I base this question on Krajewski's opinion that

"the dialogue associated with rhetoric also defines hermeneutics--where one enters into a conversation with a text" (Krajewski, B. (1992). Traveling with Hermes: Hermeneutics and rhetoric. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press. (p. 8))

Also, he seems to imply that some devices of interpretation have critical dependencies on rhetoric as it appeals to Ockham's razor.

"any attempt to justify an interpretation cannot rely on syllogistic proofs or absolute truth but must instead appeal to the probable and the common--the rhetorical" (p. 12).

I have tried to make this question as specific as possible. I understand that some might consider it too void of qualification. However, I would like to avoid erring on the side of presumption, with regard to what those qualifications might be. So, if you have caveats, feel free to express them.

First Edit:
My initial apprehension, regarding this question, was one of scope. I regret, that in the process of negotiating that concern, I become remiss in terms of presumption, with regard to my audience. This is a significant embarrassment to the subject of my post, considering that it is Cicero's (all controversy of authorship aside) first principle of [Invention], the first canon of rhetoric, found in his first century Latin text(Rhetorica ad Herennium). For me, that is too many firsts to excuse.

As a result, I may have inadvertently been responsible for drawing at least one individual into an embarrassing situation. Please accept my apology along with the following clarification which I had no right to assume, even in an academic setting.

(Provision of Ethics) Roland Meynet, Jesuit, Doctor-es-Lettres, has taught for twenty years at St. Joseph University in Beirut and the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem. For twenty years he has been teaching Biblical Theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. In 2006 he was awarded the Grand prix de philosophie de l'Académie Française.

Here is an English translation, composed of his topics relating to rhetorical analysis and exegesis, taken from this source.

(Meynet, Roland. (Ed. & Trans.). (2012). Treatise on Biblical Rhetoric : International Studies in the History of Rhetoric (Vol. 3)).

My clarification based on these sources:

Rhetorical analysis is not rhetoric. It is a specific paradigm of critical analysis, which holds rhetoric as its subject; assuming at least, Cicero's first three canons. Being that biblical exegesis is the context, I have excluded the fourth and fifth canons, which apply mainly to oration and gesture. However, in the case of any coincidental narrative which provides insight to the authors passion, such as tone of voice or gesture, these should be considered when attempting to derive the authors intent.

Rhetorical analysis is not textual-criticism. It does, however, primitively enforce the following intrinsic probabilities of internal evidence, as outlined in Metzger's criteria for textual-criticism.

Metzger, The Text of the New Testament, pp. 209-210

-style and vocabulary of the author throughout. (Who, How)
-Immediate context. (When, Where, Why)
-Harmony of the author throughout. (Who, How, When, Where)
-Cultural background and influence. (Who, Where, When)

This is nowhere near a complete definition of rhetorical analysis. The grasp that anyone may have of this; its concepts, will be directly proportional to their comprehension of rhetorical devices; the subject of analysis.

Second Edit:

Apparently, I also need to include a definition for rhetoric. Once again, my apologies.

This first definition, from Mariam Webster, is the one we are concerned with.

-the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the use of figures of speech and other compositional techniques.

Greek literal is "to say". Reason->rhetoric, is as, soul->body. This is the only association in which these two words can be brought into union, with respect to their disparate, and persistent etymologies.

  • Is it your assumption that analysis of the text as though it were Greek rhetoric applies to a text written from within and to a Hebrew culture? It is conceivable that the NT was written to a Greek culture to try and explain the text of the Old. What if your presumed genre is incorrect?
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 17:39
  • No. Can you help direct me to the exact location in my post, that led you to believe that I hold any strict association to Greek rhetoric and scripture? I will correct it immediately. Cicero was Latin, but I do not hold that association either. The title of Krajewski's book is almost as misleading as Ch. 2, titled Socrates and Cicero (Greek and Latin). I suspect someone would be wanting a refund if they bought it expecting to learn Greek classifications of rhetoric. Webster provided both literals. In hindsight I wish I had chosen the Latin. No sir, I do not assume. Commented Dec 25, 2016 at 22:47
  • Thank you for your clarifications. " It is a specific paradigm of critical analysis, which holds rhetoric as its subject;" " Being that biblical exegesis is the context" So I understand that you are analyzing the rhetoric of the Bible (Hebrew) in the context of the definitions of Cicero... a Greek. I expect it to be different than when one applies Hebrew Logic : thelogician.net/JUDAIC-LOGIC/…
    – Bob Jones
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 14:36

2 Answers 2


A comment on Rhetorical Analysis

Rhetorical analysis is simply the analysis of the way in which a speaker or writer attempts to make their point. In doing this, according to rhetoricians, a speaker or author will appeal to one of three modes of persuasion: Ethos, Logos and Pathos. These are known as the Rhetorical Triangle:

Rhetorical Triangle

Rhetorical analysis then is analysis of the use of Ethos, Logos and Pathos to persuade an audience. According to Krajewski then, in the case of Scripture, The Bible is the Subject of the Rhetorical Analysis; that is it is the Rhetoric being analyzed. It is pure reason which is used to analyze a work of Rhetoric.

In an ideal world...

In a world in which truth is objective, the answer is yes - only rhetorical analysis is needed in order to understand the meaning of a text and we need sola scriptura to understand the meaning of the text. The rhetorical arguments contained in scripture are plain the authorial intent is obvious.

But in the real world...

The Greek philosopher Protagoras points out that truth is not objective, or at least our perception of truth is not. And we can see this occur in the formation of denominations. For example, this can be seen in the doctrines of Predestination. Both an Armenian and a Calvinist will claim a "plain and obvious" reading of scripture, yet will arrive at opposing conclusions regarding the nature of God and the free will (or lack thereof) of mankind. There are many other doctrines and passages like this that have led to many denominations in Protestantism.

It depends on the Hermeneutic framework

In order to account for the realities of Protagoras' epiphany that truth is subject to the perspective of the beholder, Albert C. Outler outlined the Weslyan Quadrilateral in his introduction to John Wesley's writings in 1964.. In this framework, it is recognized not so much that truth itself is relative, but that our ability to perceive truth has been corrupted at the fall of mankind. As such, we cannot help but hold inaccurate views of truth. According to Wesley and Outler, Truth comes from Scripture. In order to help us guard against misinterpreting scripture, we need 3 main tools for determining the meaning of said scripture (which is the process of hermeneutics) These tools according to Wesley and Outler are Reason, Tradition and Personal experience (revelation). According to Outler and Wesley, we need to understand that we will necessarily view truth/scripture through that lenses. But Outler and Wesley also taught that these 3 things alone were not sufficient in and of themselves, the must be placed on the foundation of Scripture (this is know as prima scriptura.) This is often depicted in the following manner(s):

Quadrilateral Diagram 1Qaudrilateral Diagram 2

So it is not just Reason/Analysis and Scripture/Rhetoric needed, but these must be supplemented with Tradition and Experience in order to fully understand the meaning of scripture.


This idea that our perspective influences how we interpret the text (and vice versa) is known as the Hermeneutical Circle. In terms of the Wesleyan hermeneutical method, it is clear that no, reason/rhetorical analysis alone is sufficient in and of itself unless there is no tradition surrounding the text in question and you have no experience or personal revelation regarding the text. Other methodologies may differ, but I think it is clear for at least this hermeneutic framework, usually one can not only appeal to the rhetorical.

Rhetorical Analysis is also different in that it seeks to understand how a speaker persuaded his audience. Conversely, Hermeneutcs seeks to understand what a text should mean to an individual.

Now, one might claim that Wesley is simply using tradition as Ethos and experiences as Pathos to persuade that one's audience that their analysis of Rhetoric/Scripture is the correct one. While the theologian might do so, for the individual, the one they are persuading is only themselves. They have no audience to persuade. Furthermore, it is not a given that these areas will work in favor of the individual or theologian. Perhaps tradition contradicts yet the individual concludes that Reason, Scripture and Experience override traditional values. Similarly, it is not a given that the interpreter's audience (if they even have one) will share their experience or personal revelation. Furthermore, experience is something more than just a feeling shared with an audience. It may be revelation received from the divine Holy Spirit himself - which is well above and beyond the empathy, values or beliefs of an audience. In these ways, tradition and experience are markedly distinct from Ethos and Pathos. For the theologian, these supplement the triangle resulting in a Rhetorical pentagon and for the individual seeking to determine a proper interpretation, there is no pathos to speak of.

  • @AbstractionIsEverything: I have edited this answer to better address some of your concerns and your edit to the OP. Commented Dec 20, 2016 at 4:26
  • I would also +1 for the effort, but I already up-cast my vote on your answer when it was -1. So, the best I can do is offer it here so +1 James, thank you. Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 7:02
  • You are actually able to change your vote after an edit, for future reference. Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 16:22
  • It keeps trying to reverse my up-vote. When I try that. Then it wants to give you neg 1 Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 16:25
  • 2
    @Abstractioniseverything. I believe you two are talking past each-other. You only get to cast one vote (up or down). You don't have enough rep yet on this site to even cast down votes, so the only thing you can do is upvote (or not). Once you cast your upvote it is locked unless the user edits the answer. It sounds like you already upvoted this, so you can't upvote it again. The only thing you con do is remove your upvote and it sounds like that isn't your goal. The score this is a sum of all the up and down votes so there is somebody else's downvote out on this, summing to zero.
    – Caleb
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 15:31

Hermeneutics is, according to the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (6th ed.),

a branch of knowledge that deals with (theories of) interpretation, esp. of Scripture.

In the source you quote above, Krajewski seems to be defining a particular hermeneutic principle, and not hermeneutics itself.

Hermeneutic principles can be arbitrary. I can, for example, define a hermeneutic that proposes that secret meanings can be found in scripture by transposing certain words into numbers.


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