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parables of Socrates, of Jesus


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When one gets how important Greek rhetorical concepts were to the educated in the Roman empire, then isn't it important at least to speculate that Matthew is playing into these?


What we transliterate as logos, as parable, and as mystery are such concepts.


For example, in Book II of Aristotle's Rhetoric, he talks about the method of one of his greatest influences, his teacher and mentor, Socrates:


παραβολὴ δὲ τὰ Σωκρατικά, οἷον εἴ τις λέγοι

Not much later, Aristotle instructs his own disciples with warnings around fallacious rhetorical epistemologies. This looks and sounds like philosophic theory, as it is, but it's philosophic theory through the lens of rhetorical theory. And so here's this little caution:


Ἓν δὲ τὸ παρὰ τὴν ὁμωνυμίαν, ὡς τὸ φάναι σπουδαῖον εἶναι μῦν, ἀφ᾿ οὗ γ᾿ ἐστὶν ἡ τιμιωτάτη πασῶν τελετή· τὰ γὰρ μυστήρια πασῶν τιμιωτάτη τελετή. ἢ εἴ τις κύνα ἐγκωμιάζων τὸν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ συμπαραλαμβάνει ἢ τὸν Πᾶνα, ὅτι Πίνδαρος ἔφησεν

ὦ μάκαρ, ὅν τε μεγάλας θεοῦ κύνα παντοδαπὸν
καλέουσιν Ὀλύμπιοι.

ἢ ὅτι τὸ μηδένα εἶναι κύνα ἀτιμότατόν ἐστιν, ὥστε τὸ κύνα δῆλον ὅτι τίμιον. καὶ τὸ κοινωνικὸν φάναι τὸν Ἑρμῆν εἶναι μάλιστα τῶν θεῶν· μόνος γὰρ καλεῖται κοινὸς Ἑρμῆς. καὶ τὸ τὸν λόγον εἶναι σπουδαιότατον, ὅτι οἱ ἀγαθοὶ ἄνδρες οὐ χρημάτων ἀλλὰ λόγου εἰσὶν ἄξιοι· τὸ γὰρ λόγου ἄξιον οὐχ ἁπλῶς λέγεται.


What Aristotle seems to be saying is that Socrates's method of parable is only one way to generate knowledge. And then where there are mysteries of heaven there are ambiguities of the logos potentially, fallacies of argumentation in rhetoric.

Matthew 13 has a similar teacher/mentor relationship around these concepts. Except Jesus comes across as following Socrates and flaunting the dogmatism of an Aristotle, who would be more like those opposing Jesus, those unable to see all that God is showing the students of Jesus:


10 Καὶ προσελθόντες οἱ μαθηταὶ εἶπαν αὐτῷ·

Διὰ τί ἐν παραβολαῖς λαλεῖς αὐτοῖς; 


11 ὁ δὲ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτοῖς·

Ὅτι ὑμῖν δέδοται γνῶναι τὰ μυστήρια τῆς βασιλείας τῶν οὐρανῶν, ἐκείνοις δὲ οὐ δέδοται. 

A reader who got the rhetorical theories of the Greeks would see how Jesus is working with his disciples in a Socratic way. And the explicit terms, the illustrating of and the questioning of the rhetorical didactic method, suggest that Matthew is engaging us his readers in epistemological disputes. We're made to side with Jesus and his disciples. We are given, with them, not only the parable and its explanation but also its very raison d'être.

Edited by jkgayle
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