Antithesis and Paradox in the Epistle to Diognetus

In: Vigiliae Christianae
Michelle Freeman PhD Student, University of North Carolina 2331 Chapel Hill, NC USA

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This paper examines the use of antithesis and paradox in the Epistle to Diognetus. The text employs these rhetorico-philosophical techniques in order to provoke interest in readers, whether pagan or Christian, and lure them toward deeper inquiry and understanding of the truths the author thinks Christianity teaches. That is, the anticipated effects of antithesis and paradox as classical rhetorical tools, as described by ancient rhetoricians and philosophers, promotes the overall protreptic goal of the text. The antitheses capture the audience’s attention, while the pervasive use of paradoxical language and reasoning guides it toward deeper inquiry about Christianity. Not only are Christian existence and God’s plan of salvation paradoxical, but the author’s very understanding of how to comprehend these paradoxes contradicts the expectations created by classical philosophical notions of paradox.

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