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Paul’s Rhetoric of Knowledge

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The ΟΥΚ ΟΙΔΑΤΕ Question in 1 Corinthians 1

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Abstract The force of the question “do you not know?” is often taken for granted in contemporary scholarship on 1 Corinthians. However, the rhetorical force of the question is closely linked with its referential value, neither of which is straightforward in every case. This article begins by surveying the use of the “do you not know?” question in 1 Corinthians, noting indications that the Corinthians may not in fact know what Paul is asking. Following that is a survey of the use of “do you not know?” in Greek sources ranging from the 5th century bce to the 4th century ce. It is demonstrated that the relationship between the question “do you not know?” and the audience’s actual knowledge is not invariable; the speaker may use the question to draw on actual knowledge or to introduce elements into the discussion that the interlocutor genuinely did not know. After this survey, some conclusions are drawn with relation to Paul’s use of “do you not know?” in 1 Corinthians.

Affiliations: 1: Oxford


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