Thursday, 30 April 2015

Johannes Breuer: The Rhetoric of Persuasion as Hermeneutical Key to Arnobius' Adversus nationes

At about 300 A.D. Arnobius of Sicca, a teacher of rhetoric who had converted to Christianity at an advanced age, composed an apologetic work entitled Adversus nationes. In this treatise Christian faith is defended against a great number of reproaches. In particular, he deals with the accusation that the pagan Roman gods have been annoyed by the fact that many human beings stopped worshipping them and became Christians and therefore afflicted the world with wars, cataclysms, and famines.
Although no one would deny that Arnobius' work is interspersed with rhetorical devices, scholars usually criticised this feature (mainly for aesthetical reasons) arguing that the church father simply could not help employing these techniques due to his profession. An analysis of the text, however, that takes into acccount how rhetorical elements contribute to conveying the author's particular concerns, seems to be much more beneficial for the general understanding of the work. This is even more relevant since Arnobius himself chose the situation of a trial as fictional framework for his apologia.
In my paper, I would like to present the presuppositions, the legitimation and one specific example of this rhetorical or functional approach of analysis that may yield a hermeneutical key to the supposed aesthetical defects of the work. Moreover, the insights into the rhetorical nature of Adversus nationes might also have consequences on how we should evaluate the historical value of, for example, Arnobius' presentations of philosophical doctrines.

No comments:

Post a Comment