«Rhetorica Semitica» (Rs. En)

Series directed by Roland Meynet

Many people think that classical rhetoric, inherited from the Greeks via the Romans, is universal – this is what seems to govern modern culture, which the West has spread through the whole world. But the time has come to abandon this ethnocentrism – classical rhetoric is no longer alone in the world. We cannot judge everything according to the small village where we were born and which we have never left, whether that little «village» is Paris, Rome, Berlin, or even New York.

The Hebrew Bible, whose texts were mostly written in Hebrew, but also in Aramaic, uses a very different rhetoric from Greco-Roman rhetoric, so we need to acknowledge that there is another rhetoric, which we refer to as «Hebrew rhetoric».

Other biblical texts from the Old and New Testaments which were translated into or written directly in Greek broadly follow the same rules; we can therefore rightly talk not just about Hebrew rhetoric but more widely about «biblical rhetoric».

Furthermore, these same laws were later recognized to be at work in Akkadian, Ugaritic and other texts which were earlier than the Hebrew Bible, and then in Arabic texts from the Muslim tradition and the Qur’an, later than the biblical literature. This rhetoric, then, is not only biblical, and we might even say that all these texts, which come from the same cultural sphere, belong within the same rhetorical style which we refer to as «Semitic rhetoric».

Contrary to the inevitable impression of western readers, these texts from the Semitic tradition, whether the Prophets, the Gospels, or the Qur’an, are carefully composed, providing that they are analyzed according to the rhetorical laws which govern them. We know that the text’s form and arrangement is the main gate which gives access to its meaning; although its composition does not directly and automatically provide the meaning. However, when formal analysis leads to a thoughtful division of the text, defining its context more objectively, emphasizing the way it is organized at its different structural levels, then the conditions which allow the work of interpretation come together on less subjective and fragmentary bases.