One of the most pressing issues for scholars of religion concerns the role of persuasion in early Christianities and other religions in Greco-Roman antiquity. The essays in Rhetoric and Reality in Early Christianities explore questions about persuasion and its relationship to early Christianities. The contributors theorize about persuasion as the effect of verbal performances, such as argumentation in accordance with rules of rhetoric, or as a result of other types of performance: ritual, behavioural, or imagistic. They discuss the relationship between the verbal performance of rhetoric and other performative modes in generating, sustaining, and transmitting a persuasive form of religiosity.
The essays in this book cover a wide chronological range (from the first century to late antiquity) and diverse topical examples contribute to the collection’s thematic centre: the relations among formalized and technical verbal performances (rhetoric, texts) and other forms of persuasive performances (ritual, practices), the social agendas that early Christians pursued by means of verbal, rhetorical performances, and the larger social context in which Christians and other religious groups competitively jockeyed to attract the minds and bodies of audiences in the Greco-Roman world.
''One is rewarded with nine essays that fairly bristle with clear and urgent interest in pushing past the niceties of rhetorical criticism ... to the social settings that bring the arts of persuasion to life.... The essays ... argue well for the study of rhetoric as a social, rather than merely literary practice. The volume is well worth reading, in its parts and as a whole.''
''The collection as a whole is a fine and valuable contribution to the study of early Christianity.... [A]ll of the essays are connected by similar, or at least compatible, interests and questions. [Of] interest ... to specialists in the study of early Christianity and rhetoric generally, as well as those interested in the specific texts used as examples.''
''The collection impressively balances cohesion with diversity: a reader attracted to any one of these articles will find all to be of interest.... [E]ach article is a case study of a single issue, crucial for all current studies of Christian antiquity--the dynamic of social persuasion in cultural and religious change.... The essays work well together to reveal the ambiguities in the object defined as 'rhetoric' by attending to the rhetoricity of a wide range of cultural interactions.... [A] fine collection.''
''The essays are well written and consider the social contexts in which persuasive discourse arises. The book as a whole is a welcome addition to the field of rhetorical studies in Christianity.''
''An outstanding understanding of the influences which Christianity induced upon its early development....Very strongly recommended to all students of Christian History and Religious Studies, Rhetoric and Reality in Early Christianities is a seminal work of considerable scholarship.''
''There is not an essay in the volume that is not worth reading, and each in its own way suggests a program for further research. ''
''Specialists and graduate students will find it a valuable resource for the ways in which contemporary theory has charted new directions in early Christian studies.''
''Willi Braun does a marvellous job setting the theoretical foundation for the methodological approaches taken by the various authors.''