Re: What Are the Implications that Peter Taught in 'Anecdotes'?
Posted: Wed Mar 18, 2020 9:22 am
Interestingly Gowler makes the case the gospels were developed as composition textbooks. Here is the article. I am quite amazed how interesting new research on the gospels is. There is always new stuff to learn and consider!
7 The Chreia
David B. Gowler
Because Hellenistic culture inﬂuenced both Diaspora and Palestinian Judaism to varying extents, the New Testament Gospels cannot be understood in some pristine “Jewish” manner divorced from the wider culture. A careful reading of the Gospels, in fact, makes clear that they are multicultural; they merge biblical patterns with Hellenistic patterns and conventions. This multicultural context is essential for understanding the words and actions of Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels and, therefore, for the study of the historical Jesus himself. The recognition of the chreia form, for example, has signiﬁcant implications for the study of the New Testament in general and the Synoptic Gospels in particular. In brief, the composition of the stories in the Synoptic Gospels is very similar to such exercises as the expansion and elaboration of chreiai found in other ancient literature and delineated in ancient rhetorical handbooks.
Deﬁnitions The best deﬁnitions of chreia appear within the compositional textbooks that eventually came to be known as Progymnasmata. The Progymnasmata, or “preliminary exercises,” were written for the purpose of instilling the fundamental skills necessary for students to progress into the more complex forms of composing longer speeches and narratives. The two handbooks most important for the study of the Gospels are the ones by Aelius Theon of Alexandria (middle to late ﬁrst century CE) and Hermogenes of Tarsus (second century CE). Although the fourth-century CE textbook by Apthonius came to be the standard by which other Progymnasmata were judged, it is too late to give us ﬁrm information about ﬁrst-century practices. It does, however, provide valuable information about the chreia, when its deﬁnition is evaluated in light of the ones given by Theon and Hermogenes: A chreia is a brief statement or action that is aptly attributed to some person or something analogous to a person (Theon 3–4).
A chreia is a remembrance of some saying or action or a manifestation of both that has a concise resolution for the purpose of something useful (Hermogenes 3–4). A chreia is a concise remembrance aptly attributed to some person. Since it is useful, it is called a chreia (Apthonius 2–4).
These slightly different deﬁnitions reveal four essential elements of a chreia (Hock and O’Neil 1986: 23–27). First, the term remembrance (or “reminiscence”) formally denotes a saying, an action, or a combination of both, an aspect made partially in Theon’s deﬁnition and more completely in Hermogenes’ deﬁnition. Second, a chreia is brief or concise. There is an economy of words, and the point is made forcefully through a succinct recounting of a person’s words and/or deeds. Third, a chreia must be “aptly attributed.” On one hand, the chreia needed to suit the character of the person who spoke or acted it. The correspondence between the point of chreia and the person to whom it was attributed was critical. On the other hand, the chreia needed to be “well aimed” in the sense that it was appropriate to the situation that it addressed. Fourth, the chreia was not used merely as an anecdote. Often, as Hermogenes notes, the words and deeds in a chreia reinforce each other to make a speciﬁc “useful” point, and Apthonius states that the chreia must be “useful.” Another quotation from Theon makes this point explicit as well: “It has the name chreia because of its excellence, for more than other exercises it is useful in many ways for life” (Theon 25–26). The chreia thus was used not only to capture the character and the quick wit of the person who spoke or acted; it also was used (but not always) as an example to hearers/readers for how they should—or should not—act or behave. Theon also explains how the chreia is different from the proverb (gno¯me¯). A proverb is never attributed to a person. Once a proverb is attributed to a person, however, it becomes a chreia. A proverb also makes only a general statement, whereas a chreia could make either a general or a speciﬁc statement. In addition, a proverb almost always concerned something useful in life or had some sort of moral. A chreia, on the other hand, sometimes did not. Finally, the proverb is always only a saying, but a chreia could be a saying, an action, or a combination of both (Theon 5–18). The difference between the two forms can be seen by comparing the proverb “God helps those who help themselves” with the following chreia: Seeing someone perform rites of puriﬁcation, [Diogenes] said, “Unhappy person, do you not know that you cannot get rid of errors of conduct by sprinklings any more than you can errors in grammar?” (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 6:42; third century CE)
Implications for the Study of the New Testament and the Historical Jesus An exploration of chreiai in ancient literature, including the exercises and elaborations found in the Progymnasmata, gives us signiﬁcant comparative data that provide insights into how the chreiai in the Synoptic Gospels were created, transmitted, and reworked. Versions of chreiai in the Synoptics demonstrate the same types of similarities and differences as do those in other ancient literature. The skills learned through these exercises also inﬂuence or even determine how chreiai are manipulated in literary compositions, such as we ﬁnd in the Synoptic Gospels. Thus the level of rhetorical composition in the Synoptics is quite similar to the progymnastic tradition of secondary Hellenistic-Roman education. Progymnasmata were a standard part of the ﬁrst-century CE educational curriculum, and the exercises found in them represent widespread educational practices from the early ﬁrst century BCE. The work performed in these texts prepared students to use chreiai rhetorically within extended prose composition (Bonner 1977: 250, 276; Hock and O’Neil 2002: 81–83). These exercises took youths one step at a time through the skills required to construct more complex rhetorical compositions. The basic emphasis was to develop students’ abilities to say and write the same thing—or variations of the same thing—in different ways. These exercises thus also greatly inﬂuenced students’ skills of oral argumentation. The rhetorical handbooks and other chreia elaborations in ancient literature demonstrate that speakers/authors were free to vary the wording, details, and dynamics of chreiai according to their ideological and rhetorical interests. Speakers/authors were taught and encouraged to make minor and/or major changes to bring clarity and persuasiveness to the point they wanted to make with a chreia in speciﬁc contexts. This rhetorical exercise necessarily inﬂuenced the Synoptics, although only recently has its impact been acknowledged. Most New Testament scholarship has been dominated by a literary paradigm that focused on the written word. Source criticism, for example, attempted to identify the earliest written materials (e.g., the Q “document”) and how Gospel authors incorporated those texts into their Gospels. Form criticism focused on small units of oral tradition, tried to classify them according to literary forms or types (e.g., pronouncement story), and examined the stages of development. Even when scholars gave lip service to the period of “oral tradition,” they often implicitly still used a literary paradigm (e.g., an approach that assumed one pristine “original” version of a saying or action of Jesus) when discussing that oral period. Redaction criticism also concentrated on written texts and sources and primarily examined how authors redacted their (written) sources. More recent forms of literary criticism, such as reader-response criticism, also operate within the assumptions of a literary paradigm. Today, some scholars correctly reject the dominance of the literary paradigm for the study of the Gospels. These scholars investigate how different an “oral culture” is from modern society’s focus on the written word. For example, they readily admit that no single, pristine “original form” of a saying ever existed; there were most likely several versions of a tradition from the very beginning. What we have are oral performances in a group setting, and these performances varied according to memory, context, and group interactions.
The critical ﬂaw in all the above approaches, however, is that the Synoptic Gospels were not created/written in a “literary culture” or an “oral culture.” The Synoptic Gospels were instead created in a rhetorical environment where oral and written speech interacted closely with one another. In the type of environment evidenced by the Progymnasmata, for example, writing/speaking and rewriting/retelling chreiai were preparatory exercises for adapting a unit for a larger rhetorical/literary persuasive setting. The written exercises within the Progymnasmata, therefore, also greatly inﬂuenced the oral skills of argumentation, since students were required to express them orally as well (cf. Robbins 1991; Bonner 1977: 250–76). This interaction of oral and written speech characterizes the type of rhetorical composition we see in the Synoptic Gospels in particular. More conservative interpreters defend the basic authenticity of the traditions of/about Jesus by focusing on the “reliable” transmission of oral traditions. Some note that the words and deeds of Jesus must have had a significant impact and made a lasting memory on those first followers of Jesus who formed the nucleus of the post-Easter movement. Some even claim that the tradition reached a fairly fixed form during Jesus’ public activity in Galilee. These interpreters also argue that the “accuracy” of those traditions as they were being remembered, interpreted, and transmitted would have been guaranteed by eyewitnesses. A study of chreiai, the Progymnasmata, and the Gospels, however, belies these claims. The Gospels give decisive evidence that they were created using the basic rhetorical exercises of the Progymnasmata, such as the techniques for expanding or condensing chreiai. The issue is not whether some sort of “corporate memory” was there to impose standards of accuracy on oral traditions that varied from the very beginning. The critical issue is that changes in the tradition by the Gospel authors were deliberate, and that such changes were standard rhetorical exercises used to teach students how to read/write/speak Greek. This standard rhetorical practice meant that changes could be slight or substantial. The type and amount of expansion, elaboration, or other changes in the chreiai found in the Synoptics are generated by the author’s rhetorical interests and perspective. By demonstrating the importance of the chreia for a study of the Synoptics, I am not arguing that complex “formal” rhetoric was used to create them. The preliminary rhetorical exercises found in the Progymnasmata represent widespread educational practice, and examples of these exercises permeate the Synoptics. A focus on the chreia also demonstrates that “rhetoric” is not merely stylistic; it is social discourse and encompasses societal formation, and therefore interpreters should focus also on the social and cultural contexts of the speaker/writer and audience, not just on the elaboration or expansion of chreiai. Explorations of chreiai move beyond focusing on either the sayings or deeds of Jesus. They lead into a productive examination of the dialogic interaction of the words and deeds in the chreia, and interdisciplinary investigations of the impact of those chreiai (cf. Gowler 1993; 2003).
Types of Chreiai Theon categorizes three main types of chreiai: sayings-chreiai, action-chreiai, and mixed-chreiai. Sayings-chreiai make their primary point in words, not action: for example, Diogenes the philosopher, on being asked by someone how he could become famous, responded: “By worrying as little as possible about fame” (Theon 31–35). To this we might compare Luke 21:1–4, “[Jesus] looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.’ ” Sayings can be further categorized, because the saying could either be an unprompted statement or a reaction to a speciﬁc situation. An example of an unprompted saying-chreia from Theon (39–40) is: “Isocrates the sophist used to say that gifted students are children of the Gods.” Similarly, Matthew 6:19–20 reads: “[Jesus began to speak and taught them, saying,] ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.’ ” The other type of sayings-chreiai includes a response to a speciﬁc circumstance, often taking the form of a response to a question or as a witty riposte to a speciﬁc situation: “When someone praised an orator for his ability in making much of small matters, Agesilaus said that a shoemaker is not a good craftsman who puts big shoes on small feet” (Plutarch, Moralia, III:208C; 100–125 CE). The same form appears in the Gospel of Thomas (100): “They showed Jesus a gold coin and said to him, ‘Caesar’s people demand taxes from us.’ He said to them, ‘Give Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, give God the things that are God’s, and give me what is mine.’ ” Action-chreiai, on the other hand, reveal some thought or message through an action unaccompanied by a saying: “Crates, when he saw an uneducated youth, struck his teacher” (Greek: pedagogue; Quintillian 26–27; ﬁrst century CE). Theon (100–102) offers the following example: “Diogenes the Cynic philosopher, on seeing a boy who was a gourmand, struck the teacher with his staff ”; Hermogenes (10–11) gives the variant: “Diogenes, on seeing a youth misbehaving, beat the teacher.” From the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (2:1), we ﬁnd another actionchreia: “When this boy Jesus was ﬁve years old he was playing at the ford of a brook, and he gathered together into pools the water that ﬂowed by, and made it at once clean, and commanded it by his word alone.” Finally, the third type of chreia, the mixed-chreia, shares characteristics of both the saying-chreia and the action-chreia. Some differences in formulation occur in the Progymnasmata. Theon argues that the primary point of the mixed-chreia is made through the action, and he gives the following example: “Pythagoras the philosopher, on being asked how long human life is, went up to his bedroom and peeked in for a short time, showing thereby its brevity” (Theon 111–13). Mark 1:29–31 presents the same form: “As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-inlaw was in bed with a fever, and they told [Jesus] about her at once. He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.” The problem with the focus on action, however, means that sometimes the point of the chreia can be unclear. Note how Theon’s example above has to include an explanatory elaboration about life’s brevity. In contrast to Theon, Hermogenes correctly recognizes that the focus of the mixed chreia could also be made (more clearly) through the ﬁnal comment or riposte. This focus allows a ﬁnal comment by the main character in the chreia to elucidate the main point. For example, “One day [Diogenes] shouted out for men, and when people gathered, hit out at them with his stick, saying, ‘I called for men, not scoundrels’ ” (Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers 6:32; third century CE). Another example would be: “Diogenes, on seeing a youth misbehaving, beat the teacher and said, ‘Why were you teaching such things?’ ” (Hermogenes 6:13–15; second century CE). John 2:14–16 offers a focus on action with the ﬁnal comment by the main character elucidating the point: “In the temple [Jesus] found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip out of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling doves, ‘Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!’ ” These chreiai were more than anecdotes or reminiscences. In the ancient world, people’s actions and words were seen as revelatory of their innate character. From at least the ﬁfth century BCE, chreiai and collections of chreiai thus served a fundamental biographical function. Ancient biographies drew upon such collections of chreiai, and this practice was not limited to Hellenistic-Roman literature. For example, the ﬁrst-century CE Jewish text Lives of the Prophets incorporates many chreiai in its twenty-three thumbnail sketches of Israelite prophets (Aune 34–35, 41): [When Jonah] had been cast forth by the sea monster and had gone away to Nineveh and had returned, he did not remain in his district, but taking his mother along he sojourned in Sour, a territory (inhabited by) foreign nations; for he said, “So shall I remove my reproach, for I spoke falsely in prophesying against the great city of Nineveh” (Lives of the Prophets 10:2–4).
It is not surprising, then, to discover that the early Christian authors utilize chreiai in their compositions in a similar way—to display the character (e¯ thos) of Jesus, and, to a lesser extent, that of his followers and opponents. We can clearly see this and other similarities by comparing the Gospels to other ancient works and noting how they follow the exercises within the Progymnasmata. We also have external evidence such as comments from other Christian authors. One example is the following quotation from Eusebius (late third/early fourth century), who quotes Papias (second century), who quotes the “Presbyter” (perhaps the presbyter John, who was mentioned in the verse just previous to this selection): Mark, who was the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, what he remembered of the things said or done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord or followed him, but afterward, as I said, he had followed Peter, who formulated his teaching in the form of chreiai, but not as a ﬁnished composition of the Lord’s sayings, so that Mark made no error when he wrote things down individually as he remembered them. (Eusebius, Church History III.39.15)
The Chreia: Classroom Exercises In antiquity, education took place at three levels or stages: primary/elementary, secondary, and higher/tertiary. Chreiai were used for instruction at all three levels. At the primary level, students learned their letters and progressed on to read proverbs, chreiai, and Homer. Chreiai at this level were used to teach reading of short passages, and students also practiced writing and copying them. The chreiai at this primary level were often quite simple, such as this one found on a secondcentury CE ostracon discovered in Elephantine, Egypt: “Euripides, the writer of tragedies, said: ‘Chance, not good counsel, directs human affairs’ ” (Hock and O’Neil 2002: 3–4, 37). After students learned basic reading, writing, and arithmetic skills, they moved to the secondary level to learn grammar and to read and interpret longer literary works. Finally, on the tertiary level, students engaged in specialized study of either philosophy or rhetoric. The Progymnasmata and their “pre-rhetorical compositions” came into play primarily at the secondary level: students began their study with shorter, simpler compositions in order to learn the rudiments of rhetorical argumentation and style. They then worked progressively through stages of composition to reading/speaking/writing longer and more complex compositions (Hock and O’Neil 2002: 81–83). A brief look at the exercises offered by Theon and Hermogenes demonstrates the types of work that students performed. The approaches of these two textbooks toward chreia exercises in some ways differ signiﬁcantly. Theon has eight different exercises, each of which builds upon the other, so that students can continually increase their dexterity and improve their general compositional skills (Hock and O’Neil 1986: 35). Examples of almost all types of these exercises are found in the Gospels’ manipulation of chreiai about Jesus. 1. Recitation—Reciting or reporting the chreia very clearly in very similar words. 2. Inﬂection—The inﬂecting or declining of a chreia throughout the singular, plural, and dual numbers, as well as through the ﬁve cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, and vocative.
3. Commentary—Commenting on a chreia as to whether it is true, noble, advantageous, or has appealed to people of distinction. 4. Objection—Objecting to a chreia that has qualities opposite of those listed in number 3 above. 5. Expansion—Expanding a chreia by reciting or writing it at greater length and enlarging on the questions and responses expressed in it. 6. Condensation—Condensing a chreia by making an expanded version more concise. 7. Refutation—Refuting a chreia on the basis that it is obscure, pleonastic, elliptical, impossible, implausible, false, unsuitable, useless, or shameful. 8. Conﬁrmation—Conﬁrming a chreia with a short essay, including an introduction, narration, arguments and elaboration, digressions, and character delineation, where there are opportunities for them. (Theon 190–400)
Hermogenes does not offer separate exercises; instead he presents an integrated approach of one “exercise” in a sequential order of argumentation, and he creates a process by which students learn to construct a persuasive argument. This process includes eight different types of chreia elaborations as the focus of the exercises, and all eight types of these elaborations are found in the Synoptics. Hermogenes illustrates these eight elaborations by starting with the following concise chreia about Isocrates—“Isocrates said that education’s root is bitter, its fruit is sweet”—and then giving descriptions and examples of those elaborations (ergasia): 1. Praise—Students present the subject. Theon begins with: “Isocrates was wise,” which establishes his virtue, authority, and reason for heeding the advice given in the chreia. 2. Paraphrase—Students amplify the chreia by embellishing or amplifying it. 3. Rationale—Students explain the chreia: “For the most important affairs generally succeed because of hard work, and once they have succeeded, they bring pleasure.” The heart of the student’s argument is found in the chreia and its rationale. 4. Statement to the contrary—Students buttress the argument with arguments from the “opposite.” In this case, the “root is bitter but its fruit is sweet” chreia is elaborated with: “For ordinary affairs do not need hard work, and they have an outcome that is totally without pleasure, but serious affairs have the opposite outcome.” 5. Analogy—Students offer an analogous situation to put forward their arguments: “For just as it is the lot of farmers to reap their fruits who work with the soil, so also is it for those who work with words.” 6. Example—Students give a concrete example for the truth of the chreia: “Demosthenes, after locking himself in a room and working a long time, later reaped the rewards: wreaths and public acclamations” (Demosthenes was famous for both his work ethic and his resulting successes). 7. Citation of an authority—Students back up their case with a concurring judgment from an authoritative ﬁgure: “For example, Hesiod said, ‘In front of virtue, gods ordained sweat.’ Another poet says, ‘At the price of hard work do the gods sell every good to us.’ ” 8. Exhortation—Students conclude with an exhortation that encourages others to heed the advice given by the main actor and/or speaker in the chreia. (Hermogenes 30–64)
CHREIAI AND THEIR ELABORATION IN THE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS A version of Tertullian’s classic complaint—“What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?”—is often the initial response of New Testament scholars when discussing the composition of the Synoptic Gospels. When we look carefully, however, we discover that the rhetorical composition of the Synoptics is extremely close to the progymnastic exercises and composition in secondary HellenisticRoman education. A straightforward way to discover these similarities is simply to catalog the persuasive strategies in various Synoptic pericopae. Two examples will sufﬁce (cf. Robbins 1988: 20–21): LUKE 6:1–5
1. Chreia setting (6:1–2) One Sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainﬁelds, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 2. Example (6:3–4) Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?” 3. Rationale (6:5) Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” Luke’s unexpanded chreia has a simple example and rationale. Matthew’s version, however, demonstrates signiﬁcant elaboration in the forms that Hermogenes delineates in his textbook. Almost all the elements in Hermogenes’ sequence of argumentation are found: MATTHEW 12:1–8
1. Chreia setting (12:1–2) At that time Jesus went through the grainﬁelds on the Sabbath; his disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. When the
Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” 2. Example (12:3–4) He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him or his companions to eat, but only for the priests.” 3. Analogy (12:5) “Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and yet are guiltless?” 4. Comparison (12:6) “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.” 5. Statement to the contrary and citation of authority (12:7) “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacriﬁce,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” 6. Rationale (12:8) “For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” The exercises in the Progymnasmata gave students the facility to vary the content and phrasing of chreiai, because authors/speakers were not constrained to a rigid recitation. The freedom to change, adapt, and expand were vital aspects of one’s educational abilities, rhetorical interests, ideological point of view, and ability to persuade hearers/readers. Sometimes the changes in a chreia in different settings were minimal. Theon’s ﬁrst exercise, recitation, involved reciting the chreia very clearly in very similar words. An example of such recitation appears in Plutarch’s three versions of Lysander’s words and actions during a dispute over territorial boundaries (Robbins 1991). Plutarch, Lysander 22.1 For instance, when the Argives were arguing
about boundaries of land, and thought they stated a better case than the Spartans, [Lysander] pointed to his sword, and said, “He who is master of this discourses best about boundaries of land.”
Plutarch, Moralia 190E To the Argives when they seemed to state a better case than the Spartans about the disputed territory,
Plutarch, Moralia 229C To the Argives, who were disputing with the Spartans about boundaries
and said they stated the better case than them, [Lysander] drew [Lysander] drew his sword, his sword and said, “He who is master of and said, “He who is master of this discourses best about this discourses best about boundaries of land.” boundaries of land.”
Compare the similarities and differences in those three versions of the chreia— all by the same author—with the three Synoptic versions of Jesus’ authority being challenged in the temple. These versions also demonstrate “recitation” of a chreia. Matthew 21:23–27
When he entered the temple,
Again they came to Jerusalem. As he was walking in the temple,
the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders came to him and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? Who gave you this authority to do them?” Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin? Answer me.” They argued with one another, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?”—they were afraid of the crowd, for all regarded John as truly a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Luke 20:1–8 One day, as he was teaching the people in the temple and telling the good news, the chief priests and the scribes came with the elders and said to him, “Tell us, by what authority are you doing these things? Who is it who gave you this authority?” He answered them, “I will also ask you a question, and you tell me: Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” They discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know where it came from. Then Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”
Although the subjects are vastly different, the mode of (slight) variations among the three versions of the Lysander chreia is very similar to the type of variations found in the chreia of Jesus in the temple. These similarities in patterns multiply as we work through other chreiai in the Synoptics. Recitation of a chreia combines variations with signiﬁcant verbatim repetitions, both of which are subject to the speaker/author’s rhetorical inclinations. In recitation composition, the variations among versions of the chreia are primarily (1) variations in wording or (2) adding or omitting details (e.g., Luke’s addition of “telling of good news” in 20:1).
This freedom to be ﬂexible sometimes extends to the same author utilizing the same basic chreia to illustrate the character of a different person. Again, when a corrupt and extravagant man was expatiating in the senate on frugality and self-restraint, Amnaeus sprang to his feet and said: “Who can endure it, my man, when you sup like Lucullus, build like Crassus, and yet harangue us like Cato?” (Plutarch, Cato the Younger 19.5; 100–125 CE) Once when a youthful senator had delivered a tedious and lengthy discourse, all out of season, on frugality and temperance, Cato rose and said: “Stop there! You get wealth like Crassus, you live like Lucullus, but you talk like Cato” (Plutarch, Lucullus 40.3; 100–125 CE). Recitation of a chreia in very similar language is one of the more basic exercises in the Progymnasmata. Once students became proﬁcient in these foundational exercises, such as the recitation or declension/inﬂection of chreiai, they moved on to more complex exercises: expansion, condensation, refutation, and conﬁrmation of chreiai. Theon, for example, offers a “concise” chreia and then gives a possible expansion, one that primarily offers an explanation of the concise version: Epameinondas, as he was dying childless, said to his friends: “I have left two daughters—the victory at Leuctra and the one at Mantineia.” (314–17) Epameinondas the Theban general was, of course, a good man in time of peace, and when war against the Lacedaemonians came to his country, he displayed many outstanding deeds of great courage. As a Boeotarch at Leuctra, he triumphed over the enemy, and while campaigning and ﬁghting for his country, he died at Mantineia. While he was dying of his wounds and his friends were lamenting, among other things, that he was dying childless, he smiled and said, “Stop weeping, friends, for I have left you two immortal daughters: two victories of our country over the Lacedaemonians, the one at Leuctra, who is the older, and the younger, who is just now being born at Mantineia.” (318–33) These more complex variations of progymnastic exercises can not only reﬂect the speakers/authors’ rhetorical interests but also begin to demonstrate their ideological and persuasive interests. For example, Seneca offers the following chreia about Diogenes and his slave Manes: Diogenes’s only slave ran away, but he did not even think it worthwhile to take him back home when he was pointed out to him. Rather, he said: “It is a disgrace if Manes can live without Diogenes, but Diogenes cannot live without Manes.” (Seneca; Hock and O’Neill 1986: 39; ﬁrst century CE) Diogenes Laertius recites this chreia in a slightly different way:
Diogenes said to those who were advising him to look for his runaway slave: “It is ridiculous if Manes is living without Diogenes, but Diogenes will not be able to live without Manes.” (Diogenes Laertius; Hock and O’Neill 1986: 39) The recitation by Diogenes Laertius shows some variations from Seneca’s chreia (e.g., in Seneca’s version, Manes is pointed out, whereas in Diogenes Laertius, Diogenes refuses even to look). These minor differences exhibit only variations in recitation. The following version of this chreia offered by Aelian, however, is signiﬁcantly different: When Diogenes left his homeland, one of his household slaves, Manes by name, tried to follow him, but could not endure his manner of life and so ran away. When some people advised Diogenes to seek after him, he said, “Is it not shameful that Manes has no need of Diogenes, but that Diogenes should have of Manes?” Now this slave was caught at Delphi and torn to pieces by dogs—a just punishment, in light of his master’s name, for having run away. (Aelian; Hock and O’Neill 1986: 39; ca. 220 CE) Aelian’s version of the chreia still reﬂects the main point, the Cynic’s independence from the alleged “necessities” of life as envisioned by society, but his version is a signiﬁcant expansion that includes even a ﬁnal judgment about the appropriateness of Manes’s punishment. Since Diogenes the Cynic (kynikos) means that Diogenes is “doglike” in his behavior, it is ﬁtting that Manes was torn to pieces by dogs. The Synoptic authors also expanded or condensed chreiai, depending on their perceived rhetorical/ideological needs. The “cleansing” of the Temple shows such signiﬁcant differences (as does John’s version). The ﬁrst column below shows the chreia in its most condensed form (Luke’s version). Mark’s version in the center is a moderately expanded version of the chreia. Matthew’s version, however, is signiﬁcantly expanded: Luke 19:45–46
Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there, and he said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.”
Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, “Is it not
written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.”
Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.” The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he
cured them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became angry and said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself ’?”
The various exercises that students completed on chreiai resulted in a great variety in versions of the stories, even when the versions were created by the same speaker/author. Plutarch’s three versions of Alexander’s refusal to run in the Olympic footrace is a prime example: Plutarch, Moralia 179D
Plutarch, Alexander 4.10
Being nimble and swiftfooted, when he was appealed to
by his father to run at the Olympic footrace, he said: “Indeed, if I were to have kings as competitors.”
when those around him inquired whether he would be willing to compete in the Olympic footrace, for he was swiftfooted, he said: “Indeed, if I were to have kings as competitors.”
Plutarch, Moralia 331B Since he was the swiftest of foot of the young men of his age, and his comrades urged him to enter
he asked if kings were competing. And when they replied in the negative, he said that the contest was unfair in which victory would be over commoners, but a defeat would be the defeat of a king.
As Vernon Robbins notes (1991: 155–60), the greater degree of variations in this chreia is similar to many versions of chreiai in the Synoptic Gospels. In all three of Plutarch’s versions, Alexander responds that he would run if he had kings for competitors. The ﬁrst version portrays Alexander’s father (Philip II) making the request that Alexander run the race. In the verse just previous to this chreia, Plutarch reported all of Philip’s successes. In this context, Alexander’s response indicates that he will not be distracted by exploits that are less prestigious than his father’s and suggests an implicit competition between Alexander and his father. The second version, found in Life of Alexander 4:10, has “those around” Alexander inquiring whether he would compete. This version contains significantly different words, although Alexander’s final riposte includes the same words (albeit with two of the Greek words interposed). Despite this (almost) verbatim agreement, the import and rhetorical effect of the second version is quite different. The thrust of the passage is that this footrace is an opportunity for Alexander to display his excellence, his fleetness of foot. This story is not about Alexander’s competition with his father or resentment at his father’s successes that may diminish his own later ones. Instead, it is meant to demonstrate Alexander’s “self-restraint and maturity,” because, unlike his father, Alexander did not court “every kind of fame from every source . . . as Philip did” (Life of Alexander 4:9). So, by beginning the chreia in 4:10 with “in contrast,” Plutarch distinguishes Alexander’s actions in 4:10 with Philip’s actions in 4:9. Plutarch thus manipulates the chreia to make a significantly different point in this version than in the first: Alexander did not flaunt his successes, unlike his father. The third version is also significantly different (Moralia 331B). Only here does Plutarch inform us that Alexander was not just swiftfooted; he was the “swiftest of foot of the young men of his age.” Alexander converses with his “comrades,” and Plutarch further expands the chreia: Alexander asks his friends if kings are competing. An additional unique element of this version is that Alexander gives a closing rationale for his refusal to run. This rationale, in fact, implies that Alexander already considers himself a king: “a defeat would be the defeat of a king.” Alexander’s reasoning involves the fairness or injustice of a race between “commoners” and a king. A king, in other words, must protect his honor. As Robbins also points out, a similar process of elaboration, albeit by different authors, is found in the Synoptic accounts of the woman who touched Jesus’ cloak. There obviously is some sort of dependence among the three versions, but their significant differences indicate different rhetorical interests. Matthew’s version of the chreia is its most concise form. Mark expands the chreia to include a discussion with his disciples, Jesus’ perceiving that healing power had gone forth from him, and a concluding statement by Jesus to the woman to “go in peace.” Unlike Matthew’s version, however, the statement by Jesus does not produce the miracle; the fact that the woman touched him (in faith) produces the miracle. In Luke’s version, the woman does not speak, although Peter does, in contrast to “his disciples” in Mark (Robbins 1987: 502–15; 1991: 160–67):
Matthew 9:20–22 Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years
came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.”
and seeing her
Mark 5:25–34 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’ ” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.
Luke 8:43–48 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years; [and though she had spent all she had on physicians] no one could cure her.
She came up behind him, and touched the fringe of his clothes,
and immediately her hemorrhage stopped.
Then Jesus asked “Who touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and press in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; for I noticed that power had gone out from me.” When the woman saw that she could not remain hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before him, she declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.
148 Matthew 9:20–22 he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.
Mark 5:25–34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Luke 8:43–48 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”
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