Porter and Olbricht on Rhetorical Analysis

From: H. Alan Brehm (102733.3234@compuserve.com)
Date: Thu Feb 29 1996 - 21:32:21 EST

In reply to Bruce Terry's message dated 2/28, I am including a copy of a review
of a fairly comprehensive work in a related field, rhetorical analysis.

H. Alan Brehm
Ass't Prof. of NT
Southwestern Bapt. Theol. Sem.
817-923-1921, ext. 6800
FAX 817-922-9005


Rhetoric and the New Testament: Essays from the 1992 Heidelberg Conference.
Edited by Stanley E. Porter and Thomas H. Olbricht. Sheffield: JSOT Press,
1993. 544 pages. Hardcover.

This collection of essays from a conference on the application of rhetorical
analysis to New Testament studies held at Heidelberg in 1992 contains
contributions by several leading scholars who have pioneered in this pursuit and
is dedicated to W. Wuellner, emeritus Professor of New Testament at Pacific
School of Religion. It is comprised of general essays regarding methodological
questions and particular essays examining specific rhetorical features of New
Testament texts. A number of the contributors debate the applicability of
rhetorical theories and categories to the New Testament. Those who approach the
question from a text-oriented perspective insist that classical rhetoric was
applied to speeches, not documents, and at best they allow only a similarity in
function between the two. Those who approach the question from a broader
linguistic perspective insist that documents were written to be read aloud to an
audience and therefore rhetorical categories, both ancient and modern, provide
insight into the function and overall social context of the New Testament, or
the "rhetorical situation."

The diversity among the perspectives demonstrates a persistent confusion about
what to call this approach. On the other hand, the emphasis on the nature of
writing documents, strategies of persuasion, and their purposes in the
first-century context aid in understanding the New Testament. These essays also
reflect the interdisciplinary nature of rhetorical criticism in its attempt to
overcome the fragmentation that has come about in biblical studies due to
specialized fields of research. Among the open questions that the contributors
raise, perhaps the central one is how to integrate the insights of rhetorical
analysis, including both a sociological and a linguistic perspective, into a
methodology for New Testament exegesis. This book is an excellent resource for
advanced student, teacher, or scholar who wants to gain an impression of what is
going on in an exciting, but often confusing, area of scholarship.

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