Posted by: chuckbumgardner | August 30, 2009

David deSilva and “Socio-Rhetorical Interpretation”

David deSilva, in An Introduction to the New Testament (2004), suggests a full-orbed exegetical method which he calls “socio-rhetorical interpretation” (following Vernon K. Robbins).  It was interesting to read his take on this method, for I had always understood “socio-rhetorical” to have reference only (or at least primarily) to (1) background/sociological issues and (2) the related category of analyzing how the rhetorical aspects of the text would have been understood in Greco-Roman society.  As deSilva defines “socio-rhetorical interpretation,” however, the followng are all involved.

1) First level of study: “inner texture” — detailed analysis of the text itself.  Includes textual criticism, lexical analysis, grammatical analysis, literary context, “repetitive texture” (repetition which reveals thematic material), rhetorical criticism, genre analysis (e.g., interpreting parables, epistolary analysis).

2) Second level of study: “intertexture” — the text in conversation with other “texts”.  Includes examining any quotation or allusion to the OT, or to Greco-Roman or Hellenistic Jewish traditions.

3) Third level of study: social and cultural texture — the intersection of a text and its world.  Includes examining the world of the author/original audience to determine how it might affect our understanding of the text, and social-scientific analysis (examining “how a passage orients its audience to the world of everyday life and how it seeks to shape their relationships and interactions with one another”).

4) Fourth level of study: “ideological texture” — agendas of authors and interpreters.  Involves asking what the goals of the author are, and examining how the author uses his text to achieve his goals (his “persuasive strategy”); asking whether our own agendas or presuppositions have influenced our understanding of the text adversely.

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