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.
Christian preaching7. In Paul’s view the dynamic of human persuasion and the dynamic of the proclamation of the Cross should be mutually exclusive. Paul defends his modus operandi as a preacher. His assignment is to proclaim the Cross simply without rhetorical means, for creating belief exclusively is the work of God’s Spirit. In my view, a theological prejudice with regard to the nature of Christian preaching blinds these scholars to the highly rhetorical character of Paul’s discourse. Therefore I intend to reopen the question as to the rhetorical character of 1 Cor 1–4.
The present examination is founded on the disposition of the text, which I have proposed in a previous article dealing with the course of the argumentation in 1 Cor 1,10–4,218. There I argued that this passage consists of four general reflections, each in a different, highly rhetorical style and followed by a practical conclusion formulated with much less rhetorical flourish. Reflections and conclusions are divided as follows: 1 Cor 1,18-31 concluded by 2,1-5; 1 Cor 2,6-16 concluded by 3,1-4; 1 Cor 3,5-23 concluded by 4,1–5; 1 Cor 4,6-13 concluded by 4,14-21. This time I focus my attention more in particular on the rhetorical character of the four general reflections. Two indications determine the direction of this investigation. Weiß clearly shows that each of these sections exhibits a distinct style, characterized in each case by an abundant use of rhetorical figures. A second observation is that in each of these sections Paul qualifies or disqualifies certain persons or groups of persons. From a rhetorical point of view these two phenomena point to the epideictic genre9.