Jesus Christ was a rhetorician, born in a rhetorical world. Both George Kennedy (1999) and Mikeal Parsons (2007) note that Luke was schooled in Hellenic rhetoric, and his writing exhibits use of the progymnasmata. Kennedy further argues that audiences then were “familiar with classical rhetorical practice whether from…school or from practice in the secular world” (147).[i] Indeed, the New Testament was composed when rhetorical theory reached its zenith. In Matthew 13, for example, classical rhetorical theory is evident in the parable of the sower. Christ begins by setting himself in a boat, establishing the location (kairos) of the speech, a key trope within the rhetorical tradition. Literally, Christ’s rostrum is the prow of a boat. The parable of the sower continues as ekphrasis (description), emphasizing results, one of the requirements from the progymnasmata text). Fascinatingly, the goal of ekphrasis theory, as Ruth Webb points out, is to prepare an orator for court judgments and encomia (78), further sharpening the connection between rhetorical theory and Christ’s oratory, for the handbook tradition promoted ekphrasis to strengthen one’s skills in courtroom judgments and encomia.[ii] The purpose of Christ’s ekphrasis is to judge the the seeds and praise those that fell on good soil. This presentation will analyze Christ’s parables with Hellenic rhetorical theory to demonstrate both how Christ was part of that tradition and how he was different.[i] Classical Rhetoric and Its Christian and Secular Tradition 143; Luke: Storyteller, Interpreter, Evangelist, 19. [ii] Ekphrasis, Imagination and Persuasion in Ancient Rhetorical Theory..
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