Last night's Roman's class introduced something completely new. Studying chapter 7 - as convoluted and odd, yet historically important a part of the Bible as one can think - the author of the study guide, Pamela Eisenbaum introduced the possibility that, in this chapter, St. Paul is not writing in a straightforward first-person voice, but rather using a particular device drawn from the ancient practice of rhetoric. I was intrigued, to say the least, but knowing absolutely nothing about the detailed practice of rhetoric in contemporaneous literature (including sibling epistolary literature, which was quite common), I contacted a blogger and Facebook friend of mine who is a student of rhetorical criticism. He was kind enough to respond with the suggestion I check out the "Rhetoric" tag on his blog.
Talk about an embarrassment of riches! I offer just these two posts as examples of how an understanding of rhetoric, its structure and rules, and the various ways it can be used, can open up the world of the Bible in new and exciting ways. While I read "Rhetoric" years ago as a humble philosophy grad student, and can say that it was something that was used in a formal way in antiquity, with rules and principles that both the speaker/writer and hearer/reader would understand without needing to be prodded, that is the extent of my understanding. So, one of the many projects I am now setting for myself is to re-read Aristotle, peruse some more of Joel's blog posts on this specific matter, and, I hope, come to a more rich, more deep understanding of St. Paul, his writings, and what it can mean for us today.