Revista Studii Teologice


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Ornamentele retoricii clasice şi cei trei mari Părinţi capadocieni

The devices of classical rhetoric and the three great Cappadocian Fathers

Autor(i): Tincuţa CLOŞCĂ

The art of oratory had lost much of its practical relevance during the 2nd-3rd centuries, lapsing into „pure art”, and occasionally into shallow aestheticism. Orators were now too little interested in truth. They rivalled in eloquence, perorating on the most abstract topics, often suggested by their audience. An orator’s main concern was to elicit the admiration of his listeners, less impressed with the contents of the speech than its skilful delivery. This required not only an elegant, subtle discourse but also a departure from the common idiom towards the semantic and morphological structures of the Attic dialect, the literary language of the great classics. Their style was a lofty one, rich in literary devices according to the tradition of classical epideictic discourse. Such eloquence was criticized not only by the Church Fathers but also by many pagan thinkers of late Antiquity.
From Apostle Paul onwards, all means and devices of classical oratoric tradition were deemed harmful and thus dismissed. Choosing words so carefully was blamed by Church Fathers as formalism. What mattered instead was the salvific truth of the contents, and not the attractivity and beauty of enthralling form. In this concern for the truth, Christians agreed with the early Stoics, whose ideas on rhetoric they adopted. Stoics defined oratorical art as „good speaking”, that is „telling the truth”. Rhetoric could, however, reach this desideratum when it was based on „clarity”, considered to be the most important feature of „style”. Due to the prominence given to truth and clarity, on the one hand, and also because the Bible contains many statements condemning elegant speech, few Church Fathers pleaded for a sublime style. Most of them (St Theophilus of Antioch, Tatian, St Clement of Alexandria, Origen, St Gregory Thaumaturgus, Methodius of Olympus, Eusebius of Caesarea, St John Chrysostom) opposed the rhetorical devices employed by pagan authors, instead advocating for a plain style. Among them were St Basil the Great, St Gregory of Nyssa and St Gregory the Theologian, whose opinions on the devices of classical rhetorics are explored in the present study.
The analysis of the writings by the three great Cappadocian Fathers leads to the conclusion that they maintained their very critical attitude towards the tradition of classical rhetoric. They constantly interacted and displayed a less polemical stance towards the contemporary rhetoric writings of pagan authors. Their attitude was complex and contradictory: they either denied any attention to language and style, deeming the phraseology and devices of classical rhetoric to oppose the plainness of the Christian truth, or saw them as means to proclaim, convey and expound the truth of faith acquired by reading, studying and understanding the Bible. The love for simplicity of Church Fathers in general and the three great Cappadocian Fathers in particular, evinced a traditional Christian attitude while the sophisticated style they actually used in writing was a concession they had to make, just as today even the greatest exegete begins his address with a nod to the common man.

Pagini: 113-130