Introduction In the ever green study of New Testament scholarship, the approaches to the New Testament text stand on the top. The NT Scholarship constantly endeavors to discover and generate innovative prototype for the approaches to the New Testament text. Among the many, Vernon K. Robbins who coined the term “Socio- Rhetoric criticism” is an extraordinary figure in the field of New Testament criticism. His work is considered to be one of most the significant arts to approach the New Testament text.
This approach to the New Testament text is inclusive of literary, narrative, rhetorical, inter-textual, socio-scientific, cultural and ideological criticism together. Socio-rhetorical interpretation has become a multi-dimensional approach to texts guided by a multi-dimensional hermeneutic. ” It is a comprehensive approach to interpretation that examines the text in light of each of the five dominant textures he has identified “It focuses on values, convictions and belief of both the text that a person read and the world the person live. This approach exclusively deals with text. “At the same time it moves further to the world of the author and the present world. It appears that this approach meant to both life and language. Therefore, this paper attempts to explain the socio- rhetoric criticism of Vernon Robbins in detail which would help the student of the NT to see the text in wider ways. 1. Meaning of the Term Socio- Rhetoric The term Socio- rhetoric is the combination of two words which implies “the socio- scientific criticism and rhetorical criticism. Vernon Robbins defines Socio- rhetoric as; “the term ‘socio’ refers to the rich resource of modern anthropology and sociology that socio- rhetoric criticism brings to the interpretation of the text. ” “While Socio-scientific approach focuses on social class, social system, personal and community status, people on the margin, and people in positions power Socio- rhetoric interpretation brings the ever growing insight of such modes of interpretation into practices of very complicated, detail exegesis of text. ” The term rhetoric refers to the way language in a text is a means of communication among people. It is also an art of persuasion. ” 2. Historical Development of Socio- Rhetoric Criticism It is important to know Historical development of socio- rhetoric criticism. It will provide route of socio-rhetoric criticism’s journey. “Socio-rhetorical interpretation began with the analysis and interpretation of social and cultural dynamics in written works. ” Robbins’s 1975 study was an initial interpretation of social and cultural intertexture among the sea voyages in Acts and other Mediterranean accounts of sea voyages.
The first sustained socio-rhetorical study was an analysis of the relation of the “we”-passages in Acts to ancient Mediterranean Sea voyages. ‘This study in 1975 revealed that traveling in a boat on the sea with other people created a social environment that made it natural for some authors in antiquity to use first-person plural “we” for literary accounts of sea voyages’. Robbins states that, “It is a full length exegetical method. It is an attempt to understand the background/sociological issues and the related category of analyzing how the rhetorical aspects of the text would have been understood in Greco-Roman Society.
The next level of socio-rhetoric analysis development is about teaching and learning in the gospel of mark. The proper study on this account was done by Kenneth Burkein 1984. “This study reveals Mediterranean teaching-learning cycle in Plato’s dialogues, Xenophon’s Memorabilia, ancient comedy, Philostratus’ Life of Apollonius, the Abraham story, the Moses story, the Elijah-Elisha story, the Israelite prophets, Philo of Alexandria, Josephus and rabbinic literature. Subsequent studies have built on the analysis and interpretation in this book. ”
Study on Socio- rhetoric criticism went further during year of 1983 and 1991 which focused on Lucan writings (Luke-Acts), pronouncement stories, miracle stories and sayings. “During the same period of time, specific discussions of rhetorical interpretation and specific strategies of analysis using insights from classical rhetorical treatises on the Cherie and its elaboration appeared. ” “In 1994 David B. Gowler, independently developed a socio-narratological approach to New Testament literature, he wrote a programmatic essay on the development of socio-rhetorical interpretation showing the manner in which t developed out of literary, rhetorical, social and cultural studies during the 1970s and 1980s. These studies were antecedent to the organization of socio-rhetorical interpretation on the basis of multiple textures of signification, meanings and meaning effects in texts. ” On the other hand T. Michael W. Halcomb student of Ben Witherington does not agree to the historical data of Vernon Robbins. In which he says that, “Vernon Robbins is not the one who create the term socio- rhetoric rather it used in 1944, by Edward Lene and Reginald Moore in their work on “The Wind Mill” Vol. . And also in 1950 J. H. Stubbs, in his work on “The darkling plain: A study of the later fortunes of romanticism”. When they used this term the used it as “social- rhetoric” and it is later developed as “socio-rhetoric””. It appears that, historical data which is given by Vernon Robbins disproved by Michael. Yet, it could be said that the “socio-rhetoric criticism is fully developed by Vernon Robbins” as it is rightly said by professor Arren Bennet Lawrence in his notes on “New testament Approaches”.
Historical development of socio- rhetoric criticism stirs up the interest to go further to find the treasures which are hidden in the socio-rhetoric approach. 3. Scholars debate As far as the socio – rhetoric criticism is concern there are two prominent scholars in this field, first Vernon Robbins and the other Ben Witherington III. Vernon Robbins does not agree with the methodology of Ben Witherington’s socio-rhetoric criticism for that he gives following reasons. A major mistake Withering ton makes at the outset of his project is to perceive New Testament writings as “surrogates (a substitute,deputizing special role) for oral communication” (3, 8). This is the stuff of nineteenth- and twentieth-century historical criticism, which presupposed a substantive division between oral and written performance during the first century C. E. ” “but The New Testament writings are not “surrogates” for oral communication. They are products of a process whereby oral performance nurtured writing performance and writing performance nurtured oral performance. The next argument Robbins brings is that, “Witherington’s project is any concept of how a socio-rhetorical approach to the New Testament might help people of multiple cultures and religious traditions live together during the twenty-first century without destroying one another. His project, rather, seems to be to bolster Christians in their belief that they are “truly” the ones who understand God and God’s ways, and they are the ones whom God “truly” blesses at all times. ” This seems to be going far away from the major goal of socio-rhetoric criticism.
Further Robbins argue that, “There is a special moment in Witherington’s account that exhibits the problem with his approach. Describing Timothy, Titus, and Phoebe as people Paul expected “to go and orally deliver the contents of the document in a rhetorically effective manner” Witherington does not suggest the idea that they probably “intimately” knew the contents of the letter “because they were the ones who actually wrote it. ”” Because of these reason Robbins says that, Ben Witherington is not welcomed in socio- rhetoric forum.
On the other hand Vernon Robbins also falls short in terms of historical data of socio- rhetoric criticism which is discovered by the student of Ben Witherington. 4. The presuppositions of socio-rhetoric criticism The socio- rhetoric criticism presupposes the gap between the “world of the people who wrote it and the present world. ”In other words the gap between “the world of the text and the world of the interpreter. ” It also assumes the gap between the language the people use (literary, rhetoric) and the way they live (social) from the social and rhetorical point of view. It presuppose that a text is a tapestry of interwoven texture, including intertexture, intertexture, social and cultural texture, ideological texture and sacred texture. ” These presuppositions lead further to find the goal of socio-rhetoric criticism. 5. The goal of socio- rhetoric criticism “A major goal of socio-rhetoric criticism is to nurture an environment of interpretation that encourages a genuine interest in people who lives in contexts with values, norms, and goals different from our own. Furthermore, “The NT writings show in remarkable ways how people from distinctly disparate (essentially different kind) culture, historical tradition, and social environment found way to work together to form and nurture the community and focus on the well being of the people. ” In which the socio-rhetoric criticism is a tool to find the information about anthropological, sociological and literary device of the NT world. “It is also to build the bridge between the world of the text and the present world. The goal, then, was twofold: (a) “to reconfigure genetic historical interests into both diachronic and synchronic social and cultural interests; and (b) to reconfigure literary interests toward broader rhetorical and ideological interests. ” 6. The Promise of Socio-Rhetorical Criticism Robbins explains that the promise of socio-rhetorical criticism lies in three areas: (1) it offers programmatic correlation of multiple textures of texts, (2) it offers systematic attention to individual textures, and (3) it offers resources for writing a new account of first-century Christianity. . The methods of socio- rhetoric interpretation According to Robbins the “text is the tapestry (embroidery, needle point, wall-hangings) which has multiple textures. ”A text contains complex patterns and images, and it is like complicatedly woven tapestry when a person looks the text in a single way it will exhibit very limited range of its texture. When one interprets the text he/she should see the text in different angle in order to see many layers of the text. Robbins draws out five different angles to explore multiple textures within the texts: 1.
Inner text, 2. Inter text. 3. Social and cultural text. 4. Ideological text. 5. Sacred text. All these angles will be discussed below. 8. 1. Inner texture Inner texture concerns nuances like “the repetition of particular words, the creation of beginning and endings, alternation of speech and storytelling, and the particular “feel” or aesthetic (beautify, visual) of the text. ” The inner text exits in the language of the text itself, like repetition of words and use of dialogue between two persons to communicate the information. In other words, inner texture is the texture of the medium of communication. ” With written text, the inner texture exists with verbal texture the texture of a language itself. In which inner texture is focuses on words as tools for communication. ” In which it concerns on the rhetorical aspect of the text. In this texture the analyst will work only with a basic sense of the words. The interpreter looks at and listens to the ways in which the text uses the words. This angle will help “the interpreter to gain an intimate knowledge of words, word patterns, voices, . tructures, devices and modes in the text, which are the context for meanings and meaning-effects that an interpreter analyses with the other text. ” Robbins points out six elements in inner text: repetition, progressive, narration, opening middle closing, argumentative and sensory or aesthetic texture. The repetitive texture of a span of text regularly exhibit initial glimpses into the overall rhetorical movement in the discourse. Repetition doesn’t reveal the precise nature of the boundaries between one unit and another.
Also, repetition does not exhibit inner meaning in the sequence rather it is “studied to see the whole covering of the text by looking at the many individual trees repeated. ” Progressive The progressive texture exists in progression of words and phrases throughout the unit. It emerges out of repetition. Narration Narrational texture resides in voice through which the words in the text speak. The opening word in the text presupposes a narrator speaking the words. Usually narrational texture reveals some kind of pattern that moves the discourse further. Opening middle closing texture
Opening middle conclusion is about the beginning, body and conclusion of a section of discourse. Robbins states that,” repetition, progression and narration regularly work together to form the opening, middle and closing of a unit of a text. ” “A unit is nothing but a portion of the text which deals with a particular topic of narration or argument. Several units together form a body of the text. By analyzing the opening, middle and closing the interpreter identifies the units and the topic that particular unit deals with in the broad context of the body of the text. The next category is argumentative texture where the interpreter views the whole body of the text or a part of it to see what arguments the author gives to assert or clarify to authenticate his argument. Robbbins says, “the discourse presents assertion and supports them with reason, clarifies them through opposites and contrasts and possibly presents short or elaborate argument. ” “The last category in the inner text is aesthetic texture where the range of senses the text evokes or embodies (thought,emotion,sight,touch,smell) and the manner in which the text evokes or embodies them (reason,intuition,imagination,humor) are considered. Inner texture Repetitive (studies the repetition of the words) Mk 15:1-16:8 Progressive (it sees the repetition moves further in discourse) Narrational (it sees narration of the text both with repetition and progression) Opening middle closing (identify beginning,bodyand end of unit of particular text) Argumentative (presents assertion and supports them with reason) Sensory- Aesthetic texture (the range of senses the text evoke or embodies and the manner in which the text evokes or embodies them). . 2. Inter texture Inter texture emerged in the context when the interpreter identifies the role of other text in the particular text. “It is not only the author and the reader involved in the writing and the reading of the text and also other text also plays a decisive role. ” Thus, the inter texture is a text’s representation or, reference to, and use of phenomena in the world outside the text being interpreted. This world includes other textures like oral-scribal, cultural and social and historical inter texture.
Inter Texture Oral –scribal texture (use of language,exact quation from other text to paraphrase) Echo referencece Cultural texture- (cultural connotation implied by text) Allusion Social inter texture 1. “Social role (soldier,master, shephered) or social identidy ( Greek, Roman,Jew)” 2. “Social Institution (empire,synagogue)” 3. “Social code (honour,hospitality)” 4. “Social relationship (patron,friend,kin)” “Historical intertexture (the events which occurred in specific time and location)” 8. 3.
Social and cultural inter texture This texture considers the sociological and cultural world of the text. It goes beyond the text to find what kind of social and cultural person who live in the world of particular text. “This is basically a re-creation of the social and cultural society with the help of the text. It is to accommodate various sociological and anthropological investigation of the text. ” “It is divided into three categories: social and cultural topics, common social cultural topics and finally cultural categories.
The first one reveals the religious response to the world in its discourse. ” “This concerns question how do author and his audience views the world? do they see it evil? How would they react to it? ” “To get this done seven things Robbins states from Bryan R. Wilson 1. Conversionist. 2. revolutionist. 3. introversionist4. Gnostic manupulationist. 5. A thaumaturigal(worker of wonders) . 6. reformist and utopian (idealistic reformer). “Second category deals with common knowledge among the people of the text, they acquire this knowledge as they grow up in the community either consciously or instinctively. This analysis brings out the values, concepts and presuppositions of the first century like honour, shame, dyadic personalities, and contracts of reciprocity, challenge and response” 8. 4. Ideological texture Ideological analysis focuses on three places: writers and readers, other people’s interpretations of the text, and the text that is the guest in our interpretive conversation with each other. Thus ideological analysis focuses on the factors that shape and influence writers, readers, and the writing and reading of text. ” The understanding of ideology differs from person to person. Ideology from socio- Rhetoric perspective means that, “the ways in which what we say and believe connects with the power-structure and power-relations of the society we live in…those modes of feeling, valuing, perceiving and believing which have some kind of relation to the maintenance and reproduction of social power. “Ideology concerns the particular ways in which ones speech and action, in his/her social and cultural location, relates to and interconnect with resources, structures and institutions of power. ” “Thus Ideological texture concerns with the particular alliances and conflicts nurtured and evoked by the language of the text and the language of the interpretation as well as the way the text itself and interpreters of the text position themselves in relation to other individual groups(cliqe,gangs,actionset,faction,corporate group,historic traditions,multiple historic tradition throughout the world). “The four sub textures of ideological texture are the individual locations of writers and readers. (their presupposition, disposition and values), the relation to groups, membership in which influences readings and writers, modes of intellecual discourse,which is the particular perspective a reader subscribes to that sets boundaries around his/her readings, and spheres of ideology, which concerns the ideology inscribe in the text and how one may analyze it. “Robbins give three way to analys the sphere and ideology, first , analyzing the social and cultural location of the implied author which involves previous events, natural environment resources, population structure,technology,socialization and personality, culture, foreign affairs,belief system and ideologies and political, military, legal systems. ” “The other two are analyzing the idology of power indiscourse of the text, and analyzing the ideology in the mode of intellectual discourse both in the text and in the interpretation of the text. ” 8. 5. Sacred Texture
The last texture of Robbins socio-rhetoric interpretation is sacred texture. sacred texture is a texture that intertwined with each of the other four texture (inner,inter,social/cultural,and ideological), and refers to the manner which a text communicates insights into the relationship between the human and the divine. the texture includes aspects concerning deity, holy person, spirit beings, divine history, human redemption, human commitment, religious community(ecclesiology) and ethics. Robbins says that it the sacred element of the text and it speaks about God, or talks about the realm of religious.
Deity- presence of deity in the text Holy person – looking at the holy person in the text Spirit beings- it is also cosmology, and seeing the spirit being in the text Divine history- seeing divine history “God’s choosing of Abraham and his seed for justification of his people which is directed toward eschatology. ” Human redemption- it is a salvation history, God’s plan of salvation of human being. Response and Conclusion The on going study on socio- rhetoric criticism gives the new insight in approaching the New Testament. Socio-rhetorical interpretation has become a multi-dimensional approach to texts guided by a multi-dimensional hermeneutic. ” “It is an interpretive analytic approach that evaluates and re-orients its strategies as it engages in multi-faceted dialogue with the texts and other phenomena that come within its purview. ” This approach uses the insights of sociolinguistics, semiotics and ethnography in an inter-actionist mode that sets ancient, modern and post-modern systems of thought in energetic dialogue with one another.
The other side of the socio-rhetoric criticism is historical one not interpretation of the text but the construction of a new account of first century Christian. Bibliography Culpepper, R. Alan “Mapping the textures of New Testament Criticism: A response to socio- rhetorical criticism,” JSNTIO (1998) Article Lawrance Arren Bennet, Approaches to New Testament, HBI, M. Th 1st semester Robbins k. Vernon, Exploring texture of Text: A guide to Socio- rhetoric interpretation, USA: Trinity Press , 1996 ————————, The Tapestry of Early Christian Discourse: Rhetoric, Society and Ideology ,London: Routledge, 1996 ———————-, “socio rhetorical interpretation from its beginning to the present” Article ———————–, Response to What is in the Word. Ariticle ——————————————– [ 2 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, is the author of two classical books on socio- rhetoric criticism, 1. Exploring Texture of Text: A guide to socio-rhetoric Interpretation 2. Tapestry of early Christian discourse rhetoric, society and ideology. He claims that he is the one who created the term “socio- rhetoric”. [ 3 ]. Vernon. K. Robbins, The Tapestry of Early Christian Discourse: Rhetoric, Society and Ideology (London: Routledge, 1996), 18. [ 4 ]. Inner texture, inter- texture, social and cultural texture, ideological texture and sacred texture. [ 5 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring texture of Text: A guide to Socio- rhetoric interpretation, (USA: Trinity Press , 1996), 1. [ 6 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring texture of Text, 1. [ 7 ]. Arren Bennet Lawrence, Approaches to New Testament, HBI, M. Th 1st semester, 2010. 44. [ 8 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring texture of Text, 2. [ 9 ].
Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring texture of Text, 1. [ 10 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, “socio rhetorical interpretation from its beginning to the present”, 3 [ 11 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, “socio rhetorical interpretation from its beginning to the present”, 3 [ 12 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, “socio rhetorical interpretation from its beginning to the present”, 3 [ 13 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, “socio rhetorical interpretation from its beginning to the present”, 3 [ 14 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, “socio rhetorical interpretation from its beginning to the present”, 3 [ 15 ]. Vernon K.
Robbins, “socio rhetorical interpretation from its beginning to the present”, 4 [ 16 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, “socio rhetorical interpretation from its beginning to the present”, 4 [ 17 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, “socio rhetorical interpretation from its beginning to the present”, 5 [ 18 ]. Michaelhalcomb. blogspot. in. socio-rhetoric-did-vernon-html. 06/2012 [ 19 ]. Vernon Robbins in his response to the book “What’s in the Word: Rethinking the Socio-rhetorical Character of the New Testament” written by Ben Witherington says that “when I created the term socio-rhetoric” in the subtitle of Jesus the teacher. 20 ]. Michaelhalcomb. blogspot. in. socio-rhetoric-did-vernon-html. 06/2012 [ 21 ]. Arren Bennet Lawrence, Approaches to New Testament,44. [ 22 ]. Vernon Robbins, “Response to What’s in the Word: Rethinking the Socio-rhetorical Character of the New Testament” 19. [ 23 ]. Vernon Robbins, “Response to What’s in the Word: Rethinking the Socio-rhetorical Character of the New Testament” 20 [ 24 ]. Vernon Robbins, “Response to What’s in the Word: Rethinking the Socio-rhetorical Character of the New Testament” 23 [ 25 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring texture of Text,3. [ 26 ].
Arren Bennet Lawrence Approaches to New Testament, 44. [ 27 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring texture of Text, 3. [ 28 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, The Tapestry of Early Christian Discourse: Rhetoric, Society and Ideology, 21. [ 29 ]. Vernon Robbins, Tapestry,13. [ 30 ]. R. Alan Culpepper, “Mapping the textures of New Testament Criticism: A response to socio-rhetorical criticism,” JSNTIO (1998): 76. [ 31 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring texture of Text, 1. [ 32 ]. Arren Bennet Lawrence, Approaches to New Testament,44. [ 33 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring texture of Text, 2. 34 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring texture of Text, 3. [ 35 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring texture of Text,3 [ 36 ]. Arren Bennet Lawrence, Approaches to New Testament,44. [ 37 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring texture of Text,10. [ 38 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, Exploring texture of Text,12. [ 39 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, The Tapestry of Early Christian Discourse: Rhetoric, Society and Ideology, 30. [ 40 ]. Vernon Robbins, Explorig Texture of Text, 72 [ 41 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, The Tapestry of Early Christian Discourse: Rhetoric, Society and Ideology, 30. [ 42 ]. in intellectual discourse robbins follows john Gager in ‘asserting that conflict reaches its most intense level when it involves competing ideologies or competeting views of the same ideology. ” According to robbins there are three area of conflict,1. Conflict with Judaism over the claim to represent the true Israel. 2. conflict with paganism over the claim to posses true wisdom. 3. conflict among the Christian groups over the claim to embody the authentic faith of Jesus and apostels. ” Cited in Arren bennet lawrance, New Testament Approaches [ 43 ]. Vernon K. Robbins, “socio rhetorical interpretation from its beginning to the present”, 5