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[Synoptic-L] *Ornatus* and the Synoptic Problem

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  • John C. Poirier
    I just finished reading Alex Damm s *Ornatus*: An Application of Rhetoric to the Synoptic Problem (*NovT* 45 [2003] 338-64), and have a few comments. I m
    Message 1 of 9 , Dec 2, 2003
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      I just finished reading Alex Damm's "*Ornatus*: An Application of
      Rhetoric to the Synoptic Problem" (*NovT* 45 [2003] 338-64), and have a
      few comments.

      I'm troubled by the way Damm uses the so-called rules of rhetoric. In
      adopting the terminology of rhetorical handbooks, it is not clear what
      Damm is inferring about the evangelists: Is he saying that they
      consciously followed the rhetorical technique prescribed by handbooks
      (either directly or indirectly), or is he merely using these devices as
      a cognitive filter for understanding the rhetoric of the more freestyle
      rhetoric of the evangelists. To begin with the latter: Damm does not
      come out and say that the evangelists were following rhetorical
      handbooks, or that they were indirectly influenced by them. But if
      that's *not* the case, then I fail to see why his discussion of
      redactional improvements needs the language of the rhetorical handbooks
      in the first place. We would have gotten along fine with those terms
      that have already infiltrated NT studies ("ring structure", etc.).

      And if Damm implies that the evangelists *were* consciously in touch
      with a rhetorical tradition, then we are faced with a serious problem
      that pervades other areas of NT studies (esp. Pauline studies): Scholars
      often identify a particular rhetorical (incl. stylistic) trope that they
      find in a NT author with a trope discussed in detail by Greek
      authorities on rhetoric, and assume that the NT author was consciously
      or subconsciously following the well-defined prescriptions of
      professional rhetoric. While I see little that militates against the
      possibility that NT authors were affected by these professional
      guidelines, I also see little reason to suppose it. After all, where
      did these rhetorical guidelines come from in the first place?
      Certainly, they are largely refinements of *universal* structural
      elements of argumentation. *Everyone* knows that a well-structured
      argument works much better than a careless rehearsal of the facts. In
      other words, the writers of rhetorical guides drew their material from
      the world of universal discursive logic, and this fact alone makes it
      difficult to tell whether a specific encounter with the rhetorical
      elements of this logic reflects the pre-scholarized base of the
      rhetoricians' knowledge, or is somehow a product of the rhetoricians'
      refinement of that knowledge (which seems to have consisted mostly of
      taxonomy).

      A professor of mine once said that the best way to learn how to write
      clearly is to read books that are written clearly: it simply rubs off.
      This, I think, is how 90% of rhetorical tropes are learned. When Jay
      Leno's writers use enthymeme in a joke, are they aware of the fact? I
      doubt it, and yet they use enthymeme brilliantly. Why then do scholars
      suppose that when Paul uses enthymeme he is probably reflecting a
      technical knowledge of rhetoric?

      In other words, I fail to see how the knowledge of rhetorical handbooks
      can help explain the evangelists' redactional improvements.

      There are other problems with Damm's article, as well. Most
      significantly, he uses "2DH" when he means "Markan priority". He does
      this constantly, as he very often claims that Matthew's and Luke's
      improvement of Mark is more likely than Mark's improvement of Matthew
      and Luke, referring to this as a boon for the "2DH" all the while
      failing to note how the simultaneity of Matthew's and Luke's
      improvements problematize the Q hypothesis. This confusion between
      "2DH" and "Markan priority" accounts for the logical blunder in the
      abstract to Damm's article, already noted on this e-list.


      John C. Poirier
      Middletown, Ohio





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    • Maluflen@aol.com
      ... I think you raise very reasonable precautions here, but it is difficult to judge the issue except on the basis of an analysis of individual authors. If an
      Message 2 of 9 , Dec 2, 2003
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        In a message dated 12/2/2003 11:11:56 AM Eastern Standard Time, poirier@... writes:

        > While I see little that militates against the
        > possibility that NT authors were affected by these
        > professional guidelines, I also see little reason to suppose > it.

        I think you raise very reasonable precautions here, but it is difficult to judge the issue except on the basis of an analysis of individual authors. If an author seems to show knowledge of classical sources, in terms of substance and motifs, it is prima facie likely that that author would have been aware of compositional techniques common to that literature, whether or not he was conversant in the doctrine of specific handbooks. Also, much depends on the specifics of the techniques you wish to discuss. Some are much more "natural" than other. There are devices that are clearly artificial, and therefore dependent on a specific knowledge and use of relatively precious techniques. Luke, e.g. demonstrably employs highly contrived devices (such as careful numbering and arrangement of words) of a kind that don't just happen by themselves. What can be deduced from this is another question, but it is clear that they are often self-conscious in Luke. It is also reasonable to suppose that Luke employed some standard figures of speech, discussed in the manuals, with considerable self-consciousness. He certainly knew, e.g., that he was using litotes where he does so in Acts, and it is hardly accidental that that figure is missing from his Gospel.

        Leonard Maluf
        Blessed John XXIII National Seminary
        Weston, MA
        K)è¦Øœ,z&z– zm§ÿðÃájfœºOí…ê%¢ ¿³)è¦Øœ”¸¬´ì'z´²žŠm‰ÂÎÂw«n¦iˤ
      • Richard H. Anderson
        Leonard Maluf wrote ... of speech, discussed in the manuals, with considerable self-consciousness. He certainly knew, e.g., that he was using litotes where he
        Message 3 of 9 , Dec 2, 2003
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          Leonard Maluf wrote
          >It is also reasonable to suppose that Luke employed some standard figures
          of speech, discussed in the manuals, with considerable self-consciousness.
          He certainly knew, e.g., that he was using litotes where he does so in Acts,

          >and it is hardly accidental that that figure is missing from his Gospel.

          Missing, what about Luke 1.37 For nothing is impossible with God.
          also Lk 1:5. Not many days hence (\ou meta pollas tautas hˆmeras\). A neat
          Greek idiom difficult to render smoothly into English: "Not after many days
          these." The litotes (not many=few) is common in Luke (Lk 7:6, And when he
          was now not far from the house; 15:13, And not many days after)

          Richard H. Anderson




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        • John C. Poirier
          ... Richard, From my understanding of litotes, these are not examples: they are all intended literally. John C. Poirier Middletown, Ohio Synoptic-L Homepage:
          Message 4 of 9 , Dec 3, 2003
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            Richard H. Anderson wrote:

            >Missing, what about Luke 1.37 For nothing is impossible with God.
            >also Lk 1:5. Not many days hence (\ou meta pollas tautas h^meras\). A neat
            >Greek idiom difficult to render smoothly into English: "Not after many days
            >these." The litotes (not many=few) is common in Luke (Lk 7:6, And when he
            >was now not far from the house; 15:13, And not many days after)
            >
            >Richard H. Anderson
            >
            Richard,

            From my understanding of litotes, these are not examples: they are all
            intended literally.


            John C. Poirier
            Middletown, Ohio



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          • John C. Poirier
            ... Leonard, I completely agree, and I guess that what I m driving at is a sort of middle solution with two items: (1) among writers in general, one finds a
            Message 5 of 9 , Dec 3, 2003
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              Maluflen@... wrote:

              >If an author seems to show knowledge of classical sources, in terms of substance and motifs, it is prima facie likely that that author would have been aware of compositional techniques common to that literature, whether or not he was conversant in the doctrine of specific handbooks. . . .
              >

              Leonard,

              I completely agree, and I guess that what I'm driving at is a sort of
              middle solution with two items: (1) among writers in general, one finds
              a lot of fairly genuinely freestyle rhetoric that looks like textbook
              rhetorical techniques, simply because those techniques take universal
              conventions of good style for their starting point, and (2) to some
              degree, there is probably no such thing as *purely* freestyle rhetoric
              (in the sense in which there's no such thing as solitary genius),
              because good writing skills are picked up from other writers, and the
              techniques of rhetorical handbooks will be diffuse within those other
              writers. (I should mention that I used "handbooks" in my previous post
              as a shorthand for "professionally prescribed"--Damm's article did not
              use the word "handbooks" as often as I did.)

              I should also add that if I went looking for signs of a technical
              knowledge of rhetoric in the New Testament, that I would certainly begin
              with Luke-Acts. Yet I remain dubious of the degree to which some
              scholars find this technical knowledge within the New Testament,
              especially with respect to Paul.


              John C. Poirier
              Middletown, Ohio



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            • Richard H. Anderson
              John C. Poirier From my understanding of litotes, these are not examples: they are all intended literally. Litotes is a rhetorical device of understatement
              Message 6 of 9 , Dec 3, 2003
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                John C. Poirier
                From my understanding of litotes, these are not examples: they are all
                intended literally.



                Litotes is a rhetorical device of understatement used in some languages
                in which a positive statement is intended by stating the opposite of
                its negative, for example, saying "not many" for the meaning "a few".
                Therefore my examples are valid.

                Richard H. Anderson



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              • John C. Poirier
                ... Richard, Your definition of litotes took me by surprise, since I always thought that litotes was deliberate understatement, to accentuate the superlative
                Message 7 of 9 , Dec 3, 2003
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                  Richard H. Anderson wrote:

                  >Litotes is a rhetorical device of understatement used in some languages
                  >in which a positive statement is intended by stating the opposite of
                  >its negative, for example, saying "not many" for the meaning "a few".
                  >Therefore my examples are valid.
                  >
                  Richard,

                  Your definition of "litotes" took me by surprise, since I always thought
                  that litotes was deliberate understatement, to accentuate the
                  superlative (e.g., saying "It's a little chilly" when it's really 30
                  below zero). I therefore did a search on "litotes" and found that there
                  are two very different definitions out there (yours and mine). I wonder
                  if one definition is a corruption of the other. (Does anyone on the
                  list happen to know, and [esp.] does anyone know which is correct for
                  ancient Greek rhetoric?)


                  John C. Poirier
                  Middletown, Ohio




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                • Maluflen@aol.com
                  In a message dated 12/3/2003 4:43:03 AM Pacific Standard Time, ... I think John Poirier may be right here, and that you may be missing a slight nuance in the
                  Message 8 of 9 , Dec 3, 2003
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                    In a message dated 12/3/2003 4:43:03 AM Pacific Standard Time, randerson58@... writes:


                    Litotes is a rhetorical device of understatement used in some languages
                    in which a positive statement is intended by stating the opposite of
                    its negative, for example, saying "not many" for the meaning "a few".
                    Therefore my examples are valid.



                    I think John Poirier may be right here, and that you may be missing a slight nuance in the definition of litotes, which is the element of irony and understatement (in addition to stating what is intended in a negative formulation). On the other hand, some of the cases you brought up in Lk (particularly 15:13) may indeed have this element sufficiently to qualify. Actually, I didn't intend to make a major issue of the non-presence of litotes in Luke, although my statement itself seems to imply this. A more qualified statement would perhaps be more accurate: Luke uses litotes more frequently (and with a more classical flourish) in Acts than in his Gospel. The point of this observation is to confirm the fact that Luke adjusts his style consciously to suit his material, and that in general he writes with stylistic consciousness. As the Gospel begins to move into the Greco-Roman world with the preaching of Paul, Luke begins to write more pointedly for a Greco-Roman audience. To a great extent he abandons his LXX-imitation style, and even his literary models tend to be taken more from the classical writings of Greece and Rome. Speaking of which, did anyone attend the paper at the SBL meeting by Dennis Macdonald on "Paul as Theomachus: Imitation of Euripides' Bacchae in Acts"?

                    Leonard Maluf
                    Blessed John XXIII National Seminary
                    Weston, MA
                  • John Lupia
                    According to Ad Herennium 4.38.50 deminutio (diminutio) is the lessening of one s accomplishments as a form of modesty (pudica) in a text or speech in order
                    Message 9 of 9 , Dec 3, 2003
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                      According to Ad Herennium 4.38.50 "deminutio"
                      (diminutio) is the lessening of one's accomplishments
                      as a form of modesty (pudica) in a text or speech in
                      order to gain the admiration of the audience. This
                      rhetorical form (figure of ethos)was one of two key
                      types used by speakers or authors (the other being
                      anamnesis) to establish authority with the audience.
                      This is very different from a mere deliberate
                      understatement by disproportionate characterization as
                      a lesser nature or kind, which, in rhetoric is
                      "meiosis". The opposite of this latter form is
                      overstatement or "hyperbole".

                      > > Litotes is a rhetorical device of understatement
                      > used in some languages
                      > > in which a positive statement is intended by
                      > stating the opposite of
                      > > its negative, for example, saying "not many" for
                      > the meaning "a few".
                      > > Therefore my examples are valid.




                      =====
                      John N. Lupia, III
                      Toms River New Jersey 08757 USA
                      Phone: (732) 505-5325
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