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The gravity of speech and the particular potency of the oath in the Bible

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Chapter Summary

This chapter addresses the following questions: What is the attitude towards the spoken word and how may this impact upon the value of the oath, Can the contemporary speech-act theory, which regards an oath as a performative act, influence our apprehension of the oath's power, Is the oath meant to be regarded as a purely human creation, implemented by mutual consent so that society should be able to function on the basis of trust in the assurance of fellow man. The chapter examines the prevailing attitudes and perceptions of the oath's power in different ancient cultures as well as the Bible. This examination yields a broader and deeper understanding of the theological and practical role of the biblical oath. J.L. Austin's classic example of a speech-act, in which one's words constitute an act and not simply an utterance, is, in fact, promising, or oath-taking.

Keywords: biblical oath; J.L. Austin; speech-act theory



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