Abstract

A constant refrain in contemporary NT studies is that ancient people were “anti-introspective.” I contend that this view has caused us to overlook a significant aspect of the early Christian witness, namely, the importance of what one says to one's soul. Several times in Luke's Gospel, characters' thoughts are revealed through the literary device of interior monologue, yet these inner speeches remain underexplored. In this article, I begin by describing the view that ancient societies eschewed interiority; the subsequent section discusses interior speech in Hellenistic and ancient Jewish literature. I then read six Lukan interior monologues from the parables in light of these comparanda. As in ancient Hellenistic narratives, Luke's interior monologues depict the thinker's inner turmoil in a crisis moment; they also provide narrative articulations of Jewish warnings against foolish self-talk. Rhetorically, the interior monologues in the first four parables foster readerly identification with the thinker; readers who accept this invitation will experience the corrections implied by the narrative rhetoric. In the latter two parables, however, narratorial guidance indicates that the audience is not meant to identify with the thinking characters. In these cases, inner speech introduces dramatic irony, privileging the reader over the thinker. Overall, I aim to show that Luke's interior monologues challenge the dominant paradigm of the “anti-introspective” Mediterranean self. Our focus should be on the kinds, degrees, and functions of interiority and introspection in ancient texts, rather than on a generic portrait of ancient societies as “anti-introspective.”

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