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τὸ ἐν λόγῳ ἰδιωτικὸν τοῦ Ἀποστόλου

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Revisiting Patristic Testimony on Paul’s Rhetorical Education

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Abstract The interpretation of patristic testimony has become an important part of the ongoing debate regarding Paul’s formal knowledge of ancient rhetorical theory. As early as 1898, E. Norden observed that Paul‘s earliest readers frequently commented on his innocence of Greco-Roman paideia. And yet, as Margaret Mitchell more recently has shown, these very readers often praised the power of Pauline persuasion, and, what is more, identified numerous rhetorical figures and tropes in Paul’s letters. This article provides a reevaluation of the patristic testimony as well as its apologetic context. In so doing, it calls into question Mitchell’s own explanation of the apparently contradictory evidence.

1. FN11) For a recent review, see C.J. Classen, “Kann die rhetorische Theorie helfen, das Neue Testament, vor allem die Briefe des Paulus, besser zu verstehen?,” ZNW 100 (2009) 145-172. Notable recent studies arguing that Paul was not only familiar with but formally educated in Greco-Roman rhetoric include T. Vegge, Paulus und das antike Schulwesen: Schule und Bildung des Paulus (BZNW 134; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2006); R.F. Hock, “Paul and Greco-Roman Education,” in Paul in the Greco-Roman World: A Handbook (ed. J.P. Sampley; Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity, 2003) 198-227; J.H. Neyrey, “The Social Location of Paul: Education as the Key,” in Fabrics of Discourse: Essays in Honor of Vernon K. Robbins (ed. D. Gowler, G. Bloomquist, and D.F. Watson; Harrisburg, Pa.: Trinity, 2003) 126-164. The contrary perspective is most ably argued by R.D. Anderson, Ancient Rhetorical Theory and Paul (rev. ed.; CBET 18; Leuven: Peeters, 1998).
2. FN22) Such an argument is already implicit in W.H. Wuellner, “Greek Rhetoric and Pauline Argumentation,” in Early Christian Literature and the Classical Intellectual Tradition (ed. W.R. Schoedel and R.L. Wilken; ThH 54; Paris: Beauschesne, 1979) 177-188. It is advocated most vigorously, though to opposing ends, by M.M. Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation: An Exegetical Investigation of the Language and Composition of 1 Corinthians (HUT 28; Tübingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1991) 17-19; and P.H. Kern, Rhetoric and Galatians: Assessing an Approach to Paul’s Epistle (SNTSMS 101; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998) 167-198. By now, it has become a topos of Pauline scholarship. See, e.g., M.F. Hull, Baptism on Account of the Dead (1 Cor. 15:29): An Act of Faith in the Resurrection (SBLABib 22; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005) 56.
3. FN33) A caveat is necessary here: The exegetes usually treated range from second through the fifth centuries, during which time Greek usage and rhetorical practices were, of course, not static. So, while undoubtedly closer than we to the world of discourse in which Paul engaged, patristic readers too approached Paul’s writings from some distance. Most significantly, they postdate the classicizing movement that began in the first century CE and reached its zenith in the so-called Second Sophistic. See G.C. Horrocks, Greek: A History of the Language and Its Speakers (2nd ed.; Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010) 135, 155. Cf. E.A. Judge, “Paul’s Boasting in Relation to Contemporary Professional Practice,” in Social Distinctives of the Christians in the First Century: Pivotal Essays (ed. D.M. Scholer; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2008) 61; repr. from ABR 16 (1968).
4. FN44) H.D. Betz, “The Literary Composition and Function of Paul’s Letter to the Galatians,” NTS 21 (1975) 353-379; G.A. Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism (Studies in Religion; Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984). The recent volume edited by J. Paul Sampley and Peter Lampe provides an excellent overview of the status quaestionis: Paul and Rhetoric (New York: T&T Clark, 2010).
5. FN55) E. Norden, Die antike Kunstprosa vom VI. Jahrhundert V. Chr. bis in die Zeit der Renaissance (5th ed.; Stuttgart: Teubner, 1958), 2:501-505.
6. FN66) Even C.F.G. Heinrici, whom Norden had taken to task for having the audacity to compare Paul with the likes of Demosthenes (Die antike Kunstprosa, 2:493-498), agreed that Paul had received no formal training in rhetoric. Der zweite Brief an die Korinther: Mit einem Anhang, Zum Hellenismus des Paulus (8th ed.; KEK 6; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1900) 39, 314, 453. Cf. U. von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, “Die griechische Literatur des Altertums,” in Die griechische und lateinische Literatur und Sprache (ed. P. Hinneberg; 3rd ed.; Die Kultur der Gegenwart 1.8; Leipzig: Teubner, 1912) 232; E. Renan, Saint Paul (Histoire des origines du christianisme 3; Paris: Lévy, 1869) 231-233; B. Jowett, The Interpretation of Scripture and Other Essays (London: Routledge, 1907) 51, 165; F.W. Farrar, The Life and Work of St. Paul (New York: Dutton, 1879) 1:619-625; A.D. Nock, St. Paul (London: Butterworth, 1938) 27, 235; C. von Weizsäcker, The Apostolic Age of the Christian Church (trans. James Millar; 3rd ed.; London: Williams & Norgate, 1907) 1:224-226, 311. The one major dissenting opinion, that of J. Weiss, was soon neutralized by the influential study of his student, R. Bultmann, who attributed many of the stylistic features Weiss identified not to formal rhetorical training but to the influence of the popular “Cynic-Stoic diatribe.” See Weiss, “Beiträge zur Paulinischen Rhetorik,” in Theologische Studien (ed. C.R. Gregory; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1897) 165-247; Bultmann, Der Stil der paulinischen Predigt und die kynisch-stoische Diatribe (FRLANT 13; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1910).
7. FN77) A.J. Malherbe, Social Aspects of Early Christianity (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1977) 34.
8. FN88) D.E. Aune, review of H.D. Betz, Galatians: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Churches in Galatia, RSR 7 (1981) 324.
9. FN99) Kern, Rhetoric and Galatians, 203. Cf. Anderson, Ancient Rhetorical Theory, 279-280.
10. FN1010) M.M. Mitchell, “Reading Rhetoric with Patristic Exegetes: John Chrysostom on Galatians,” in Antiquity and Humanity: Essays on Ancient Religion and Philosophy (ed. A.Y. Collins and M.M. Mitchell; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001) 333-355; Mitchell, “A Patristic Perspective on Pauline περιαυτολογία,” NTS 47 (2001) 354-371; Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet: John Chrysostom and the Art of Pauline Interpretation (HUT 40; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000) 278-291. On Chrysostom’s “rhetorical criticism,” see also M. Heath, “John Chrysostom, Rhetoric and Galatians,” BibInt 12 (2004) 369-400; L. Thurén, “John Chrysostom as a Rhetorical Critic: The Hermeneutics of an Early Father,” BibInt 9 (2001) 180-218; J. Fairweather, “The Epistle to the Galatians and Classical Rhetoric,” TynBul 45 (1994) 2-22. Cf. also R. Staats, “Chrysostomus über die Rhetorik des Apostels Paulus: Makarianische Kontexte zu ‘De Sacerdotio IV, 5-6’,” VC 46 (1992) 225-40. On Augustine, see still the curiously ambivalent work of E.A. Judge, “Paul’s Boasting in Relation to Contemporary Professional Practice,” ABR 16 (1968) 37-50.
11. FN1111) So Chrysostom, Laud. Paul. 4.10; 4.13; Hom. 1 Cor. 3.4 (PG 61:27); 15.5 (PG 61:128); Hom. Heb. 1.2 (PG 63:16); Stat. 5.6 (PG 49:71); Hom. 2 Tim. 4.3 (PG 62:622); 5.2 (PG 62:626); Scand. 20.10.
12. FN1212) So Laz. 6.9 (PG 48.1041: ὁ φιλοσόφων φιλοσοφώτερος, ὁ ῥητόρων εὐγλωττότερος); Sac. 4.7. For a thorough treatment, see Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet, 278-291. Cf. Augustine, Doct. chr. 4.7, 20.
13. FN1313) Translations here and below from Margaret M. Mitchell, “English Translation of De laudibus sancti Pauli 1-7,” in The Heavenly Trumpet: John Chrysostom and the Art of Pauline Interpretation, HUT 40 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000) 440-487.
14. FN1414) Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet, 202. See also Mitchell, “Reading Rhetoric with Patristic Exegetes,” 344-345; Mitchell, review of P.H. Kern, Rhetoric and Galatians: Assessing an Approach to Paul’s Epistle, JR 80 (2003) 498. See esp. Hom. 1 Cor. 3.4 (PG 61:27-28).
15. FN1515) See also Gregory of Nyssa, Ep. 17.11; Chrysostom, Hom. 1 Cor. 3.4 (PG 61:28: σκόπει δέ• ὁ ἁλιεὺς, ὁ σκηνοποιὸς, ὁ τελώνης, ὁ ἰδιώτης, ὁ ἀγράµµατος . . . τοὺς φιλοσόφους, τοὺς ῥήτορας, τοὺς δεινοὺς εἰπεῖν ἐκ τῆς οἰκεῖας ἀπωσάµενοι πάντας, αὐτοὶ τούτων ἐκράτησαν ἐν χρόνῳ βραχεῖ); Laud. Paul. 4.10; Ps.-Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Cor. 5:17 (PG 64:25-26: ὁ ἀγοραῖος, ὁ σκηνοποιὸς . . . τὸν φιλόσοφον ἐνίκησεν, ὁ πένης τὸν πλούσιον . . . ὁ σολοκίζων τὸν Ἀττικίζοντα ἐνίκησεν). And, more generally, Origen, Cels. 3.55.
16. FN1616) Chrysostom, Laud. Paul. 4.10; Hom. Rom. praef. (PG 60:394); Hom. 1 Cor. 3.4 (PG 61:27: ἀµαθής, ἰδιώτης, ἀπαίδευτος); Sac. 4.6. Likewise Origen, Fr. Eph. 13; Comm. Rom. 6.3.2 (PG 14:1059); Jerome, Comm. Eph. 2.586 (PL 26:477); Gregory of Nyssa, Eun. 3.1.106.
17. FN1717) Chrysostom, Laud. Paul. 4.10: οὐ λόγων ἰσχὺν ἐπιδεικνύµενος, ἀλλὰ καὶ τοὐναντίον ἅπαν, τὴν ἐσχάτην ἀµαθίαν ἀµαθὴς ὤν.
18. FN1818) See Mitchell, review of Kern, 498; Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet, 242-245. Regardless of whether Mitchell is correct here, it is important to note that by correlating both Paul’s status as a manual laborer and his self-description as ἰδιώτης τῷ λόγῳ with lack of literary education these readers give us valuable information regarding how both these texts were being interpreted in the first few centuries CE. In contrast to the majority of Pauline scholars, they had no doubt regarding the social location of leatherworkers in the ancient world. And, in contrast to many recent readers (cf. Mitchell, “Le style, c’est l’homme: Aesthetics and Apologetics in the Stylistic Analysis of the New Testament,” NovT 51 [2009] 382; D.B. Martin, The Corinthian Body [New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1995] 49), they straightforwardly read ἰδιώτης, both in 2 Cor 11:6 and Acts 4:13, as indicating lack of trained literary prowess.
19. FN1919) See E.H. Pagels, The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975) 97.
20. FN2020) Translations from Theodore of Mopsuestia, The Commentaries on the Minor Epistles of Paul (trans. R.A. Greer; SBLWGRW 26; Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2010). References follow In epistolas b. Pauli commentarii (ed. H.B. Swete; 2 vols.; Cambridge: University Press, 1880-1882).
21. FN2121) For a useful overview of the exegetical difficulty, see H.A.W. Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Epistle to the Galatians (trans. G.H. Venables; KEK 7; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1873), 76-80.
22. FN2222) So also Jerome, Comm. Gal. 1.401 (PL 26:334), likely following Origen.
23. FN2323) Cf. Mitchell, “Le style, c’est l’homme,” 383-384.
24. FN2424) Translations from Origen, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans (trans. T.P. Scheck; 2 vols.; FC 104; Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2001-2002).
25. FN2525) Cf. Methodius of Olympus, Symp. 3.2; Theodore of Mopsuestia, Comm. ep. Paul. 1:93.
26. FN2626) See also Origen, Fr. Eph. 13, followed by Jerome, Comm. Eph. 2.586 (PL 26:477).
27. FN2727) P. Brown, Power and Persuasion in Late Antiquity: Towards a Christian Empire (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1992) 73. Cf. M.F. Wiles, The Divine Apostle: The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles in the Early Church (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1967) 16-17.
28. FN2828) See J.A. Francis, Subversive Virtue: Asceticism and Authority in the Second-Century Pagan World (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995) 154-158; X. Levieils, Contra Christianos: La critique sociale et religieuse du christianisme des origines au concile de Nicée (45-325) (BZNW 146; Berlin: de Gruyter, 2007) 257-274.
29. FN2929) Cels. 3.18 (ANF 4:471). Cf. Cels. 1.27; 3.44, 50, 55, 74, 75; 6.11-14.
30. FN3030) Tellingly, even the somewhat more sympathetic Galen concluded that Christians preferred “parables” because they could not wrap their heads around demonstrative arguments. See R. Walzer, Galen on Jews and Christians (Oxford Classical and Philosophical Monographs; London: Oxford University Press, 1949) 14-15.
31. FN3131) In a similar vein, Jerome argues that the simplicity and base vocabulary of the Scripture ought not to be a source of offense, for the combination of simple diction and profound truth provides something for lettered and unlettered alike (Ep. 53.9 [PL 22:549]).
32. FN3232) Cf. J.J. Murphy, “Saint Augustine and the Debate about a Christian Rhetoric,” in The Rhetoric of St. Augustine of Hippo: De Doctrina Christiana and the Search for a Distinctly Christian Rhetoric (ed. R.L. Enos et al.; SRR 7; Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2008) 205-218; S. Rubenson, “Philosophy and Simplicity: The Problem of Classical Education in Early Christian Biography,” in Greek Biography and Panegyric in Late Antiquity (ed. T. Hägg and P. Rousseau; TCH 31; Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), 110-139.
33. FN3333) Xavier Levieils concludes, “La pauvreté littéraire des Ecritures chrétiennes semble avoir été une critique courante au IIIe siècle” (Contra Christianos, 268).
34. FN3434) And perhaps to Paul—but that is a topic for elsewhere.
35. FN3535) See esp. Comm. Rom. 6.13 (PG 14:1098). Cf. Wiles, Divine Apostle, 17-18.
36. FN3636) On the background of Origen’s “condescension” language, see M.M. Mitchell, “Pauline Accommodation and ‘Condescension’ (συγκατάβασις): 1 Cor 9:19-23 and the History of Influence,” in Paul Beyond the Judaism/Hellenism Divide (ed. T. Engberg-Pedersen; Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2001) 205-212.
37. FN3737) ἐξειλήφαµεν, ὡς θησαυροῦ µὲν λεγοµένου τοῦ ἀλλαχόσε θησαυροῦ τῆς γνώσεως καὶ σοφίας τῆς ἀποκρύφου, ὀστρακίνων δὲ σκευῶν τῆς εὐτελοῦς καὶ εὐκαταφρονήτου παρ’ Ἕλλησι λέξεως τῶν γραφῶν (Comm. Jo. 4.2).
38. FN3838) Lest one think Origen indiscriminately evaluated all of Scripture as unlearned, it is worth recalling again his observation that Hebrews is not characterized by the same unlearned diction and phraseology as Paul’s authentic letters (Fr. Heb. [PG 14:1308-1309]).
39. FN3939) F. Nietzsche, Jenseits von Gut und Böse: Vorspiel einer Philosophie der Zukunft (Leipzig: Naumann, 1886) 94.
40. FN4040) Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet, 243.
41. FN4141) Mitchell, The Heavenly Trumpet, 244, 242n198.
42. FN4242) See esp. Chrysostom, Hom. 2 Tim. 4.3 (PG 62:622).
43. FN4343) A. Cameron, Christianity and the Rhetoric of Empire: The Development of Christian Discourse (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991) 155-188.
44. FN4444) Chrysostom’s identification of prosopopoiia in Isaiah was noted by Mitchell, “Patristic Perspective,” 366n62.
45. FN4545) See also Chrysostom’s discussions of the τάξις of Isaiah’s λόγος in Comm. Isa. 1.7; 1.9; 3.5. Cf. praef.; 2.1. Other rhetorical terminology is scattered throughout, e.g. παράδειγµα (5.1); ὑπερβολικός (5.8).
46. FN4646) On the formative influence of rhetorical training, particularly on Antiochene exegetes, see F.M. Young, “The Rhetorical Schools and Their Influence on Patristic Exegesis,” in The Making of Orthodoxy: Essays in Honour of Henry Chadwick (ed. R. Williams; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989) 182-199.
47. FN4747) See esp. Aristotle, Rhet. 1.1-2; Quintilian, Inst. 2.17.6; 3.2.3; Cicero, De or. 1.23.109; 1.32.146; Augustine, Doct. chr. 4.3.4 [PL 34:91]. Cf. Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation, 10-11; Kennedy, Comparative Rhetoric: An Historical and Cross-Cultural Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) 215-218 and passim; C.J. Classen, Rhetorical Criticism of the New Testament (WUNT 128; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000) 28; M.J. Edwards, “Gospel and Genre: Some Reservations,” in The Limits of Ancient Biography (ed. B. McGing and J. Mossman; Swansea: Classical Press of Wales, 2006) 51.
48. FN4848) Still insightful here are the remarks of Heinrici, Der zweite Brief an die Korinther, 39-41.

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