Bibliotheca Sacra 150 (July-September 1993) 341-58.
Copyright © 1993 by
RHETORICAL ANALYSIS OF
THE BOOK OF GALATIANS,
Walter B. Russell
In recent years several new hermeneutical approaches to
the Scriptures have arisen. One of the most promising, yet formi-
dable and sometimes inscrutable, approaches is that of "rhetori-
cal analysis" or "rhetorical criticism." The barrage of Latin
terminology used in rhetorical analysis is enough by itself to de-
ter most exegetes who were deprived of a classical education. Add
to this difficulty some exposure to extreme applications of rhetori-
cal analysis in a few biblical books, and evangelical exegetes
may be totally deterred from investigating this interpretive tool.
This two-part series seeks to present rhetorical analysis
within a positive, yet discerning light. This first article intro-
duces rhetorical analysis by describing this interpretive tool,
specifying the procedure of rhetorical analysis, illustrating this
procedure by applying it to the Book of Galatians, and analyzing
previous rhetorical analyses of Galatians. The second article
will offer a full-orbed rhetorical analysis of Galatians.
While rhetorical criticism1 and epistolary criticism are
B. Russell is Associate Professor of New Testament,
* This is part one of a two-part series.
Quarterly Journal of Speech 66 (1980): 327-50, for the history and development of
modern rhetorical criticism in biblical studies through 1979. See Wilhelm Wuell-
ner, "Where Is Rhetorical Criticism Taking Us?" Catholic Biblical Quarterly 49
(1987): 448-63 for a stimulating overview of the two competing versions of rhetorical
criticism and of the direction rhetorical criticism is taking in biblical studies. The
rhetorical analysis given by the present writer seems to be closer to the version
preferred by Wuellner "in which rhetorical criticism is identical with practical
criticism" (453). The specific model followed is the classical model of rhetorical
criticism advocated by George A. Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation through
Rhetorical Criticism (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1984).
342 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July–September 1993
normally applied in separate processes, these two hermeneutical
tools need to be integrated in a single analysis. In responding to
Brinsmead's analysis of Galatians,2 Aune has noted the neces-
sity of such integration.
The chief value of this book lies in the author's persuasive argu-
ment that the letter form (in view of the flexibility of its use)
cannot be used as the hermeneutical key for understanding com-
positions like Galatians. One must, of necessity, turn to other
genres taken into the letter form (such as those from oratory) in
order to understand adequately NT letters.3
As many have noted, the apologetic nature and persuasive
intent of Galatians indicates that it can be analyzed and de-
scribed according to the canons of ancient rhetoric.4 It is the first
of the New Testament epistles to be submitted to such a hermeneu-
tical process. Assuming that rhetorical analysis is appropriate
for Galatians, one should expect that it will reveal the extent to
which Paul wed oratorical or rhetorical genres with the epistolary
genre in Galatians. Rhetorical analysis should thereby provide
some additional hermeneutical keys for understanding the ar-
gument of Galatians. However, in seeking to integrate rhetorical
and epistolary analyses, one faces the question, "Which schema
is the dog and which is the tail and which wags which?"5 For this
study, the rhetorical analysis provides the primary schema.
2 Bernard H. Brtinsmead, Galatians—Dialogical Response to Opponents, Soci-
ety of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 65 (Missoula, MT: Scholars, 1982).
3 David E. Aune, "Review of Galatians—Dialogical Response to Opponents,"
Catholic Biblical Quarterly 46 (1984): 147.
4 For an up-to-date and valuable bibliography on ancient rhetorical theory,
rhetoric in the Greco-Roman world and its modern legacy, and the rhetoric of the
New Testament see Duane F. Watson, "The New Testament and Greco-Roman
Rhetoric: A Bibliography," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 31
(1988): 465-72, and idem, "The New Testament and Greco-Roman Rhetoric: A Biblio-
graphical Update," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 33 (1990): 513-
24. For a helpful introduction to rhetoric and the New Testament, in addition to
Kennedy's work listed in note 1, see Burton L. Mack, Rhetoric and the New Testa-
ment (Minneapolis: Augsburg/Fortress, 1990) and his section on Galatians (66-73).
5 The hermeneutical question here is really one of form versus function. Rhetor-
ical analysis emphasizes the latter and the pragmatic dimension of texts, while
epistolary analysis focuses on the literary form of the text. In Galatians the rhetor-
ical traits are both more obvious and numerous than the epistolary traits. There-
fore the following analysis will enter through what seems to be the easier door and
will seek to shed light on the epistolary form. This will perhaps be more fruitful
than seeking to understand Paul's argument by first emphasizing the epistolary
form of Galatians. A review of some of the major commentaries centering on the
epistolary analysis of Galatians reveals how little insight this approach has
yielded and how little structural consensus has been achieved. See Bernard Late-
gan, "Is Paul Defending His Apostleship in Galatians?" New Testament Studies 34
(1988): 411-16, for helpful comments on these methodological considerations in the
study of Galatians.
Rhetorical Analysis of the Book of Galatians 343
A DESCRIPTION OF RHETORICAL ANALYSIS
Rhetoric was crisply described by the ancients. Aristotle de-
fined rhetoric as "the faculty of discovering the possible means of
persuasion in reference to any subject whatever."6 In Rhetorica
ad Herennium (sometimes attributed to
larly described the task of rhetoric: "The task of the public
speaker is to discuss capably those matters which law and custom
have fixed for the uses of citizenship, and to secure as far as possi-
ble the agreement of his hearers."7 Quintilian, an ancient expert
in rhetoric, noted, "Finally, those critics who hold that the aim of
rhetoric is to think and speak rightly, were on the correct track."8
These early descriptions of rhetoric reveal that it was viewed
essentially as the art of persuasive thinking and communicat-
ing. Quintilian's helpful survey of the views of rhetoric within
the handbooks of his day reveal that this persuasion was gener-
ally in the form of an oration.9
Modern works on rhetoric recognize that while
classical rhetoric was not as monolithic in its rationale as some
histories' have led us to believe, the system of rhetoric that pre-
vailed in the schools for the next 2,000 years was remarkably uni-
form in its main orientation and in a good many of its accidental
Because of this uniformity, modern scholars still define rhetoric
as "the art of persuasive oratory"11 or as "a communicator's in-
tentional use of language and other symbols to influence or per-
suade selected receivers to act, believe, or feel the way the com-
municator desires in problematic situations."12 "Rhetoric is that
quality in discourse by which a speaker or writer seeks to accom-
plish his purposes."13 Therefore "rhetorical analysis" is the at-
6 Aristotle, The "Art" of Rhetoric, trans. John Henry Freese, Loeb Classical Li-
brary, Aristotle, vol. 22, no. 193 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1926)
1.2.1. (p. 15).
7 Rhetorica ad Herennium, trans. Harry Caplan, Loeb Classical Library, vol. 1,
no. 403 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1954) 1.2.1. (p. 5).
8 Quintilian, The Institutio Oratoria of Quintilian, trans. H. E. Butler, 4 vols.,
Classical Library, nos. 124-27 (
1920—1922) 2.15.37 (1:317).
9 Ibid. 2.14-15 (1:297-319).
10 Edward P. J. Corbett, ed., Rhetorical Analyses of Literary Works (
Oxford University Press, 1969), xii.
11 Ibid., xi.
12 Robert Cathcart, Post Communication: Rhetorical Analysis and Evaluation,
2d ed. (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1981), 2.
13 Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism, 3.
344 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July–September 1993
tempt "to understand how or why a message was effective."14 This
hermeneutical analysis "takes the text as we have it, whether the
work of a single author or the product of editing, and looks at it
from the point of view of the author's or editor's intent, the unified
results, and how it would be perceived by an audience of near
Given these descriptions of rhetoric and rhetorical analysis,
the question of the Apostle Paul's exposure to rhetoric and rhetori-
cal training is often raised. Is it appropriate to use classical
rhetorical canons to evaluate an epistle written by a Jewish
Christian missionary? Questioning the value of rhetorical anal-
ysis on Paul's epistles, Russell raises four objections to Betz's16
application of rhetorical analysis to Galatians.
1. The strange terminology of rhetorical analysis seems to ob-
scure rather than illumine the text. In other words, at the prag-
matic level it does not seem to be helpful to the reader.
2. Did Paul really sit down and dictate Galatians with the care-
fully shaped apologetic structure already in place? Does not the
passionate, deeply concerned, fierce, uninhibited language of the
epistle militate against Paul's preoccupation with the literary and
3. Did Paul really make use of a Greek or Latin apologetic
genre? Betz can offer no single instance of an apologetic genre
with which to compare Galatians. Also, this genre ignores ele-
ments in the epistle that are not apologetic at all.
theory of apologetic genre as if it were accepted fact in his later
arguments. If this theory fails, then much of his argumentation
will have to be seriously qualified.17
On the other hand, in view of the broad, pervasive, and foun-
dational nature of rhetorical
training in the
world, it is extremely likely that Paul was trained rhetorically in
14 Cathcart, Post Communication: Rhetorical Analysis and Evaluation, 4.
15 Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism, 4.
16 Hans Dieter Betz, "2 Cor 6:14—7:1: An Anti-Pauline Fragment?" Journal of Bib-
lical Literature 92 (1973): 88-108.
17 E. A. Russell, "Convincing or Merely Curious? A Look at Some Recent Writings
on Galatians," Irish Biblical Studies 6 (1984): 157-61. .
18 See Hans Dieter Betz, "The Problem of Rhetoric and Theology according to the
Apostle Paul," in L'Apotre Paul, ed. A. Vanhoye, Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theo-
logicarum Lovaniensium 73 (Leuven: Peeters/Leuven University Press, 1986): 16-21,
for a brief, but well-documented survey of the 1,800-year history of the study of
Paul's use of rhetoric. Betz notes that the question of Paul's study of rhetoric was
debated as early as Clement of Alexandria and Augustine. Apart from the likeli-
hood that Paul was well trained in rhetoric, his use of rhetoric may perhaps be
posited because his readers would have expected it. He would have had little
Rhetorical Analysis of the Book of Galatians 345
"picked up his rhetorical skills during his career as an itinerant
preacher and disputant, in debate and possibly by self-tuition."19
Both Forbes and Brinsmead launch passionate arguments that
Paul had a full education in formal Greek rhetoric.20 Such
rhetoric had already penetrated the Jewish system of education.
The question of Paul's educational level is probably less clear-
cut than often thought, but the answer is simpler. It has tradi-
tionally been posed in terms of
ance now tipped strongly in favour of the latter. But this choice
set a false trail. To have been brought up in
need not have committed Paul to a full rhetorical education, let
alone a philosophical one (both of which were a matter of tertiary
training involving much time and money), while being in Jeru-
tance with the Greek cultural tradition. Half of Gamaliel's pupils
are said to have been trained in the wisdom of the Greeks.21
Respected Jewish scholar David Daube has gone much fur-
ther in admitting the influence of Greek rhetorical education on
early rabbinical thought. He has argued that by 30 B.C., when Hil-
lel set forth his seven main ideas and seven hermeneutical
rules,22 these fundamental expressions of Judaism had already
been derived from Hellenistic rhetoric.23 Daube's paralleling of
these hermeneutical rules with amazingly similar rules from
Greek rhetorical sources is particularly persuasive.24 Even as a
rabbinical student Paul may have been exposed to Hellenistic
rhetoric as a foundational element of his training.
Another argument for the legitimacy of the rhetorical analy-
sis of Galatians is philosophical in nature.
choice, in a real sense, due to his readers' anticipation, except to use rhetoric.
These kinds of cultural conventions and expectations favor rhetorical argumenta-
tion. However, in the absence of further evidence, such expectations can only be
deemed likely, not definitive, at this point. Admittedly the use of rhetoric is more
obvious in epistles such as 1 Corinthians (esp. chaps. 1-3).
19 C. Forbes, "Comparison, Self-Praise and Irony: Paul's Boasting and the Conven-
tions of Hellenistic Rhetoric," New Testament Studies 32 (1986): 23.
20 Ibid., 22, 24, and Brinsmead, Galatians, 45-46.
21 E. A. Judge, "
tentum 15 (19721: 29.
22 Neusner, however, strongly questions the traditional Jewish view that attrib-
utes these ideas and rules to Hillel ("The Use of the Later Rabbinic Evidence for
the Study of First-Century Pharisaism," in Approaches to Ancient Judaism: The-
ory and Practice, ed. William Scott Green [
23 David Daube, "Rabbinic Methods of Interpretation and Hellenistic Rhetoric,"
24 Ibid., 251-60.
346 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July—September 1993
Though rhetoric is colored by the traditions and conventions of
the society in which it is applied, it is also a universal phenome-
non which is conditioned by basic workings of the human mind
and heart and by the nature of all human society. Aristotle's ob-
jective in writing his Rhetoric was not to describe Greek rhetoric,
but to describe this universal facet of human communication.25
If, in fact, the use of rhetoric and the analysis of such use is a
universal and transcultural phenomenon, then Russell's criti-
cism of such use is undercut. Two concessions must be made in
drawing this conclusion, however. One is that the universal na-
ture of rhetoric is greatly clouded when only the classical Greek
and Latin rhetorical terms are used. If one persists in using this
somewhat esoteric terminology, then he should explain that this is
simply one cultural expression of universal patterns of thought.
This admission avoids an overdependence on the historical justi-
fication of Paul's training in rhetoric, even though it is probably
legitimate. A second concession is that the supposed "universal"
nature of rhetoric may also somewhat cloud the issue. The limita-
tion of the rhetorical phenomenon to Western culture and those
cultures greatly influenced by Western culture may be a safer
and less ethnocentric way to express the widespread appearance
of rhetoric until its true universal aspect can be validated.26 Even
with this limitation, however, the influence of the Greek educa-
tional system on Jewish culture is well established.27
THE PROCEDURE OF RHETORICAL ANALYSIS
On the logical procedure of
writes, "The first concern of the rhetorical critic is to define the
limits of the literary unit, his second is to recognize the structure
of a composition and to discern the configuration of its component
parts, noting the different rhetorical devices that it contains."28
While showing good sensitivity to the circular process of any
hermeneutical analysis, Kennedy
gested procedure for rhetorical analysis to six stages.
1. Determine the rhetorical unit to be studied, which corre-
sponds to the pericope in form criticism.
2. Define the rhetorical situation of the unit. This roughly cor-
responds to the Sitz im Leben of form criticism.
25 Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism, 10.
26 See Wuellner, "Where Is Rhetorical Criticism Taking Us?" 449, ns. 4-5 for some
attempts in this direction.
27 Cf. Judge, "
28 David Greenwood, "Rhetorical Criticism and Formgeschichte: Some Method-
ological Considerations," Journal of Biblical Literature 89 (1970): 418.
Rhetorical Analysis of the Book of Galatians 347
3. In many rhetorical situations the speaker may face one over-
riding rhetorical problem that may be particularly visible at the
beginning of the discourse.
4. Determine which of the three species of rhetoric the rhetori-
cal unit fits judicial, deliberative, or epideictic.
5. Consider the arrangement of material in the text in terms of
its subdivisions, persuasive effect of the parts, their coordination,
devices of style, etc.
6. Review the process of analysis by looking back over the entire
unit and reviewing its success in addressing the rhetorical situa-
tion and what the implications may be for the speaker or audi-
This six-step process will be employed in the following anal-
ysis of the Book of Galatians.
STAGES 1-4 IN THE RHETORICAL ANALYSIS OF
GALATIANS: DETERMINING THE RHETORICAL UNIT,
SITUATION, PROBLEM, AND SPECIES
Obviously the Book of Galatians is the rhetorical unit to be
analyzed. However, in following the first stage of rhetorical
analysis a brief word about the nature of this unit of text is
needed. Paul addressed the Galatian epistle to the e]kklhsi<aij
(Gal. 1:2) of
signed it to be read aloud in those assemblies.30 In this sense
Galatians functions like a speech and thereby emphasizes linear
presentation. "The audience hears the words in progression with-
out opportunity to review what has been said earlier, and an
29 Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism, 33-38.
30 Various authors have argued that Paul's letters were meant to be read orally to
their first recipients. See especially Robert W. Funk, Language, Hermeneutic and
the Word of God (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), 245; Lars
Others' Letters," in Christians among Jews and Gentiles, ed. George W. Nickels-
burg and George W. MacRae (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), 139; and James D. Hes-
ter, "The Use and Influence of Rhetoric in Gal 2:1-14," Theologische Zeitschrift 42
(1986): 387-92. Stowers shows how close epistolary theory and ancient rhetoric are
by demonstrating how the basic classification of types of epistles was borrowed
from the three types of rhetoric (Stanley K. Stowers, Letter Writing in Greco-Ro-
man Antiquity, Library of Early Christianity, vol. 5, ed. Wayne A. Meeks
vided the fundamental structure for epistolary typology. See Abraham J. Malherbe,
Ancient Epistolary Theorists, ed. Bernard Brandon Scott (Atlanta: Scholars, 1988),
2-11, and John L. White, Light from Ancient Letters (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986),
189-93, for helpful discussions of the relationship between epistolary theory and
rhetoric. Also see Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy (New York: Methuen, 1982),
and Paul J. Achtemeier, "Omne Verbum Sonta: The New Testament and the Oral
Environment of Late Western Antiquity," Journal of Biblical Literature 109 (1990):
3-27 for strong advocacy of the oral nature of the New Testament in light of the oral
environment of the first century.
348 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July-September 1993
orally received text is characterized by a greater degree of repeti-
tion than is a text intended to be read privately."31
While the rhetorical unit of Galatians has some of the fea-
tures of an epistle, particularly in its prescript and postscript,32
the bulk of the epistle (1:6-6:10) has more of the features of a
speech. In fact modern rhetoricians view Galatians and all or
parts of other Pauline Epistles from this oration perspective and
work within the framework of tracing the "argumentation,"
rather than from within the traditional perspective of literary the-
ory.33 In their analyses argumentation is viewed as the use of
discourse "to influence the intensity of an audience's adherence
to certain theses."34 These features of argumentation within
Galatians and its obvious public and oral nature make it a prime
candidate for rhetorical analysis. The rhetorical situation of
Galatians underscores this fact.
The second stage in rhetorical analysis is defining the
rhetorical situation or essentially the Sitz im Leben that gave rise
to the discourse. Bitzer defined the rhetorical situation as "a com-
plex of persons, events, objects and relations presenting an actual
or potential exigence which can be completely or partially re-
moved if discourse, introduced into the situation, can so con-
strain human decision or action as to bring about the significant
modification of the exigence."35 Bitzer then defines any "exi-
gence" as "an imperfection marked by urgency."36 A rhetorical
exigence must be capable of being modified only by means of the
ditcourse and not by action other than that advocated in the dis-
course. Also there is generally "at least one controlling exigence
which functions as the organizing principle: it specifies the audi-
ence to be addressed and the change to be effected."37 Determin-
31 Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism, 37.
32 Cf. Brinsmead, Galatians—Dialogical Response to Opponents, 57-67.
33 See, for example, Wilhelm Wuellner, "Paul's Rhetoric of Argumentation in Ro-
mans: An Alternative to the Donfried-Karris Debate over Romans," in The Romans
Debate, ed. Karl P. Donfried, rev. ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991), 152-53.
34 Ch. Perelman and L. 0lbrechts-Tyteca, The New Rhetoric: A Treatise on Argu-
mentation, trans. John Wilkinson and Purcell Weaver (Notre Dame: University of
Notre Dame Press, 1969), 14. Also see Watson, "The New Testament and Greco-Ro-
man Rhetoric: A Bibliography," 470-72, and idem, "The New Testament and Greco-
Roman Rhetoric: A Bibliographical Update," 520-23, for bibliographies on the eight
Pauline Epistles that have been rhetorically analyzed so far.
35 Lloyd Bitzer, "The Rhetorical Situation," Philosophy and Rhetoric 1 (1968): 6.
36 Ibid., 7.
37 Ibid. For varying responses to Bitzer's article, see James D. Hester, "The Use
and Influence of Rhetoric in Galatians 2:1-14," Theologische Zeitschrift 42 (1986):
391, n. 16.
Rhetorical Analysis of the Book of Galatians 349
ing this controlling "imperfection marked by urgency" corre-
sponds to the third stage of Kennedy's rhetorical analysis,
namely, determining the rhetorical problem.
When applying these insights to Galatians to determine the
rhetorical situation that called forth this discourse and the rhetor-
ical problem that functions as an organizing principle, the con-
clusions reached in an earlier article about the identity of Paul's
opponents come to bear.38 Specifically the rhetorical situation is
the entry into Galatia of Jewish Christian "teachers," apparently
model of Gentile attachment to ethnic
lytes. In the words of Galatians these Gentiles were being
"Judaized" or taught that they must ]Ioudai*kw?j z^n ("live as Jews")
if they were to be considered a part of God's people (Gal. 2:14).
These teachers also must have overtly taught or at least inferred
that Paul's apostolic credentials were inadequate and his gospel
was a distortion of the tradition that had been handed down to him
he distorted and contradicted the "true gospel" represented by the
Twelve and themselves.39 Therefore the Judaizers had come to
supplement Paul's trimmed-down gospel and to bring to comple-
tion the Galatians' salvation (3:3).40 Their appeal to the Jeru-
Galatian Christians apparently did not know that.
The rhetorical problem of Galatians that functions as an or-
ganizing principle is twofold. Paul was responding to the prob-
lems of identity and behavior created by his Judaizing opponents.
This understanding means that the traditional view of the prob-
lem of Galatians as being primarily one of justification by faith
versus justification by works, (Martin Luther's view) should be
altered somewhat. While emphasizing justification by faith,
Paul was addressing the broader issues of Gentile incorporation
into the church and how the behavior or ethics of these Gentile
converts was to be constrained. Others have differed from the tra-
ditional understanding of the main problem in Galatians.41
38 Walt Russell, "Who Were Paul's Opponents
39 Daniel H. King,
"Paul and the Tannaim: A Study in Galatians,"
Theological Journal 45 (1983): 349-61.
40 John M. G. Barclay, "Mirror-Reading a Polemical Letter: Galatians as a Test
Case," Journal for the Study of the New Testament 31 (1987): 86-90.
41 Examples are Hans Dieter Betz, Galatians: A Commentary on Paul's Letter to
the Churches of
Jewish and Pauline Studies (Philadelphia: F'ortress, 1984), 172-88.
350 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July—September 1993
While this is frequently overstated, it is necessary neverthe-
less.42 A helpful compromise is suggested by Gordon.
One can now see that Paul's polemic at
understood as a polemic regarding identity symbols. Shall the
people of God be identified by Torah or by Christ? Which symbol is
appropriate for the present redemptive-historical circumstances?
The polemic is not in the first place soteriological (that is, faith or
works as instrument of justification) but eschatological (whether
God has fulfilled the promises to Abraham by means of the Christ-
event) and, by consequence, ecclesiological (whether the believing
Gentiles are in fact full members of the covenant community).43
Barclay echoes this understanding of the problem and appro-
priately adds the second aspect of the rhetorical problem.
The issues at stake in the Galatian crisis were the identity of
these Galatian Christians and their appropriate patterns of be-
haviour: should they regularize and confirm their place among
God's people by getting circumcised and becoming proselytes? And
should they adopt the ritual and ethical norms of the Jewish peo-
ple? Our investigation has demonstrated how attractive and rea-
sonable the agitators' proposal in these matters appeared.44
Succinctly stated, the rhetorical problem of Galatians caused
by the rhetorical situation of the Judaizing opponents' teaching is
the newfound confusion among the Galatian churches about their
identity (Should they adopt Jewish practices of circumcision and
Torah observance to become a part of the true people of God?) and
about their pattern of behavior (Should they take up the yoke of
Torah to pattern and constrain their behavior?). Paul responded
to this rhetorical problem with a specific rhetorical purpose for the
Epistle to the Galatians: to persuade the Galatians to reject the Ju-
daizers' nongospel and to continue in the true gospel which he had
preached to them because it alone was legitimately confirmed,
and had placed them among the true people of God through faith in
Christ, and it alone gave true deliverance from sin's powers
through receiving the Holy Spirit.
The question now becomes, In responding with this purpose to
the overriding rhetorical problem of confused identity and con-
42 Whiteley writes, "I believe
with sin as such but with the Jew/Gentile tension in the Christian Church, which
is simply one case of the inter-group tensions which now fill the headlines. Since
this particular tension, the tension between Jews and Gentiles within the Chris-
ply to the problem of sin, one of the topics which can never be wholly out of season"
(D. E. H. Whiteley, "Galatians: Then and Now," Studia Evangelia 6 : 619).
43 T. David Gordon, "The Problem at
44 John M. G. Barclay, Obeying the Truth: A Study of Paul's Ethics in Galatians
(Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1988), 73 (italics his).
Rhetorical Analysis of the Book of Galatians 351
flitting patterns of behavior/ethics, which of the three species of
rhetoric did Paul exhibit in Galatians? Aristotle described the
three species as follows.
The deliberative kind is either hortatory or dissuasive; for
both those who give advice in private and those who speak in the
assembly invariably either exhort or dissuade. The forensic kind is
either accusatory or defensive; for litigants must necessarily ei-
ther accuse or defend. The epideictic kind has for its subject praise
Further, to each of these a special time is appropriate: to the
deliberative the future, for the speaker, whether he exhorts or
dissuades, always advises about things to come; to the forensic the
past, for it is always in reference to things done that one party
accuses and the other defends; to the epideictic most appropriately
the present, for it is the existing condition of things that all
those who praise or blame have in view. It is not uncommon, how-
ever, for epideictic speakers to avail themselves of other times, of
the past by way of recalling it, or of the future by way of antici-
In light of the persuasive purpose of Galatians and Paul's de-
sire to exhort the Galatian believers to make a decision about their
identity and pattern of behavior, the deliberative species seems to
be the most appropriate of Aristotle's labels for Galatians.46 Such
a choice is not without its opponents, as the following brief survey
of previous rhetorical analyses of Galatians reveals.
PREVIOUS RHETORICAL ANALYSES OF GALATIANS
This survey focuses on two aspects of the analyses of others:
first, the determination of the Galatians' rhetorical problem and
species (stages 3-4); and second, the rhetorical arrangement of
the material within the epistle (stage 5). As will be seen, these as-
pects tend to stand or fall together in rhetorical analysis.
Pride-of-place for the first and still-definitive rhetorical
analysis of Galatians goes to Betz and his works on Galatians.47
45 Aristotle, The “Art” of Rhetoric 1.3.3-4 (pp. 34-35, italics added).
46 Aristotle further described the deliberative species as follows: "We must first
ascertain about what kind of good or bad things the deliberative orator advises,
since he cannot do so about everything, but only about things which may possibly
happen or not. Everything which of necessity either is or will be, or which cannot
possibly be or come to pass, is outside the scope of deliberation. . . . But it is clear
that advice is limited to those subjects about which we take counsel; and such are
all those which can naturally be referred to ourselves and the first cause of whose
origination is in our own power" (ibid., 1.4.1-3 [p. 39]). Paul seems to have been per-
suading the Galatians to decide what their identity as the people of God should be
and what their pattern of behavior or ethics should be.
47 Betz's first work on Galatians was "Spirit, Freedom, and Law: Paul's Message to
the Galatians," Svensk exegetisk arsbok 39 (1974):145-60, and his most recent is the
352 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July—September 1993
His determination of both the rhetorical problem and species has
been followed with only minor deviations by Brinsmead and
Hester.48 These scholars view Galatians as "an apologetic letter,"
and therefore of the judicial or forensic species.49 In a courtroom
setting Paul is said to have viewed the Galatians as the jury, the
opponents as the accusers, and himself as the defendant.50
Betz views the rhetorical problem as primarily ethical.
Thus in their midst "transgressions" have occurred and the claim
to live "in the Spirit" (e]n pneu<mati) came into conflict with the re-
alities of daily life. From Paul's words we may conclude that the
problem with which the Galatians felt they were confronted was
this: how can the "pneumatic" (o[ pneumatiko<j) live with "tres-
passes" in his daily life?51
Therefore Paul needed to launch an apologia, defending himself
against the Judaizers' accusations that he preached a deficient
gospel and that the Gentile Christians of Galatia needed circum-
cision and the Torah to be delivered in their battles against the
sa<rc.52 Brinsmead bases his whole identification of Paul's oppo-
nents as Christians associated with apocalyptic and sectarian
apologetic and dialogical response to them.53 Betz, Brinsmead,
and Hester appeal to the judicial or forensic species of rhetoric to
provide the specific five-part argumentative structure of Paul's
defense. The rhetorical arrangement of the material within
Galatians (stage five in the rhetorical analysis procedure) is
essentially the same for these writers except for these works with
only small variations, as the following chart demonstrates.54
1987 German edition of his 1979 English commentary in the Hermenia Series (Der
Galaterbrief: Ein Kommentar zum Brief des Apostels Paulus an die Genaeinden
in Galatien [
to his approach and essentially reiterated his original views (1-4).
48 Brinsmead, Galatians--Dialogical Response to Opponents, and James D. Hes-
ter, "The Use and Influence of Rhetoric in Galatians 2:1-14," and idem, "The Rhetor-
ical Structure of Galatians 1:11-2:14," Journal of Biblical Literature 103 (1984):
49 Betz, "The Literary Composition and Function of Paul's Letter to the Galatians,"
50 Ibid., 377.
Betz, Galatians: A Commentary on Paul's Letter to
the Churches of
52 Ibid., 8-9.
53 Brinsmead, Galatians--Dialogical Response to Opponents, 195-96.
54 Russell provided the model for the following comparison (Russell, "Convincing
or Merely Curious?" 156-57).
Rhetorical Analysis of the Book of Galatians 353
Betz, Brinsmead, Hester,
Galatians, 16-23 Galatians, 49-54 "Rhetorical
1:1-5 Epistolary 1:1-5 Epistolary 1:1-5 Epistolary
prescript prescript prescript
(with typical sequence of superscriptio, adscriptio, and salutatio)
1:6-11 Exordium 1:6-11 Prooemium 1:6-10 Prooemium
(orprooemium or Exordium
(This is the introduction/prologue that states the causa, the main
reason for writing; Betz sees 1:10-11 as the transitus or transgressio
[smooth transition] into the following narrative section.)
1:12—2:14 Narratio 1:12—2:14 Narratio 1:11-12 Stasis
(This is the persuasive "statement of the facts of (=thesis for the
the case"; generally given with as much clarity, Narratio)
brevity, and plausibility as possible.) 1:13-14 Transitio
2:15-21 Probatio 2:15-21 Probatio 2:15-21 Probatio
or Partitio of Partitio or Partitio
(This is the outline summarizing the legal content of the narratio and
also providing a smooth transition into the propositio).56
3:1-4:31 Propositio 3:1-4:31 Propositio 3:1-4:31 Propositio
(This is the proof, (3:1-5 is the interrogatio or an examination of
the most decisive witnesses.)
and important part
of the letter; it is
composed of six ar-
guments and a dis-
according to Betz)
5:1-6:10 Paraene- 5:1-6:10 Refutatio 5:1-6:10 Refutatio
sis or Exhortatio
(5:1-12 is a warn- (5:1-12 is the classic refutatio;and 5:13-24 and
ing against accep- 5:25-6:10 are the continued forensic refutation
tance of Jewish in terms of ethical exhortation.)
Torah; 5:13-24 is a
corruption by the
ations in the form
of sententiae with
regard to ethical
6:11-18 Epistolary 6:11-18 Epistolary 6:11-18 Epistolary
postscript postscript postscript
(This also serves rhetorically as peroratio or conclusio, concluding the
apologetic speech, which is the body of the epistle.)
55 In "The Use and Influence of Rhetoric in Galatians 2:1-14," Hester develops the
nature of this concluding digression as a mixed chreia (a literary form containing
an epigram or a pointed statement of general significance).
56 Hester does not specifically deal with Galatians 2:15 and following, but "in gen-
eral" he "finds this [Betz's] outline of the letter very satisfying, and it seems to me
354 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July—September 1993
As one might expect, the above rhetorical analysis has not
met with total acceptance. In particular, there has been a strong
reaction from those primarily trained in rhetorical studies.
Leading this group and providing a rather different rhetorical
analysis of Galatians is George A. Kennedy and one of his stu-
dents, Robert G. Hall.57 They have determined that the rhetorical
problem and the rhetorical species are somewhat different than
Betz has concluded. Regarding the rhetorical problem, Hall as-
serts, "The major purpose of Galatians is not to defend some past
action (judicial) or to praise some and to blame others (epideictic)
but to persuade the Galatians to cleave to Paul and his gospel and
to reject his opponents and their gospel (Gal. 1:6-9; cf. 6:12-16)."58
Kennedy had earlier reached the same conclusion about the
rhetorical problem of Galatians.
The letter looks to the immediate future, not to judgment of the
past, and the question to be decided by the Galatians was not
whether Paul had been right in what he had said or done, but
what they themselves were going to believe and to do. Since Betz
wrongly identifies the question at issue, he is led wrongly to
identify the stasis as qualitative (p. 129). Insofar as stasis theory
can be applied to deliberative rhetoric, the stasis is one of fact:
What gospel is true? What should the Galatians do?59
While Betz had essentially defined the rhetorical problem as
dealing with the struggle with the flesh,60 Kennedy and Hall have
framed the problem so that it encompasses this ethical issue and
also includes the issue of which gospel is true, and consequently,
which resulting identity is correct. This more encompassing de-
termination of the rhetorical problem seems correct and it does
not lessen in the least the ethical concern that Betz has raised, as
Hall rightly observes.
Since the debate requires the Galatians to decide between two
antithetical modes of life and behavior and since the participants
in the debate are not primarily concerned about Paul's past action
but about what future action the Galatians will take, Galatians is
most naturally classified as a deliberative work.61
to hold up well under scrutiny" ("The Rhetorical Structure of Galatians 1:22-2:14,"
57 Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism, and
Robert G. Hall, "The Rhetorical Outline for Galatians—A Reconsideration," Jour-
nal of Biblical Literature 106 (1987): 277-87.
58 Hall, "The Rhetorical Outline for Galatians—A Reconsideration," 279.
59 Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism, 146-47.
60 Betz, "Spirit, Freedom, and Law," 153-59.
61 Hall, "The Rhetorical Outline for Galatians—A Reconsideration," 279.
Rhetorical Analysis of the Book of Galatians 355
Kennedy argues strongly that the rhetorical species of Gala-
tians is deliberative.62 Hall agrees and gives seven reasons why
Galatians is deliberative, not forensic or judicial in species.
1. Galatians 3:1-6:18 does not fit with the judicial species and
the rightness or wrongness of a past action, but rather with a
choice between Paul's gospel and his opponents' "gospel."
2. The choice facing the Galatians is obviously not in the past,
but in the future. The judicial species focuses on the rightness or
wrongness of a past action according to justice. Paul is seeking to
exhort and dissuade the Galatians to or from some future action,
claiming the action is expedient or harmful (e.g., Aristotle's
Rhetoric 1.3.3-5). Where doubt exists (i.e., between two opinions),
deliberation is necessitated.
3. Paul evidences aspects of what Quintilian described as
"popular deliberative style" (3.8.58-60).
4. The narrative section of Galatians (1:10-2:14) is not a re-
minder of the facts central to the case surrounding the offense,
but this narrative introduces relevant matters external to the
case (Quintilian 3.8.10). A narration in a deliberative speech
functions as a part of the proof taken.
5. The essence of Galatians and deliberative oratory is persua-
sion between choices. The Galatians have not decided definitely
yet between Paul and the Judaizers (e.g., Gal. 5:10; 6:17). Paul's
appeal to the Galatians is that choosing his gospel (the gospel) is
to their advantage. This is the main appeal of deliberative ora-
6. Galatians 5:1-6:10 is an exhortative section, but this does
not fit well within the judicial species. It does fit well within the
deliberative species (e.g., Quintilian 3.6.47).
7. Paul's defensive tone and defensive arguments in Galatians
1–2 are best explained as ethical proof supporting his credibility
that has been attacked, rather than as a statement of the facts of
the case. Betz has misunderstood Paul's purpose for this narrative
and has wrongly concluded that its inclusion in the epistle makes
it a judicial species.63
Kennedy's and Hall's arguments for categorizing Galatians
as a deliberative rhetorical species rather than a judicial species
seem more than adequate. Their conclusions reinforce the con-
clusions reached in the first four stages of rhetorical analysis in
the previous section.64
Because this second cluster of rhetorical analyses has
62 Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism, 144-47.
63 Hall, "The Rhetorical Outline for Galatians—A Reconsideration," 278-82.
64 Also see Francois Vouga, "Zur rhetorishen Gattung des Galaterbriefes,"
Zeitschrift fur die Neutestanz,entliche Wissenschaft 79 (1988) 291-92 for a brief ar-
gument supporting the deliberate species by arguing from parallels found in De-
mosthenes' PERI THS EIRHNHS.
356 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July—September 1993
yielded what this writer believes to be a more accurate under-
standing of the basic issues Galatians addresses and the basic
manner in which it addresses them, the arrangement of material
(stage five) in these analyses should prove more helpful also.
This is exactly the case, as the brief rhetorical outlines of
Kennedy and Hall reflect.
Kennedy, New Testament In- Hall, “Rhetorical Outline,”
terpretation, 147-51 282-8765
1:1-5 Salutation 1:1-5 Salutation/Exordium
1:6-10 Proem (a general state- 1:6-9 Proposition (makes clear
ment of the proposition of the what the letter as a whole
letter) wants to prove)
1:11-5:1 Proof (corresponds to 1:10-6:10 Proof (gives reasons
the theological section in most why the audience should ac-
of Paul's epistles and has two cept Paul’s proposition)
1:11-2:21 Narration and 1:1-2:21 Narration (Heading
Epicheiremene (Heading #1) #1)
1:11-12 Restatement of 1:10-12 Proposition for the
the topic of the salutation Narration (to develop
1:13-2:14 Extended Narra-
tive 1:13-2:10 Thesis #1
2:15-21 Epicheiremene (an 2:11-14 Thesis #2
argument with the parts
fully stated; conclusion to 2:15-21 Transition to the
first heading) next section
3:1-5:1 Argument from Gala- 3:1-6:10 Further Headings
tians' Experience (Heading
5:2-6:10 Specific Ethical Com-
mandments (the practical pur-
pose of the letter)
6:11-18 Epilogue (final attack 6:11-18 Epilogue (a recapitula-
and recapitulation of the most tion of and summary of the
important point) main arguments)
65 Hall's analysis of Galatians 3:1-6:10 is not developed at all. Kennedy's analysis
becomes equally sketchy from Galatians 5:2 through 6:10. These are the most diffi-
cult parts of the epistle to analyze rhetorically, as Betz has admitted ("The Literary
Composition and Function of Paul's Letter to the Galatians," 369).
Rhetorical Analysis of the Book of Galatians 357
One other rhetorical analysis of Galatians worthy of brief
notice is the work by Hansen.66 This epistolary and rhetorical
analysis of Galatians is of the highest quality.67 He follows the
views of John L. White in his use of epistolary formulae,68 but es-
pecially follows Nils A. Dahl in his rhetorical analysis of Gala-
tians.69 In addition Hansen's association with Richard N. Lon-
genecker can be seen in the latter's rhetorical analysis of Gala-
tians.70 Hansen's, Dahl's, and Longenecker's analyses have two
major distinctives: They view Galatians as a "real,' ‘more pri-
vate,’ ‘rebuke-request’ letter,"71 and they view Galatians as com-
posed of mixed rhetorical genre, including forensic rhetoric in
1:6-4:11 and deliberative rhetoric in 4:12-6:10.72 With this read-
ing Hansen's analysis is similar to Betz's approach in Galatians
1:6-4:11 but deviates from it in 4:12-6:10.
Interestingly, while Hansen's labeling of Galatians as a re-
buke-request type of epistle and his corresponding outlining of the
structure of the epistle73 differ significantly from the present
writer's in these two areas, many of the same exegetical conclu-
sions within the smaller units of the epistle are reached. In par-
ticular, Hansen underscores the continuity in Paul's argumenta-
tion from Galatians 4:12-6:10 in a forceful manner. Hansen
finds that there is no libertinistic threat in 5:13-6:10 and that the
Hagar-Sarah application in 4:21-31 makes untenable such a turn
in Paul's argument. "In light of the freedom-slavery antithesis
in the allegory, it would appear that the imperatives in 5:1 and
5:13 are aimed against the same threat to freedom in Christ: the
threat of nomism which boasts in the flesh."74
66 G. Walter Hansen, Abraham in Galatians—Epistolary and Rhetorical Con-
texts (Sheffield: JSOT, 1989). See also Joop Smit, "The Letter of Paul to the Gala-
tians: A Deliberative Speech," New Testament Studies 35 (1989): 1-26.
67 See Hansen, Abraham in Galatians—Epistolary and Rhetorical Contexts, esp.
68 John L. White, The Form and Function of the Body of the Greek Letter: A Study
of the Letter Body in the Non-Literary Papyri and in Paul the Apostle, Society of
Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 2 (Missoula, MT: Scholars, 1972).
69 Nils A. Dahl, "Paul's Letter to the Galatians: Epistolary Genre, Content, and
Structure" (Unpublished paper, SBL Paul Seminar, 1973).
Richard N. Longenecker,
Galatians, Word Biblical Commentary (
Word, 1990), c-cxix. Hansen wrote his doctoral dissertation under Longenecker.
71 For example Hansen, Abraham in Galatians, 27.
72 Ibid., 59-60.
73 Ibid., 53-54.
74 Ibid., 152.
358 BIBLIOTHECA SACRA / July—September 1993
The strength of Hansen's analysis is that he consistently re-
lies on Paul's use of epistolary formulae to structure and interpret
the individual units of the letter. This leads him to emphasize
rightly Paul's tendency to cluster these formulae at transitional
points in the epistle.75 However, Hansen's choice of the rebuke-
request type of letter seems somewhat artificial for a letter the
length of Galatians. This is because all the corresponding exam-
ples in the papyri that he cites76 are much shorter epistles. To sub-
sume all Paul's argumentation in Galatians 1:6–4:11 under the
rubric of "rebuke" and all his rhetoric in 4:12–6:10 under the
corresponding rubric of "request" seems forced, and a mean-
ingful descriptive genre becomes artificially prescriptive. It
would seem that broader categories for an epistle the length of
Galatians would be more desirable and workable. This is not to
deny that a part of Galatians is "rebuke" and a part of the epistle is
"request." Regardless of this one criticism, Hansen's work
makes, a significant contribution to the epistolary and rhetorical
analysis of Galatians.
This survey of rhetorical analyses of Galatians reveals the
diversity of opinion in applying this tool to Galatians, thereby in-
dicating scholarship's rudimentary stage in using this interpre-
tive instrument. Some might conclude that rhetorical analysis is
fraught with "isogetical" temptations as a somewhat alien, exter-
nal template is placed on the biblical text. There is some validity
to such a conclusion. However, the possibility of abuse in using
rhetorical analysis no more negates its potential benefit to the bib-
lical student than overeating negates the potential benefit of food
to the body. The true value of rhetorical analysis is in the use of
the tool to explain the biblical text. If Paul's rhetoric or persuasive
strategy in Galatians is illumined in a more helpful way than
previous interpretive tools have accomplished, then the value of
rhetorical analysis is established. Coming to a better under-
standing of the argument of Galatians is the determinative fac-
tor. Therefore the reader is asked to defer final judgment until
reading the full-orbed rhetorical analysis of the argument of
Galatians in the second article in this series.
75 Ibid., 27-54.
76 Ibid., 34-42.
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