Biblical Criticism and the Rhetoric of Inquiry

in Biblical Interpretation
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Abstract

Rhetoric has risen once more to academic prominence, an apparently "postmodern" restoration of (part of) its "premodern" status. One aspect of this resurgence is the recently emerging extension of rhetoric known as "rhetoric of inquiry," according to which "rhetoric" is sought and analyzed in places where, putatively, it ought not be: in academic discourse itself (rhetoric thus wreaking vengeance on "modern" science, the instrument of its former decline). The present study introduces this "rhetoric of inquiry" movement, suggesting some of its possibilities for examining the discipline of biblical studies. A hermeneutical application (hermeneutics, a near relation of rhetoric, having experienced a similar restoration) is sketched in criticizing the objectivist and anti-rhetorical conception of inquiry that has characterized modern biblical criticism; in this connection, classic objectivist statements and alternative critical perspectives are sampled. Also, the question of the possible improvement of the academy and inquiry by a self-consciously rhetorical perspective is raised with reference to scholarly biblical interpretation, and it is suggested that such a perspective can assist interpretive dialogue simply by clarifying differences.

Biblical Criticism and the Rhetoric of Inquiry

in Biblical Interpretation

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