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

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Or texture:

ecclesiology: an aspect of sacred texture, it is concerned with the nature of community into which people are called by God. Regularly, primary issues in ecclesiology concern the relation of the community to God, the relation of members of the community to one another, and the commitment of people in the community to people in the world. See also religious community.

echo: Part of cultural intertexture, it is a word or phrase that evokes, or potentially evokes, a concept from cultural tradition. In other words, echo does not contain either a word or phrase that is "indisputably" from only one cultural tradition. Echo is subtle and indirect. One person may hear it while another does not, and the speaker may or may not have directly intended the echo to be there. The result is that interpreters regularly will debate the presence or absence of a particular echo in the text under consideration. Click here for examples.

economic exchange systems: Forming one of several common social and cultural topics, these systems reveal the type of economy a society has; it may be agriculturally, industrially or technologically based. Our post-industrial, urban-centered society, for instance, is very different from from the agrarian-based exchange systems of the first-century Mediterranean society.

elaboration: A rhetorical elaboration is a working out of the meaning of a thesis or chreia by supporting it with a rationale, clarifying it through an argument from the opposite or contrary, and explaining it through arguments from analogy, example, and authoritative judgment (oral or written recitation of testimony from antiquity).

embellishment: one of the components of thematic elaboration when developing a complete argument. After the proposition, the rationale and the confirmation of the rationale, the remainder of the thematic elaboration consists of confirmation and embellishment. Embellishment unfolds the issue, arguing for the truth of the propositon and rationale. The four major "argumentative figures" that were especially effective in this were (a) argument from the opposite or contrary, (b) argument from analogy, (c) argument from example, and (d) argument from ancient testimony.

emotion-fused thought: one of the three body-zones in sensory-aesthetic texture. It includes eyes, heart, eyelids, pupils and the activities of these organs--to see, know, think, understand, remember, and so forth. Representative nouns and adjectives of this zone include thought, intelligence, wisdom, blindness, joyous, etc.

encomium: part of thematic elaboration, it praises the speaker of a chreia to evoke the hearers' confidence that what the speaker says is true. The contrary, "censure" is when the speaker of a chreia creates a context in which the hearer feels confident that what the person is saying is false.

epideictic rhetoric: One of the major divisions of rhetoric in ancient rhetorical theory (judicial and deliberative are the others) it is rhetoric that evokes the context of a civil ceremony (like a funeral oration) by using praise and censure (blame) to persuade people to hold or reaffirm values in the present.

epistolary discourse: part of historical intertexture, it refers to the literary discourse that would be found in a letter; it must be distinguished both from other kinds of literary discourse (narration or speech of a character in a narrative) and historical inscriptions, annals, records, etc. Click here for examples.

eschatology: An aspect of divine history, it is the doctrine of the last or final things that will happen in this world. After these last things, the world will either be destroyed completely or transformed into a new, perfected world where sin and suffering are absent.

ethics: part of sacred texture, it concerns the responsibility of humans to think and act in special ways in both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances. When addressed in the context of religious commitment, the special ways of thinking and acting are motivated by commitment to God. Usually, ethicists work in some way with ethical principles, though some consider ethical guidelines, rules, or principles to be so intrinsic to situations that they cannot be adequately stated. While for some decades during the twentieth century, many interpreters have not considered it possible to develop a New Testament ethics, a number of interpreters now think such an ethics should be possible to formulate.

ethnic rhetoric: a particular kind of subculture rhetoric. It has origins in a language different from the languages in the dominant culture, and it attempts to preserve and perpetuate an "old system" in a dominant cultural system in which it now exists, either because a significant number of people from this ethnic culture have moved into a new cultural environment or because a new cultural system is now imposing itself on it. A particular strategy of ethnic rhetoric appears to be a focused attack on only a few elements of the larger society, rather than on that society as a whole. This helps the ethnic subculture establish and maintain boundaries by which it may be identified.

ethnocentrism: refers to basing interpretations on the values one's own people consider central to life. One of the goals of social-scientific critics during the last two decades has been to show that both North American and European interpretations of the Bible are based on individualist, guilt-oriented values rather than group-oriented, honor-shame values characteristic of Mediterranean society. Knowing the common social and cultural topics in a text can help an interpreter to avoid ethnocentric interpretation.

example: one of the argumentative devices in thematic elaboration, it is a typical, singular instance of the main point that embellishes the argument through illustration and clarification.

expansion composition: an aspect of oral-scribal intertexture, expansion composition enlarges (amplifies) the discourse in the text. This expansion may occur both in narration and in attributed speech.

extended speech: utterances by characters in the narrative which further develops an idea.

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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.