Rhetorical practice and performance in early Christianity

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According to the Gospel of Luke (4:16-20), Jesus of Nazareth inaugurates his mission in his hometown by entering the synagogue on the Sabbath and reading a passage from the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1-2). In this story Jesus not only reads from the scroll of Isaiah, declaring that this particular prophecy has now been fulfilled, but also goes on to offer an interpretation of the meaning of that text (Luke 4:23-30). In Luke's second book, the Acts of the Apostles, Paul similarly visits a synagogue on the Sabbath (Acts 13:14-43). He is asked to deliver an exhortation or "word of encouragement" (logos paraklēseōs) after the reading from the "law and the prophets." Here, in Pisidian Antioch, Paul proceeds to offer one of the more extensive examples of early Christian "missionary preaching," designed to win his primarily Jewish audience over to the "gospel of Christ." These two narratives provide intriguing glimpses, if not so much into the actual preaching of Jesus or Paul, at the very least into the character of the preaching that ostensibly predominated in early Christian practice, identity construction, and historical remembrance. Even more so, these two narratives indicate the complexity of early Christian rhetoric insofar as the performance of oratory appears already to have been bound up with both Jewish Scripture/tradition and the development of Christian narrative.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge companion to ancient rhetoric
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press/UNEP
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9780521860543
Publication statusPublished - 2009
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameCambridge companions to literature


  • international


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