Literary and Rhetorical Theory in Irenaeus, Part 1

in Vigiliae Christianae
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Scholars have long queried the influence of rhetorical theory upon Irenaeus’ thought. Despite the identification of various aspects of rhetorical theory in his work, a clear sense of the centrality and importance of rhetorical theory to Irenaeus has not emerged. In this article I argue that concepts belonging to literary and rhetorical theory are of central importance to Irenaeus’ anti-Gnostic polemic in ah 1.8.1-10.3 and even feature in his constructive thought. What emerges is a picture of Irenaeus as a polemicist and theologian who ably uses tools acquired in a thorough grammatical and rhetorical education.

Literary and Rhetorical Theory in Irenaeus, Part 1

in Vigiliae Christianae

Sections

References

  • 3

    Grant‘Irenaeus and Hellenistic Culture’ 51.

  • 5

    Schoedel‘Philosophy and Rhetoric in Irenaeus’ 31. The following paragraphs indicate that Schoedel is mainly questioning in this last point Irenaeus’ success in supporting a proposition. He writes for instance ‘Irenaeus’ partial and undeveloped answers are never to be separated from their polemical framework’ (p. 32).

  • 9

    P. Hefner‘Theological Methodology and St. Irenaeus,’ JrnRel 44.4 (1964) 294-309 here 295.

  • 11

    W.C. van Unnik‘Interesting Document’ 206-7; R.A. Norris ‘Theology and Language’ 287-90; and R.M. Grant Irenaeus of Lyons 47-9. See also: P.M. Blowers ‘Regula Fidei and Narrative Character’ 211-12.

  • 12

    Sextus EmpiricusAgainst the Professors 3.3-4. Unless otherwise noted the text and translation of Sextus comes from Sextus Empiricus in Four Volumes (lcl; trans. R.G. Bury; Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1933-59). My presentation of Sextus closely follows the work of W. Trimpi ‘The Ancient Hypothesis of Fiction: An Essay on the Origins of Literary Theory’ Traditio 2 (1971) 1-78 here 21-22.

  • 13

    R.M. GrantIrenaeus of Lyons47-8. For a more thorough sense of the term’s breadth see: D. Holwerda ‘Zur szenisch-technischen Bedeutung des Wortes ὑπόθεσις’ pp. 173-98 in Miscellanea tragica in honorem J.C. Kamerbeek (eds. J.M. Bremer et al.; Amsterdam: A. Hakkert 1976); R. Kassel ‘Hypothesis’ pp. 53-9 in σxολια: Studia ad criticam interpretationemque textuum Graecorum et ad historiam iuris Graceo-Romani pertinentia viro doctissimo D. Holwerda oblata (eds. W.J. Aerts et al.; Groningen: E. Forsten 1985); and R. Meijering Literary and Rhetorical Theories in Greek Scholia (Groningen: E. Forsten 1987) 105-33.

  • 15

    PolybiusHistories 1.2.1; see Grant Irenaeus of Lyons 47. R. Nünlist likewise reminds us that hypothesis is the most common word for ‘subject-matter’ in ancient literary criticism (The Ancient Critic at Work: Terms and Concepts of Literary Criticism in Greek Scholia [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2011] 24n.5).

  • 17

    GrantIrenaeus of Lyons48; as found in Oxyrhynchus Papyri 52 (1984) 3650-53.

  • 34

    W. Trimpi‘The Ancient Hypothesis of Fiction: An Essay on the Origins of Literary Theory,’ Traditio 2 (1971) 1-78.

  • 35

    Trimpi‘Ancient Hypothesis’ 43.

  • 42

    BriggmanIrenaeus and the Holy Spirit173-81. Norris approaches this understanding of the relationship of God to his economy when he writes ‘There can it seems be no “going beyond” this hypothesis but only ‘inquiry into the mystery and the economy of God that is’ (2.28.1)’ (‘Theology and Language’ 294). The implication of this statement is that the mystery of God is the end of the divine economy articulated in the hypothesis of Scripture.

  • 46

    YoungThe Art of Performance47-52; Blowers critiques Young’s position (‘Regula Fidei and Narrative Character’ 210 and passim).

  • 61

    K. EdenHermeneutics and the Rhetorical Tradition: Chapters in the Ancient Legacy & Its Humanist Reception (New Haven and London: Yale University Press1997) esp. 7-40; and ‘Economy in the Hermeneutics of Late Antiquity’ in Reconfiguring the Relation Rhetoric/Hermeneutics ed. George Pullman Studies in the Literary Imagination 28.2 (1995) 13-26. As the notes indicate the following discussion draws heavily upon Eden’s work. However see also: Meijering Literary and Rhetorical Theories 134-200; and Nünlist Ancient Critic 24.

  • 62

    EdenHermeneutics and the Rhetorical Tradition27.

  • 64

    EdenHermeneutics and the Rhetorical Tradition27.

  • 65

    Eden‘Economy in the Hermeneutics of Late Antiquity’ 13-14; see also Hermeneutics and the Rhetorical Tradition 28-29.

  • 66

    QuintilianInst. Orat. 7.10.11-12 and 7.10.16-17; see Eden ‘Economy in the Hermeneutics of Late Antiquity’ 14.

  • 67

    Eden‘Economy in the Hermeneutics of Late Antiquity’ 14.

  • 68

    EdenHermeneutics and the Rhetorical Tradition29.

  • 70

    MeijeringLiterary and Rhetorical Theories184.

  • 72

    EdenHermeneutics and the Rhetorical Tradition29.

  • 77

    Eden‘Economy in the Hermeneutics of Late Antiquity’ 14; and Hermeneutics and the Rhetorical Tradition 42. In the latter work Eden explains that a text may be read in light of either the historical or textual context (pp. 29-41); this study is primarily interested in the textual context.

  • 78

    EdenHermeneutics and the Rhetorical Tradition29-41.

  • 85

    MeijeringLiterary and Rhetorical Theories185-6.

  • 87

    CiceroOn the Nature of the Gods 1.41.

  • 89

    EdenHermeneutics and the Rhetorical Tradition31-32.

  • 91

    Trimpi‘Ancient Hypothesis’ 22.

  • 93

    D.A. RussellCriticism in Antiquity (Berkely/Los Angeles: University of California Press1981) 100.

  • 95

    Sextus EmpiricusAgainst the Professors 1.263; a longer quotation of this passage appears in the previous section.

  • 100

    Schoedel‘Philosophy and Rhetoric in Irenaeus’ 31; as discussed in the introduction to this study.

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