was highly expensive and only for Roman elites.
Also, the ancient book trade was only in the beginning stages during the 1st century AD.
Thus, texts were understood as oral and always read aloud.
1 Cor 1-2 is not Paul rejecting rhetoric in general, but particularly sophistic rhetoric.
Epistolary analysis cannot be primary – RC is primary, whereas epistolary criticism (EC) is appropriate though secondary.
Cicero says a letter is “a speech in written medium” (Att. 8.14.1; cf. Pseudo-Demetrius, Eloc. 223).
Further, epistolary handbooks were later than the NT times and were not widely used/taught in schools.
1 John and Hebrews are homilies (rhetoric), not epistles – though many NT scholars wrongly attempt to classify them as epistles.
The NT letters are not private (though they are personal), but communal letters for groups and thus are meant to be performed.
Not private communication like Cicero to Atticus.
Objections about there not being a scholarly consensus on the rhetoric in NT passages does not mean that rhetoric is not in the NT.
Further, mere epistolary scholars also share no consensus either!
And that is scholarship! Rarely do scholars enjoy the pleasures of consensus.
Perhaps NT rhetorical critics are all too persuasive (my joke, not BW3)!
II. PROBATIO: THE CASE FOR RHETORICAL ANALYSIS OF THE NT
Rhetoric was the staple of GR education, not letter-writing.
Letter-writing helps with prescripts, greetings, and postscripts, but “That is all” (73).
EC provides little to no help in analyzing the bulk of NT letters (particularly, the letter body).
“Middle body” wasn’t even a category in ancient epistolary theory.
Scholars need to unlearn the anachronisms of EC, because epistolary theory developed after NT times.
No big chiasms in the NT letters!
Chiasms must be seen, but the NT was primarily heard (only the lectors/oral deliverers saw the NT texts)
Sorry Kenneth Bailey (Paul through Mediterranean Eyes)
I should write a book called Paul through Mediterranean Ears that furthers Witherington’s (and my own) view of NT RC.
Duane Watson strongly critiques chiasm studies.
Note (mine, not BW3): this is why in IBS Bauer urges that chiasm must be used with other primary Major Structural Relationships (MSR), since chiasm is a secondary MSR dependent upon primary MSRs.
Delivery of Paul’s “epistles” was entrusted to trustworthy coworkers.
It helped hearers if written/read documents were structured using common (κοινη) rhetorical structures.
Ears were trained to hear these features and even anticipate them.
The rhetorical force of the NT documents is largely lost in translation today.
We need clever translators!
The NT is full of oral documents.
This means that rhetoric is needed to analyze the NT
BECAUSE the NT was meant to persuade and preach; and the NT itself is persuasion and preaching.
III. COMPLEX RHETORICAL TECHNIQUES IN THE NT
Revisits whether macro-rhetoric is applicable to NT letters.
1 Cor 1:4-9’s thanksgiving also functions as an exordium which prepares the audience for topics to be discussed throughout the discourse and also to make them well disposed towards Paul.
Arrangement can be flexible – doesn’t always have to follow by the book, but flexible to suit the needs of the occasion and audience.
Rhetorical species can be mixed – 1 Cor is deliberative rhetoric though it has an epideictic digression in 1 Cor 13.
Methodologically, NT rhetorical critics must compare the NT not only with the GR rhetorical handbooks, but also especially from actual GR speeches.
Margaret M. Mitchell set this methodological precedent in 1991 with her Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation.
Fred Long also gives copious evidence on this score.
Romans 9-11 is an insinuatio. ******HUGE FOR MY DISSERTATION******
Changes in style explain why Paul’s language, syntax, etc. differs significantly in Ephesians, Colossians, and Pastorals.
Paul uses Asiatic rhetoric (style) in Ephesians and Colossians.
T. Johnson – “changing style was a common rhetorical tactic to be persuasive to differing audiences. It is not a matter of different authors. It is a matter of flexibility in rhetoric” (78).
Paul and other NT writers knew rhetoric extremely well and in detail (79).
Paul hade instruction from a grammaticus
Further study in letter writing and elementary rhetoric
Including progymnasmic exercises.
Paul had a tertiary-level education including rhetoric and philosophy
Same conclusion based on Paul’s use of invention and arrangement in the undisputed Paulines.
“It is time for us to give the apostle to the Gentiles his rhetorical due” (79).
Rhetoric on full display
Witherington’s Rom 7 spiel.
“This text proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Paul did not use rhetoric in some purely superficial or sparing way (e.g. using rhetorical questions). To the contrary, the very warp and woof of his argument here reflects, and indeed requires an understanding of, sophisticated rhetorical techniques to make sense of the content of this passage and the way it attempts to persuade the Roman audience” (79).
“In short, if Paul can go to these sorts of lengths to use rhetorical conventions to convict and persuade a Roman audience that he has not even met, we may be sure that it is a mistake to underestimate what was rhetorically possible for Paul and other writers of the NT. Not all of them had Paul’s skills and finesse. But almost all of them had some knowledge and made some use of not just micro-rhetoric but also macro-rhetoric, and it is high time we are in more agreement with Origen and Chrysostom and Jerome and Melanchthon and others on this score” (87).
“One ignores Greco-Roman rhetoric at one’s peril if one wants to understand the NT. It is not enough to have a nodding acquaintance with minor rhetorical devices and how they work” (87).
On September 15, 2017, I began my journey of transcribing my favorite tune from Joe Pass, arguably the greatest jazz guitarist ever (he is to me). Little did I know that I’d be done with it 5 weeks later on October 22, 2017, though I really only worked on it for about 3 of those weeks. This is one of the pinnacles of my work in jazz studies and I am very proud to present this transcription here. Before undergoing this transcription, I searched and searched on the internet for someone else’s transcription of the tune but just couldn’t find anything from Virtuoso Live!, let alone “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” As such, I think that this is the first ever available transcription of the tune. It is yours to enjoy and learn it with me.
Above (top) is a video that my friend and Old Testament professor, Dr. Lawson Stone, took of me performing the tune. Please excuse the mistakes throughout as I’m only into day two of practicing the whole song. In a week or two, I’ll probably have the whole piece under my fingers a little better, flowing a bit more with a faster tempo. Many thanks to Dr. Stone for inviting me to play with him and his guitars!
Below the video is the link to the PDF transcription. Enjoy!
This is Part 2 of my lectures on the ancient rhetorical practice of insinuatio that I gave in my dissertation mentor’s (Dr. Ben Witherington III) doctoral course entitled “Socio-Rhetorical Criticism of the New Testament” (NT903) on Tuesday, October 17, 2017. This second lecture mainly covers insinuatio in ancient speeches (rhetorical praxis) from Thucydides, Lysias, Isocrates, Demosthenes, and of course Cicero. This is Part 2 of The Rhetoric of Insinuatio: Theory and Practice. Click here for Part 1.
My dissertation mentor, Dr. Ben Witherington III, invited me to come and lecture on my dissertation topic (the rhetorical device called insinuatio [Latin]) in his doctoral course entitled “Socio-Rhetorical Criticism of the New Testament” (NT903) on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Apparently I intrigued them all enough to warrant a second invite for the following Tuesday (Part 2). You can listen here to my first lecture from Thursday which mainly covers what insinuatio is, and what the ancient Greek and Roman rhetorical handbooks have to say about it. This is Part 1 of The Rhetoric of Insinuatio: Theory and Practice. Click here for Part 2.
Dr. Jason Myers is one of our most successful PhD graduates from Asbury’s PhD program (Biblical Studies) who published a book review yesterday (Jan 27, 2017) in RBL (Review of Biblical Literature) which is the book review sector of JBL (Journal of Biblical Literature) both of which are a part SBL (Society of Biblical Literature), the largest biblical scholar society today. His review was on Teresa Morgan’s Roman Faith and Christian Faith: Pistis and Fides in the Early Roman Empire and Early Churches (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015). This is yet another great achievement not only for Dr. Myers, but also for Asbury’s PhD program. Prior to this recent RBL book review, Dr. Myers landed a deal to publish his dissertation and before that he became one of the first Asbury PhD grads to secure a full time professorship immediately following commencement. Dr. Myers is not only making a name for himself as a teacher and scholar, but his erudition is also making a name for Asbury’s PhD program which is only a little over a decade old. Dr. Myers is a shining light for Asbury and I’m proud to call him my colleague and friend. Please check out his RBL book review here and the announcement of his hire at Greensboro College here. Congrats Jason!
“This article explores the interrogatory relationship between the disciples’ two questions in Matt 24:3 and Jesus’ twofold answer in Matt 24:4–25:46 (divided 24:4-35 and 24:36–25:46). First, concerning how these questions and answers relate, Jesus answers inverted forms of their questions that imply the form, “what will be the signs of these things?” and “when will your coming and the consummation of the age happen?” Second, concerning why they relate in this way, Jesus does this to correct the disciples’ wrong views about the destruction of the temple and eschatology. Lastly, the article offers a corrective to the various eschatological positions which are often superimposed upon Matt 24–25” (Christian, “A Questionable Inversion,” 44).
A few months ago, I wrote lyrics to one of Pat Metheny’s (jazz guitarist and composer) most loved songs entitled “Last Train Home.” These lyrics came to me as I was praying for and grieving the loss of my friend’s (Todd Adams) mother (Sharon Adams). This season in the life of my family has been one of grief as we lost my beloved mother-in-law Tammy Booth to cancer last November. During this time, we have experienced both tremendous grief and yet great comfort from the Lord Jesus. This arrangement of “Last Train Home” is for the comfort of those who have lost loved one’s in the Lord, and a call for those who do not yet know the Lord to not “miss the last train home,” that is, “heaven” – the new heavens and the new earth (Revelation 21-22). “Who would ever say no to this? It’s free, a gift for eternal bliss.”
Sounds so sweet, thank the Lord above
He paid my way with his endless love
To hear his voice, to see
His face…what joy ’twill be
It’s one way, all aboard
The last train home Verse 2
Heavenward is his call for you
For me and all of the world too
He died and rose to save
He made…a way, it’s true
His love’s for you
Don’t miss the last train home
It waits for you Bridge
Many have gone there
They’ve gone before us
We miss them every day, Oh
But we will join them soon Verse 3
Who would ever say no to this?
It’s free, a gift, for eternal bliss
Repent, believe, and love
The Lord…with all your heart,
Soul, mind, and strength
The last call, all aboard (3x)
The last train home