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Rhetoric and Reality in Early Christianities

Edited by Willi Braun
Subjects Religion, History, Jewish Studies
Series Studies in Christianity and Judaism Hide Details
Hardcover : 9780889204621, 276 pages, October 2005

Table of contents

Table of Contents for Rhetoric and Reality in Early Christianities, edited by Willi Braun
1. Rhetoric, Rhetoricality, and Discourse Performances | Willi Braun, University of Alberta
2. The Rhetoric of Social Construction: Language and Society in the Gospel of Thomas | William E. Arnal, University of Regina
3. Melito of Sardis, the Second Sophistic, and “Israel” | Laurence Broadhurst, University of Manitoba
4. Early Christian Heroes and Lukan Narrative: Stephen and the Hellenists in Ancient Historiographical Perspective | Todd Penner, Austin College
5. Can Nympha Rule This House? The Rhetoric of Domesticity in Colossians | Margaret Y. MacDonald, St. Francis Xavier University
6. “Raised from the Dung”: Hagiography, Liberation, and the Social Subversiveness of Early Medieval Christianity | John Kitchen, University of Alberta
7. Philosophical Counsel versus Customary Lament in Fourth-Century Christian Responses to Death | Theodore S. de Bruyn, University of Ottawa
8. Performativity, Narrative, and Cognition: “Demythologizing” the Roman Cult of Mithras | Luther H. Martin, University of Vermont
9. Feeling Persuaded: Christianization as Social Formation | Chad Kile, University of Alberta


One of the most pressing issues for scholars of religion concerns the role of persuasion in early Christianities and other religions in Greco-Roman antiquity. The essays in Rhetoric and Reality in Early Christianities explore questions about persuasion and its relationship to early Christianities. The contributors theorize about persuasion as the effect of verbal performances, such as argumentation in accordance with rules of rhetoric, or as a result of other types of performance: ritual, behavioural, or imagistic. They discuss the relationship between the verbal performance of rhetoric and other performative modes in generating, sustaining, and transmitting a persuasive form of religiosity.
The essays in this book cover a wide chronological range (from the first century to late antiquity) and diverse topical examples contribute to the collection’s thematic centre: the relations among formalized and technical verbal performances (rhetoric, texts) and other forms of persuasive performances (ritual, practices), the social agendas that early Christians pursued by means of verbal, rhetorical performances, and the larger social context in which Christians and other religious groups competitively jockeyed to attract the minds and bodies of audiences in the Greco-Roman world.


The collection impressively balances cohesion with diversity: a reader attracted to any one of these articles will find all to be of interest.... [E]ach article is a case study of a single issue, crucial for all current studies of Christian antiquity--the dynamic of social persuasion in cultural and religious change.... The essays work well together to reveal the ambiguities in the object defined as `rhetoric' by attending to the rhetoricity of a wide range of cultural interactions.... [A] fine collection.

- Ian H. Henderson, McGill University, Toronto Journal of Theology, 22: 2, Fall 2006

There is not an essay in the volume that is not worth reading, and each in its own way suggests a program for further research.

- John S. Kloppenborg, University of Toronto, Review of Biblical Literature, June 2006, 2009 November

Willi Braun does a marvellous job setting the theoretical foundation for the methodological approaches taken by the various authors.

- James D. Hester, University of Redlands, Journal for the Study of Rhetorical Criticism of the New Testament, July 2006, 2006 August 16

One is rewarded with nine essays that fairly bristle with clear and urgent interest in pushing past the niceties of rhetorical criticism ... to the social settings that bring the arts of persuasion to life.... The essays ... argue well for the study of rhetoric as a social, rather than merely literary practice. The volume is well worth reading, in its parts and as a whole.

- Jennifer A. Harris, University of Toronto Quarterly, Letters in Canada 2005, Volume 76, number 1, Winter 2007, 2008 January

Specialists and graduate students will find it a valuable resource for the ways in which contemporary theory has charted new directions in early Christian studies.

- David M. Reis, College of Santa Fe, Religious Studies Review, Vol. 32 # 4, October 2006, 2007 February

An outstanding understanding of the influences which Christianity induced upon its early development....Very strongly recommended to all students of Christian History and Religious Studies, Rhetoric and Reality in Early Christianities is a seminal work of considerable scholarship.

- John Taylor,, 2006 April 28