Vernon K. Robbins

Sociorhetorical Interpretation

Emory Studies in Early Christianity

Rhetoric of Religious Antiquity

Religious Sites in Atlanta

Emory Department of Religion

Emory Graduate Division of Religion



Dictionary of Socio-Rhetorical Terms

Choose another definition:

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Or texture:

abbreviation: A form of oral-scribal intertexture where one text recites another but condenses or shortens the recited text. The abridged account does not vary factually from the written version, but the author is free to use his or her own words so that the recitation functions appropriately in its new context.

acquired honor: is honor actively sought and garnered most often at the expense of one's equals in the social contest of challenge-response, where one attempts to publically usurp the reputation of another. It contrasts with ascribed honor, which is bestowed upon a person due to circumstances such as birth, family connections, etc.

action set: An example of one's relation to groups, it is a set of persons who join together as a coalition (a temporary alliance of distinct parties for a limited purpose) to coordinate their actions to achieve a particular goal. Leadership emerges as or after they join forces to achieve the goal. Click here for examples.

agonistic culture: one in which equals regularly engage in contests or games of honor which held the prospect of a win, a tie, or a loss (from the Greek agon, which is an athletic contest or a contest of any sort between equal parties). These games of honor regularly take the form of challenge-response (risposte).

allusion: part of cultural intertexture, it is a statement that presupposes a tradition that exists in textual form, but the text being interpreted is not attempting to "recite" the text. With allusion, the text interacts with phrases, concepts, and traditions that are "cultural" possessions which anyone who knows this culture may use.

alternation: part of innertexture, it refers primarily to the change between narration (the writer's or narrator's voice) and speech (the voice that the narration attributes to specific people). It can, however refer to other kinds of shifts in the story, such as from direct to indirect speech, from first person (I) to second person (you), or to shifts in specific words (good ... bad).

alternative culture: See counterculture

anachronism: presupposing something for one period of time that was present only during a different period of time. Anachronistic interpretations unconsciously impose our social-economic systems of production and distribution on meanings and values in first century Mediterranean society that were the context for the production of our New Testament texts.

analogies: one of the topics or argumentative devices used in thematic elaboration; it embellishes the argument, helping to persuade the audience of its truth. An example of an analogy: as seeds die and a new body grows up, and as there are earthly and heavenly bodies, so a person whose earthly body dies rises up as a heavenly body.

ancient testimony:

anthropological theory: an area of study into which social and cultural texture takes the student. It deals with contemporary (modern) scientific theories about the nature of humanity; how people think, behave, interact with others, organize communities, etc.

anthropology: Anthropology is the scientific study of humankind from its beginnings to the present. It is usually broken up into specific but related disciplines: social/cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, biological anthropology, and archaeology.

apocalyptic: An aspect of divine history, it is one of the major types of first century Christian discourse. In apocalyptic, certain seers see revelations from heaven as the end time approaches, making events and procedures of the endtime known before they occur.

apocalyptic rhetorolect/belief system/form of life: One of six major first century Christian rhetorolect/belief systems. First century Christian apocalyptic belief blends human experiences of the emperor and his imperial army (firstspace) with God’s heavenly temple city (secondspace), which can only be occupied by holy, undefiled people. In the space of blending, God functions as a heavenly emperor who gives commands to emissaries to destroy all the evil in the universe and to create a cosmic environment where holy bodies experience perfect well-being in the presence of God. Apocalyptic belief, then, features destruction of evil and construction of a cosmic environment of perfect well-being. The goal of this blending is to call people into action and thought guided by perfect holiness. The presupposition of the belief system is that only perfect holiness and righteousness can bring a person into the presence of God, who destroys all evil and gathers all holiness together in God's presence. Apocalyptic redemption, therefore, means the presence of all of God’s holy beings in a realm where God’s holiness and righteousness are completely and eternally present. Return to Rhetorolect/Belief Systems table.

argumentative devices: Aspects of thematic elaboration that create argumentative texture, argumentative devices are used by rhetoricians in stories as well as speeches to persuade the reader to think and act in one way rather than another. They include: assertions, rationales, opposites, analogies, examples, and recitations of ancient written testimony. See also reasoning.

argumentative texture: A subtexture of inner texture that refers to the reasoning a text employs to persuade its reader to a conclusion. The reasoning may either be logical, where assertions are supported by syllogistic reasoning, or qualitative, where the reader is led to accept an assertion or portrayal as true because of the quality of the support of the assertion or portrayal. Click here for examples.

ascribed honor: A type of honor that befalls or happens to a person passively through birth, family connections, or endowment by notable persons of power. Its counterpart is acquired honor.

assertions: one of the major argumentative devices used by ancient rhetoricians, it is essentially the thesis presented by the discourse which must then be supported by the other devices.

attributed actions: the behavior, movement, deeds, etc. that a narrator gives to his/her characters. Early Christian discourse, for example, attributes much of its action to people like Jesus, Peter, and Paul.

attributed speech: the words that a narrator puts in the mouth of his/her characters. Early Christian discourse, for example, attributes much of its speech to people like Jesus, Peter, and Paul. See also recontextualization in attributed speech.

authoritative testimony:

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Definitions based upon Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring the Texture of Texts, Valley Forge, PA: Trinity Press International, 1996 and Vernon K. Robbins, The Tapestry of Early Christianity: Rhetoric, Society, and Ideology, London and New York: Routledge, 1996.