Joop F.M. Smit, «Epideictic Rhetoric in Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 1–4», Vol. 84 (2003) 183-201
In the discussion as to whether Paul uses Classical rhetoric First Corinthians 1–4 plays a key-role. In this article an overview is given of the main characteristics of the epideictic genre and in the light of this it is argued that in 1 Cor 1–4 Paul presents the four types of this genre: a paradoxical encomium in 1,18-31; an honorable encomium in 2,6-16; an ambivalent encomium in 3,5-23 and a dishonorable encomium in 4,6-13. In this manner he gives a deliberate proof of his rhetorical ability so as to restore his image, damaged by the impressive performance of Apollos who visited the city after him and apparently took the prize. So, after all, there seems to be Classical rhetoric in Paul.
Epideictic Rhetoric in Paul’s First Letter
to the Corinthians 1–4
In his article "Beiträge zur paulinischen Rhetorik"1, dating from 1897, J. Weiß offers a detailed analysis of 1 Corinthians 1–4. This analysis is restricted to the formal, stylistic characteristics of this passage, but it does justify the conclusion that this is "ein Stück feinster Schriftstellerei oder Beredsamkeit" (210). Weiß convincingly shows that Paul’s text is highly rhetorical in nature. Thereby he paves the way for closer inspection of the style, the argumentation and the rhetorical genre of 1 Cor 1–4.
It is remarkable that this analysis of Paul’s style by Weiß has hardly been more systematically developed in later research. Standard commentaries of the first epistle to the Corinthians give little attention to the special style of 1 Cor 1–4. The ones who do treat this topic do not investigate the coherence and the function of the four significant changes in style which mark this passage2. It is still more remarkable that authors, who have recently studied 1 Cor 1–4 from the perspective of Greco-Roman rhetoric, pass by the rhetorical character of Paul’s style in silence. Experts in Classical rhetoric, such as H.D. Betz3, S.M. Pogoloff4, D. Litfin5 and B.W. Winter6, without so much as deigning to look at Paul’s style, unanimously conclude that in 1 Cor 1–4 Paul, for theological reasons, rejects the use of rhetoric in