Presenting a prophet in debate : an investigation of the literary structure and the rhetoric of persuasion of the book of Amos
This thesis investigates the literary structure and the rhetoric of persuasion of the book of Amos arguing that it was not compiled simply to preserve the prophet's words. Moreover, the present work challenges the common redaction-critical view that regards the book as the result of a lengthy redactional process involving several generations of redactors who continually adapted it to guarantee its relevance for changing times and circumstances. Against this view, it is argued that the book was compiled shortly after the time of Amos, and that it was intended to capture or present the debate between Amos and his original eighth-century Israelite audience. Interpreting the book within a communication-theoretical framework, and employing the methodological tools provided by rhetorical criticism, it is claimed that it has been compiled for a specific persuasive purpose. That is to say, those responsible for the book in its present form presented the debate between Amos and the Israelites in order for it to function as a warning for a pre-exilic Judean audience. To be more specific, when read in the light of the catastrophic events of 722 BCE, the presentation of Amos struggling - and failing - to convince his contemporaries of the imminent divine punishment is a powerful warning admonishing Judean readers/hearers not to repeat the stubborn attitude of their northern brothers and sisters lest they too be severely punished by Yahweh. In the introductory chapter, we outline our definition of rhetorical criticism, its interpretive potential and the interpretive tasks it engenders. This is done partly by contrasting the approach with the tenets, aims and interests that characterise redaction criticism, which then leads to a discussion of the issues of synchrony and diachrony. In addition, the involvement of the reader in the interpretive process is looked at followed by an outline of the methodological steps of the rhetorical-critical enquiry. Chapter two, in turn, discusses the macro structure of the book beginning with a review of recent proposals. An approach is then advocated that takes into account the 'oral world' of the original hearers of the book, and seeks to establish what kind of structural markers would have been recognisable in such an oral setting. In chapter three, the rhetorical situation and the rhetorical problem that caused the production of the book are considered. This is followed by a discussion of its overall rhetorical strategy, which, as we noted earlier, is best described in terms of a presentation of the debating prophet intended to function as a warning to pre-exilic Judean readers. Chapters four to six then look at Amos 1-4 applying the rhetorical-critical notions mentioned above. Finally, our concluding chapter briefly considers the issue of rhetorical effectiveness.