Paul's Oral/Written Discourse

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Daniel Watts
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Paul's Oral/Written Discourse

Post by Daniel Watts » July 21st, 2013, 10:03 am

My recent foray into DA has led me to Levinsohn and Dooley's "Analyzing Discourse". I had a quick scan through and noticed the part about variations between oral and written discourse. I know its been a bit of a hot topic in Biblical Studies as to how Paul's letters were produced and intended to be communicated. Its regularly claimed that Paul used an amanuensis to copy down his 'discourse', but there are a variety of opinions about how influential this amanuensis could be. Alongside this is the recognition that we should assume a relatively low literacy rate among the house churches Paul writes too, and that Paul was communicating to the ear and not the eye.

Im relatively certain that most Rhetorical Criticism is wrong headed on this issue, in that it makes the Roman/Greek oratory manuals the standard. Not that Paul is not using Rhetoric, but that it is not the standard Greco-Roman Rhetoric of someone like Cicero. But in terms of DA, given these factors, how do we go about categorizing a letter like Galatians for example? Should we consider it orally/aurally, or literarily? And secondly, how would this recognition effect our analysis? (Levinsohn points out that deviation from a default or unmarked word order is more likely in Speech than in writing)

Take this for example:
Gal 1:8-9
ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐὰν ἡμεῖς ἢ ἄγγελος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ εὐαγγελίσηται ὑμῖν παρ’ ὃ εὐηγγελισάμεθα ὑμῖν, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω.
ὡς προειρήκαμεν, καὶ ἄρτι πάλιν λέγω, εἴ τις ὑμᾶς εὐαγγελίζεται παρ’ ὃ παρελάβετε, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω.

Paul here seems to repeat himself. The ὡς προειρήκαμεν looks like it is referring to the previous verse, in other words "As we have just said...". This hardly seems necessary for a letter designed to be read. But to a listening audience, it strongly emphasises the point.

This is all new to me so if this is obvious just let me know :).
Dan
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Stephen Carlson
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Re: Paul's Oral/Written Discourse

Post by Stephen Carlson » July 21st, 2013, 10:52 am

Daniel Watts wrote:Take this for example:
Gal 1:8-9
ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐὰν ἡμεῖς ἢ ἄγγελος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ εὐαγγελίσηται ὑμῖν παρ’ ὃ εὐηγγελισάμεθα ὑμῖν, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω.
ὡς προειρήκαμεν, καὶ ἄρτι πάλιν λέγω, εἴ τις ὑμᾶς εὐαγγελίζεται παρ’ ὃ παρελάβετε, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω.

Paul here seems to repeat himself. The ὡς προειρήκαμεν looks like it is referring to the previous verse, in other words "As we have just said...". This hardly seems necessary for a letter designed to be read. But to a listening audience, it strongly emphasises the point.

This is all new to me so if this is obvious just let me know :).
Dan
I like your points, but there's a sense of a false dichotomy behind them. Paul's letters to the churches were meant to be read (aloud) to congregations. I don't know of any scholar who thinks that private reading was intended by them. But reading aloud was how a lot of literature was conveyed in antiquity. In fact, even the forensic rhetoric was designed to be (memorized and) delivered orally. As such, I cannot get too worked up about the issue of oral or written, when we're really looking at both-and.

To be sure, there are differences between a more literary style and a lower style. Often this manifests its in clause length etc. and occasionally, we can see how this shows up grammatically. I'm not really aware of any particular studies on this, but even first year students can readily see a difference in the kind of Greek between, say, Mark and Hebrews.
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MAubrey
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Re: Paul's Oral/Written Discourse

Post by MAubrey » July 21st, 2013, 12:24 pm

There is a certainly an oral element to Paul's letters--and if fact most ancient letters, but I'm fairly confident that when Dooley & Levinsohn are referring to when they say 'oral' fits more along the lines of on-the-fly speech with all of its uhm's, uh's, and the like. In modern minority cultures with established oral traditions of story telling or campfire stories contemporary North America, these stories are certainly oral in nature in that they are spoke, they are 'written' in the sense that they are established narratives/dialogues lacking many of the expected features of natural spoken language.

So technically, while they do certainly sit on the border of spoken and written and will likely have discourse features of both, linguistically they more in common with written language than spoken language.
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Daniel Watts
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Re: Paul's Oral/Written Discourse

Post by Daniel Watts » July 21st, 2013, 4:27 pm

Thanks for the replies guys. I guess our only option is to study it as written discourse anyway as we don't have any tapes if Paul or any o his minions performing the letter. On a related note, do you think urgency might be a factor that impacts some aspects of analysis. If a letter was being compose quickly, there would be less time for editing and choosing words etc.

So much to speculate about :s
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Re: Paul's Oral/Written Discourse

Post by MAubrey » July 21st, 2013, 5:32 pm

That might contribute something to the language...though I'd be hesitant to say one way or the other.

If you wanted to, you could work through the distinctions Dooley & Levinsohn make for the differences between written and spoken language, attempt formulate some evaluative procedures on that basis and then do an analysis of one of Paul's letters on that basis. Depending on how the feasibility, that might make for a decent journal article.
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Daniel Watts
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Re: Paul's Oral/Written Discourse

Post by Daniel Watts » July 22nd, 2013, 3:22 am

Or an MA dissertation... Hmmm gives me head start!!
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