Action Filename Size Access Description License


This dissertation, “The Pharisees and Figured Speech in Luke-Acts,” reevaluates the long-standing debate about the Pharisees in these writings. A scholarly consensus holds that Luke is ambivalent toward the Pharisees, or at least that he has left readers with an ambiguous depiction of them. What previous evaluations of the Lukan Pharisees have left unanswered, however, is why Luke would give such an impression of these characters and then what might lie behind the rhetorical effects of “ambiguity.” I argue the thesis that there is ambiguity in the Lukan Pharisees because, in his portrayals of them, the author has applied what ancient Greco-Roman rhetoricians call “figured speech.” The rhetorician Demetrius explains that this rhetorical style can be “ambiguous” and that it “might cause confusion as to whether it is admiration or ironic mockery” (Eloc. 291). The fact that the Lukan Pharisees appear ambiguous to some readers does not necessarily mean that Luke was also undecided about or ambivalent toward them; for the use of figured speech can presuppose a firm and critical stance on the characters in view. This attempt to solve the conundrum about the Lukan Pharisees first requires that we define more fully what Demetrius refers to as being “figured.” Therefore, in PART ONE of the dissertation (chapters one through five), I analyze figured speech as discussed among ancient Greco-Roman rhetoricians. Demetrius explains that one aim of the true figure of speech is “security” (ἀσφάλεια, Eloc. 287). For him the purpose of “security” is to provide a safeguard against those members of the audience—as he calls them, “powerful men and women” and “tyrants” (Eloc. 289, 292, 293)—who might take offense at criticism and retaliate with some form of punishment. Pseudo-Dionysius affirms this point in remarking that an orator will apply figured speech “for the sake of security [ἀσφάλεια] against the hearers” (Ars Rhet. 8.2). The author notes that sometimes a speaker may defer “freedom of speech” (παρρησία) about a matter as though to address it on another occasion (Ars Rhet. 8.4). In the second treatise on figured speech in Pseudo-Dionysius, this author too explains, “One must observe that figured speeches are invented in dangerous situations” (Ars Rhet. 9.5). Accordingly, one particular form of figured speech can offer “a secure [ἀσφαλής] display of what will be said before the free speech [παρρησία] that is later to be said, forestalling the distress of its hearing.” As the rhetoricians define it, figured speech is the opposite of “freedom of speech” (παρρησία). According to the discussion on “figured problems” from the writings attributed to Apsines and Hermogenes, figured speech is applied “whenever we are unable to speak because we are hindered [κωλύειν] and do not have freedom of speech [παρρησία].” Their discussion corresponds closely with one of the “figured problems” Quintilian describes as a situation in which “it is unsafe to speak openly” (Inst. 9.2.66), a scenario for speaking he also claims was “commonly taught in the schools” (Inst. 9.2.67). When such a figure is applied under conditions of tyranny, he elucidates, the speaker not only evades danger through “the ambiguity of the meaning,” he or she also wins favor among the audience through such a display of craftiness (Inst. 9.2.67-68). He explains that one can actually speak against tyrants as openly as one wishes, “as long as the speech is able to be understood also in another way” (Inst. 9.2.67). In PART TWO (chapters six through eight), I ask whether Luke is hinting at this rhetorical style through the culminating point of his preface, “security” (ἀσφάλεια, Luke 1.4), which seems to anticipate the culminating point of the double-work, “with full freedom of speech [παρρησία] without hindrance” (Acts 28.31). This narrative framing suggests that readers could not only know the “truth” (another possible translation of ἀσφάλεια) about which matters they had been taught, but they could also have “security” in using the two books and perhaps even learn the rhetorical art of “circumspection” (yet another usage of ἀσφάλεια) through reading them—an art that may have been necessary at least until they reached a point where free speech was possible. PART THREE (chapters nine through eleven) then analyzes those scenes in the Gospel where the author juxtaposes the Pharisees alongside characters who receive physical healing. Here I evaluate whether these healings serve as analogs or points of contrast for diagnosing the moral health of the Lukan Pharisees. Some statements from within these contexts would suggest that the author regards the Pharisees as morally just. Yet there is a tension in the fact that the author also applies to the Pharisees certain passions that within moral philosophical traditions often typify unjust persons. I closely examine whether any of these statements and depictions would qualify as figured speech and then revisit the question of possible consequences for using free speech, as opposed to figured speech. In PART FOUR (chapters twelve through sixteen), I examine whether the author uses figured speech in order to position the Pharisees in relation to the kingdom of God, which includes the question of where they stand on the kingship of Jesus. On more than one occasion within the Gospel, the Pharisees appear sincerely to offer Jesus advice that would enable him to avoid the kind of peril that might result from politically subversive speech. Yet each time, Jesus responds by differentiating his own position from that of the Pharisees and furthermore by lamenting over Jerusalem. Accordingly, I evaluate what significance these characters may have had for Christian readers during the wake of 70 CE, and also to what degree the author conflates the Pharisees with or distinguishes them from Christians. After evaluating the evidence, I conclude that Luke has indeed partially hidden many of his criticisms against the Pharisees. He furthermore seems to have carefully mediated between full disclosure and complete concealment in making such criticisms, which may account for the “ambiguity” and complexity that many scholars had already observed in the Lukan Pharisees. Moreover, what appears to concretize this broader ambiguous picture are the multiple instances in which Luke uses an ambiguous word (and in one instance an ambiguous arrangement of words) in characterizing the Pharisees and those who speak to them. Yet I demonstrate also that Luke’s use of rhetorical figures is not limited to those that are constructed through ambiguity. It appears that he aimed to arouse suspicions about the Pharisees through, for example, allusions, analogies, rhetorical comparisons, personification, the inflection of a given word, and irony. Such figures enabled him to offer his criticisms in a discreet and secure fashion, albeit with the effect that sometimes the figures and thus the points of critique either go unnoticed or are even understood as laudatory. Luke’s figured depictions of the Pharisees may reflect a social context in which the Christian message was a matter of controversy between (Jewish) Christians and (other) Jews. The diagnoses that the Pharisees and their rulers are unjust and display the passions of unjust persons are best contextualized by moral philosophical diatribe and as ways for one group of teachers to inveigh against a rivaling group. While Luke assumes that Pharisees could become Christians, the evidence that one could be a Pharisee and Christian simultaneously is tenuous. The two groups appear to be divided over questions concerning what constitutes the kingdom of God, whether its king had arrived, and if so whether they can speak this message openly.


Additional Details


Download Full History