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:

healing: Removal of oppressiveness that is associated with a physical or psychological disorder (does not mean that the ailment will not return); radically changing the quality of a person's life by bringing about a change in social standing/perception. Different from cure.

historic tradition: An aspect of relation to groups, a historic tradition is one to which a person exhibits special alliance when interpreting the Bible and the world. Examples are the Catholic tradition, the Protestant tradition, or a specific tradition (e.g. Lutheran or Reformed) with Protestantism. Alliance to one of these traditions places a person within a certain ideology or ideological group.

historical criticism: A term which has two related meanings: First, it refers to a method of reading the New Testament texts as products of their historical context. Historical criticism recognized the historical, cultural, and social gaps which separate the present day from the time of the production of the New Testament texts. Understood this way, historical criticism is in contrast with the "plain" or "literal sense" of reading texts that dominated prior to the late 18th century and assumed that the New Testament texts, as the Word of God, were timeless in their message and mode of speaking and thus speak directly to the present day or any other time. Second, historical criticism is an umbrella term for a number of related interpretive strategies that grew out of the recognition of the historically bound nature of New Testament texts. These strategies include source, form, and redaction criticism. Their common features are their commitment to read the New Testament texts in their historical context and their occupation with the events "behind" the texts, namely the communities for which the texts were written, the historical Jesus, the motivations of the author of a text, and the history of a text's production.

historical discourse: A mode of intellectual discourse, scholars who use historical discourse attempt to place Christianity in its historical context as a religion among many religions in the Greco-Roman world and to trace the creation of Christian "historiography," which is interweaving of myth and lives of Jesus.

historical intertexture: A subtexture of intertexture, historical intertexture refers to the reference of historical events in a text. A piece of historical intertexture may be the only such reference to an historical event, or may be one of many which are either dependent or independent from one another. Its trustworthiness as an accurate description of a historical event depends upon the nature of the data and the support it has in other sources. Click here for examples.

historiography: Historiography is the reconstruction and recording of the events that make up a particular historical phenomenon, such as the birth of Christianity. Different groups create different histories, and thus may have particular modes, methods, or goals in their historiography. First century Christian historiography, for instance, may produce a different version of the events surrounding Jesus' life than 20th century "scholarly" historiography.

history of religions discourse: One of serveral modes of intellectual discourse, the history of religions perspective on religions and religious texts differs from theological-historical and social-scientific perspectives. It employs historical-anthropological resources, but does so to compare religious rituals, myths, festivals, and practices of groups anywhere in the world. In effect, the history of religion perspective attempts to place religious texts alongside other religious texts from the same or different historical and cultural contexts to uncover the "religiousness" of various religions, their common and unique features.

holy persons: A common subtexture of sacred texture, holy persons are those who have a special relation to God or to divine powers. In the New Testament, Jesus is the holy person par excellence. But people like Pharisees and priests also are holy persons.

honor: Honor is a claim to worth along with the social acknowledgement of worth. It serves as social rating that entitles a person to interact in specific ways with his or her equals, superiors, and subordinates, according to the prescribed cultural cues of the society. There are two types of honor: ascribed, which befalls or happens to a person passively through birth, family connections or endowment by notable persons of power, and acquired, which is honor actively sought and garnered most often at the expense of one's equals in the social contest of challenge and response. The correlate of honor is shame. Click here for examples.

honor culture: A common social and cultural topic (a subtexture of social and cultural texture), honor culture is inherent in an agonistic culture, that is, a culture dominated by the constant struggle to gain honor for oneself and to take honor from a rival. Honor, in first-century Mediterranean society, marks one as powerful and one's place on the social ladder, rating one's place in society which determines how one may interact with equals, superiors, and subordinates. Shame is an important correlate of honor in an honor culture.

honor-shame: Honor and shame are correlate goals in an honor society. Honor, which is a claim to worth along with the social acknowledgement of worth, is the highest goal. Shame, the trait that people wish to avoid at all costs, is bestowed on someone when honor is lost in a challenge-response exchange or is passively acquired when a person is born into a low social class, when a person's family is shamed, or when a notable person bestows it.

hospitality: A common social and cultural topic (a subtexture of social and cultural texture), hospitality is the welcoming of strangers as guests into one's home to dine or lodge. Hospitality plays a role in the honor culture of Mediterranean society, because a host gains honor by the quality of his/her guests and guests are expected to honor their hosts. Any slight one either party's part results in shame and dishonor on the offending party.

human commitment: A subtexture of sacred texture, human commitment is the faithful and supportive following of people who play a special role in revealing the ways of God to humans (holy persons). In the New Testament, this is usually called discipleship, though it may have different names outside of the New Testament. In all cases, the issue is the response of humans at the level of their practices.

human redemption: A subtexture of sacred texture, human redemption is the benefit transmitted from the divine realm to humans as a result of events, rituals, or practices. This benefit could take the form of a transformation of the mortal nature of humans to an immortal nature or the removal of impurity or guilt so that a person is liberated from powers or practices that are debilitating and destructive.

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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.