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The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies Provides a comprehensive survey of Biblical scholarship in a variety of disciplines.

Language, Literature, and Rhetoric

Language

The earliest and most direct influence of classical studies was the study of Greek. No monument to that influence is more visible than the great lexicon known as Liddell, Scott, Jones (LSJ). It was the cumulative result of three centuries of gathering and publishing documents, preparing accurate critical editions, studying the language's grammar, syntax, and semantic principles. Biblical scholars produced their own tools alongside these works, focused on the Koinē (‘common’) Greek, which underlies the New Testament, such as Moulton and Milligan's Vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (as it is usually known). The standard lexicon has come to be Walter Bauer's revision of Erwin Preuschen's German work, turned into English and fully revised by Arndt and Gingrich and, more recently, Danker (2000). LSJ's monumental work, however, remains a fundamental resource for the Greek language.

Along with Moulton and Milligan, Adolf Deissman (1927) in Germany demonstrated that Koinē Greek had its own integrity and character, and should not be seen either as ‘barbaric’ or as ‘Holy Spirit’ Greek. Koinē was the language of Alexander and his army, as it was of trade and commerce; it was the everyday language of Greek speakers around and within Palestine, in coastal cities and the Decapolis, and it was common even in Jerusalem burial inscriptions. It was the language of the early Christian world, the New Testament, much of the intertestamental literature, and several early translations of the Hebrew Bible (the Septuagint, and later, Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus).

By comparison, the influence of the study of Latin on biblical studies has been more limited. The use of Latin was largely confined to Rome, Italy, the western Mediterranean, and North Africa; it had only a small foothold in the Levant, where Beirut was one of the few eastern Roman colonies to use Latin in inscriptions. Latin's influence has been felt in three less significant areas: first, as a language into which the Bible was translated early on (Old Latin, Jerome, and the Vulgate); second, as the language of many early Christian exegetical and expository works, particularly from North Africa (Tertullian and Cyprian, for example); and third, as the language of the Roman church and Roman bishops, beginning in the late second century CE.

Literature

The study of classical literature has shed light on the understanding of biblical authors' methods, goals, structures, allusions, models, and influences. Though the categories usually used of biblical literature do not coincide with classical categories, the study of literary genres has been increasingly influential in the last two generations. Letters, histories, novels, biographies, and apologies have attracted substantial attention from scholars of Christian origins, who have explicitly acknowledged their obligations to the earlier classical work. For example, study of the form and function of Paul's letters could not have developed so quickly without earlier work on ancient Greek letters. Even though the question of genres in Greek and Latin literature is a still controversial topic, biblical scholars seem to make genre distinctions more comfortably than their colleagues.

Rhetoric

Greek and Latin rhetoric—the art of public speaking—has been profitably applied to the study of both Old and New Testaments, especially in the last two decades, though its roots are earlier. Most influential have been rhetorical works, especially handbooks, of Aristotle, Dionysius, Quintillian, and Cicero. The study of rhetoric has been used effectively to understand the composition of many kinds of early Christian literature, especially letters, homilies, and their sub-units. Different types of rhetoric (forensic, deliberative, demonstrative) have been used as templates for various pieces of literature, and the different sections of a speech (exordium, statement of facts, proof, refutation, for example) have become influential in the study of similar forms within biblical literature. Students of rhetoric in the ancient world made declamations in various literary forms (chreia or moral anecdote, mythos or fable, gnōmē or pithy maxim, for example), which have also been utilized in interpreting biblical forms.

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