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What’s in the Word: Rethinking the Socio-Rhetorical Character of the New Testament
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What’s in the Word: Rethinking the Socio-Rhetorical Character of the New Testament


Baylor University Press 2009

Runs on Windows, Mac and mobile.


Discover how the oral and socio-rhetorical character of the New Testament and its environment transforms your reading of New Testament literature. Expanding on the work in which he has been fruitfully engaged for over a quarter century, biblical scholar Ben Witherington challenges the previously assured results of historical criticism and demonstrates chapter by chapter how the socio-rhetorical study shifts the paradigm.

Taken together, the chapters in What’s in the Word coalesce around three of Witherington’s ongoing academic concerns: orality and rhetoric; New Testament history, including issues of authenticity and canonicity; and the exegesis of given words in their canonical and socio-cultural contexts. Always unpredictable, this book never fails to pique interest and proffer instruction.

This volume carefully assesses topics with a firm biblical basis and provides readers with a deeper understanding of the foundations—as well as the contemporary implications they bring. Perfect for scholars, students, pastors, and laypersons alike, the Logos edition of these theological works is fully searchable and easily accessible. Scripture passages are linked directly to your English translations and to the original Greek text, and important theological concepts are linked to dictionaries, encyclopedias, and a wealth of resources in your digital library.

Interested in more from Ben Witherington III? Check out his Logos Mobile Education course on Johannine literature.

Key Features

  • Analyzes the socio-rhetorical content of the New Testament
  • Urges for a paradigm shift in the viewing and assessment of Scripture and other related texts
  • Discusses ancient texts and their historical importance


  • Oral Examination: How Did “Oral” Texts Function in a Rhetorical Culture?
  • Canonical Pseudepigrapha: Is It an Oxymoron?
  • Rethinking and Redescribing Scribal Culture
  • The Question of Sermons and Homilies in the New Testament
  • Romans 7:7-25: Retelling Adam’s Tale
  • What’s in a Name?: Rethinking the Historical Figure of the Beloved Disciple in the Fourth Gospel
  • What’s in a Word?: Part One—Eidolothuton
  • What’s in a Word?: Part Two—Porneia
  • What’s in a Phrase?: “No Male and Female” (Galatians 3:28)
  • “Christianity in the Making”: Oral Mystery or Eyewitness History?
  • The Rise of Canon Consciousness and the Formation of the New Testament
  • Signposts along the Way: On Taking the Less-Traveled Path

Praise for the Print Edition

Witherington here shows how fruitful socio-rhetorical perspective can be. His lively and accessible style make for stimulating reading.

Richard Bauckham, professor of New Testament, St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews

This book’s fascinating observations give stimulating guidance in hearing the texts as they were very likely meant to be heard.

Richard J. Erickson, associate professor of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

This book tackles a series of contentious subjects with clarity and verve. It may even change your mind on some.

Darrell Bock, research professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

. . . a fascinating discussion. . . . [Witherington] is correct that social history and Greco-Roman rhetoric are now more purposely employed in interpretation and have made significant advances in our understanding of the New Testament—advances he masterfully demonstrates throughout this volume.


. . . interesting, varied, provocative, well-written, and worthwhile.

——Journal for the Study of the New Testament

Product Details

  • Title: What’s in the Word: Rethinking the Socio-Rhetorical Character of the New Testament
  • Author: Ben Witherington III
  • Publisher: Baylor University Press
  • Publication Date: 2009
  • Pages: 203

About Ben Witherington III

Ben Witherington III (PhD, Durham University) is Amos Professor for Doctoral Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary, Wilmore, Kentucky, and is on the doctoral faculty at St. Andrews University, Scotland. Witherington has twice won the Christianity Today best biblical studies book-of-the-year award, and his many books include We Have Seen His Glory: A Vision of Kingdom Worship and socio-rhetorical commentaries on Mark, Acts, Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Galatians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, and 1 and 2 Thessalonians.