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Title: A rhetorical analysis of Paul's Epistle to the Colossians
Author: Bliss, M. T.
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1998
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The study begins with an introduction which defines rhetorical criticism, traces its development from the Church Fathers to the present, examines methodologies, and summarizes the major sources of classical theory and epistolary rhetoric. The classical methodology of Kennedy is chosen, and its five steps constitute the five chapters of the thesis. The objectives are to understand the intent of the author, the persuasive power of the text upon the original audience, and how the author has transmitted his intent through the text. In Chapter one Colossians is established as a legitimate rhetorical unit with definable introduction, body, and conclusion. Theories regarding the integrity of the text and incorporation of traditional materials are examined. Classical theories of arrangement are discussed and commentators' outlines are examined. An Aristotelian outline is proposed. Chapter two defines the rhetorical situation as a complex of persons, events, objects, relations, times, and places which interact to compel the production of discourse to alter an exigence. The relationship of rhetorical situation to argumentation is discussed and the situation proposed by commentators for Colossians is summarized before investigating the letter's rhetorical complex. The question of authorship is treated and Pauline authorship is proposed. Principal characters, recipients, place and date of writing, and general content are examined. The exigence is reconstructed, with emphasis placed not on "heresy" but on the opportunity presented by the return of Onesimus to his master to encourage and instruct the Colossians in mature knowledge and conduct. The rhetorical constraints used are identified, including Paul's personal ethos, tradition, and propriety. Finally, rhetorical problems facing Paul are noted: he did not personally know his audience, lacked first-hand information of the situation in Colossae, and was prevented by imprisonment from a personal visit. Chapter three examines the letter's stasis and genus. Classical stasis theory is summarized and types of stases explained. The proposition of Colossians is examined to discover authorial intent. The causa is complex, consisting of two interrelated rational, definite questions, both exhibiting qualitative stases. Classical theories of genera are discussed and Aristotle's tripartite division is chosen as a model. Colossians' core goals of instruction and modification of behavior indicate a deliberative document which relies heavily upon epideictic. Chapter four contains a detailed examination of the letter's parts, including the author's management of materials and use of style to accomplish his purpose through the argumentation. The prescript is included under the exordium for practical purposes. The causa is identified as honorable, and the exordium is shown to be a principium which acts as an introduction, and in Colossians also resembles a narratio by recounting events which have led up to the present situation. It employs epideictic in a series of encomia to gain the good-will and attention of the audience and further strengthens the ethos of the author. The Apostle declares what he wishes to accomplish in the propositio: that his audience have full knowledge of God's will in order to please the Lord in everything by bearing fruit and increasing in knowledge, being strengthened to persevere, and giving thanks to the Father. The argumentatio treats these objectives in a series of elaborated arguments, first in the Christ hymn which instructs in fuller knowledge and is intended to lead the audience to thanksgiving by its elevated style and epideictic. This is followed by a charge to persevere, supported by the example of Paul's own joyful suffering. The argumentation flows into a warning against certain false teachings, then into a comparison of the old to the new as the author expounds upon proper Christian conduct. The epistle lacks a true peroratio, but the postscript serves as a closing. Chapter five consists of an evaluation of the effectiveness of the epistle's rhetoric and a summary and general conclusion to the thesis. The letter's persuasive strength derives mainly from the ethos of the author, the gospel tradition, and the author's skillful use of epideictic and elaborated arguments. Its weaknesses include vague, verbose style and degeneration of the later argumentation into a series of brief, unconnected imperatives. The most striking result of the analysis is the shift of emphasis from the "heresy" and the Christ hymn to the letter's moral exhortations, which has broad implications for the interpretation of the letter's situation and the author's objectives.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available