Rhetorical criticism in Old Testament studies—indeed, in biblical studies in general—had its origins in a self-conscious way in 1968, when James Muilenburg issued his now-famous call to go beyond form criticism and focus upon the unique features of a text. Since then, biblical rhetorical criticisms have flourished. However, in Old Testament studies, rhetorical criticism has tended to be primarily a literary concern, with emphasis upon stylistics. Classical and contemporary rhetorical criticisms are very different, however. These focus particularly upon the suasive aspects of spoken discourse. This paper reviews the history of rhetorical criticism in Old Testament studies and in the field of speech and rhetoric, comparing and contrasting approaches. It then issues a call to biblical scholars to practice a truly "rhetorical" criticism, based upon speech and persuasion.

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