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:

rationales: an argumentative device that supports the thesis (chreia or theme) by giving the reason that the thesis is to be believed. It also functions as the minor premise (or case) in a syllogistic argument. Rationales often begin with "for" or "because."

reasoning: An aspect of the argumentative texture of texts, the inner reasoning of a discourse provides the basis or the proof which supports the text's thesis. Some of this reasoning is logical. In other words, the discourse presents assertions and supports them with rationales, clarifies them through opposites and contraries, and possibly presents short or elaborate counter arguments. Other reasoning may be described as qualitative. This occurs when the quality of the images and descriptions encourages the reader to accept the portrayal as true and real. This occurs when analogies, examples, and recitations of ancient testimony function in a persuasive manner. It is also important to see that many biblical texts which at first might not seem to be argumentative in nature (that is, trying to persuade a person to act one way instead of another) do, in fact, employ an inner reasoning that functions rhetorically.

reciprocity: the informal principle on which a dyadic contract is based, reciprocity is an implicit, non-legal contractual obligation, unenforceable by any authority apart from one's sense of honor and shame. The principle of reciprocity is the most significant form of social interaction in the limited-good world of the first century. The reciprocity in dyadic contracts is either symmetrical or asymmetrical. There are also several kinds of reciprocity in the distribution system of the preindustrial-agrarian based economy: balanced, full, weak, negative. Asymmetrical reciprocity, a feature of the patron-client contract, is between partners that are not social equals and make no pretense to equality. Balanced reciprocity occurs where distant tribal kin were involved, the element of watchful calculation grew greater, and the time within which the countergift would have to be made grew less. Full reciprocity occurs among members of a family, goods and services were freely given. Negative reciprocity occurs outside the tribe mutuality ends--like morality, it only holds good for tribesmen. An outsider was fair game for clever dealing in an exchange: one could haggle, cheat and lie. Symmetrical reciprocity, a feature of a colleague contract, is between closely located persons of the same social status. Weak reciprocity occurs among members of a cadet line within a clan, gifts would be given; but an eye would be kept on the balanced return-flow of countergifts.

recitation: A form of oral-scribal intertexture, it is the transmission of speech or narrative, either from oral or written tradition, in exact or different words from which the person has received them. There are many kinds of recitation: 1) replication of exact words of another written text, 2) replication of exact words with one or more differences, 3) omission of words in such a manner that the word-string has the force of a proverb, maxim, or authoritative judgment, 4) recitation of a saying using words different from the authoritative source, 5) recitation that uses some of the narrative words in the biblical text plus a saying from the text, 6) recitation of a narrative in substantially one's own words, 7) recitation that summarizes a span of text that includes various episodes. Click here for examples.

recitations of ancient testimony: One of several argumentative devices, recitations from ancient testimony serve to embellish the rationale of an argument by supplying an authoritative confirmation. Ancient text in Mediterranean culture were considered authoritative because the culture held in high esteem anything ancient-- the greater the antiquity of a tradition, the greater authority it held in people's eyes.

reconfiguration: An aspect of oral-scribal intertexture, it is recounting a situation in a manner that makes the later event "new" in relation to a previous event. Because the "new event" is similar to a previous event, the new event replaces or "outshines" the previous event, making the previous event a "foreshadowing" of the more recent one. Click here for examples.

recontextualization: An aspect of oral-scribal intertexture, it presents wording from biblical texts without explicit statement or implication that the words "stand written" anywhere else. This may occur either in narration or in attributed speech. It is possible, of course, to have an explicit recitation that by virtue of its placement, attribution, or rewording has been recontextualized. Click here for examples.

recontextualization in attributed speech: An aspect of recontextualization, it presents, in direct speech attributed to a specific character, wording from biblical texts without explicit statement or implication that the words "stand written" anywhere else.

recontextualization in narration: An aspect of recontextualization, it presents, in events related by the narrator, wording from biblical texts without explicit statement or implication that the words "stand written" anywhere else.

redaction criticism: a type of analysis and interpretation that emphasizes the manner in which authors have edited (redacted) and incorporated sources as they have composed their texts. A redactional analysis of Matthew, for instance, studies the ways in which he used Mark and Q.

redistribution: A type of economic exchange system, it marked the historical transition from tribalism to more stable and centralized communities, usually organized around a temple or shrine.

reference: an aspect of cultural intertexture, it is a word or phrase that points to a personage or tradition known to people on the basis of tradition. Click here for examples.

reformist response: one of the seven types of social response which appear as a type of social rhetoric, (or a type of specific social topic, a subtexture of social and cultural texture) it views the world as corrupt because its social structures are corrupt. If the structures can be changed so that the behaviors they sanction are changed, then salvation will be present in the world. This response, then, assumes that evil may be dealt with according to supernaturally-given insights about the ways in which social organization should be amended. Investigation of the ways of the world and recommendations for amending it are the essential orientation. The specific alterations to be made are revealed to people whose hearts and minds are open to supernatural influence.

relation to groups:

religious community: one of the aspects of the sacred texture of a text is the formation and nurturing of religious community. In other words, regularly human commitment is not simply an individual matter but a matter of participating with other people in activities that nurture and fulfill commitment to divine ways. In Christian terminology, this is the realm of ecclesiology, the assembly of people (ecclesia) called out to worship God and enact obedience to God.

religious response: The specific social topics of social and cultural texture, a religious response is the way in which a religious community relates to the world. Anthropologists have outlined seven different responses (conversionist, revolutionist, introversionist, gnostic-manipulationist, thaumaturgical, reformist, and utopian) each of which creates a kind of culture which gives meanings, values, traditions, convictions, rituals, beliefs, and actions to people. Applying this taxonomy to New Testament literature reveals the kinds of cultures earliest Christianity nurtured and maintained in the first century Mediterranean world. It also suggests to us what kind of Christian cultures this literature has the potential to nurture in modern society.

repetitive texture: A subtexture of innertexture that resides in the occurrence of words and phrases more than once in a unit. When the same word occurs at least twice in a text, the result is repetition. Multiple occurrences of many different kinds of grammatical, syntactical, verbal, or topical phenomena may produce repetitive texture. Sometimes repetition occurs in "topics" like resurrection, suffering, and hope; sometimes in "pronouns" like I, you, and we; sometimes in "negatives" like no, not, and no one; sometimes in "conjunctions" like then, but, because, etc. Patterns of repetition appear most clearly when the interpreter first marks the repeated words somehow in the text itself, then exhibits them in some kind of systematic diagram. Click here for examples.

replication: a type of recitation in which the writer reproduces (i.e. copies) the exact words of another written text.

reported speech: Reported speech is speech relayed by the narrator. That is, it is indirect speech, words attributed to but not actually (directly) spoken by a character.

restatement: a component of a fully developed argument, it refers to the author's repeating (reiterating) the thesis in a more extended or slightly different way so as to strength and clarify the argument.

resume: it is the final element in thematic elaboration in which the author summarizes and concludes the argument by concisely stating what has been shown.

revolutionist response: one of the seven types of social response which appear as a type of social rhetoric (or a type of specific social topic, a subtexture of social and cultural texture), it declares that only the destruction of the world-- the natural, but more specifically the social order-- will be sufficient to save people. Supernatural powers must perform the destruction, because people lack the power if not to destroy the world then certainly to re-create it. Believers may themselves feel called upon to participate in the process of overturning the world, but they know that they do no more than assist greater powers and give a testimony of faith by their words and deeds. Click here for examples.

rhetography: the progressive, sensory-aesthetic, and/or argumentative texture of a text that invites a hearer/reader to create a graphic image or picture in the mind that implies a certain kind of truth and/or reality. Contrast rhetology.

rhetology: the argumentative texture of a text, which makes assertions supported by reasons and rationales, clarified by opposites, contraries, analogies, comparisons, examples, and authoritative testimony in a context either of stated conclusions or of progressive texture that invites a hearer/reader to infer a particular conclusion. Contrast rhetography.

rhetorical culture: This type of culture is characterized by the free use of older written or oral traditions in a new text. It is a culture where oral speech and written texts continually interact with one another.

rhetorolect/belief system/form of life: a form of language variety or discourse (abbreviation of "rhetorical dialect") identifiable on the basis of a distinctive configuration of themes, topics, reasonings, and argumentations. Six major rhetorolects are prominent in first Christian discourse: wisdom, prophetic, apocalyptic, precreation, miracle, and priestly discourse. Each type of discourse is a rhetorolect that certain early Christians may or may not have spoken and blended with other discourses. A rhetorolect exhibits the presence of a belief system, which is also a form of life. Speakers or writers may work primarily in the context of one rheterolect, belief system, and form of life, or they may energetically blend rhetorolects, belief systems, and forms of life in their daily lives. Whatever rhetorolects, belief systems, or forms of life are present either consciously or unconsciously on behalf of the speaker or writer, the choice exhibits distinctive socio-rhetorical features of their discourse, beliefs, and actions. By their nature, rhetorolects blend with one another, interacting like dialects do when people from different dialectical areas converse with one another. The blending of rhetorolects in first century Christian discourse created new configurations of speech, belief, thought, and action as the movement grew.

riddle: an example of a "form" in literature found in the NT, it is a question or problem posed to test the ingenuity of the hearer or reader.

rights culture:

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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.