Jul 11, 2008

Michael Bird on the Rhetorical Function of Colossians 1:15-20

Michael Bird has posted a discussion of the rhetorical function of Colossians 1:15-20. See the post

I have to admit that I am not often interested in attempts to slot passages into rhetorical slots. (I am not suggesting that this is being done in the post in question.) My disinterest in general from such exercises is for at least two reasons. First, even those (or especially those) who are well-versed in ancient rhetoric often cannot agree on the rhetorical labels/function of particular passages (as illustrated in the post). Second, I get the feeling sometimes that so much effort is expended in trying to label the passage (propositio, narratio, etc.) that there is little energy left to explore the meaning of the passage (speaking generally and not of the above post in particular). Or in other words, so much is done in slotting of a passage, that once it is slotted, the meaning of the passage is now constrained by the slot it has been placed in. This can lead to a bit of circular argumentation. Something like, "This passage is obviously functioning as a narratio. How do you know? Be cause it is in the narratio slot of the epistle."

While I am at it, as archaic as it may be, I am often even less interested in speculative discussions of the origins of so-called pre-hymnic material in the New Testament. But that is another discussion at another time.

In any case, I am open to correction or rebuke for my disinterest.

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