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Between Dialectic and Rhetoric:Rhetorical Questions Expressing Premises inBiblical Prose Argumentation1

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Rhetorical questions expressing premises are situated at the intersection of two disciplines whose object of study is argumentation: dialectic and rhetoric. This paper examines arguments in biblical prose whose premises take the form of rhetorical questions, utilizing insights from modern dialectical and rhetorical theories of argumentation. The corpus for this study is the prose portions of Genesis-2 Kings. The nearly 130 arguments in the corpus were found to exhibit clear logical structures after undergoing reconstruction, although these structures are not necessarily deductively valid. In this, biblical arguments are typical of argumentation in natural conversation. With a few exceptions, the modes of argumentation can be classified as modus tollens, denying the antecedent, argument by consequences, or inductive reasoning. The rhetorical question plays a significant rhetorical role in these arguments, boosting the persuasive force of a disputed premise or a less-than-compelling logical relation between premises and conclusion.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Hebrew Language and Semitic LanguagesBar Ilan


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