"Encomium vs Vituperation: Contrasting Portraits of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel"

University of Notre Dame

1.0 Topic and Hypotheses

Past consideration of Johannine characters considers them either as symbolic or representative figures,1 and now according to literary theory.2 This study contributes to those efforts with insights drawn from ancient rhetoric, in particular from the encomium genre of the progymnasmata. The encomium, to my knowledge, has not been used, although it ought to be, because the “encomium” is the most common form in antiquity for praising a person according to fixed, regular categories (origins, parents, nurture, virtues, and death) and would most likely have been learned by the author of the Fourth Gospel at the time he learned to write materials for public persuasion. Moreover, this conventional and stereotypical3 view of persons can be found in Judean4 and Greco-Roman literature.5 The encomium, therefore, is the viewpoint of the ancients themselves, the report of a native informant who indicates what conventional topics and their contents need be covered to amplify praise for an honorable ancient person. This study, then, is no mere add-on to Johannine scholarship, but a worthy contribution because it examines the Fourth Gospel in the most likely honorable terms that author and audience would recognize.

Under the umbrella of the rhetorical presentation of characters in antiquity, I propose to argue these two hypotheses. First, the author Fourth Gospel knows the traditional code for praising persons as is found in the encomium exercise in the progymnasmata. Second, the Fourth Gospel uses this rhetorical manner in a sly and clever manner because there are two encomia in the narrative: one characterizes outsiders who see things literally and inadequately (= vituperation) and another represents insiders who know what is going on, glory in their secrets and smirk at the outsiders (= encomium). From Aristotle to Quintilian, epideictic rhetoric focused on “praise” (?pa????) and “blame” (?????), or in Latin laus and vituperatio.”6 Of them Aristotle says: “The topics for praise and also those for blame. . .the qualities are much the same as regards both praise and blame” (Rhet. 1.9.1). Later, he remarks: “These are the things from which speeches of praise and blame are almost all derived, as well as what to look for when praising and blaming; for if we have knowledge of these [sources of praise] the opposite is clear, for blame is derived from its opposite” (Rhet. 1.9.41). Quintilian, following Aristotle’s discourse on the rhetoric of praise and blame, provides us with this important idea: “The same method [for praise] will be applied to denunciations (vituperatione) as well, but with a view to the opposite effect” (Inst. 3.7.19). The same aim and method became encoded in the encomia of the progymnasmata, which taught students to praise and to denounce. In this article we equate encomium with “praise,” but vituperation with “blame.” The argument, then, has two parts: 1. exposition of the contents of the encomium in the progymnasmata ; 2. description of the antithetical encomia of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, a vituperation by outsiders and a genuine encomium by insiders.

2.0 Contents of the Encomium

The progymnasmata was the collection of exercises taught those in the second level of education to train them for public discourse.7 Recent study of education in antiquity urges us to nuance the conventional, three-stage model found in current scholarship, which Robert Kaster summarized and to which he offered his qualifications. It is generally thought that ancient education consisted of:

. . .the “primary” school (??aµµat?d?das?a?e???) overseen by the “primary” teacher, where one learned “letters” – the elements of reading and writing – and some arithmetic; the “secondary” or “grammar”school, where one received thorough and systematic instruction in language and literature, especially poetry, under the grammarian (??aµµat????); and the school of rhetoric.8
Kaster offers the following corrections: ancient education was “a socially segmented system laid out along two essentially separate tracks. The most important formal distinction here is the division between the two tracks or segments: the ludus literrarius, providing common literacy for students of relatively humble origins on the one hand9; and the scholae liberales, catering to a more privileged part of the population on the other.10 The scholae liberales began with instruction in writing for a public or municipal audience, especially epideictic rhetoric so necessary for civic life.11As we know, the collection of exercises for public speech and writing, namely, the progymnasmata , contained the cultural rules and values for the encomium, the literary expression of the rhetoric of praise and blame. Extant progymnasmata typically contain the following exercises:12 1. myths, 2. chreia,13 3. refutation and confirmation, 4. commonplaces on virtues and vices, 5. encomium and vituperation, 6. comparison,14 7. prosopopoieia,15 8. description, 9. thesis for or against something, and 10. legislation, for or against a law. Although “praise and blame” runs through most of them, it is formally and explicitly taught in the “encomium.” The conventional encomium instructs students where to find reasons and data for praise (or blame), which genre is found widespread in Greco-Roman and Israelite literature. With great consistency, the encomium instructed authors how to praise someone in terms of the following five categories:

2.1 Geography and Generation

Each category of the encomium was itself a commonplace understood by all the ancients. All knew the basic, invariable content of “origins,” i.e., origin in a noble land (geography) and from noble stock (generation). A synopsis of four encomiastic instructions on geography and generation yields this uniform content.

ethnic affiliation (?????) nation/city-state (p????) clan/tribe (?e???)

Aelius Theon
ethnic affiliation (?????) nation/city-state (p????) government (p???te?a)
ethnic affiliation (?????) home locale (pat???) ancestors (p???????) fathers (pate?e?)
ethnic affiliation (gens, natio)
country (patria)
ancestors (maiores)
parents (parentes)

Thus a person’s origins are expressed by two topics: 1. geography (?????, p????, pat???, gens, patria, natio) and 2. generation (?e???, p???????, pate?e?, maiores, parentes).

2.1.1 Geography

The ancients were acutely aware of the meanings carried by geography, which was rooted in their theory of elements. Places were known to be wet, dry, hot and cold, 16 which elements also indicated character. A person with excessive heat would be such-and-such a type person, whereas people with more coldness would be another type (see (Hippocrates, “Air, Water and Places,” 24.1-40). Aristotle’s version of this applies the four-element theory to specific geographical regions and their capacity for ruling, arguing once more that geography equals character.

Let us speak of what ought to be the citizens' natural character. This one might almost discern by looking at the famous cities of Greek and by observing how the whole inhabited world is divided up among the nations. The nations inhabiting the cold places and those of Europe are full of spirit but somewhat deficient in intelligence and skill, so that they continue comparatively free, but lacking in political organization and capacity to rule their neighbors. The peoples of Asia on the other hand are intelligent and skillful in temperament, but lack spirit, so that they are in continuous subjection and slavery. But the Greek race participates in both characters, just as it occupies the middle position geographically,17 for it is both spirited and intelligent, hence it continues to be free and to have very good political institutions, and to be capable of ruling all mankind if it attains constitutional unity (Politics 1327b.1-2; see Plato, Laws 5.747d).
Thus “Europe,” north and west of Greece, is “cold,” full of spirit, but deficient in intelligence and skill; while “free” themselves, they lack the political skills to rule others. Place = element = character! Asia, west of Greece, resembles Europe in that has intelligence and skill, but lacks spirit, which the result that they are content with subjection and slavery. Greece, which is geographically centered, contains a balance of all four elements and so is intelligent, skilled, with great spirit, good political institutions and capacity to rule all mankind. Place = all four elements = character.

In time a series of stereotypes developed characterizing various places and the people dwelling in them, which served as an index of snobbery: some places were inherently honorable and noble, but others ignoble.18 For example, Titus says that “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (Titus 1:12), whereas Paul boasts that he comes from a no low-status city (Acts 21:39). Menander Rhetor, a progymnastic author, provides a cogent summary of the logic of geography in praise:

You will come to the topic of his native country (pat??da). Here you must ask yourself whether it is a distinguished country or not [and whether he comes from a celebrated and splendid place or not]. If his native country is famous, you should place your account of it first, and mention it before his family. . .If the city (p????) has no distinction, you must inquire whether his nation (?????) as a whole is considered brave and valiant, or is devoted to literature or the possession of virtues, like the Greek race, or again is distinguished for law, like the Italian, or is courageous, like the Gauls or Paeonians.You must argue that it is inevitable that a man from such a [city or] nation should have such characteristics (II.369.18-370.5)19.
Certain places characteristically breed people with specific praiseworthy traits: Greeks in literature and virtue, Italians in law, and Gauls in courage.20 The presupposition behind this lies in the belief that “it is inevitable that a man from such a city or nation should have such characteristics.” Yes, “inevitable!” Thus knowing the geography of a person’s origins tells the ancients about the person’s worth and value.21

2.1.2 Generation

Much as we value the pedigree of animals produced through select breeding, so too the ancients in regard to people. Quintilian sums it up: “Persons are generally regarded as having some resemblance to their parents and ancestors, a resemblance which leads to their living disgracefully or honorably, as the case may be" (Inst. Orat. 5.10.24). Lists of the culturally specific values in parents that were popularly praised may be found in most rhetoricians; Aristotle provided just such criteria which warrant praise:

Now good birth in a race or a state means that its members are indigenous or ancient; that its earliest leaders were distinguished men, and that from them have sprung many who were distinguished for qualities that we admire. The good birth of an individual implies that both parents are free citizens, and that, as in the case of the state, the founders of the line have been notable for virtue or wealth or something else which is highly prized, and that many distinguished persons belong to the family, men and women, young and old (Rhet. 1.5.5).
Aristotle expresses the common expectation that “children will be chips off the old block” (see Deut 23:2; 2 Kings 9:22; Isa 57:3; Hos 1:2; Ecclus 23:25-26; 30:7), either like father, like son (e.g. Matt 11:27) or like mother, like daughter (e.g. Ezek 16:44). If the parents or ancestors were "landed" or citizens of a free polis, then the root stock of the family was noble; virtuous ancients should be expected to breed virtue. Plato says: "They were good because they sprang from good fathers" (Menex. 237). Confirmation of this is found in the endless introduction of biblical characters as “son of so-and-so.” To know the father is to know the son. The honor rating of the father indicates the honor rating of the son.

2.1.3 Birth.

Important, honorable births were announced by celestial phenomenon (stars, comets) and accompanied by oracles and prophecies. Readers already know this from comparisons of biblical and classical materials,22 but we locate it in its proper rhetorical context, the encomium.

Menander Rhetor gives typical instructions on this topic:

If any divine sign occurred at the time of his birth, either on land or in the heavens or on the sea, compare the circumstances with those of Romulus, Cyrus, and similar stories, since in these cases also there were miraculous happenings connected with their birth -- the dream of Cyrus' mother, the suckling of Romulus by the she-wolf (II.371.5-14).
Whatever happened in the macrocosm of the sky mirrored and foretold what was soon to occur in the microcosm of the earth. Such phenomena, then, served as status markers.

2.2 Nurture and Training.

There was a right way and a wrong way to educate an socialize a son.23 Independent of the family, what events shaped the person’s character? Our native informant, Marcus Tullius Cicero, instructs us:

On this topic Cicero said: “Under manner of life should be considered with whom he was reared, in what tradition and under whose direction, what teachers he had in the liberal arts, what instructors in the art of living, with whom he associates on terms of friendship, in what occupation, trade or profession he is engaged, how he manages his private fortune, and what is the character of his home life” (De Inventione 1.24.35).
Sons can never exceed the nobility of their fathers, but they can hope to match them, if they are reared in the traditions of the clan. In addition to Cicero’s commonplace on “nurture and training,” Josephus demonstrates in his Life the content of this topic, declaring that he made “great progress” in his education and “gained a reputation for an excellent memory and understanding” (8). When fourteen years old, he “won universal applause for his love of letters,” such that the “chief priests and leading men of the city used constantly to come to me for precise information on some particular of our ordinances” (8-9). He tells us that he investigated the manner of life of the three major sect of Judea, Pharisees, Sadducees and Essenes, submitting himself to hard training and laborious exercises. Finally, he apprenticed himself to Bannus and became schooled in the values and structures of the Israelite purity system (11). It is essential for Josephus that he present himself not only as gifted intellectually, highly cultured, but as “nurtured and trained” as an observant Israelite.

2.4 Comparison.

Comparison may be a distinct exercise of its own in the progymnasmata or a part of the encomium. Nevertheless, its purpose and mode of argument are identical in both. As one progymnastic author states:

Comparison is a composition made comparative by the process of placing side by side with the subject that which is greater or equal to it. . . to place fine things beside good things or worthless things beside worthless things or small things beside the greater. The comparison is a double encomium or an invective combined with an encomium. There as many proper subjects for a comparison as there are for both invective and encomium: persons, things, times, places, animals, and also plants.24
S?????s?? generally compares persons and things similar in honor or prowess (= two encomia) or contrasts them (= encomium and vituperation). Those making comparisons, moreover, are instructed to use the same categories of the encomium which we have just surveyed, so that persons are compare in terms of birth, origin, nurture and training, etc.
When we compare characters, we will first set side by side their noble birth, their education, their children, their public offices, their reputation, their bodily health, as well as whatever else I said earlier, in the chapter "On Encomia," about bodily good qualities and external good qualities.25

2.5 Death and Posthumous Honors

A death was “noble” if accompanied by posthumous honors, such as public celebration of the dead in games or by monuments, as Demosthenes describes:“It is a proud privilege to behold them possessors of deathless (????at??) honours and a memorial of their valour erected by the State, and deemed deserving of sacrifices and games for all future time” (Funeral Oration 36).26 The very funeral orations themselves are structured out of the encomium to glorify the dead, first by giving a public evaluation of their worth and later by an annual burnishing of their reputation.27 Hence, we frequently find the claim that those being celebrated are in one sense like the gods, because their glory too is now deathless and everlasting.

3.0 The Encomia of Outsiders and Insiders

With our knowledge of the encomium, let us turn to the Fourth Gospel. Two things will occur simultaneously in this part of the article. We will bring forward in sequence each of the five major topics of the encomium and show to what extent the author of the Fourth Gospel knows the genre and its conventional contents. At the same time we will observe that in the Fourth Gospel the author constructs not one, but two antithetical encomia about Jesus, one representative of how outsiders view Jesus (= vituperation, because it seeks to vilify him) and another characteristic of insiders (= encomium, because it claims maximum honor for Jesus on very same encomiastic points).

3.1 Outsiders’ Vituperation.

The author, who is responsible for all that the outsiders say about Jesus, structures their remarks, not haphazardly but according to the main topics of the encomium, not as praise for Jesus, but as blame. Hence he creates for outsiders not an encomium, but a vituperation whose purpose is to shame and dishonor Jesus. The data used in this vituperation are not entirely erroneous in terms of geography and generation, but represent outsider thinking which is fleshly, from below, judging according to appearances and lacking in knowledge.28 They not only know little, but even this they construe in a hostile manner. Finally, in their vituperation against Jesus, the author provides grounds for judging them (see 12:31-36, 46-50).

3.1.1 Geography.

The author formally raises the topic of Jesus’ “origins” by staging a controversy over “whence” (p??e?) Jesus comes and “whither” (p?) he goes. Readers are introduced to this pattern by Nicodemus,29 who arrived knowing that Jesus “came from God,” but left knowing nothing at all. After making a critical distinction between ways of “knowing,” namely, “flesh” versus “spirit” (3:7), Jesus plays with the word “spirit” (as wind and as heavenly phenomenon), to illustrate those two ways of knowing: “The wind blows. . .and you do not know whence it comes (p??e?) and whither it goes (p?)” (3:8). Although not about Jesus’ “origins,” it introduces30 a formal pattern: 1. “know” (or not know) 2. “whence” and “whither.” The chart below illustrates the most significant uses of the pattern concerning “whence” Jesus comes.
“The Jews murmured at him, because he said, ‘I am the bread which comes down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” (6:41-42)
We know where this man comes from, but when the Christ appears, no one will know whence he comes” (7:27). So Jesus proclaimed, as he taught in the temple, "You know me, and you know where I come from? But I have not come of my own accord; he who sent me is true, and ,him you do not know. I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me" (7:28-29).
“Is the Christ to come from Galilee?” (7:41-42). . .“Search and you will see that no prophet is to rise from Galilee” (7:52).
Jesus answered, "Even if I do bear witness to myself, my testimony is true, for I know whence I have come and whither I am going, but you do not know whence I come or whither I am going.
Pharisees: “We know that God has spoken to Moses; but as for this man, we do not know where he comes from” (9:29). The man answered, "Why, this is a marvel! You do not know where he comes from, and yet he opened my eyes. . .If this man were not from God he could do nothing” (9:29, 33).
In each of these incidents, the author structures the discourse as a challenge/riposte exchange according to the formal pattern of two elements: 1. knowing/not knowing and 2. whence Jesus comes. Outsiders claim to know, but Jesus accuses them of lack of knowledge. Like Nicodemus, they “know” only in earthly, fleshly ways, but Jesus claims that his “origins” are from the heavenly world. Thus, his “origins” refer both to Jesus’ “locale” and authorization (agent/apostle).

At this point we know several things. First, the author knows the category of “origins” and its role in honoring or shaming, depending on the nobility or baseness of geography. Second, “origins” is an obligatory encomiastic topic, for the author makes it the formal point of controversy between outsiders and Jesus. Third, the author structures the contrast between the vituperation of outsiders and the encomium of insiders in terms of “knowing”( or claiming to know) and “not knowing.” Outsiders “know” according to flesh and think earthly thoughts; for them “whence” can only mean father and mother, Nazareth, Galilee, and the like. Moreover, it is Jesus who tells them that they are completely wrong. Thus the author knows the topic, handles it traditionally, and advances it from its confinement at the beginning of an encomium to a topic of great significance which pervades the narrative (see 19:9).

3.1.2 Generation

Outsiders know Jesus’ father and mother as peasants from no distinguished clan, whose offspring cannot be persons of honor. The outsiders think it enough to rebut Jesus’ remark about “coming down from heaven” by simple reference to his mortal parents: "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, I have come down from heaven'?” (6:42). If the parents, moreover, come from Nazareth of Galilee, q.e.d. Even Jesus’ family, whatever its low status, dishonors him in several ways. “His own did not receive him” (1:11), and his brothers seek to manipulate him, indicating a breakdown of kinship relations (7:1-7). It is always shameful when kin or family show disrespect to one of their own. In the outsider’s vituperation, Jesus must be a charlatan and a deceiver because he has no nobility whatsoever, either from the place of his birth or from his undistinguished parents.

3.1.3 Education

Paul’s claim that he studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) contrasts him with Peter and others who were dismissed as “uneducated, common men” (Acts 4:13). So too with Jesus, outsiders mock him for his lack of education and training: "How is it that this man has learning, when he has never studied?" (7:15). A man without learning has no voice in the company of those who have it (see Luke 2:46-47).31 Jesus’ challengers consistently argue that he says, teaches, preaches his own message, which lacks weight, depth and respect.

3.1.4 Deeds of the Soul

As regards deeds of the soul, outsiders see no virtue whatsoever in Jesus, only vice. Some label him a “deceiver”: “He leads the people astray” (7:13), proof of which appears when those sent to arrest Jesus do not return with this “deceiver” but declare that they were captivated by his words: “No man ever spoke like this man!” (7:46). With good reason the Pharisees charge that these men too are victims of Jesus “deception” (7:47). Others label Jesus as demon-possessed (8:48, 52), the implication of which is that he cannot be God’s agent, but is rather the agent of God’s enemy. And he is a law breaker because he does not observer of the Sabbath law by healing on the Holy Day (chs 5, 9), which leads some to brand him a “sinner” “This man is of from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath” (9: 16, 24). Finally, Jesus in their eyes commits the sin of sins, blasphemy, by claiming to be equal to God (5:18; 10:30-33).

3.1.5 Death

To them, his death cannot be “noble,” for as a sinner he justly gets what he deserves. Although Jesus evades attempts to stone him for his blasphemy (8:59; 10:31), the Jerusalem elite finally capture him and hand him to the Romans to be crucified. In this scenario, Jesus’ body is mutilated and denied posthumous honors. Eternal glory is out of the question and his end is unrelieved shame.

Outsiders, therefore, find no reason whatsoever to praise Jesus. On the contrary, on every topic that matters in considering the honor or worth of a person, they see only grounds to dismiss Jesus. No noble origin; no honorable parents; no education/training; only vice and sin, and an appropriately shameful death. For him only vituperation is suitable.

3.2 Insiders’ Encomium

The author, however, creates a true encomium for Jesus; that is, he creates of portrait of praise for Jesus which represents the insiders’ viewpoint, which is the complete anthesis of the outsiders’ vituperation. Here we find praise, honor and glory for Jesus in terms the same topics, categories and contents used to construct the outsiders’ vituperation. The content of generation and geography, moreover, are always revealed by Jesus, which means that only insiders have and understand this esoteric knowledge.

3.2.1 Geography

Jesus’ geography as reported by and for insiders is the complete obverse of what outsiders know. “Whence” means so much more to insiders:

1. “The true light that enlightens every person was coming into the world” (1:9)
2. “The word became flesh and dwelt among us” (1:14)
3. “No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of man” (3:13)
4. “He who comes from above is above all. . .he who comes from heaven is above all” (3:31)
5. “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me”(6:38). . . “This is the bread which came down from heaven . . .I am the living bread which came down from heaven” (6:50-51). . .”This is the bread which came down from heaven” (6:58)
6. “What if you were to see the Son of man ascending where he was before” (6:62)
7. “You know me and you know where I come from? But I have not come on my own accord, but he who sent me is true, and him you do not know” (7:28)
8. “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world” (8:23)
9. “Jesus, knowing that . . .he had come from God and was going to God. . .” (13:3)
10. “Now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world began” (17:5)
Outsiders’ claims to know “whence” Jesus comes is always reduced to the fact that he is a mere mortal. They Indeed claim to know whence he comes: “You know me and you know where I come from?” (7:27). In contrast, insiders understand Jesus’ “whence” as a claim that he is truly “from above” and “not of this world.” “Whence” means that he “came down from heaven” into this world. In key rhetorical places, such as the prefaces for the Books of Signs and Glory, the audience is told the secret. The Word, who was eternally and who was face-to-face with God in the beginning, descended into the world and became one of us (1:9, 14). The author again tells us this secret of secrets on the eve of Jesus’ departure, “Jesus, knowing that . . .he had come from God and was going to God. . .” (13:3). Insiders, then, know “whence” and even “whither” Jesus goes. Although Nazareth and Galilee are low-status places, not so the “bosom of the Father” (1:18) or the house of the Father with many rooms (14:2). This is premier real estate.

Outsiders like Nicodemus never grasp what Jesus is saying. In contrast, members of the Jesus group know that Jesus “comes from above” (3:31), that he “had come from the Father” (13:3), who would “glorify me in your presence with the glory that I had with you before the world was made” (17:5) . Although controversy clouds discussion of Jesus’ true “origins,” Jesus and the insiders truly know “whence” he comes; they alone revel in the great secret of knowing “whence he comes and whither he goes.” It is inevitable that a man from such an honorable place as the bosom of the Father should have the characteristics of that place.

3.2.2 Generation

As regards generation, mention of “Joseph and his mother” (6:42) hardly exhausts this important category.32 Jesus also has a Father in the heavenly world.33 Because this Father is the noblest person in heaven or earth, Jesus as “Son of God” or “Son of man” or “Son” is greatly to be praised and honored. According to the adage “like father, like son,” one would expect Jesus to share in the nobility of his Father in many ways, such as: 1. “equality with God” (5:17; 10:30), 2. coming and acting in the “name of the Father” (5:43; 10:25), 3. “receiving. . .manifesting. . .making known” God’s name (17:6, 11,12, 26), which is generally taken to refer to Jesus’ declaration of himself as “I AM” (8:24, 28, 58). Moreover, this Father holds Jesus in high regard inasmuch for he is the “only” or “unique” Son of this Father (1:14, 18; 3:16, 18),34 the Son whom the Father loves (3:35; 5:20; 15:9).

3.2.3 Nurture and Training

Although outsiders dismiss Jesus because he lacks education and training, insiders know otherwise. In fact, his supremely noble Father has groomed this Son with great care. To outsiders, the untrained and uneducated, Jesus is simply a deceiver. But insiders frequently address him as “rabbi” (1:38, 49; 4:31; 6:25; 9:2 and 11:8) or as “teacher” (d?d?s?a???: 1:38; 11:28; 13:13-14; 20:16). The author gives considerable attention throughout the narrative to Jesus as “word” (1:1-2) and authorized agent, who has been schooled by God in what to say and what to do. Jesus is supremely “in the know,” because God gives him secrets and esoteric knowledge, shows him all that He does, and teaches him what to say.

The Father gives Jesus all things, especially heavenly secrets and exclusive knowledge: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known (1:18). “Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father” (6:46). The Son is unique in that he alone has seen the Father, the source of wisdom and knowledge and because he alone makes known this God. But he is remarkably “in the know.” The Father shows Jesus all that he does, so that he does what the Father does: "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing; and greater works than these will he show him, that you may marvel.” (5:19-20). Jesus does not spy on God or steal God’s secrets. On the contrary, he has had superior nurture and training. Moreover, if we understand “do” and “does” as mastercraftman’s skills, then Jesus has completed his apprenticeship and is a certified master craftsman on a par with his teacher. The Father teaches Jesus and gives him the words he should say: “He who is of the earth belongs to the earth, and of the earth he speaks; he who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard. . .For he whom God has sent utters the words of God” (3:31-34). Again he refers to his “education” by God: "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me; if any man's will is to do his will, he shall know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (7:16-17).35 How important it is in this gospel that Jesus does not act as an earthly person speaking on his own: “For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me” (12:48-50).

Simply put, Jesus has been taught to act as the exclusive agent of God to bring God’s words and wisdom. Emphatically Jesus states that he is not self-educated nor promoting his own teaching. Rather, Jesus himself “witnessed” to what he has seen and heard; he speaks as the Father “taught” him; he obey’s God’s command as to what to say and what to speak. Although “nurture and training” were treated lightly in the outsider’s vituperation, this topic becomes a major source of honor for Jesus in the insiders’ encomium. Thus we find yet another encomiastic topic which the author knows and formally expands as a key component in his encomium.

3.2.4 Deeds of the Soul

As regards virtues or deeds of the soul, Jesus is portrayed as acting virtuously.36 He honors his Father (8:49, 54) by doing always what is pleasing to Him (7:29), obeys His commandment (10:17; 12:27) and keeps His will (4:34; 5:30; 6:38). In a culture where the virtue of sons was linked with the command “honor your father,” Jesus’ exemplary respect for and loyalty to his Father stand out as an issue of great importance. It serves as the refutation of the charges made by outsiders that he dishonors God by his sins and deceptions. Although the term “justice” hardly appears in the Fourth Gospel (16:10), this topic was a a commonplace taught in rhetorical handbooks of Aristotle and in the progymnasmata of Menander Rhetor and we think that it has relevance here.

The parts of justice are piety, fair dealing and reverence: piety toward the gods, fair dealing towards men, reverence toward the departed. Piety to the gods consists of two elements: being god-loved and god-loving. The former means being loved by the gods and receiving many blessings from them, the latter consists of loving the gods and having a relationship of friendship with them (Menander Rhetor I.361.17-25).37

Piety to the gods, Menander says, consists of two elements: being god-loved and god-loving. Although our author does not use these precise terms, he nevertheless develops these two topics. Repeatedly the author tells us that Jesus is “beloved of God”:
“The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand” (3:35) “The Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing;” (5:20) “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again” (10:17)
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you” (15:9) “I desire that they also. . .may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world” (17:24) “I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them" (17:26).
Despite what outsiders think, the encomium of the insiders emphatically argues that God indeed “loves” Jesus. This Father bestows great benefaction on Jesus who is “god-loved” (“all things,” “all that he himself is doing”), who in turn displays loyalty and obedience to him (“command...lay down my life,” “made known to them thy name”). For his part, Jesus is God-loving: “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father” (14:31). Far from being a person thirsting for glory, Jesus insists that all he does is for the glory of his Father (5:30; 6:38; 7:18). Thus the accusations that he “makes himself anything” (5:18; 8:53; 10:33; 19:7, 12) are utterly false; God authorizes him entirely.

Jesus, moreover, brokers this “loved by God” benefaction: “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father” (14:21). And "If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (14:24). In fact the only way to become “loved by God” is by loving God’s agent.

Jesus’ justice toward his Father is in fact acknowledged by God in various ways: the Father has affirmed Jesus’ worthiness by setting His seal on him (6:27) and by glorifying him (5:41, 44; 8:50, 54). The correct conclusion, then, is that Jesus manifests to a high degree the most noble of the deeds of the soul, “justice.” He displays faithfulness and loyalty to God, obeys his commands, and dedicates himself solely to the honor of God. And, not surprisingly, he is both “God-loved” and “loving God.”

3.2.5 Comparison

Many encomia contain rules for a comparison (s?????s??). Indeed Plutarch’s Lives are formally structured on this pattern. Generally progymnastic rules for a comparison instruct authors to compare similar persons or objects, which seems to be the manner of the Fourth Gospel. Thus two persons receive praise, not blame, but in varying degrees. First, John the Baptizer and Jesus are compared and distinguished. John is first in time, i.e., “before” Jesus, but in terms of precedence, Jesus “was” before John, because he enjoys uncreated eternity in the past (1:15). Moreover, John is but the witness to the light, not the light itself (1:8); he is not the “Christ, Elijah or a prophet” (1:20-21), but the voice of one crying in the wilderness (1:24). God directed John to witness to Jesus (1:33-34), thus his entire worth and so his honor rests in honoring Jesus. The comparison of John and Jesus, then, serves to distinguish Jesus as a figure worthy of superior honor. Second, Jesus is asked twice in a pejorative tone “Are you greater than. . .” Jacob or Abraham. Jacob gave the Samaritans the well at Sychar, but Jesus gives them living water. As great as Jacob was, Jesus is greater.38 Third, the discourse in John 8 centers around “father Abraham,” contrasting true sons who resemble their father by showing hospitality to visitors from afar (Gen 18) with slave sons whose generation includes Ishmael, Cain and finally Satan, who is a murderer and liar from the beginning.39 But Abraham also functions in Jesus’ argument as a figure who “came into being” (8:56) and “died” (8:52), that is, Abraham is a contingent being; in comparison, Jesus is uncreated in the past and imperishable in the future, namely “I AM” –“before Abraham came into being, I AM” (8:58). Yes, Jesus is greater than Abraham. Finally, the author repeatedly compares Jesus and Moses. If “the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (1:17), thus affirming that Jesus is a superior broker of better blessings. If Moses can be said to have ascended to heaven, Jesus is superior because he first descended from there and later returned (3:13). And if Moses lifted up a serpent which saved Israel from death by snakebite, Jesus must be lifted up to save humanity from death itself by giving it “eternal life” (3:14). Finally the author metamorphoses Moses the advocate into Moses the accuser. Moses, Jesus claims, “wrote of me” (5:46). Jesus, moreover, is the judge of Israel, but Moses is only its accuser. Thus four distinct times the author compares Jesus with Israel’s greatest patriarchs or with the Christian hero, John. These figures, as the rules for a comparison instruct, are not shamed or demoted, rather Jesus is shown superior to them.

3.2.6 Death and Posthumous Honors

The death of an honorable person is noteworthy when it conforms to the tradition of a “noble death” or when it results in posthumous honors. Noble death refers to the topos found extensively in Greek funeral orations in which various criteria are cited to argue why a slain warrior is worthy of praise, honor and glory, even if killed in battle.40 Not all who died in battle warrant this, but only those displaying ??et?, that is, a kind of nobility prized by elites. Six criteria for a noble death emerge from the speeches: a death is noble which 1. benefits others, 2. displays justice to the fatherland, 3. is voluntarily accepted, 4. presents the fallen as having died unvanquished and undefeated, 5. produces posthumous honors, and 6. leads to immortal glory. This material greatly aids the interpretation of the “noble shepherd” in John 10:11-18. The following synopsis illustrates that the author of the Fourth Gospel knows the topos of “noble death” and formally applied it to the “noble” shepherd. Rhetorical Tradition about “Noble Death” John’s Discourse on the Noble Shepherd 1. Death benefitted others, especially fellow citizens 1. Death benefitted the sheep: he lays down his life for them 2. Comparison between courage/cowardice, fight/flight, death/life, honor/shame 2. Comparison between shepherd/hireling: courage/ cowardice, fight/flight, death/life, honor/shame 3. Manly courage displayed by soldiers who fight and die 3. Manly courage displayed by shepherd who battles the wolf and dies 4. Voluntary death is praised 4. Voluntary death repeatedly claimed: “I lay it down of my own accord”; “No one takes it from me. . .” “I lay it down; I take it up again” 5. Justice in death: soldiers uphold the honor of their families and serve the interests of the fatherland: duties served = justice 5. Justice: the shepherd manifests loyalty to his sheep and his Father/God (10:14-15); he has a command from God: duties served = justice By means of the rhetoric of “noble death” the author argues that Jesus’ death was not as outsiders thought, but richly noble in all the ways that humans can conceive of an honorable death. No shame here, only honor (Heb 12:2). Posthumous Honors. Because the gospel states that he was returning to whence he came (the heavenly world of the Father), Jesus is restored to his former glory: “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world was made” (17:5). According to insider logic, Jesus’ death itself was “glory” (12:23; 13:31-32). In Johannine anti-language, Jesus’ death (i.e., being lifted up) is also his being lifted from this world to that of the Father (3:14; 8:28; 12:3). Outsiders, as we have come to expect, cannot imagine that glory awaits Jesus. At best, when Jesus says that he goes away and that they cannot find him, outsiders think either that he is exiting Israel for the Diaspora (7:35) or that he will kill himself (8:22). The grave is the only future they see for Jesus, and a shameful one at that. But insiders know that Jesus’ death is but the beginning of his return to glory. The following data on “whither” Jesus goes speak to his posthumous glory.

Rhetorical Tradition about “Noble Death” John’s Discourse on the Noble Shepherd
1. Death benefitted others, especially fellow citizens 1. Death benefitted the sheep: he lays down his life for them
2. Comparison between courage/cowardice, fight/flight, death/life, honor/shame 2. Comparison between shepherd/hireling: courage/ cowardice, fight/flight, death/life, honor/shame
3. Manly courage displayed by soldiers who fight and die 3. Manly courage displayed by shepherd who battles the wolf and dies
4. Voluntary death is praised 4. Voluntary death repeatedly claimed: “I lay it down of my own accord”; “No one takes it from me. . .” “I lay it down; I take it up again”
5. Justice in death: soldiers uphold the honor of their families and serve the interests of the fatherland: duties served = justice 5. Justice: the shepherd manifests loyalty to his sheep and his Father/God (10:14-15); he has a command from God: duties served = justice
By means of the rhetoric of “noble death” the author argues that Jesus’ death was not as outsiders thought, but richly noble in all the ways that humans can conceive of an honorable death. No shame here, only honor (Heb 12:2).

Posthumous Honors

Because the gospel states that he was returning to whence he came (the heavenly world of the Father), Jesus is restored to his former glory: “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world was made” (17:5). According to insider logic, Jesus’ death itself was “glory” (12:23; 13:31-32). In Johannine anti-language, Jesus’ death (i.e., being lifted up) is also his being lifted from this world to that of the Father (3:14; 8:28; 12:3). Outsiders, as we have come to expect, cannot imagine that glory awaits Jesus. At best, when Jesus says that he goes away and that they cannot find him, outsiders think either that he is exiting Israel for the Diaspora (7:35) or that he will kill himself (8:22). The grave is the only future they see for Jesus, and a shameful one at that. But insiders know that Jesus’ death is but the beginning of his return to glory. The following data on “whither” Jesus goes speak to his posthumous glory.

1. “Return” (?p???) “I go to Him who sent me” (7:33); “Knowing that he had come from God and was returning to Him” (13:3)
2. “Lift up” (????): “. . .so must the Son of man be lifted up” (3:14); “When you have lifted up the Son of man. . .” (8:28); “And when I am lifted from the earth. . .” (12:23)
3. “I go away. . .” (p??e??) “. . .to prepare a place for you” (14:2-3); “. . .I am going to the Father” (14:12); “. . .I go to the Father” (14:28)
4. “Glory. . .glorify” (d?????): “. . .when Jesus was glorified” (12:16); “Now is the Son of man glorified. . .God will also glorify him in himself, and will glorify him at once” (13:31-32); “Glorify your son. . .Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world was made” (17:1, 5); “Father, I desire that they also. . .behold my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world” (17:24)
5. “I am coming to you [Father]” (17:11, 13)
Sometimes we are told that Jesus is “going” or “returning” (7:33; 13:3) to where he was before. Sometimes he says that he is “going away,” not traveling to another place or killing himself as the outsiders think, but entering the presence of the Father (14:12, 28; 17:11) so as to “prepare a place” for the insiders. If the outsiders consider his death consummate shame, the insiders label it as “glory.” Indeed, throughout the Farewell Discourse, the author prefers to interpret Jesus’ death as “glory” and “being glorified.” Jesus himself announces this interpretation at the departure of Judas: “Now is the Son of man glorified. . .God will also glorify him in himself, and will glorify him at once” (13:31-32). “Glory” in this context must refer to the alchemy of the crucifixion in that what outsiders consider shame, God sees as glorious and honorable. Moreover, if Jesus in and after his death achieves glory, this glory is simply the glory which he enjoyed with God from the very beginning: “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory which I had with you before the world was made” (17:1, 5). And again, Jesus desires that “they also. . .behold my glory which you have given me in your love for me before the foundation of the world” (17:24). Posthumous honors, glory and eternal life, await Jesus.

5.0 Summary and Further Questions

We now know the formal structure of the encomium, its regular topics and the traditional content of each. We know, moreover, that the encomium was a familiar genre in the Greco-Roman and Israelite world. Other genres of literature, such as bioi, funeral orations, and similar forms of epideictic rhetoric, frequently organize their materials according to the formal topics of the encomium. The data presented above are persuasive that the author of the Fourth Gospel learned to write an encomium. Second, the encomium was hardly unknown to early Christian writers, for both Matthew and Luke employ the topics and contents of the encomium and Paul in three of his letters uses the topics of generation and nurture (see Gal 1:11-17; Phil 3:2-11; 2 Cor 11:21-12:10).41 Third, we have seen in the Fourth Gospel that the stereotypical topics which make up the encomium are all fully and formally present: origins, birth, nurture and training, deeds of the soul, comparison and death-posthumous honors. These are explicit topoi which do not depend on the intuition of a clever reader. The author fully appreciates these topics and uses them to augment praise for Jesus (or blame). Fourth, we have argued that the author created two encomia, actually a vituperation (outsiders) and an encomium (insiders). The very fact that we find controversy on each of the encomiastic topics indicates that they and their contents are well known, that the topics are not miscellaneous items, but coherent parts of a larger pattern. The controversial topics, moreover, make scant sense when seen independent of each other. But when apprised as the topics of an encomium, they are logically welded together and take on a meaning they do not have if considered independently.

Although Matthew and Luke begin their narratives with “origins and birth,” our author seems haphazardly to take up this or that topic, even coming back to it later in the story. Does this argue against his knowing the encomium? By no means, for Quintilian himself says that in praising someone there are two modes of organizing arguments: chronological order from birth to death and emphasis on certain points:

It has sometimes proved the more effective course to trace a man’s life and deeds in due chronological order, praising his natural gifts as a child, then his progress at school, and finally the whole course of is life, including words as well as deeds. At times on the other hand it is well to divide our praises, dealing separately with the various virtues, fortitude, justice, self-control and the rest of them and to assign to each virtue the deeds performed under its influence. We will have to decide which of these two methods will be the more serviceable, according to the nature of the subject (Inst. Orat. 3.7.15).
Sequence from birth to death is by no means a requirement.

What then is the benefit of this study? In addition to appreciation of the form of the encomium and the conventional contents of it topics, we learn a genre which can surface in the Fourth Gospel various data which can then be classified according to the conventions of the ancients. No other type of reading can illuminate the categories of the encomium embedded in the Fourth Gospel; nothing else can gather and interpret them as a native would. In addition, the clusters of data can then be appreciated, not simply as individual items, but as conventional topics related together in the ancient mind. We learn the pieces as well as the whole, or the whole is greater than the sum of its part. We are then, interpreting the Fourth Gospel accurately as the ancients would have heard it.

Furthermore, when the Fourth Gospel is read in light of the encomium, we discover parallel, but antithetical encomia, a vituperation shaming Jesus and an encomium praising him. Outsiders who think in material ways and “from below” find fault with Jesus on many points. Their criticism of Jesus and attempts to shame him cluster round the encomiastic topics: origins (geography and generation), birth, nurture and training, deeds of the soul and death. Hardly miscellaneous topics, these are the very ones that a writer or speaker is expected to develop. Hence, they are critical places in which to vilify or praise someone. The figure which follows summarizes the major argument of the paper, namely, two contrasting accounts of Jesus, one a vituperation and the other an encomium.

Outsiders: VituperationInsiders: Encomium
Geography: Nazareth and Galilee Generation: Joseph, his mother, some brothers Geography: heavenly world; bosom of the Father Generation: unique son of the Father
Nurture and Training: no schooling at all Nurture and Training: elaborate apprenticeship with God who gave, showed, taught him
Deeds of the Soul: sinner, deceiver, law breaker Deeds of the Soul: sinner, deceiver, law breaker Deeds of the Soul: courage, obedience, loyalty
Comparison: absentComparison: are you greater than Moses, Jacob, Abraham
Death and Posthumous Honors: death is fitting punishment for crimes: shame; death permanently ends his career no glory! no posthumous honors! Death and Posthumous Honors A “noble” death (a la “noble Shepherd) Power over death: I have power to lay down my life and power to take it back Death is status elevation ritual whereby Jesus returns to prior glory or is glorified by God
The very same encomiastic topics afford outsiders grounds to vilify Jesus and insiders opportunities to honor and glorify him. Inasmuch as Jesus himself speaks to the audience the contents of each topic, the audience learns remarkable secrets, revelation, and knowledge. They think spiritually, are “taught by God” (6:45).


1 Raymond Collins, “Representative Figures in the Fourth Gospel,” Downside Review 94 1. (1976) 26-46, 118-3; R. Alan Culpepper, Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel. A Study in Literary Design (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1983) 99-148; Craig R. Koester, Symbolism in the Fourth Gospel. Meaning, Mystery, Community (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1995) 32-73.

2 Dorothy A. Lee ( “Partnership in Easter Faith: The Role of Mary Magdalene and Thomas in John 20,” JSNT 58 [1995] 37-49) states: “The central role that Mary Magdalene and Thomas play comes. . .from the revelation and confession of faith in which each participates.” Both begin with defective faith but end in full-throated confession of faith.

3 “Stereotype” originated as the term which described a type mold from which myriad pages might be printed. It came to mean something mechanically repeated, but wound up in the last century as the sociological term which identifies a pejorative designation of ethic groups and races. In antiquity, as we shall see, some places and cities enjoyed an honorable or shameful cachet. In terms of their origins, some peoples were noble (generation) and some places noble (geography). Moreover, these stereotypes were reinforced in exercises in the progymnasmata where students memorized traditional gnomai and topoi to this effect and learned the conventional forms of encomia in which such stereotypes regularly appear. Thus the conventionality of stereotypical and popular labels used of certain ethnic groups or sub-groups became common currency in the Mediterranean. See John Harding ,” Stereotypes,” IESS 15.259.

4 Louis Feldman’s “portraits” of Israelite heroes described in Josephus’ Antiquities at the start did not refer to the formal shape of the encomium, although he intuitively identified its conventional topics. See “Josephus as an Apologist to the Greco-Roman World: His Portrait of Solomon,” in ed. Elizabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza, Aspects of Religious Propaganda in Judaism and Early Christianity (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1976) 69-98; “Josephus’ Portrait of Saul,” <em>HUCA</em> 53 (1982) 45-99 ;“ Hellenizations in Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities: The Portrait of Abraham,” in eds. Louis Feldman and Gohei Hata, Josephus, Judaism and Christianity (Detroit, MI: Wayne State University Press, 1987) 133-53; “Josephus’ Portrait of Jacob,” JQR 79 (1988) 101-51; “Josephus’ Portrait of David,” <em>HUCA</em> 60 1989) 129-74; “Josephus’ Portrait of Hezekiah,” <em>JBL</em>111(1992) 597-610. Eventually Feldman discovered the encomium, which provided him with clarity for organizing the data in these “portraits” according to the exact topics described in the encomium. Similarly, Philo’s Moses describes him according to the same encomiastic topics. See Thomas R. Lee, Studies in the Form of Sirach 44-50 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986).

5 The topics in the encomium used for amplifying praise are generally found in biographies (ß???) in antiquity. See Arnaldo Momigliano, The Development of Greek Biography (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971) 17; David E. Aune, “Greco-Roman Biography,” Greco-Roman Literature and the New Testament Selected Forms and Genres (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1988) 109-110; Christopher Pelling, Character and Individuality in Greek Literature (Oxford: Clarendon, 1990); and Bruce J. Malina and Jerome H. Neyrey, Portraits of Paul. An Archeology of Ancient Personality (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1996) 10-18, 100-108, 153-201.

6 Paul knows this contrast of “praise” and “blame”: In 1 Cor 11:12 he praises the community, but in 11:17 he blames them.

7 Although there has been much attention given to the progymnasmata in recent times, we do not find much scholarly investigation of the encomium and its relationship to the Israelite and Christian literature. See Jerome H. Neyrey, “Josephus’ Vita and the Encomium: A Native Model of Personality,” JSJ 25 (1994) 177-206; Malina and Neyrey, Portraits of Paul, 19-63; and Richard A. Burridge, What are the Gospels? A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography (Cambridge: CUP, 1992) 109-53.

8 Robert A. Kaster, “Notes on ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ Schools in Late Antiquity,” TAPA 113 [1983] 323-46, here 323.

9 For an enlightening look into this level of literacy, see Raffaella Cribiore, Writing, Teachers, and Students in Graeco-Roman Egypt (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1996) 129-37.

10 Kaster, “Notes on ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ Schools in Late Antiquity,” 337.

11 What level of education would gospel writers have reached? Matthew seems to have been formally trained in Israelite and Hellenistic ways; he employs the form of the encomium with considerable finesse; see Jerome H. Neyrey, Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1998) and “The Social Location of Paul: How Paul Was Educated and What He Could Compose as Indices of His Social Location,”in eds. David B. Gowler, L. Gregory Bloomquist, and Duane F. Watson, Fabrics of Discourse. Essays in Honor of Vernon K. Robbins (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2003) 126-64. Readers may have a fresh appreciation of the author of the Fourth Gospel after seeing what he can write.

12 The book of George A. Kennedy (Progymnasmata. Greek Textbooks of Prose Composition and Rhetoric [Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature Press, 2003]) contains fresh translations of all of the extant progymnasmata. For individual authors, see Aelius Theon of Alexandria (Spengel II.112.20-115.10) and James R. Butts, The “Progymnasmata” of Theon. A New Text with Translation and Commentary.(Unpublished dissertation: Claremont, 1986); Hermogenes of Tarsus (Spengel II.14.8-15.5) and Charles S. Baldwin, Medieval Rhetoric and Poetic [New York: Macmillan, 1928] 23-38); Menander Rhetor: Donald A. Russell and Nigel G. Wilson, Menander Rhetor (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981); Aphthonius of Ephesus (Spengel II.42.20-44.19) and Ray Nadeau, "The Progymnasmata of Aphthonius in translation," Speech Monographs 19 [1952] 264-285 and more recently Patricia P. Matsen, Philip Rollinson and Marion Sousa, eds., Readings from Classical Rhetoric [Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1990] 266-88). We include Quintilian, Inst. 3.7.10-18 in this category.

13 The best introduction to the chreia is still that of Ronald F. Hock and Edward N. O’Neill, The Chreia in Ancient Rhetoric. Volume I. The Progymnasmata (Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1986).

14 See F. Focke, “Synkrisis,” Hermes 58 (1923) 327-68; Philip A. Stadtler, “Plutarch’s Comparison of Pericles and Fabius Maximus,” GRBS 16 (1975) 77-85; David H. J. Larmour, “Making Parallels: Synkrisis and Plutarch’s Themistocles and Camillus,” ARNW II.33.6 (1996) 4154-4200 Christopher Forbes, “Comparison, Self-Praise and Irony: Paul’s Boasting and the Conventions of Hellenistic Rhetoric,” NTS 32 (1986) 1-30; Peter Marshall, Enmity at Corinth. Social Conventions in Paul’s Relations with the Corinthians (Tübingen: Mohr, 1987) 53-55, 325-53.

15 See Joseph M. Miller, “Concerning Ethiopia,” Readings in Medieval Rhetoric (Bloomington, IN; Indiana University Press, 1973) 33-36; Stanley K. Stowers, “Romans 7:7-25 as a Speech-in-Character (p??s?p?p???a)” in ed. Troels Engberg-Pederson, Paul in His Hellenistic Context (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1995) 180-202.

16 Malina and Neyrey, Portraits of Paul, 113-25.

17 Greece’s “middle position” is know as geocentrism or as the “omphalos myth.” At times Greece enjoyed this preeminence for it considered the “navel” at Delphi to be the center of the world; for example, consider the remark of Strabo: “Now although the greatest share of honor was paid to this temple because of its oracle, since of all oracles in the world it had the repute of being the most truthful, yet the position of the place added something. For it is almost in the center of Greece taken as a whole, between the country inside the Isthmus and that outside it, it was also believed to be in the center of the inhabited world, and people called it the navel of the earth, in addition fabricating a myth, which is told by Pindar. . .There is also a kind of navel to be seen in the temple (Geography 9.3.6).

18 The classification of someone on the basis of place of origin was a standard element of the way persons were described; see Aristotle, Rhet 1.5.5; Cicero, Inv. 1.24.34-35; Quintilian, Inst. Orat. 3.7.10-11; 5.10.24-25).

19 In one of his satires, Lucian caricatures several ethnoi, each known in terms of some characteristic behavior: “Whenever I looked at the country of the Getae I saw them fighting; whenever I transferred my gaze to the Scythians, they could be seen roving about in their wagons; and when I turned my eyes aside slightly, I beheld the Egyptians working the land. The Phoenicians were on trading venture, the Cilicians were engaged in piracy, the Spartans were whipping themselves and the Athenians were attending court” (Icaro. 17). Various places, then, had certain characteristics: Scythians roam, Egyptians farm, Phoenicians trade, Cilicians rob and Greeks attend court.

20 Not just virtue, however, but also vice. The following illustrations come from Bruce J. Malina (The New Testament World. Insights from Cultural Anthropology 3rd edition [Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001] 64-65). “The Egyptian is by nature an evil-eyed person, and the citizens of Alexandria burst with envy and considered that any good fortunes to others was misfortune to them” (Philo, Flaccus. 29); “Scythians delight in murdering people and are little better than wild beasts” (Josephus, Apion, 2.69).

21 Describing the “honor rating” of the cities Paul is said to have visited, Jerome H. Neyrey (“Luke’s Social Location of Paul: Cultural Anthropology and the Status of Paul in Acts,”in Ben Witherington, III, ed., History, Literature, and Society in the Book of Acts [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996] 268-76) called attention to the vanity and rivalry of cities in the matter of rank and titles, such as "metropolis, "first and greatest," "autonomous," "Warden of the (Imperial) Temple, "friend of Rome,” and the like.

22 A collection of background parallels may be found in David R. Cartlidge and David L. Dungan, eds., Documents for the Study of the Gospels, revised and enlarged edition (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 1994) 129-36. It is curious that they never considered the encomium form as the basis for collecting parallels.

23 John J. Pilch, “‘Beat His Ribs While He is Young’ (Sir 30:12): A Window on the Mediterranean World,” BTB 23 (1993) 101-13.

24 Aphthonius in Matsen and Rollinson, Readings from Classical Rhetoric, 279-280.

25 Butts, The “Progymnasmata” of Theon, 10.113.

26 See John E. Ziolkowsky. Thucydides and the Tradition of Funeral Speeches at Athens. (Salem, NH; Ayer Company, 1985) 126-28.

27 The following inscription was a public decree, read aloud at the tomb of a certain Theophilos and subsequently carved in white marble: “ worth. . .of very noble ancestral stock, having contributed all good -will towards his country, having lived his life as master of his family, providing many things for his country through his generalship and tenure as agoranomos and his embassies as far as Rome and Germany and Caesar, being amicable to the citizens and in concord with his wife Apphia, now it is resolved that Theophilos be honoured with a painted portrait and a gold bust and a marble statue” (NDIEC 2 [1982] 58-60).

28 These are the folks who continually misunderstand, take things literally, fail to see or hear irony. See D. A. Carson, "Understanding Misunderstanding in the Fourth Gospel," TynB 33 (1982) 61-91; Earl. Richard, "Expressions of Double Meaning and Their Function in the Gospel of John," NTS 31 (1985) 96-112 and Bruce J. Malina, “John: The Maverick Christian Group: The Evidence of Sociolinguistics,” BTB 24 (1994) 167-82.

29 Actually, when Nathanael first appears, he, too, shared the geographical presumption of the baseness of Jesus’ “origins”: “What good can come from Nazareth” (1:46), but he was recruited to “come and see.” Thus he swapped the outsider view of Jesus’ origins and began to see like an insider (1:47-51).

30 Still earlier, the steward at the wedding in Cana tasted the wine, but he “did not know whence (p??e?) it came” (2:9).

31 It should not be presumed that every male had “voice” in village or city. In a study of Luke 4:1-30, Richard L. Rohrbaugh (“Legitimating Sonship – A Test of Honour. A Social-Scientific Study of Luke 4:1-30,” in ed., Philip F. Esler, Modelling Early Christianity. Social-scientific Studies of the New Testament in Its Context [London: Routledge, 1995] 187-89) argues about who may say what, where and when. Not all have “voice,” which is a matter of honor and status.

32 Apart from the passing remark in 6:42, we know nothing about Joseph, but we have several views of the mother in 2:1-12 and 19:25-26. A question arises: is the mother a worthy parent such that her son takes honor from her? This is debated among scholars such as Raymond E. Brown, Mary in the New Testament (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1978) 182-94 and Raymond Collins, “Mary in the Fourth Gospel: A Decade of Johannine Studies,” Louvain Studies 3 (1970) 99-142.

33 Marianne Meye Thompson, The God of the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2001) 69-72.

34 The parent is honorable and so according to the principle of generation the son draws honor from this. Moreover, Jesus is the “unique” or “only” son, which is rhetorical shorthand for acclaiming this son is most honorable. See Jerome H. Neyrey, “‘First,’ ‘Only,’ ‘One of a Few,’ and ‘No One Else’: The Rhetoric of Uniqueness and the Doxologies in 1 Timothy,” Biblica 86 (2005) 59-87.

35 See also "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that . . . I speak thus as the Father taught me” (8:28). “I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father" (8:38).

36 For a comparable treatment of Jesus’ “deeds of the soul,” see Neyrey, Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew, 106-26.

37 Most rhetoricians from Aristotle to Cicero present a stereotypical definition of “justice.” In addition to that of Menander Rhetor in the text, consider this: “First among the claims of righteousness are our duties to the gods, then our duties to the spirits, then those to country and parents, then those to the departed; among these claims is piety, which is either a part of righteousness or a concomitant of it. Righteousness is also accompanied by holiness and truth and loyalty and hatred of wickedness" (Ps-Aristotle, Virtues and Vices, 5.2-3).

38 For a detailed argument on how Jesus supplants the biblical supplanter, see Jerome H. Neyrey, "Jacob Traditions and the Interpretation of John 4:10-26," CBQ 41 (1979) 419-437.

39 On the comparison of true sons of Abraham vs false sons, see Jerome H. Neyrey, "Jesus the Judge: Forensic Process in John 8:21-59," Biblica 68 (1987) 520-28.

40 The ancients spoke about a “good” or “easy” death, but especially a “noble” death to honor fallen soldiers; see Jerome H. Neyrey, “The ‘Noble’ Shepherd in John 10: Cultural and Rhetorical Background,” JBL 120 (2001) 267-91. In addition to the wealth of Greco-Roman illustrations of this, 1, 2 and 4 Maccabees also belong in this discussion. See Jan van Henten, Martyrdom and Noble Death: Selected Texts from Graeco-Roman, Jewish and Christian Antiquity. London: Routledge, 2002; David Seeley, The Noble Death. Graeco-Roman Martyrology and Paul’s Concept of Salvation. Sheffield: JSOT, 1989; Arthur J. Droge, A Noble Death. Suicide and Martyrdom among Christians and Jews in Antiquity. San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1992.

41 Malina and Neyrey, Portraits of Paul, 33-63; see George Lyons, Pauline Autobiography. Toward a New Understanding (Atlanta, GA; Scholars, 1985).


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