Vernon K. Robbins

Sociorhetorical Interpretation

Emory Studies in Early Christianity

Rhetoric of Religious Antiquity

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Emory Department of Religion

Emory Graduate Division of Religion



Recitation in Acts 7:30-32

Socio-Rhetorical Examples

Definition of recitation.

Recitation may also include an episode using some of the narrative words in biblical text plus a saying from the biblical text. Acts 7.30-32 reads as follows:

30 Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight; and as he approached to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32 'I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob'. Moses began to tremble and did not dare to look.

This recitation contains words (in italics) that appear in Exodus 3.2-6. This is an excellent example of recitation in an abbreviated form, which is the sixth exercise in compositional exercises with the chreia (Hock and O'Neil 1986: 100-101). The recitation not only abbreviates the narrative wording. In Exodus 3.6 the saying of the Lord reads: I myself am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, and the God of Jacob, and the God of Isaac. Once again the New Testament recitation omits words from the biblical text. The abbreviation of both the narrative and the saying creates a dramatic chreia that features a short proverbial saying. Abbreviation of the saying is especially noticeable in this context, since the words in the Septuagint text are explicitly attributed to the Lord God. One might imagine that direct speech of God would be recited exactly the same.


From: Vernon K. Robbins (1996) The Tapestry of Early Christian Discourse: Rhetoric, Society and Ideology, London: Routledge: 104-105.

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