Pp. 126-64 in David B. Gowler, L. Gregory Bloomquist, and Duane F. Watson, eds., Fabrics of Discourse. Essays in Honor of Vernon K. Robbins. Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2003

“The Social Location of Paul: Education as the Key”

Jerome H. Neyrey

University of Notre Dame


1.0 Focus, Model and Hypothesis

Vernon Robbins will surely be remembered for imagining and creating a complex series of exegetical methods for the interpretation of biblical texts. My contribution in honoring him entails borrowing from his article “The Social Location of the Implied Author of Luke-Acts.” [i] In that study Robbins defined what he means by “social location”:

A “social location” is a position in a social system which reflects a world view, or what Peter Berger calls “a socially constructed province of meaning”: a perception of how things work, what is real, where things belong, and how they fit together. [ii]

This article will expand his definition by focusing on the status of Paul in regard to an anthropological system of social stratification. Whereas Robbins asked what the author of Luke-Acts knew, which provides data for assessing where on the social pyramid this author fits, our focus is Paul’s undisputed letters.  Literary abilities and special knowledge should indicate that a certain person is an educated, urbane, high-status individual, whether Paul himself or Luke. This study adapts Robbins’ model to the figure of Paul and to the issue of his education, and thus his likely social location.

In order to come to grips with the “social location of Paul,” we borrow from Robbins the categories of what an author knows [iii] and what this might tell us. Moreover, we will rely on the works of Gerhard Lenski to provide a discriminating model of social stratification within which to locate Paul. The link between the catalogue of what Paul as author can do and his social location is the important consideration of status-specific education in antiquity. Thus our project has three steps: 1. a model of the social stratification of advanced agrarian societies; 2. a catalogue of what Paul knows and what he can write; and 3. the significance of Paul’s literacy in light of status-specification education in the Greco-Roman world.

The works of Gerhard Lenski [iv] provide a useful tool for gaining a sense of the radical stratification of the social world of antiquity. [v]   The part of Lenski's work pertinent here is his model of advanced agrarian societies, which describes at a macro level the Roman empire of the time of Paul. Such societies are characterized by "marked social inequality . . . pronounced differences in power, privilege and honor.” [vi]   Thus Lenski sets out to describe eight levels of social status, beginning with the imperial and urban elite at the top of the pyramid and concluding with artisans, untouchables and expendables at the bottom. Paul obviously is an urban, [vii] not agrarian person; he is surely not a peasant artisan.

Briefly, then, Lenski description of the social stratification of an advanced agrarian society consists of eight levels.

(1) Ruler. At the top was the ruler, [viii] who might have been a Seleucid, a Ptolemy, or a Caesar. Each enjoyed vast power and so vast wealth. Roman armies pillaged the East and all that wealth and newly acquired lands made Caesar the ultimate elite figure in the world. [ix]   Numerous client kings in the East held their positions through imperial patronage.

(2) Governing Class. This small majority [x]   of aristocrats [xi] served as the officers and advisors of the ruler. [xii]   They might be civic as well as military figures. Most held their appointments directly from the ruler. [xiii] They tended to have vast grants of land, which supported their elite lifestyle and facilitated their civic responsibilities. [xiv]

(3) Retainer Class. The governing class maintained in their service "a small army of officials, professional soldiers, household servants and personal retainers." [xv] They mediated relationships between the governing elites and the common people. [xvi] If the governing class was small (1-2%), retainers constituted another 5% of the population. 

(4) Merchants. Although this society was basically agrarian, and wealth came from land and farming, yet there was a modest amount of trade and commerce. Merchants [xvii]   could be quite wealthy, especially those dealing with luxury goods, [xviii] but generally the majority were poor. Wealthy entrepreneurs were not despised, since elites used them to increase their own wealth, [xix]   whereas smaller scale merchants were held in contempt.

(5) Priests. In the Greco-Roman world many famous temples and shrines were associated with important cities. These "political" structures were maintained by a priestly class, [xx] whose food, clothing, shelter, etc. were provided by taxes from the land or benefactions from the elite. Their buildings were often richly endowed and frequently served as repositories of wealth. Priests could perform the role of clerk and diplomat, depending on their literacy and social standing.

(6) Peasants. The subsistence farmers who worked the land and produced the agricultural surplus constituted the bulk of the population. [xxi]

(7) Artisans. Because they had no land and thus no status or means of making advantageous marriages, the artisans of the city are ranked below peasants. [xxii] In most agrarian societies, this stratum was recruited from the ranks of landless peasants, either dispossessed or non-inheriting ones. Their ranks were continually replenished from migrants from the countryside. While the urban population represented perhaps 10% of the total population of the empire, the artisan class constituted most of that. [xxiii]

(8) Unclean, Degraded and Expendables. At the very bottom of the social scale were the untouchables, who lived just outside the city. Below them were the expendables, such as petty criminals, outlaws, beggars, itinerant workers, and those who lived by charity or their wits. [xxiv]

Where, then, to locate Paul in terms of this model of social stratification? Much of the answer to this depends on our making as detailed and accurate survey of what Paul knows and what he can write. Then we will ask what stratum of the social pyramid of Lenski does Paul belong to in virtue of his literacy. It is our hypothesis that Paul was a very literate person, who knew rhetoric and even some philosophy; this level of literacy was available only to urban persons of a retainer class and higher. Now let us catalogue what Paul knew how to write and what he knows.

2.0 Letters.  Spearheaded by Deissman’s analysis of papyri, scholars of Pauline letters reached a plateau in the 1970s with the SBL’s seminar on Pauline epistolography, and their work informs this analysis. Let us consider first the types of letters known to the ancients and then the specific types represented by the Pauline corpus. Demetrius of Phalerum classified the following types of letters: 

1. friendly (φιλικoς), 2. commendatory (συστατικoς), 3. blaming (μεμτικoς), 4. reproachful (_vειδιστικoς), 5. consoling παραμυθτικoς), 6. censorious (_πιτιμητικoς), 7. admonishing (voυθετητικoς), 8. threatening (_πειλητικoς), 9. vituperative (ψετικoς), 10. praising (_παιvετικoς), 11. advising (συμβoυλευτικoς), 12. supplicatory (_ξιoματικoς), 13. inquiring (_ρωτηματικoς), 14. responding _πoφαvτικoς), 15. allegorical (α_τoλoγικoς), 16. accounting (α_τoλoγικoς), 17. accusing κατηγoρικoς), 18. apologetic _πoλoγητικoς), 19. congratulatory (συγκαρητικoς), 20. ironic (ε_ρωvικoς), 21. thankful (_πευχαριστικoς).

One appropriate taxonomy for classifying these letters depends upon the three kinds of rhetoric discussed in the handbooks, namely, forensic, deliberative, and epideictic. Thus according to the formal aim of epideictic rhetoric, letters of praise include commendatory, congratulatory, and thanksgiving letters; letters of blame embrace reproachful, censorious, vituperative, admonishing, accusatory and ironic letters. In keeping with the aims of forensic rhetoric, we include accusatory letters as well as apologetic ones. Deliberative rhetoric encompasses [xxv] the aims of consoling, admonishing, and advising. The following list attempts to identify letter types employed by Paul, either the whole letter or distinct part of them. We have collapsed collapsed Pseudo-Demetrius’ categories according to he norm of three types of rhetoric: forensic, deliberative, and epideictic.

Epideictic letter types;  praise, commendation, congratulations, and thanksgiving

-  Commendation (συστατικoς): See mention of “letters of recommendation” in 2 Cor 3; 10:1-12:21      and Rom 1:8-15; 15:22-33; 16:1-2

- Praise (_παιvετικoς): The praise in 1 Cor 11:2 is balanced by blame in 11:17.

- Congratulations  (συγκαρητικoς): One is tempted to put Paul’s epistolary “thanksgivings” here.

-  Thanksgiving (_πευχαριστικoς): In Phil 4:14-20 Paul thanks the church of Philippi as the only one who supported him, also his frequent doxologies

Forensic letter types: blame, reproach, censor, vituperative, admonition, accusatory and irony; also letters of accusation and apology.

- Blaming (μεμτικoς)

- Reproach (_vειδιστικoς): Reproach of someone whom we had earlier benefitted, see Gal 4:12-20

-Censure (_πιτιμητικoς): In 1 Cor 5 Paul censures the church for tolerating the sinful man.

-Threat (_πειλητικoς): See threat in 1 Cor 4:18-21; see also 1 Cor 6:9-11 that those who do evil will not inherit the kingdom of God and Gal 5:1-12 that those who are circumcised are cut off from Christ.

-Vituperation (ψετικoς): See the condemnation of bad character in 2 Cor 10-12 and the rebuke of Peter in Gal 2:11-14

- Accusing (κατηγoρικoς): If this means accusation of things beyond the bounds of propriety, the sin in 1 Cor 5 belongs here.

- Ironic (ε_ρωvικoς): If irony encompasses sarcasm, then Galatians exemplifies this. [xxvi]

- Apologetic (_πoλoγητικoς): Paul occasionally begins a section of a letter with _πoλoγια, for example, 1 Cor 9:3; Phil 1:7-26; sections of other letters seem to respond to criticism, 1 Thess 2:1-12, and so seem apologetic in tone

Deliberative letters: consolation, admonition and advice

- Admonishing (voυθετητικoς): This means instilling the person admonished with a sense of what should and should not be done: e.g., lists of virtues and vices in Rom 12-13, 1Cor 6:9-11, Gal 5-6, as well as rehearsals of baptismal transition from darkness to light, as in 1 Thess 5:1-11.

- Consolation (παραμυθτικoς): In 1 Thess 4:13-18Paul offers a scenario of the end time to those who grieve.

-Advising (συμβoυλευτικoς): The parts of Paul’s letters that begin with _ρωταω or παρακαλεω generally function as advising and exhorting sections: Rom 12:1; 1 Cor 1-4; 2 Cor 10:1; Phil 4:2; 1 Thess 4-5.

- Supplicatory (_ξιoματικoς): Requests, supplications, entreaties , petitions; e.g., Philemon [xxvii]

John White, who compared Demetrius’ letter types with those of the papyrus letter tradition, made the following observation which is important for proper assessment of Paul’s sophistication in letter writing: “About half of Pseudo Demetrius’ twenty-one sample letter descriptions are more appropriate to the literary letter tradition than to the documentary papyrus letter tradition.” [xxviii] Thus it would seem that we can distinguish those who write literary letters from those skilled in strictly scribal correspondence. Thus, our cursory labeling of Paul’s letters and parts of letters suggests that Paul was educated to write literary letters of many types, which was not the education of a scribe.

3.0 Rhetorical Arrangement.

Aware that the many types of letters may be classified according to the taxonomy of the three types of ancient rhetoric, we take a further step in examining them in terms of the typical parts of a well crafted speech, as described in ancient rhetorical handbooks.

Although some scholars find it profitable to classify various letters of Paul or parts of a letter in terms of rhetorical purpose: 1) forensic (apologetic, accusatory , 2) deliberative (persuasion), and 3) epideictic (praising and blaming), by far the most bold attempts at reading Paul in terms of rhetoric have come through scholarly effort in analyzing the contents and structure of the letters in terms of “arrangement.” Virtually all authentic letters have been analyzed in this light, but with differing degrees of success. First, let us be clear about the meaning of “arrangement,” and then we can sample some of the better examples of this type of analysis.

Aristotle maintained that a speech had two elements, thesis and proof (Rhet. 3.13.1). Yet later he conceded that speeches might have four parts, prooemium (introduction), prothesis (statement), pistis (proof) and epilogue (Rhet. 3.13.4). With the later addition of diegesis (narrative), this list survived down into Latin oratory and into rhetorical handbooks. As a careful survey of extant Greek and Latin speeches show, this theory of “arrangement” can serve as a useful tool to compose or follow a speaker’s argument because there is a genetic connection between an orator’s learning of this theory and his praxis.

3.1 Galatians as Rhetoric.  Hans Dieter Betz’s commentary on Galatians ranks as one of the pioneer works of assessing letters in terms of rhetoric. [xxix] According to Betz, its composition goes as follows:

I. Exordium (1:6-11)

           II. Narratio (1:12-2:14)

          III. Propositio (2:15-21)

          IV. Probatio (3:1-4:31)

           V. Exhortatio (5:1-6:10)

         VI. Epistolary Postscript (Conclusio) (6:11-18) [xxx]

In addition, he classified Galatians as “an example of the ‘apologetic letter’ genre.” [xxxi] Inevitably parts of his analysis were given hard scrutiny, the letter genre hotly debated, and alternative arrangements proposed. [xxxii] Even if scholars subsequently challenge this or that part of Betz’s arrangement, they only prove that the initial insight was right.

3.2 1 Corinthians as Rhetoric.  Similarly, Margaret Mitchell’s analysis of 1 Corinthians argues that the letter is deliberative rhetoric, which is seen to have the following “arrangement.”

1. Epistolary Prescript (1:1-3)

2. Epistolary Thanksgiving/Rhetorical πρooιμιov (1:4-9)

3. Epistolary Body (1:10-15:58)

Thesis Statement/πρoθεσις (1:10)

Statement of Facts /διηγησις (1:11-17)

Proofs/πιστεις (1:18-15:57)

First Proof: Factionalism (1:18-4:21)

Second Proof: Integrity of the Community against Defilement (5:1-11:1)

Third Proof: Manifestations of Factionalism (11:2-14:40)

Fourth Proof: The Resurrection as the Final Goal (15:1-57)

4. Epistolary Closing (16:1-24). [xxxiii]

Mitchell’s rhetorical analysis takes full cognizance of epistolary structure and conventions, and stands up well against other arrangements. Her proposal has the benefit of arguing that Paul understands the situation in political terms, namely, topoi aimed at quelling political factions.

3.3 Romans as Rhetoric.  Paul’s letter to the Romans has been subjected to vigorous debate over its “arrangement.” Although most commentators label the rhetorical aim of Romans as deliberative rhetoric, [xxxiv] they disagree on the rhetorical shape of the document. Robert Jewett’s analysis of Romans commands a modest consensus, for which reason we sketch it here.

I. Exordium (Introduction, 1:1-12)

           II. Narratio (Narration, 1:13-15)

          III. Propositio (Thesis Statement, 1:16-17)

          IV. Probatio (Proof, 1:18-15:13)

First Proof: Confirmatio (Confirmation, 1:19-4:25)

Second Proof: Exornatio (Elaboration, 5:1-8:39)

Third Proof: Comparatio (Comparison, 9:1-11:36)

Fourth Proof: Exhortatio (Exhortation, 12:1-15:13)

          V. Peroratio (Conclusion, 15:14-16:27) [xxxv]

Like Betz’ work on Galatians, Jewett’s analysis of Romans takes clear account of the logical argument of the document and special investigation of the modes of argumentation taught in the handbooks (Herenn. 2.18.28 and 4.43.56; Hermogenes, “On the Chreia,” 7.10-8.10). His sensitivity to rhetorical argumentation provides a depth of insight into the proofs of Romans.

It is well at this point to identify the rhetorical analyses of other Pauline and New Testament letters, if only to indicate the scholarly interest in reading Paul in this way. In addition to Romans, Robert Jewett has presented a rhetorical analysis of both Thessalonian letters. [xxxvi] In addition, we have very careful rhetorical analyses of Philippians by D. F. Watson [xxxvii] and L. G. Bloomquist. [xxxviii] A recent study of the argument in 2 Corinthians 10-13 examines the use of ethos, pathos and logos. [xxxix] Indeed there has been a solid body of scholarly material published on the use of rhetoric to interpret Paul’s letters.

3.4 1 Cor 12-14 as Rhetoric.  Not only have scholars read entire letters in terms of rhetorical “arrangement” and genre, but discrete parts of letters are analyzed as well. For example, in a series of articles, Joop Smit has given critical attention to 1 Cor 12-14. [xl] Building on the consensus that 1 Cor 12-14 is a distinct unit in the letter, he offers the following rhetorical reading:

Exordium (12:1-3)

Partitio (12:4-6)

Argumentatio (12:4-30)                       

Thesis One: Various Charisma from the Same Spirit (12:7-11)

Thesis Two: Various Services from the Same Lord (12:12-26)

Thesis Three: Various Workings of the Same God (12:27-30)

Digressio (12:31-13:13)

Comparison through antithesis between charismata and love

Speech of praise and blame

Partitio (14:1-5)

Argumentatio (14:1-33a)

Thesis One: Glossolalia does not build up the church community (14:6-19)

Thesis Two: Prophecy positively builds up the community (14:20-25)

Thesis Three: Prophecy takes precedence over glossolalia (13:26-33a)

Peroratio (14:37-40)

Smit labels the two blocks of argumentation (12:4-30; 14:1-33) as deliberative rhetoric, whereas the encomium to love is epideictic rhetoric which praises love but blames charismatic gifts. This brief outline omits the wealth of secondary detail which Smit identifies according to rhetorical categories, which serve to make this a most accurate and satisfying reading of these chapters.

3.5 1 Corinthians 15 as Rhetoric. Duane Watson’s analysis of 1 Corinthians 15 builds on those of previous scholars and seems to account for the argument more completely than his predecessors. [xli] Watson states that 1 Cor 15 “contains many features of deliberative rhetoric and is best classified as such.” [xlii] In terms of the “arrangement” of the argument in 1 Cor 15, he suggests the following:

             I. Exordium (15:1-2)

            II. Narratio (15:3-11)

           III. Refutatio and Confirmatio (15:12-57)

A. First Unity of Refutatio and Confirmatio (15:12-34)

Refutatio (15:12-19)

Confirmatio (15:20-28)

Peroratio (15:29-34)

B. Second Unity of Refutatio and Confirmatio (15:35-57)

Refutatio (15:35-44a)

Confirmatio (15:44b-49)

Confirmatio (15:50-57)

IV. Peroratio (15:58).

The persuasiveness of Watson’s analysis lies in his ability to use rhetorical categories for describing the logical structure of 1 Cor 15 as a unit, and also his care in pointing out other rhetorical features such as the use of examples in vv 21-22, 36-38 and 42-44a, the argumentative topos of “the lesser-greater” in vv 35-49, and comparisons in vv 46-49. And it so happens that Watson’s reading corresponds closely with the logical outlines of the materials by non-rhetoric scholars.

But what may we conclude from this study of rhetorical “arrangement” in Paul’s letters? Stanley Porter, in his comprehensive essay in the Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period, [xliii] raised four cautions about the very materials we have surveyed above. 1. Rhetorical interpretations yield dissimilar results as to the genre of rhetoric of a document and its “arrangement.” 2. Scholars alternately use Roman and/or Greek rhetorical theorists according to which yields opportunistic results. 3. Wide divergence exists concerning the amount and kind of epistolary material put within a rhetorical category by this or that scholar. 4. A “stumbling block” catches most interpreters because of the supposed relationship of rhetorical and epistolary structures. [xliv] As one who wishes to use this material, let me respond. Not all analyses are the same because some scholars command more resources than others and have finer trained sight for rhetorical analysis.  Second, would that all of Paul’s letters were as succinct and focused as Philemon, a petitionary letter. But Paul’s other letters address complex situations which warrant within the same communication a recommendation, an argument for unity and not partisanship, an encomium for a particular virtue, and an apology for the author, and so forth. Thus, various parts of Paul’s letters contain exhortation, praise and/or blame, apology, i.e., all three types of rhetoric. This phenomenon, I think, cautions a rhetorical reader to expect diverse sorts of “arrangement.” Third, does it really matter if an scholar focuses on Roman as opposed to Greek rhetoric? Surely to historians, for they are often concerned with precise literary influence of one author on another. But inasmuch as Greek rhetoric found its way into Roman authors such as Rhetoric to Herennius, Cicero and Quintilian, it would seem that in the first century of the common era, rhetoric was itself eclectic; rhetoric, however, tended to be quite traditional and stereotypical. Finally, Demetrius’ letter classification system, even though it postdates Paul’s letters, proves that one rhetoric-minded exponent of letter types thought that the marriage of rhetoric and letter was possible and worth while. Demetrius may be the earliest extant author of this type of analysis, but that does not preclude that there were similar figures earlier.

What then do we know now? While not all rhetorical analyses are of equal acuity or accuracy, we find ample data in the examples surveyed in this section to warrant the conclusion that the author of the letters we are examining knew sophisticated rhetorical theory, both in terms of the three types of rhetoric (e.g., epideictic rhetoric of “praise and blame,” 1 Cor 11:2, 17) and arrangement (e.g., the works of Mitchell, Smit and Watson on 1 Cor). [xlv]

4.0 The Progymnasmata.

In general, students who advanced beyond the mere ability to read then studied a curriculum known to us as progymnastic education, in which they learned to write. The progymnasmata are handbooks which contained a series of exercises for learning culture-specific genres thought essential to composing speeches deemed necessary for entry into the civic arena. The genres learned were considered the building-blocks of composition and speech, and embody in their rules and instructions the values of that world (especially honor) and the underlying assumptions about character and emotion. Progymnastic education, then, should be considered status-specific, for only those of high status would have the resources, the social need, and leisure for this form of writing.

The following figure lists the various genres found in the four major progymnasmata which have survived. [xlvi]        





1. Chreia

1. Narrative

1. Myth

1. Fable

2. Fable

2. Refuting & Confirming

2. Tale (Fable)

2. Narrative

3. Narrative

3. Commonplaces

3. Chreia

3. Chreia

4. Commonplace

4. Theses

4. Proverb/Gnome

4. Gnome

5. Description

5. Laws: praise or denunciation

5. Refutation and Confirmation

5. Refutation

6. Speech-in-character

6. “kind of chreia” (2.4.26)

6. Commonplace

6. Confirmation

7. Encomium

7. Praise and Denunciation

7. Encomium

7. Commonplace

9. Comparison


8. Comparison

8. Encomium

10. Thesis


9. Speech-in-character

9. Invective

11. Law


10. Description

10. Comparison


11. Thesis

11. Speech-in-character


12. Introducing a Law

12. Description


13. Thesis


14. Introduction of a Law

Students of the synoptic gospels are quite familiar with the chreia, a genre according to which most of the sayings and deeds of Jesus are crafted. [xlvii] Yet little attention has been payed to Paul’s use of the chreia, probably because it functions better in narrative than exhortation, and it is narrated by another, and not the speaker talking about himself. Some of the relevant examples of progymnastic genres in Paul include the following.

4.1 Comparison.  Comparison has long been appreciated as a  standard piece of Pauline rhetoric. [xlviii] The most thorough and persuasive examination of this progymnastic exercise was done by Christopher Forbes in his study of 2 Cor 10-12. [xlix] After reconstructing the situation at Corinth in which opponents label Paul as inconsistent, insincere, a flatterer, and an eiron, Forbes describes how Paul constructs a comparison of himself with his opponents, but an ironic parody of self-praise. Forbes observes that the form of the comparison is very much like that described in the progymnasmata, that is, Paul compares himself with his rivals crisply point-for-point, and not lengthily quality-for-quality. [l] Forbes briefly mentions the precise sequence of topics which constitute Paul’s comparison, which deserve fuller attention, for they are taught in the progymnastic rules for an encomium. [li]

But to make clear how Paul constantly employs the progymnastic genre of comparison, we offer the following extensive, but by no means complete, list:

1 Corinthians

3:1-3, 5-15 (Apollos vs Paul);

4:8-13 (“rich” and “wise” elite vs “poor” and “foolish” Paul);

6:12-19 (body vs temple);

8:1-3 (knowledge vs love);

9:1ff (true apostles with rights vs Paul and his rights);

9:24-27 (athletes vs Paul);

10:1-4 (exodus and baptism);

13:1-3 (tongues, prophecy and powers vs love);

14:1ff (tongues vs prophecy);

15:20-28 (first Adam and second Adam;

15:35-49 (earthy vs heavenly glory; Adam of dust vs Adam of spirit).

2 Corinthians

3:5-6 (old vs new covenant)

3:7-11 (fading vs lasting glory)

3:12-18 (veiled vs unveiled face)


3:6-12 (covenant of faith/promise vs covenant of works)

4:20-32 (Hagar and Sarah as symbols of two contrasting covenants)

4.2 Encomium.  The encomium served as one of the chief vehicles for learning epideictic rhetoric, i.e., the rhetoric of praise. It taught the student to draw praise from stereotypical categories universally viewed as the primary sources of honor. [lii] A typical encomium contains the following categories: 1. Origin (ethnos, polis, ancestors and parents), and  Birth (phenomena at birth: stars, visions, etc.); 2. Nurture and Training (education, teachers, arts, skills, laws learned); 3. Accomplishments and Deeds (deeds of the body: beauty, strength, agility, might, health: deeds of the soul: justice, wisdom , temperance, courage; deeds of fortune: power, wealth, friends, children, fame, fortune, length of life, happy death) and 4. Comparison. As anthropologist teach us, honor has two sources: ascribed or achieved. Ascribed honor is that which is bestowed on someone by a higher ranking person. One’s family, for example, has a certain rating in the village or city, and all children born into that family as credited with family status. Thus noting that someone’s parents were ancient and noble confers worth on the latest member. Noble cities produce noble citizens; noble ethnoi (i.e., Greeks) stand higher than barbaroi. The brilliance of a pupil is pegged directly to the honor level of the teacher (i.e., “nurture and training”). It might be the case that God or some god favored a child at its conception, birth and beyond, thus indicating honor to this person. On the other hand, the ancients achieved honor though prowess, either military, athletic or aesthetic achievements., which explains the categories of “deeds of the body” and “deeds of the soul.”

In comparisons individuals were compared and contrasted according to these very categories of the encomium. Thus it is no surprise that in 2 Cor 11-12 Paul first compares himself [liii] with his rivals in terms of “origin,” that is, “Hebrew” and “Israelite” and “seed of Abraham.” [liv] Skipping “nurture and training” for the time being,  Paul takes up “deeds of the body” and “deeds of the soul”: evidently he must be strong to endure the chastisement by enemies (11:23-26a), dangers from city, wilderness and sea (11:26b), and hardships of toil, hunger and exposure (11:27). Contrary to custom, Paul boasts of weakness, not strength (11:29-30). Now he takes up the matter of “nurture and training” by indicating the source of knowledge, namely, the “visions and revelations” which he had (12:1-5); his education, then, is conducted by God. Yet he tells us that a “thorn” was given him to condition him for weakness, not strength (12:7-10). In terms of deeds of the soul, 11:23-31 display courage in the face of constant adversity. As Fitzgerald notes about this material, facing crises and enduring hardships typically demonstrate courage. [lv] Paul’s comparison, then, highlights the categories in the encomium from which an author would draw praise. This comparison depends on their being known precisely as the chief, stereotypical  sources of honor. Where did Paul learn this Greek convention? What kind of education includes this?

Scholars have also examined Paul’s comparison of himself with the Judaizers in Philippians 3. Capitalizing on the fleshly claims of the Judaizing preachers,  Paul too claims “confidence in the flesh,” by which he means the encomiastic categories  “origins/birth”: “of the people Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews” (3:5). Thus we know his land of origin (“Israel”), his ethnos (“Hebrews”) and his family or clan (“Benjamin”) -- honorable credentials indeed. Thus if any profit is derived by a thoroughly Israelite pedigree, Paul enjoys it. He had superior ascribed honor.  Then he describes his “nurture/ training”:  besides telling us that he was “circumcised on the eighth day” -- an indication that he was raised in a law-abiding family -- he claims “as to the Law a Pharisee. . .as to righteousness under the Law blameless” (3:6). In other words, as regards education and mode of life, he was a perfect disciple of a group dedicated to the full keeping of Torah. These data also tell us that Paul claims as one of the deeds of the soul “justice” or “righteousness” (δικαιoσυvη 3:6). Shortly he redefines it in 3:9-10 as “not having a righteousness of my own, based on the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” [lvi] Thus he was perfectly virtuous as a Pharisee (i.e., “righteousness under the law”), but as a disciple of Jesus he enjoys similar perfection, but now by a different means (“righteousness of faith”). The main thrust of the comparison is to build up his honor claims by excelling his rivals according to conventional categories as embodied in the progymnastic exercise known as the encomium.

The clearest place to view Paul’s use of the encomium is in the so-called “narratio” in Gal 1:10-2:14. George Lyons offers a fresh way of reading this material as Paul’s autobiography in the light of the conventions of biography. [lvii]

I. Opening (prooimion) 1:10-12            – Paul’s divine gospel

II. Lifestyle (anastrophe) 1:13-17       – Paul’s ethos

            A. 1:13-14       – As persecutor of the Church

                        B. 1:15-17       – As preacher of the gospel

III. Deeds (praxeis) 1:18-2:10  – Paul’s conduct

A. 1:18-20 – In Jerusalem

B. 1:21-24  – In Syria and Cilicia

C. 2:1-10    – In Jerusalem

IV. Comparison (synkrisis) 2:11-21      – Paul and Cephas

A. 2:11-14  – Incidental: in Antioch

B. 2:15-21  – General: Paul and Judean Messianists

V. Conclusion (epilogos) 2:21   – Paul and divine favor

Lyons’ encomiastic analysis can be refined on several points. First, we observe that the sequence of topics in Gal 1-2 does not strictly follow the list enumerated in the encomium. Typically one would begin with mention of “origins/birth,” which Paul takes up only in 1:15 when he tells us that “he who set me apart before I was born. . .” His origin was noble because from birth God had ascribed to him the honor of a prophet. “Nurture/training” looms large here because Paul needs to assert that he both knew and practiced what is urged on the Galatians – and found it wanting. In Paul’s former “life” (_vαστρoφη) he was trained in the Judean political religion and “advanced in it beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers” (1:13-14). But new knowledge was given Paul, which replaced his former nurture and training: “When he [God] was pleased to reveal his son to me. . .” (1:15). Paul claims that he did not receive any training from the existing groups of disciples: “I did not confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me” (1:17, see 1:1, 11). But with God as his teacher, Paul is a noble prophet and teacher. His immediate departure for Arabia and Damascus distances Paul from Jerusalem and its eye-witness sources of the gospel. Thus the first part of Galatians serves to highlight Paul’s “nurture/training”: as he said earlier “the gospel which was preached by me was not man’s, nor did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it. It came through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:11-12).

What then of Paul’s “accomplishments/deeds”? Rhetorical handbooks advise authors to highlight a person’s virtues illustrated by his deeds. In Paul’s case, we have his narrative of his apostolic labors, all of which illustrate some aspect of the virtue of righteousness or justice. As all know,  justice (δικαιoσυvη) consists of fulfilling one’s duties to God or the gods, one’s polis and family. [lviii] Faithful to the commissioning he received from God, Paul displayed great loyalty by laboring for God’s gospel first in Arabia and Damascus, then in Syria and Cilicia -- labors which lasted at least seventeen years. Loyalty to God is demonstrated by Paul’s “laying his gospel before the elders in Jerusalem” (2:2) so as not to have run in vain, that is, misrepresent God. Finally, Paul is acknowledged by the Jerusalem elite as one to whom God has ascribed special honor. Thus God’s benefaction to Paul creates a duty whereby Paul owes God faithfulness and loyal labors.

Paul appeals to another virtue, courage, in describing two incidents. [lix] He boldly went to Jerusalem with the uncircumcised Titus, the living symbol of his gospel, who has not compelled to be circumcised (2:3). By his account he had many enemies there, “false brethren who slipped in to spy on us” (2:4). But to those who would have urged circumcision and other practices, “we did not yield submission even for a moment” (2:5). Paul’s description of the chilly reception he received extends to his meeting with the three pillars of the church. Evidently his boldness and steadfastness won their admiration and also their acknowledgment of his role and status. Finally, courage was displayed when Paul confronted Peter at Antioch over Peter’s withdrawing from the shared table (2:11-14).

This last piece of Paul’s narrative should be read as a comparison (συγκρισις), which is often listed as a final element of the encomium. As Paul describes the scene, Peter (Apostle to the Circumcised) and Paul (Apostle to the Uncircumcised) were eating at the common table of the disciples in Antioch. Upon the arrival of brethren from Jerusalem, Peter left the common table and ate with disciples who kept dietary and other such rules; he is, after all, the apostle to the circumcised. Paul then engages in praise and blame, which is often described in the rules for a comparison. Peter is blamed as Paul “opposed him to his face” (2:11) and charged him with “insincerity” and “not being straightforward about the gospel.” Peter, moreover, was guilty of scandal, as his behavior affected the rest of the Jews and Barnabas. In contrast, Paul spoke such that he deserves high praise for his sincerity, truth and courage, the very things Peter lacked. [lx]

4.3 Speech-in-Character.  Recently Stanley Stowers has argued that Paul also employs “speech-in-character” (πρoσωπoπoιια) [lxi] . He favors Quintilian, the Roman rhetorician, in his exposition of the background of this rhetorical genre, an example of which goes as follows:

A bolder form of figure. . .is fictiones personarum, or πρoσωπoπoιια. . .By this means we display the inner thoughts of our adversaries as though they were talking with themselves. . .Or we may introduce conversations between ourselves and others, or of others among themselves, and put words of advice, reproach, complaint, praise or pity into the mouths of appropriate persons (Inst. Orat. 9.2.30-33).

Stowers’ appropriation of the rhetoric leads him to identify different forms of “speech-in-character” in Romans: (a) first-person speech in Rom 7; (b) apostrophe in 2:1-16 and 2:17-29; and (c) dialogue in 3:1-9 and 3:27-4:2. [lxii] Turning to Romans 7:7-25, Stowers observes in v. 7 “an abrupt change of voice, following a rhetorical question that serves as a transition from Paul’s authorial voice.” [lxiii] This change of voice, found in the handbooks, advised ancient readers to look for διαφωvια, a difference in characterization from the former speaker. The new speaker in 7:7-25 speaks “with great personal pathos of coming under the law at some point, learning about his desire and sin, and being unable to do what he wants to do because of enslavement to sin and flesh.” [lxiv] The passage presents a coherent and distinctive ethos in a particular situation in life. The speaker speaks not only of his happy past (7:7-9), but of his present misery and future plight (7:24). Stowers successfully persuades the modern reader of Paul that the apostle was indeed educated in progymnastic learning to write the way he does.

What then do we know at this point? We quickly surveyed Paul’s use of three genres taught through the use of progymnastic handbooks: (1) comparison (1 & 2 Cor, Gal, Phil); (2) encomium (2 Cor 11-12; Phil 3; Gal 1-2); and (3) speech-in-character (Rom). Inasmuch as education was status-specific, neither slaves nor scribes would be taught these progymnastic exercises, but a citizen or high-status person would. Scribes learned functional literacy, but hardly the ability to engage, as Paul does, in praise and blame, the aim of epideictic rhetoric. To return to the distinction of John White, slaves and scribes might write documentary letters, but not the literary letters of Paul. Those of high social status would be educated in progymnastic exercises with refined rhetorical sensibilities.

5.0 The Diatribe.

All contemporary study of the diatribe in Paul begins with the dissertation of Stanley Stowers. [lxv] After his comparative survey of the classical authors who employ the diatribe, he offers the following summary:

The diatribe is not the technical instruction in logic, physics, etc., but discourses and discussions in the school where the teacher employed the “Socratic” method of censure and protreptic. The goal of this part of the instruction was not simply to impart knowledge, but to transform the students, to point out error and to cure it. [lxvi]

The diatribe, Stowers states, has two major forms: 1. address to an interlocutor and 2. objections from an interlocutor. In regard to the first form, he itemizes five characteristic  features found in the apostrophes in Rom 2:1-5; 2:17-24; 9:19-21 and 11:17-24. 1. Typically there is a sudden turning to a fictitious interlocutor, 2. which frequently follows a preceding objection. 3. The first part of this turning aside begins with either a  rhetorical question (either one or a series of questions), an indicting statement or an imperative. 4. Two types of questions are asked of the interlocutor: either expressions indicative of a lack of perception or ones which highlight wrong opinions or erroneous logic. 5. All of this is followed by lists of vices. [lxvii]

Similarly, the second form of a diatribe contains objections or false conclusions raised by an interlocutor, typically consisting of five elements. 1. It is introduced with an exclamation, such as “you will say to me. . .” 2. Both objections and false conclusions are cast in the form of questions. 3. The speaker reacts to these with a resounding “No! Not at all!,” or a counter question. 4. The answer might contain an example or chreia to illustrate the argument. 5. Finally, the speaker might employ analogies or comparisons, quotations or sayings of some sage. [lxviii] Paul’s conventional use of both types of diatribal style noted above is beyond dispute. But what does this imply about his social location?

Stowers concludes his presentation by stating that the diatribe is a type of discourse employed in philosophical schools. [lxix] It was, moreover, a conscious and intentional choice by Paul, which argues that he styled himself as “teacher” to his Roman pupils. [lxx] Stowers’s work necessarily involves comparison of Paul with others who composed diatribes, all of whom can be classified as philosophers: Epictetus, Musonius Rufus, Dio of Prusa, Plutarch, Maximus of Tyre and Seneca. Thus, Paul’s adept use of diatribal style indicates an education beyond that of progymnastic rhetoric, even some training in popular philosophy, that is, non-technical philosophy. [lxxi] The social status of those who learned philosophy is that of wealthy elites or the retainer class. But let continue and examine what evidence there is that Paul studied philosophy and not just a formal argumentative style such as the diatribe.

6.0 Evidence of Possible Philosophical Training

In Acts 17:18-34 Luke narrates that Paul spoke to Epicureans and Stoics while at Athens. This, of course, comes from Luke, not Paul. But Acts raises an important question: whether and to what extent Paul’s writings provide evidence of philosophical training, that is, formal schooling. We propose to examine literary material which may derive from such a formal education: 1. lists of virtues and vices, 2. hardship catalogues, 3. Stoic terminology and argument, 4. conventional polemical materials against Epicureans, 5. the diatribe and 6. topoi from popular philosophy.

6.1 Lists of Virtues and Vices .  Over the past century scholars have studied lists of virtue and vices, analyzed their  contents, form, sources, as well as situation-in-life. [lxxii] These lists occur in literary and non-literary sources and are found frequently, but not exclusively, in philosophical discussions. Classical Greek morality spoke of four cardinal virtues (prudence, justice, courage, temperance) and four vices (grief, fear, desire, pleasure). They were frequently employed in protreptic, contrasting the sick soul laden with vices with the healthy soul adorned with virtues. Lists for consideration appear in many Pauline letters, such as Rom 1:29-31; 1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21 & 22-23; Phil 4:8. [lxxiii]

6.2 Catalogues of Hardships.  Paul repeatedly lists his personal hardships, a literary device known as a peristasis catalogue (see  1 Cor 4:9-13; 2 Cor 4:8-9; 6:4-5; 11:23-28). [lxxiv] Fitzgerald’s definitive study of this materials is conveniently summarized here. Such lists, he argues, are “catalogues of circumstances,” which might be good or bad. Such lists were frequently used by Greco-Roman philosophers to claim virtue and win approval for their way of life. Focusing on the figure of the sage in this cultural world, Fitzgerald shows that catalogues of hardships played an important role in the propaganda and pedagogy of the philosopher, because they serve both a revelatory and a probative function. They show him triumphant over adversity and death, the litmus test of character. Fitzgerald’s summary remark clarifies such claims:

As for the true philosopher, Epictetus says that the true Stoic is the “man who though sick is happy, though in danger is happy, though dying is happy, though condemned to exile is happy, though in disrepute is happy” (Diss. 2.19.24). [lxxv]

He then uncovers the larger argument in which catalogues of hardship function. Often there is a claim that the sage’s sufferings are the divine will (2 Cor 4:11; 12:10), which the sage by his _σκησις has learned to accept and overcome. In the midst of these, however, the sage triumphs (1 Cor 4:12-13; Phil 4:11-12) and manifests God’s power (Phil 4:13; Rom 8:37).

In summary, we have here a clear philosophical tradition which includes both catalogues of hardships and a distinctive pedagogical function which serve to reveal the sage’s virtue primarily by his endurance of adversity of all sorts. Human happiness is possible in the face of life’s trials, and the thinking and training which philosophy teaches are the way to this. Thus we find a body of Greco-Roman literature on a specific philosophical topic and with specific arguments used in it. Paul indubitably knows this tradition, but the question is how?

6.3 Stoic and Epicurean Philosophy.  Acts 17 portrays Paul speaking to both Stoics and Epicureans. Is there evidence in the Pauline letters that Paul (a) knew these philosophies and (b) sided with one and used its argument and terminology? Let us take the case of Paul and the Stoics, following three important arguments on this topic, namely Pohlenz’s article and two recent studies of Stoic influence in 1 Cor 8-9 and Philippians.  The central point argued by Max Pohlenz consisted in a careful comparison of Paul’s terminology and argument in Rom 1:18-32 with Stoicism, namely, natural theology, [lxxvi] ethics, and the charge that no one is without blame. [lxxvii]

Abraham Malherbe argues that the argument in 1 Cor 8-9 can be made intelligible “by examining it in the light of popular philosophical deliberations on the theme of the sage’s independence.” He states that Paul quotes Stoic slogans which some of the Corinthians had introduced into the discussions and offers his own deliberate adaptation of Stoic categories.” [lxxviii] Malherbe then lays out the Stoic doctrine, highlighting Stoic teaching on (a) “weak” people, i.e., those who find it difficult to live up to the demands of virtue, (b) the paradox that only the wise man is free and bad men are slaves, and (c) the training (_σκησις) needed to distinguish things that are one’s own or not. [lxxix] Paul then speaks in a way which clearly uses philosophical terminology and argument. For example, his remarks in 1 Cor 8:7-8 pick up the philosophers’ labeling of weak people as having limited cognitive faculties and their judgment that eating and drinking are external things, i.e., _διαφoρα.. [lxxx] Just as the Stoic’s freedom results from his training, so Paul’s freedom comes from Christ. He makes use of Greek philosophic terminology to describe the compulsion whereby he preaches the gospel. Like the Stoics, he labors to distinguish what is in human power and what is not. [lxxxi] Thus Malherbe has made an important argument that Paul knows both the technical terms of Stoic philosophers and how they function in a complex, but typical argument. Paul both hears this in the slogans of some Corinthians and responds to them in a Stoic manner.

In Troels Engberg-Pedersen’s “Stoicism in Philippians,” he proposes to assess Stoicism and Paul first by identifying several clusters of ideas and terms important in Stoicism and then by investigating whether these cohere as an overall system or argument. [lxxxii] His exposition consists of three parts. First, he catalogues terms from Philippians, which he argues “are ‘Greek’ terms, developed as terms with a sharply defined meaning in Greek philosophy.” [lxxxiii] Our digest of his article yields the following sampler of significant terms:

In 1:3-11: “good works,” “insight,” “all manner of perception,” and “weighing things that matter”; in 1:27-30: “live as citizens in accord with the gospel; in 3:1-21: “knowledge,” “grasping,” “being perfect,” “striving for a goal”; in 4:10-20: combination of Paul’s idea of chara and his self-sufficiency. [lxxxiv]

The author then describes the ideal Stoic community and compares it with Paul’s view. The republic Zeno envisioned has been called “anarcho-syndicalist,” in that it will be an egalitarian entity with all hierarchy removed and characterized by  homonoia (oneness of mind), philia (friendship), and eleutheria (freedom). Second, Stoic ethics start with the telos of activity, namely, that for which one strives (see Phil 3:12-14). [lxxxv] Here virtue alone is good and all else is indifferent (1:10), and blessed is the person who knows the difference. The end of action, moreover, is self-sufficiency (4:10-13). Yet virtue is a state of mind, a form of knowledge or understanding (see 3:8, 10); thus humans should transcend their tendency to apply their own subjective or local perspective for evaluating the world, a complex idea which makes much sense of the way Paul exhorts others to have “the mind of Christ” (2:1-5), just as he has (3:7-11). Thus Paul calls for a radical other-directedness (3:3-14) and guidance by acting in view of a new “commonwealth” (3:20). Finally, just as Stoics aimed to reconcile life in the cosmic city with life here and now, we should read in the same way the advice of Paul that, although we do not reach the ideal now, we make progress toward it and strive after it (3:12-16).

At this point, Engberg-Pedersen provides a grid for Philippians which highlights the extent of the Stoic-based, technical terms and how together they make coherent coherent argument in the letter. [lxxxvi] In light of this very careful reading he offers the following conclusions. First, he states that Paul’s “story” in Philippians

. . .reflects very precisely the basic ideas that went into Stoic moral and political philosophy: directedness towards an end, the conceptualization of the end as an ideal community, the strategy of using the notion of the end to inform people’s understanding and behavior here and now (it creates a certain mind set with a distinct content). [lxxxvii]

Thus Engberg-Pedersen comes to the measured judgment that: “All of this is both centrally Stoic and also sufficiently specific to make it highly unlikely that it is anything but Stoic.” [lxxxviii]

Thus scholars have persuasively argued that in Rom 1:18-32; 1 Cor 8-9; and Philippians Paul uses the language and argument of Stoicism. This affinity with Stoicism is quite different from his engagement with Epicureans. Malherbe observes that Paul generally appears in polemic against popular perceptions of Epicureans. For example, Paul appears in 1 Cor 15:32 to be using a stereotype of Epicureanism which gives licence to bodily passions. [lxxxix] In another place Malherbe notes similarities between community life among Epicureans and his own churches. [xc]   Malherbe does not claim that Paul studied Epicureanism, only that knows about it: “he not only knew the Epicurean attitude but consciously sought to distinguish Christians from Epicureans as well as Cynics.” [xci]

6.4 Cynic Philosophy. Malherbe’s article on 1 Thessalonians 2,  “Gentle as a Nurse,” is the strongest case for Paul’s knowledge of and even use of Cynic materials. His study builds on Dio Chrysostom’s description of true and false Cynic preachers in Oration 32. This oration and a wealth of material about Cynics from other writers allow Malherbe to point out cogent “verbal and formal parallels between Paul and Dio.” [xcii] These consist of: 1) whereas false Cynics fear the crowd’s hybris because their speech is empty, true ones face the crowd with a courage given by God; so, Paul, who suffered violence, did not have an empty sojourn, but spoke boldly in God (1 Thess 2:1-2). 2) Whereas Dio attacked charlatans who deceive hearers and lead them into error, Paul claims that he did not preach out of error (2:3). 3) Dio says that the ideal philosopher speaks with purity of mind and without guile; Paul declares that he was not motivated by uncleanness, nor did he speak with guild (2:4). 4) Dio asserts that true philosophers do not preach for the sake of glory, nor for personal gain, nor as flattery; similarly Paul claims that he did not use a cloak of greed, nor seek glory from men, nor flatter them (2:5-6). 5) Dio claims to be divinely directed to speak, as does Paul (2:4). 6) Finally, Dio says that the philosopher must seek to benefit his hearers, which may mean at times to speak kindly as would a father or a nurse; so too, Paul states that he would lay down his life for his converts; he would be a father them and attend them individually; and he was among them “gentle as a nurse” (2:6-10). [xciii]

6.5  Philosophical Topoi.  Finally, we should consider the topoi which Paul uses in various parts of his letters. [xciv] Since time and space do not allow for an exhaustive list, but let us take 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians as samples of this phenomenon. In the case of 1 Thessalonians, Abraham Malherbe again provides us with a detailed inventory of the topoi used and/or adapted in 1 Thessalonians. After calling attention to features of exhortatory style, [xcv] Malherbe identifies and comments upon the following topoi: 1. imitation of the speaker, 2. how a speaker’s λoγoς must conform to his _ργoς, lest he be a hypocrite, 3. boldness of speech, 4. which is also tempered with care such as is given by a nurse or a father, [xcvi] 5. “living quietly,” 6. self-sufficiency, 7. the claim to be θεoδιδακτoς, and 8. the philosophical consolation. My catalogue, of course, should strike us as crude and clumsy because it cannot conveniently provide the rich philological and historical which Malherbe does through his extensive parallels of Paul with Greco-Roman authors known as students and teachers of philosophy. The eight topoi represent both technical terminology of philosophy and its typical argument.

In her recent book, Margaret Mitchell demonstrates that Paul weaves into his argument in 1 Corinthians topoi or “commonplaces for factionalism and concord.” [xcvii] After identifying the “Language of Factionalism and Reconciliation” in 1 Cor 1-4, [xcviii] she then shows how these topoi operate in the body of the letter in 1 Cor 5-16. [xcix] Mitchell  identifies for us the following topoi: 1) factionalism as a human failing, [c] 2) factions as “dividing up” a whole, 3) ethnic differences as divisions, 4) boasting, [ci] 5) “walking in a human way,” [cii] 6) emulation vs envy, [ciii] 7) the beehive as an example of working together, [civ] 8) a building or house as a unified whole, [cv] 9) steadfastness, 10) concern over radical changes of status, [cvi] 11) appeal to common interests, 12) urging concord, 13) common good vs personal good, [cvii] 13) pleasing everyone, 14) body metaphor for social unity, [cviii] 15) co-suffering and co-rejoicing, and 16) discord. Thus she concludes that “they are part of a common conceptual and linguistic body of topoi used to promote social and political unity in Greco-Roman antiquity.” [cix]

7.0 Paul: An Educated, Elite Writer.

This impressive catalogue of Paul’s literary abilities prompts us to ask a social question: in Greco-Roman antiquity, who learned to write what, what purpose, and on the basis of what education? By these questions we mean: 1) What type of literacy is represented by a person who can write the following: letters of many different types; arrangement of argumentation which conforms to rhetorical conventions; exercises from the progymnasmata, such as comparison, encomium and speech-in-character); diatribal style, as well as use of philosophical topoi? 2) What type of education would be needed to write as Paul did? 3) Who would receive this education? 4) In what social stratum would we expect to find such a person? The key to these questions is knowledge of education in antiquity.

7.1 Education Suited to Social Strata.  Indubitably Paul was educated to read and especially write at a high level of sophistication. What was his education likely to be according to the typical way literate persons were educated in Greco-Roman antiquity, even Judeans learning Greek? The standard model found in many articles [cx] and books [cxi] on the topic describes a sequence of three stages: primary, secondary and advanced, each with a distinctively labeled teacher and curriculum. Kaster describes for us the current scholarly model of education in antiquity:

. . .a student pursuing a full course of literary instruction typically passed through three stages of schooling . . . each stage with its own teacher and discrete curriculum: the “primary” school (γραμματoδιδασκαλειov) 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 (γραμματικoς); and the school of rhetori. [cxii]

We highlight certain elements of the process. In the primary stage students learned their ABC’s, that is, the fundamentals of reading, as well as some writing. Students in the second stage learned to copy Greek works read to them by the teacher (evidently requiring writing skills), to read them aloud, and to memorize Greek classics such as Homer and Euripides. It was during this period that students began learning to write by practicing the exercises described in the progymnasmata. Finally, students in the third stage or ephebeia might study rhetoric, philosophy, medicine or some other honored field. As one writer put it, this third period was an “exclusive municipal male finishing school.” [cxiii]

Serious reservations have been voiced about this sketch, because the evidence for the crisp distinctions between the three periods seems overstated. Teachers at the second stage often taught materials thought to be exclusive to the earlier one; and the curriculum of the various three periods appears to be more fluid than this sketch suggests. Recent scholars offer important qualifications of this model which takes account of the social location of students in the educational process.  For example, Kaster argues that we consider education as:

. . .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 hand; and the scholae liberales, catering to a more privileged part of the population on the other. [cxiv]

“Situational literacy” best describes this view of the educational system: 1. Location: large, wealthy cities are more able to provide quality education than smaller ones; poor education, or no schooling, would be available in towns and villages. 2. The student’s social class determines which tract he takes (common literacy for the lower strata and “liberal studies” for the higher ones). [cxv]   3. Correspondingly, the content of education is group specific: basic letters and shorthand [cxvi] for artisans and slaves, but knowledge of classical literature and compositional skills for elite or high status youth. [cxvii]   4. Financial resources and leisure: these are necessary and available for an elite’s education, but unavailable to children of the artisan and the slave strata. 5. Finally, what was the purpose of a specific track of education? Utilitarian education was afforded freedmen and slaves for current employment or in view of future sale in the case of a slave. [cxviii]   Thus “situational literacy” distinguishes the kind of education suitable for the lower social strata from that which equips the children of the retainer and aristocratic strata for public, civic life. [cxix]

7.2  Paul’s (Social) Education and His Social Location.  The previous inventory of Paul’s compositional abilities argues that Paul’s education was not “craft literacy” available to slaves, freedmen and artisans. It goes beyond mere stenographic ability, competency to copy and keep books, and compose “documentary” letters. Paul’s compositional skills indicate that he was trained in “liberal studies,” both rhetorical and progymnastic studies typical of the second stage, but also philosophy characteristic of the third stage of the educational process which was exclusively the prerogative of the wealthy and elites. [cxx] This education was expensive and accessible only to urban elites, who might be Roman citizens. Thus when we seek to locate Paul in terms of the Lenski’s  pyramid of social strata, it seems that the minimum level at which we might locate Paul is in the retainer class. Paul exceeds the functional literacy of typical scribes by virtue of his knowledge of “literary” epistolary traditions, progymnastic exercises, philosophy and especially the ability to write diatribal discourses, which are subjects usually open only to elites. The presence of Stoic terminology and argumentation in Paul, as well as his ability to compose diatribal arguments encourage us to see Paul as an elite who was educated for a life of leisure and who learned the art and craft of rhetoric and philosophy.

8.0 Summary, Conclusions, and Further Questions

8.1 Summary and Conclusions.  What does Paul know how to write? What level of literacy does this represent? What sort of education would provide these literacy skills? And what would be the social location of such a person? We have seen again and again that Paul is more than literate than scribes. The education needed to achieve this type of literacy consisted of materials taught in both the second and  third stages of schooling: composition (letters, progymnasmatic exercises, rhetoric) and some philosophy. Inasmuch as education was status specific in Paul’s time, education such as was needed to write what Paul writes and to know what Paul knows is that of a high-status person, at least a member of the retainer class, if not higher.

8.2 Did Luke Get It Right?  Luke reports the following things about Paul relative to his social location: 1. a claim that Paul was a Roman citizen (16:37-38; 22:25-29); 2.  Paul’s conversation with Stoics and Epicureans in Athens (17:16-31); 3. the cities and especially the parts of those cities which Paul frequented;  and 4. the elite patronage Paul enjoyed. [cxxi] In regard to citizenship, Luke’s claim, whether accurate or not, argues for Paul’s elite social location: “the few Roman citizens, whether Greek or Jews by birth, would constitute a social elite.” [cxxii] If Paul was born a citizen, presumably his father or grandfather had the required wealth and social prominence both to purchase citizenship and to act as benefactor and patron to Tarsus. [cxxiii]   Furthermore, Paul’s alleged citizenship is fully consistent with the catalogue of his status-specific education. Second, Paul’s conversation with Stoics and Epicureans in Acts 17 implies that he had some philosophical training, which was the exclusive preserve of Greco-Roman elites, which squares well with what we saw above that Paul knows and employs Stoic terms and logic, while at the same time he seems to be the opponent of Epicureanism. Third, Luke makes implicit honor claims for Paul by narrating that he visited and/or resided in the noble Hellenistic cities of Greece and the Greek east. [cxxiv] Strabo said of Tarsus, a “mother-city” (metropolis):

The people of Tarsus have devoted themselves so eagerly, not only to philosophy, but also to the whole round of education in general, that they have surpassed Athens, Alexandria, and any other place that can be named where there have been schools and lectures of philosophers (Geog. 14.5.13).

Josephus called Antioch “a city which, for extent and opulence, unquestionably ranks third among the cities of the Roman world” (Wars 3.29); and Strabo described Ephesus as the commercial center of Asia Minor. Julius Caesar re-founded Corinth, and under imperial patronage it rapidly grew in wealth and sophistication (Strabo, Geog. 8.6.21). [cxxv] Such cities necessarily imply elite social groups; moreover, Luke’s narrative frequently describes Paul in the civic, elite sections of these cities. He thus portrays Paul as

. . .a typical male of considerable social status: he regularly appears in public space; he frequently performs traditional elite male tasks such as arguing, debating and speaking boldly in public. Luke would have us think of him as a person at home in places reserved for elites. [cxxvi]

Finally, Luke portrays Paul at home in the presence of the governing class of Israelite and Greco-Roman governing classes. The following chart lists the people in whose presence Paul spoke -- all elites:

1. the governing elite in Jerusalem who authorized Paul (9:1-2; 22:5 ; 26:12}

2. Roman authorities (a) proconsuls: Sergius Paulus (13:7-12) and Gallio (18:12-15;  (B) governors: Felix (23:23-24:27) and Festus (25:1-26:32); (c) kings: Agrippa (25:13-26:32)

3. leading citizens of various Greek cities: (a) the “leading man of the island” Publius (28:7); (b) “not a few of the leading women” (17:4. )

Luke states, then, that Paul is of sufficiently high social status that he could converse with those of the elite, aristocratic strata. This is the behavior expected of citizens or elites, with a corresponding education. Of course Luke’s portrait in Acts cannot itself determine Paul’s social location; but it supports the argument we have been advancing based on Paul’s own letters.

8.3 Further Conversation. Those familiar with Pauline scholarship will raise cautions and urge qualifications to what has been argued; and these must be considered in any fair assessment of Paul’s social location. For example, how do Paul’s references to “working with his hands” impact our appreciation of his literacy and social status? [cxxvii] Second, we must reckon also with Paul’s own disclaimers to wisdom, eloquence and learning in 1 Cor 1-3; such disclaimers, however, suggest that high degrees of literacy were indeed valued by some in the church. Third, our description of education as status-specific needs to be in conversation with current discussions of “literacy” in antiquity. Indisputably all conversation seems to react to William Harris’ Ancient Literary, [cxxviii] but an excellent introduction of the topic and its issues can be found in Lucretia Yaghjian’s survey article. [cxxix] Fourth, Paul never speaks of Roman citizenship; when honorable pedigree is useful, he cites his Judean credentials, which of course is quite appropriate in the argument. Finally, In Paul’s letters we find occasional mention of a secretary.  For example, in the ending of Romans we read “I, Tertius, the writer of this letter greets you” (16:22), although it is unclear whether Tertius is the actual author, drafter or amanuensis. [cxxx] At other times (Gal 6:11; Philemon 19 and 2 Thess 3:17), Paul autographs letters which he has presumably dictated to a secretary, although secretaries were known to embellish or even to compose letters. [cxxxi]  Fourth, if Paul was educated as a person of high social status, how do we account for the low status he eventually assume, often imprisoned, publicly flogged and beaten, etc. (e.g., 1 Cor 4:8-13; 2 Cor 11:22-29)? What sort of status degradation ritual would account for his loss of high social location?


[i] . This article, which appeared with others utilizing social-scientific methods of reading, is found in Jerome H. Neyrey, ed., The Social World of Luke-Acts. Models for Interpretation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991) 305-32. On this point, Robbins is dependent upon Richard L. Rohrbaugh, “Methodological Considerations in the Debate over the Social Class of Early Christians,” JAAR 52 (1984( 519-46) and “‘Social Location of Thought’ as a Heuristic Construct in New Testament Study,” JSNT 30 (1987) 103-119.

[ii] . Robbins, “The Social Location of the Implied Author,” 306.

[iii] . Robbins’ list of categories includes Luke’s knowledge of: 1. previous events, 2. natural environment and resources, 3. population structure, 4. technology, 5. socialization and personality, 6. culture, 7 foreign affairs, 8. belief systems and ideologies, and political-military-legal system (“The Social Location of the Implied Author,” 310 and 312-30).

[iv] . Gerhard Lenski and Jean Lenski, Human Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974), and Gerhard E. Lenski, Power and Privilege. A Theory of Social Stratification.

[v] . See Anthony J. Saldarini,  Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees in Palestinian Society. A Sociological Approach (Wilmington, DL: Michael Glazier, 1988) 35-49; David A. Fiensy, The Social History of Palestine in the Herodian Period (Lewiston: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1991) 155-76; Dennis C. Duling, "Matthew's Plurisignificant 'Son of David' in Social Science Perspective: Kinship, Kingship, Magic, and Miracle," BTB 22 (1992): 99-116 and his The New Testament. Proclamation and Parenesis, Myth and History (3rd ed.; New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1994) 49-50, 55-58, 141-42; and Richard L. Rohrbaugh, "The Social Location of the Marcan Audience," BTB 23 (1993): 114-27.

[vi] . Lenski, Power and Privilege, 210.

[vii] . For a study of Luke’ location of Paul in important cities and in conversation with their elites, see Jerome H. Neyrey, “Luke’s Social Location of Paul: Cultural Anthropology and the Status of Paul in Acts,” History, Literature and Society in the Book of Acts (Ben Witherington III, ed.; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 251-79.

[viii] . Lenski, Power and Privilege, 210-19.

[ix] . John H. Kautsky, The Politics of Aristocratic Empires (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina, 1982) 51-56 and 65-66.

[x] . Lenski, Power and Privilege, 219-30. The Roman governing strata was extremely small in numbers, as Ramsey MacMullen points out: "The senatorial stratum amounted to something like two-thousandths of one percent...Equites probably totaled less than a tenth of one percent. Senators had to have property worth 250,000 times the day's wage of a laborer; equites qualified for their rank by less than half of that estate. In Italy, at its richest moment, in its second largest city (Padua), the equites constituted no more than one percent of the inhabitants; in poorer regions of the empire and in the rural population of every region, equites were of course much scarcer" (pp. 88-89 in his Roman Social Relations; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984). Comparably, the local aristocracy in the cities of the East would be quite small, perhaps only one percent of the population.

[xi] . MacMullen (Roman Social Relations, 89-90) writes of the local aristocracies: "Between the top and bottom, taking into account in a single glance the entire empire, a range of intermediate wealth made up the aristocracy of small cities. In a given city, however, the aristocracy nevertheless stood upon the summit of a very steep social pyramid." On aristocrats, see J.H. Kautsky, The Politics of Aristocratic Empires, 89-98, and Reinhard Bendix, Kings or People: Power and the Mandate to Rule (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978) 106.

[xii] . Fiensy (The Social History of Palestine in the Herodian Period, 160-61) offers a further definition of this stratum. One can distinguish between the ruler and his circle of elites and another group of lay aristocrats: "They are called 'elders' (presbyteroi) (Mk. 15:1, Acts 4:5), 'leaders' (proestôtes) (V 194), 'first men' (prôtoi) (V 9, 185), MK 6:21, 'NOTABLES' (gnôrimoi) (B 2.410, 318), 'powerful ones' (dynatoi) (B 2.316, 411), 'those first in rank (timê) and birth (genos) (A 20.123), and 'honored men' (Yoma 6:4)."

[xiii] . On the Herodian aristocracy in the first century, see David Fiensy, The Social History of Palestine in the Herodian Period, 157-61.

[xiv] .  Lenski estimates that as a group they received at least a quarter of the national income, and together with the ruler, they acquired not less than half of the wealth drained from the land or commerce.

[xv] . Lenski, Power and Privilege, 243; his full treatment is found on pp. 243-48.

[xvi] . Saldarini, Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees, 87-88, 92-94, 137-43 and 155-67.

[xvii] . Lenski, Power and Privilege, 248-56.

[xviii] . Lenski, Power and Privilege, 253.

[xix] . The attitude of Cicero (De Officiis 1.42.151) is typical in this regard.

[xx] . Lenski, Power and Privilege, 256-66; see also Bruce J. Malina, "'Religion' in the World of Paul: A Preliminary Sketch," BTB 16 (1986) 92-101.

[xxi] . Lenski, Power and Privilege, 266-78; Douglas E. Oakman, Jesus and the Economic Questions of His Day (Lewiston: Edwin Mellon Press, 1986) 100-102 and his "The Countryside in Luke-Acts," The Social World of Luke-Acts, 152-64.  David Fiensy (The Social History of Palestine in the Herodian Period, 157) calls attention to the "the essential bifurcation of peasant society into aristocrats and peasant."  This allows us to appreciate the ancient distinction between urban and rural populations, with the attendant snobbery by urban peoples toward the rural, peasant peoples (Fiensy, 168-69). Thus it matters greatly whether Luke presents Paul as just another "uneducated, common man" from the countryside like Peter and John (Acts 4:13) or as an urban dweller in major cities of the empire.

[xxii] . Lenski, Power and Privilege, 278-80.

[xxiii] . Lenski, Power and Privilege, 279.

[xxiv] . Lenski, Power and Privilege, 281-84.

[xxv] . Abraham J. Malherbe, “‘Gentle as a Nurse,’”; Paul and the Thessalonians (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987); 

[xxvi] . The best argument for this is the definitive study of the letter of ironic rebuke presented by the late Nils Dahl, “Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Epistolary Genre, Content, and Structure,” unpublished paper delivered to the SBL Paul Seminar 1973.

[xxvii] . Several other letter types are worth noting: 1. Inquiring (_ρωτηματικoς): Paul inquires about something and urges that news be sent: 1 Thess 3; 2. Responding _πoφαvτικoς): Paul systematically gives responses to questions asked in 1 Cor: 7:1, 25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1, 12.; 3. Allegorical (α_τoλoγικoς): The author veils his message, e.g., 2 Cor 3; and 4. Accounting (α_τoλoγικoς): This contains reasons why something has not taken place or will not take place; one thinks of Paul’s travel plans in 1 Thess2:17-20; 3:11-13; 1 Cor 4:19; 16:1-9; 2 Cor 1:8-2:4; Rom 15:14-28

[xxviii] . John White, Light from Ancient Letters (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986) 202-3.

[xxix] . H. D. Betz, Galatians (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1978),

[xxx] . Betz, Galatians, 16-23.

[xxxi] . Betz, Galatians, 14-15.

[xxxii] . See, for example, G. W. Hansen, Abraham in Galatians: Epistolary and Rhetorical Contexts (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1989) ?? - ??; John Hester, “The Rhetorical Structure of Galatians 1:11-2:14,” JBL 103 (1984) 223-33; and Robert C. Hall, “The Rhetorical Outline for Galatians. A Reconsideration,” JBL 106 (1987) 277-87. J. Smit, “The Letter of Paul to the Galatians: A Deliberative Speech,” NTS 35 (1989) 1-26.

[xxxiii] . Margaret Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991); she begins with a discussion of deliberative rhetoric (pp. 1-65) and lays out the rhetorical composition of 1 Corinthians in pp. 184-295.

[xxxiv] . George Kennedy, New Testament Interpretation through Rhetorical Criticism (Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, 1984) 152-56; Wilhelm Wuellner, “Paul’s Rhetoric of Argumentation in Romans: An Alternative to the Donfried-Karris Debate,” The Romans Debate. rev. ed.; Karl P. Donfried, ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991) 128-46; for Romans as protreptic rhetoric, see David E. Aune, “Romans as a Logos Protreptikos in the Context of Ancient Religious and Philosophical Propaganda,” in M. Hengel and U.  Heckel, eds., Paulus und das antike Judentum (Tübingen: Mohr-Siebeck, 1991) ??? reprinted in The Romans Debate, 278-96.

[xxxv] . Robert Jewett, “Following the Argument of Romans,” Karl P. Donfried, ed., The Romans Debate, 272-74.

[xxxvi] . Robert Jewett, The Thessalonian Correspondence: Pauline Rhetoric and Millenarian Piety (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1986) ??72 See also S. Watson, “What Has Aristotle to Do with Paul? Rhetorical Criticism and 1 Thessalonians,” TynBul 46 (1995) 233-40; and C. A. Wanamaker, Commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1990).

[xxxvii] . D. F. Watson, “A Rhetorical Analysis of Philippians and its Implications for the Unity Question,” NovT 30 (1988) 59-80.

[xxxviii] . L. G. Bloomquist, The Function of Suffering in Philippians (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993) 72-138.

[xxxix] . Mario M. DiCicco, Paul’s Use of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in 2 Corinthians 10-13 (Lewiston: Mellen Biblical Press, 1995).

[xl] . Joop Smit, “Argument and Genre of 1 Corinthians 12-14,” Rhetoric and the New Testament. Essays from the 1992 Heidelberg Conference (Stanley E. Porter and Thomas Olbricht, eds.; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1993) 211-30; also “The Genre of 1 Corinthians 13 in the Light of Classical Rhetoric,” NovT 33 (1991) 193-216 and “Two Puzzles: 1 Corinthians 12.31 and 13.3: A Rhetorical Solution,” NTS 39 (1993) 146-64.

[xli] . Duane F. Watson, “Paul’s Rhetorical Strategy in 1 Corinthians,” Rhetoric in the New Testament, 231-49; see also Burton Mack, Rhetoric and the New Testament (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990) 56-59; Margaret Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation, 26-64.

[xlii] . Alas, not everybody agrees; Wilhelm Wuellner (“Greek Rhetoric and Pauline Argument,” 185-86) considers it epideictic; in contrast, Michael Bünker (Briefformular und rhetorische Disposition im 1. Korintherbrief [Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983] 59-72) labels it judicial.

[xliii] . Stanley E. Porter, “Paul of Tarsus and His Letters,” Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period (Leiden: Brill, 1997) 533-86.

[xliv] . Porter, “Paul of Tarsus and His Letters,” 561.

[xlv] . A recent article by Paul Holloway (“The Enthymeme as an Element of Style in Paul,” JBL 120 [2001] 329-39) “identifies a number of enthymemes in Paul’s letters, especially in the tightly reasoned arguments of Galatians, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Romans” (p 339). On this issue, he finds striking similarities between Latin oratory and rhetoric and Paul. This material thus reinforces the argument that Paul had formal knowledge of rhetoric.

[xlvi] . The progymnasmata used in this study are:  Aelius Theon of Alexandria (Spengel II.112.20-115.10; see 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; see C.S. Baldwin, Medieval Rhetoric and Poetic [New York: Macmillan, 1928] 23-38); Menander Rhetor (see D.A. Russell and N.G. Wilson, Menander Rhetor [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981]); Aphthonius of Ephesus (Spengel II.42.20-44.19; see 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); Quintilian, Inst. 3.7.10-18.

[xlvii] . See Jan F. Kindstrand, “Diogenes Laertius and the Chreia Tradition,” Elenchos 7 (1986) 219-43; Ronald Hock and Edward O’Neil, The Chreia in Ancient Rhetoric, 3-60; Burton Mack and Vernon Robbins, Patterns of Persuasion in the Gospels (Sonoma, CA: Polebridge Press, 1989); see also Burton Mack, “Decoding the Scripture: Philo and the Rules of Rhetoric,” Nourished with Peace (Chico, CA: Scholars Press, 1984) 81-115; F. H. Colson, “Quintilian I.9 and the ‘Chria’ in Ancient Education,” The Classical Review 35 (1921) 150-54.The following articles of Vernon Robbins are uniquely valuable: “Classifying Pronouncement Stories in Plutarch’s Parallel Lives,” Semeia 20 (1981) 33-42; “Pronouncement Stories and Jesus’ Blessing of the Children: A Rhetorical Approach,” Semeia 29 (1983) 43-74; “A Rhetorical Typology for Classifying and Analyzing Pronouncement Stories,” SBLSP 1984: 93-112; “Pronouncement Stories from a Rhetorical Perspective,” Forum 4/2 (1988) 1-31; “The Chreia,” and  “Introduction: Using Rhetorical Discussions of the Chreia to Interpret Pronouncement Stories,” Semeia 64 (1994) vii-xvii.

[xlviii] . On “comparison,” see Harry Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1989); F. Focke, "Synkrisis," Hermes 58 (1923) 327-68; David H. J. Lamour, "Making Parallels: Synkrisis and Plutarch's 'Themistocles and Camillus," ANRW II.33.6 (1991) 4154-4204; Henrich Lausberg, Handbuch der literarischen Rhetorik (München : Hueber, 1973) 332-33, 392-95, 542-43; Abraham J. Malherbe, "Antisthenes and Odysseus, Paul at War," HTR  76 (1983) 143-73; Peter Marshall, Enmity at Corinth: Social Conventions in Paul's Relations with the Corinthians. (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr. 1987) 53-56, 325-29, 348-65; D. A. Russell, "On Reading Plutarch's Lives," Greece and Rome 13 (1966) 150-151; P. A. Stadter, "Plutarch's Comparison of Pericles and Fabius Maximus," GRBS 16 (1975) 77-85.

[xlix] . Christopher Forbes, “Comparison, Self-Praise and Irony: Paul’s Boasting and the Conventions of Hellenistic Rhetoric,” NTS 32 (1986) 1-30.

[l] .Forbes, “Comparison, Self-Praise and Irony,” 19.

[li] . Forbes, “Comparison, Self-Praise and Irony,” 19.

[lii] . On the relationship between the categories of the encomium and the rhetoric of praise, see Jerome H. Neyrey, Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox) 78-138 and "Josephus' Vita and the Encomium: A Native Model of Personality," JSJ 25 (1994) 177-206.

[liii] .Forbes (“Comparison, Self-Praise and Irony,”8-10) provides valuable ancient voices on περιαυτoλoγια, or self-praise.

[liv] . On the importance of knowing the “origins” of someone as a grounds for praise, see Bruce J. Malina and Jerome Neyrey, Portraits of Paul. An Archaeology of Ancient Personality (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox 1996) 19-60. See also Jerome H. Neyrey, Honor and Shame in the Gospel of Matthew (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1998) 78-83 and 90-105.

[lv] . John T. Fitzgerald, Cracks in the Earthen Vessel. An Examination of Catalogues of Hardships in the Corinthian Correspondence (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988) 87-90.

[lvi] . Malina and Neyrey, Portraits of Paul, 52-55.

[lvii] . George Lyons, Pauline Autobiography. Towards a New Understanding (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1985) ????

[lviii] . "To righteousness (δικαιoσυvη) it belongs to be ready to distribute according to desert, and to preserve ancestral customs and institutions and the established laws, and to tell the truth when interest is at stake, and to keep agreements. 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 (ε_σεβεια), which is either a part of righteousness or a concomitant of it. Righteousness is also accompanied by holiness (_σιoτης) and truth and loyalty (πιστις) and hatred of wickedness" (Aristotle, Virtues and Vices, 5.2-3)

[lix] . “To it belongs to be undismayed by fears of death and confident in alarms and brave in face of dangers, and to prefer a fine death to base security, and to be a cause of victory. It also belongs to courage to labour and endure and play a manly part. Courage is accompanied by confidence and bravery and daring, and also by perseverance and endurance" (Aristotle, Virtues and Vices 4.4).

[lx] . Malina and Neyrey, Portraits of Paul, 48-50.

[lxi] . Stanley K. Stowers, “Romans 7.7-25 as a Speech-in-Character (πρoσωπoπoιια),” Troels Engberg-Pedersen, ed., Paul in His Hellenistic Context (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995) 180-202.

[lxii] . Stowers, “Romans 7.7-25 as a Speech-in-Character,” 187.

[lxiii] . Stowers, “Romans 7.7-25 as Speech-in-Character,” 191.

[lxiv] . Stowers, “Romans 7.7-25 as Speech-n-Character,” 191-92.

[lxv] . Stanley K. Stowers, The Diatribe and Paul’s Letter to the Romans (Chico CA: Scholars Press, 1981).

[lxvi] . Stowers, The Diatribe and Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 76.

[lxvii] . Stowers, The Diatribe and Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 86-92.

[lxviii] . Stowers, The Diatribe and Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 125-33.

[lxix] . Stowers, The Diatribe and Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 76.

[lxx] . Stowers, The Diatribe and Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 178-79.

[lxxi] . Stowers, The Diatribe and Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 78.

[lxxii] . The introductory article of John Fitzgerald (“Virtue/Vice Lists,” ABD 6.857-59) lays out the history of the topic and seems to favor the assessment of the material as closely related to philosophical schools. See also Abraham J. Malherbe, Moral Exhortation, a Greco-Roman Sourcebook (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1986) 138-41.

[lxxiii] . Abraham Malherbe has regularly argued that such lists of virtues and vices were part of philosophical exhortation, see his “Stoics,” Oxford Companion to the Bible,  Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds. (New York : Oxford University Press, 1993) 714-15; and  Paul and the Thessalonians (Fortress: Philadelphia, 1987) 24, 31-33, 82-83).

[lxxiv] . The primary research here has been done by John T. Fitzgerald, Cracks in an Earthen Vessel. An Examination of the Catalogues of Hardships in the Corinthian Correspondence (SBLDS 99; Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988); Malherbe (Moral Exhortation. A Greco-Roman Sourcebook, 141-43) notes that Stoic and Cynic moral philosophers made extensive use of such lists.

[lxxv] . Fitzgerald, Cracks in the Earthen Vessel, 204.

[lxxvi] . On Paul’s Areopagus speech and its affinities with Stoic natural theology, see Bertil Gärtner, The Areopagus Speech and Natural Revelation (Uppsala: C. W. K. Gleerup, 1955) 73-203.

[lxxvii] . Max Pohlenz, “Paulus und die Stoa,” ZNW 42 (1949) 70-98.

[lxxviii] . Abraham J. Malherbe, “ Determinism and Free Will: The Argument of 1 Corinthians 8 and 9,” in Troels Engberg-Pedersen, ed., Paul in His Hellenistic Context (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1995) 232.

[lxxix] . Malherbe, “Determinism and Free Will,” 233-36.

[lxxx] . Malherbe, “Determinism and Free Will,” 237.

[lxxxi] . Malherbe, “Determinism and Free Will,” 244-45.

[lxxxii] . Troels Engberg-Pedersen, “Stoicism in Philippians,” Paul in His Hellenistic Context, 259-60. Mr. Pedersen has recently published a details study entitled Paul and the Stoics (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 2000); in it he endeavors to show that “Paul made extensive use of a comprehensive, but also a sharply focused model that had been developed” (293, see 301). His argument can be summarized in three theses: (1) an historical thesis: “there is a fundamental similarity in the basic model that structures both Stoic ethics and Paul’s comprehensive parenesis in his letters as a whole”(301); (2) an exegetical thesis: “a reading that draws on Stoic ideas helps to solve a number of problems” (302); (3) “a reading that draws on Stoicism to emphasize and develop those ideas of a cognitive type that are in fact in Paul is positively required for an exegesis of his letters to have fulfilled its task” (303); and (4) “Paul must be read directly, philosophically, even naturalistically as a person who is speaking of the world as it is available to all partners in the dialogue, in exactly the same way as this was done by his fellow Jews (like Philo) and Greeks (like Plato and the Stoics” (303-4).

[lxxxiii] .Engberg-Pedersen, “Stoicism in Philippians,” 261.

[lxxxiv] . Engberg-Pedersen, “Stoicism in Philippians,” 261-64; in one place he remarks that “some of these are just general philosophical terms, other have more specifically Stoic connotations” (262).

[lxxxv] .Engberg-Pedersen, “Stoicism in Philippians,” 269-74.

[lxxxvi] . Engberg-Pedersen, “Stoicism in Philippians,” 278-79.

[lxxxvii] . Engberg-Pedersen, “Stoicism in Philippians,” 279.

[lxxxviii] . Engberg-Pederson, “Stoicism in Philippians,” 279.

[lxxxix] . Abraham Malherbe, “The Beasts at Ephesus,” JBL 87 (1968) 76-78.

[xc] . Abraham Malherbe, Paul and the Thessalonians (Fortress: Philadelphia, 1987) 40-43 and 85-87.

[xci] . Malherbe, Paul and the Thessalonians, 104.

[xcii] . Abraham Malherbe, “‘Gentle as a Nurse’: The Cynic Background to 1 Thess ii,” NovT 12 (1970) 217.

[xciii] . F. Gerald Downing has recently published a comprehensive comparison of Paul and Cynicism, and comes to the following conclusions: a) Paul would have been seen and heard as some sort of Cynic; b) by virtue of Paul’s ascetic praxis and in his verbal articulation of it, Paul was aware of this identification; and c) Paul’s appropriation of Cynic material was deliberate; he knew his way around the material and was able to work with the details of the inner-Cynic debate (Cynics, Paul and the Pauline Churches [London: Routledge, 1998).

[xciv] .  By topos we mean a philosophical commonplace or sententia. See E. Mertner, “Topos and Commonplace,” Strena Angelica (G. Dietrich and F. W. Schultze, eds.; Halle: M Niemeyer, 1956) 178-224; T. Y. Mullins, “Topos as a New Testament Form,” JBL 99 (1980) 541-47; D. G. Bradley, “The Topos as a Form of Pauline Paraenesis,” JBL 72 (1953)238-46; John Dillon, The Transcendence of God in Philo: Some Possible Sources (Center for Hermeneutical Studies, Protocol 16; Berkeley: The Center for Hermeneutical Studies in Hellenistic and Modern Culture, 1975) 171-78. See also Abraham J. Malherbe, “Hellenistic Moralists and the New Testament,” ANRW 2.26.1 (1992) 320-25 and Margaret Mitchell, Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation. An Exegetical Investigation of the Language and Composition of 1 Corinthians, (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 1991) 67, note 8.

[xcv] . Abraham J. Malherbe, “ Exhortation in 1 Thessalonians,” NovT 25 (1983) 238-40. Some of these features include 1) addressing the audience with “as you know”. . .”you know”; 2) use of nouns and verbs expressing “encouragement. . .exhortation”; and 3) adaptation of the exhortation to the condition of the hearers.

[xcvi] . On this point, see Abraham J. Malherbe, “Gentle as a Nurse,” NovT 12 (1970) 203-17.

[xcvii] . Margaret M. Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation. An Exegetical Investigation of the Language and Composition of 1 Corinthians (Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox, 1991). Her work is most useful here for two reasons: first, her research includes an excellent reporting of individual commonplaces urged by other scholars, such as C. Forbes, “Comparison, Self-Praise a Irony: Paul’s Boasting and the Conventions of Hellenistic Rhetoric,” NTS 32 (1986) 1-30; J. Shanor, “Paul as Master Builder. Construction Terms in 1 Corinthians,” NTS 34 (1988) 461-71; H. Chadwick, “All Things to All Men (1 Cor IX.22),” NTS 1 (1955) 261-75; P. A. Brunt, “‘Amicitia’ in the Late Roman Republic,” Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 191 (1965) 1-20. Second, Mitchell’s own detailed collection of parallel materials from the Greco-Roman world gives depth and authority to her claims to be identifying “part of a common conceptual and linguistic body of topoi used to promote social and political unity in Greco-Roman antiquity” (181).

[xcviii] . Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation, 65-110.

[xcix] . Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation, 111-70.

[c] . Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation, 82, esp. note 98. In a number of articles, L. L. Welborn covered much of the same terrain as did Mitchell; he does not label his materials as topoi, but his research provides both support to many of Mitchell’s assertions and other commonplaces; see “On Discord in Corinth: 1 Corinthians 1-4 and Ancient Politics,” JBL 106 (1987) 85-111 and “A Conciliatory Principle in 1 Cor 4:6,” NovT 29 (1987) 320-46; both of these have been reprinted in a collection of Welborn’s work: Politics and Rhetoric in the Corinthian Epistles (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1997).

[ci] . Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation, 91-95.

[cii] . Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation, 96.

[ciii] . Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation, 97.

[civ] . Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation, 98.

[cv] . Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation, 99-104.

[cvi] . Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation, 123-25.

[cvii] . Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation, 142-43.

[cviii] . Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation, 157-62.

[cix] . Mitchell, Paul and the Rhetoric of Reconciliation, 181.

[cx] . For example, John T. Townsend, “Education (Greco-Roman),” ABD 2.312-17.

[cxi] . See Henri I. Marrou, A History of Education in Antiquity (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1956); Stanley Bonner, Education in Ancient Rome from the Elder Cato to the Younger Pliny (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1977).

[cxii] . Robert A. Kaster, “Notes on ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ Schools in Late Antiquity,” TAPA 113 [1983] 323-46, here 323. This represents the prevailing model found in H. I. Marrou,   S. Barron; and M. L. Clarke

[cxiii] . Townsend, “Education (Greco-Roman),” 315.

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

[cxv] . Alan D. Booth,” The Schooling of Slaves in First-Century Rome,” TAPA109 (1979) 11-19; his concluding summary best expresses this viewpoint: “There is cause to believe that in first-century Rome the ludi magister (the calculator and notarius too) ran a lowly type of technical school which peddled craft literacy to children, slave and free, to enhance their employability, but that the elements were usually acquired elsewhere by children embarking upon a liberal education” (19).

[cxvi] . Slave education is described as “craft literacy,” which could produce “bookkeepers, stenographers, secretaries” (S. L. Mohler, “Slave Education in the Roman Empire,” TAPA 71 [1940] 263). Commenting on an apprentice contract from Egypt, C. A. Forbes (“The Education and Training of Slaves in Antiquity,” TAPA 86 [1955] 330) remarks: “The program calls for an apprentice to spend a considerable time in the memorization of a complete set of tachygraphic signs, called the ‘commentary,’ and then to practice strenuously in writing and transcribing.” See also Kaster, “Notes on ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ Schools in Late Antiquity,” 343.

[cxvii] . Booth (“Schooling of Slaves in First-Century Rome,” 14) makes clear that a specific type of education was available to children entirely on the basis of social location: “The training of salves in clerical skills (litterae communes) in later antiquity. . .was uncontroversial. But liberal study was properl the preserve of the freeborn upper class.”

[cxviii] . Forbes, “The Education and Training of Slaves in Antiquity,” 326.

[cxix] . Kaster ( “Notes on ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ Schools in Late Antiquity,” 346) concludes that with current research, the three-stage sequence “conformed rather to a two-track or socially segmented pattern, with the ‘school of letters’ providing the lower classes with a basic literacy while the ‘liberal schools’ provided a more privileged clientele with more refined skills” (emphasis added).

[cxx] . This precisely the argument made by Forbes, “The Education and Training of Slaves in Antiquity,” 324-25 and 359-60; Alan D. Booth, “Schooling of Slaves in First-Century Rome,” 14-15; and Kaster, “Notes on ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ Schools in Late Antiquity,” 338-39. In addition, Martin Bloomer (“Schooling in Persona: Imagination and Subordination in Roman Education,” Classical Antiquity 16 [1997] 57-78) demonstrated just how status-specific Roman elite education was, namely, “the socialization of the student into an elite man” (57) by training him in the following exercises: 1. exercise of speaking rights, 2. learning how to command, 3. speaking in character (i.e., as hero or general), 4. how to speak to inferiors, 5. learning the language of elite males, 6. learning to speak as a patronus on behalf of clients. Thus “declamation taught competition, rule following and inculcated habits of stratification and distinction” (69).

[cxxi] . I have argued the material at considerable length in “Luke’s Social Location of Paul: Cultural Anthropology and the Status of Paul in Acts,” History, Literature, and Society in the Book of Acts. (Ed. Ben Witherington, III; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 251-79.

[cxxii] . F. F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977) 38. Important background on Roman citizenship is provided by A. N. Sherwin-White, The Roman Citizenship (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1937) and Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1978) 144-93; F. Schultz, “Roman Registers of Births and Birth Certificates,” JBL 32 (1942) 78-91 and 33 (1943) 55-64.

[cxxiii] . Many scholars dismiss Luke’s claims for Paul’s Roman citizenship. For example, Wolfgang Stegemann (“War der Apostel Paulus ein römischer Bürger?” ZNW78 [1987] 200-29) gives three arguments against citizenship: 1) Paul’s low social class and Jewish background, 2) Paul’s silence on this point in his letters; 3) the apologetic nature of Luke’s composition of Acts where citizenship is claimed.

[cxxiv] . On this point, see my “Luke’s Social Location of Paul: Cultural Anthropology and the Status of Paul in Acts, History, Literature and Society in the Book of Acts (Ben Witherington, III, ed., Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996) 268-76.

[cxxv] . See Jerome Murphy-O’Connor, St. Paul’s Corinth (Wilmington, DL: Michael Grazier, 1983) 25-26 and his “The Corinth that Saint Paul Saw,” BA 47 (1984) 147-59; and J. Wiseman, “Corinth and Rome I.227BC - AD 267,” ANRW (date) VII.1 438-548.

[cxxvi] . Neyrey, “Luke’ Social Location of Paul,” 275-76.

[cxxvii] . The most important study of this question is that of Ronald F. Hock, The Social Context of Paul’s Ministry (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980), esp. the conclusion 66-68. While criticizing other arguments that Paul was following a rabbinic ideal of combining Torah and a trade, Hock points to important Cynic parallels indicating how they made the workshop one of the settings for studying philosophy. See also Stanley K. Stowers, “Social Status, Public Speaking and Private Teaching: The Circumstances of Paul’s Preaching Activity,” NovT 26 (1984) 58-82.

[cxxviii] . William V. Harris, Ancient Literacy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989).

[cxxix] . Lucretia B. Yaghjian, “Ancient Reading,” The Social Sciences and New Testament Interpretation (Richard L. Rohrbaugh, ed.; Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996) 206-30.

[cxxx] . The best and most recent discussion of this material is that of E. Randolph Richards, The Secretary in the Letters of Paul (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr [Paul Siebeck] 1991; although he finds precedents for elites giving total command of a letter to a secretary, by far the more normal thing was the secretary’s taking of dictation and/or embellishing the material spoken to him.

[cxxxi] . In regard to 1 Pet 5:12, Paul Achtemeier (1 Peter [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996] 350) argues that “In early Christian literature, including the NT, the phrase γραφειv  δια  τιvoς identifies not the author of the letter, or its scribe, but its bearer, the one who delivered it to its readers.”


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