Classical antiquity and early Christianity, for all their obvious differences, shared a love of the word -- a fascination and capacity for language that is, as Aristotle puts it, ''more characteristic of humans than is use of the Body.'' Organizing and relating material from over thirty years of study, Jaroslav Pelikan creates a stunning synthesis of divine rhetoric as exemplified by the Sermon on the Mount and interpreted by three titans of the Christian tradition: St. John Chrysostom (Greek and Orthodox), St. Augustine (Latin and Catholic) and Martin Luther (Protestant). By first discussing the basis for a Christian rhetoric, firmly rooted in the three classical ''genera of rhetorics'' -- deliberative, judicial and demonstrative -- Pelikan prepares the field for study, showing each rhetorician's concern for Christ's authority, audience and message. He seamlessly weaves these individual commentaries into a fabric of Christian rhetoric, using Aristotle's three proofs as loom: ethos (the moral character of the speaker), pathos (a paticular frame of mind) and logos (the message of the speech itself). The result is not only the illumination of language as persuasion, but also its participation in the acts of worship and prayer.
An Eighth Day View:
Of the many themes that Classical Antiquity and Early Christianity had in common, for all their profound differences, none was more influential than their love of language. It was the Greek and Roman rhetorical theorists who called the attention of later generations to the importance of speech and language. Likewise, when the author of the Fourth Gospel needed a comprehensive metaphor to describe the eternal significance of Jesus Christ, he turned to speech, calling him the Logos -- the Word and Reason of God, through whom the universe was made and by whom it was upheld.
What would happen when these two systems of interpreting persuasive language collided -- and yet in some sense converged? To answer that question, this book examines three interpretations of the most universally acknowledged piece of rhetoric in the history of the West, the Sermon on the Mount: from the Latin and Catholic tradition (St Augustine), the Greek and Orthodox tradition (St John Chrysostom), and the Reformation and Protestant tradition (Martin Luther). Each is acknowledged in his tradition as a "prince of the pulpit." Together and yet separately, they illuminate both the Sermon and the Speaker for anyone who still takes the challenge of the faith -- and of language -- seriously.