Abstract: Paul the Apostle has a notoriously conflicted relationship with rhetoric: while his epistles represent some of the most stylized writing of his era, his writing consistently disparages ancient conceptions about rhetoric. Through a close analysis of Paul’s writing and a critical description of the concept of parrhesia (or frank, unadorned, critical speech), this study demonstrates that Paul’s ambivalence toward rhetoric stems primarily from the tensions between orality and literacy in late antiquity. Given that Paul’s mission of spreading the Gospel was an inherently rhetorical mission, the epistles represent a documentation of the difficulties faced by a practitioner of rhetoric at a key moment in the development of common literacy. Further, while Paul is often viewed as an important figure in rhetorical history, this essay shows that Paul predated both Origen and Augustine in attempting a reconciliation of Christianity and pagan rhetoric. This affirms Paul’s oft-overlooked status as an important theorist of rhetoric.
Adam Ellwanger is a Professor of Rhetoric at the University of Houston. He publishes op-eds in various right-of-center outlets, and is the founder of The Peerless Review, an academic journal dedicated to publishing work outside of the traditional peer review process - especially work that might be perceived as controversial in the current academic climate. This essay was first published on The Peerless Review, here.
Follow Adam on Twitter at @1HereticalTruth
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