We may speak of writers, readers and reciters, but before we do we need to define what we mean by all three. Firstly, we consider the ‘writers’. Most of the books and letters of the New Testament have the name of someone attached to them. We have names associated with each of the four Gospels, but they were later ascriptions (according to mid second century traditions) and are unverifiable. We have the name of Paul attached to the majority of the Letters, but more times than we think it should.
In this article, we muse on what can be known about the part early Christian literature played in the development of Christianity as a new world religion. We will look too at new evidence that will help us understand how this literature functioned and at what was demanded of its writers and first readers. We may learn a lesson for today.
Here, I draw attention to a particular matter which may, or may not, have become apparent through the pages of this website. Parsing and rhetorical analysis work equally well together at both micro and macro levels.
I will illustrate my point firstly with a look at the two books of the Gospel of John and the Revelation to John, and secondly with a look at some of the ‘centres’ of the New Testament Books.
I begin by saying that neither of the above definitions describes my work of ‘parsing’. To me, definition 1) looks like an exercise for its own sake, and definition 2), though it is a little better, is one that I would want to re-couch.
I read ‘parsing’ essentially as ‘part’-ing, by which I mean that the function of parsing is first and foremost the discerning of ‘parts’ and the understanding of them fully. But, of course, ‘parts’ can be defined only in terms of their relation to ‘wholes’.
‘For many hundreds of years*, critics of Homer failed to see that the Iliad had as subtle and controlled a pattern as the one on a Greek geometric vase. The whole work is one of balanced contrasts,’ says Andrew Sinclair. ‘The use of words in subtle and recurrent patterns, as well as the complex formation of the whole, point irresistibly to the genius of one man… Without understanding the complexity of the Iliad, there can be no understanding of Homer himself.’ (Homer’s Iliad, Tr. WHD Rouse, Intro. & Appr. Andrew Sinclair, Heron Books, Thomas Nelson & Sons Ltd, London)