Thursday, December 02, 2004

A few thoughts on Paul Owen's recent post on dialogue in Acts 17.

1 Mr Owen seems to equate, with no particular argument, the Greek dialogizomai with the English "dialogue". While it might be possible to translate the word that way, the word generally means reason or argue. The fact that in English the word means a conversation between two people doesn't mean the Greeks always used it that way. In any event, we don't actually see any dialogue (in the modern sense) in the passage. We only see Paul speaking and the Greeks passing judgement on him in a general sort of way.

2 What Mr Owen calls dialogue here seems to me to be better referred to as "rhetoric". What we see illustrated is Paul's usage of the standard means of persuading others. This, of course, involves winning them to your side by arguing from some premises you know them to hold. Of course Paul did not let the Greeks determine the style, the content, or the direction of his remarks. Since the result Paul wanted to see in his audience was a total upheaval in their worldview, it would not suit to argue within their categories of thinking, but rather to use some of their terms to subvert their own thinking.

I think we would do well to think more than we do about rhetoric in the modern world, and some of Mr Owen's comments in that line are certainly helpful. But, on the other hand, we mustn't miss the fact that Paul, like any other scholar of his day, studied rhetoric formally, that is to say he practiced from early on the various means and styles available to persuade people of a point. the only place in modern american society I see this going on is in sales training (or perhaps some of the cults).

3 While dialogue may be commendable, it seems odd to praise it and yet not allow comments on the post.

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