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Rhetorical Criticism of the New Testament
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Rhetorical Criticism of the New Testament


Mohr Siebeck 2000

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What are the opportunities and the limits of rhetorical criticism applied to biblical texts? C. Joachim Classen illustrates these aspects by examining Paul’s epistles, the four Gospels, and Melanchthon’s rhetorical interpretation of biblical and non-biblical texts.

In view of the current debate on the application of Greek and Roman rhetoric to biblical texts, C. Joachim Classen aims at determining both the opportunities and the limits of such forms of criticism, stressing the importance of supplementing the ancient categories by modern ones. He emphasizes the difference between letters such as Paul’s epistles and other kinds of texts—for example, the Gospels—and the need to select the aspects and criteria of rhetorical criticism accordingly and tries to illustrate how such criticism may be practised. In addition, he explores the extent Paul was familiar with Greek rhetoric by an examination of his vocabulary and an analysis using Melanchthon’s early lectures, his handbooks, and his commentaries to show some of the roots of this type of criticism.

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Key Features

  • Presents new methodologies for interpreting the New Testament
  • Explores different forms of Greek for a fuller understanding of New Testament interpretation
  • Studies extrabiblical literature to bring context to biblical literature


  • Paul’s Epistles and Ancient Greek and Roman Rhetoric
  • Paul and the Terminology of Ancient Greek Rhetoric
  • A Rhetorical Reading of the Epistle to Titus
  • Rhetorical Observations on the Introductory Sections of the Four Gospels
  • Melanchthon’s Rhetorical Interpretation of Biblical and Non-Biblical Texts

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About Carl Joachim Classen

Carl Joachim Classen is a German scholar of classics. He studied at Göttingen, Hamburg, and Oxford, and began teaching at the University of Ibadan in 1956. He has held classics chairs at three universities (Berlin Institute of Technology, Würzburg, and Göttingen), and has been invited as a visiting professor to many universities.

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