The Rhetorical Structure of Ephesians

I have thought that the Letter to the Ephesians was written with the appropriate epideictic style for the region it was sent to, an ornate and repetitious style. As such, it follows a rhetorical structure. Aristotle maintained that every speech has in its basic form an exordium, a narratio, a set of proofs, and a peroratio. Low and behold, we find such things in Ephesians. I have proposed in the past what I thought the structure is according to these four parts. I would like to lay it out again in a table form, because I have changed how I perceive said structure, but before I set out to correct myself, I want to display the structure as I used to think it was.

Upon further inspection, I don’t think that this rhetorical structure best describes what is going on in Ephesians. There are too many difficulties with it. I have tried explaining those difficulties, but my explanations have not been satisfactory. For example, is the prayer and doxology at the end of chapter 3 part of the narratio? If it is, why isn’t there a comparable section in the set of proofs, since the proofs appear to be parallel to the contents of the narratio? In addition to these difficulties, I found it odd that prayer functioned as a tool for making transitions, but there is no transition between the proofs and the peroratio as there is between the exordium and the narratio with the prayer and thanksgiving in Eph 1:15-23, and as there is between the narratio and the set of proofs as we see in the prayer and doxology in Eph 3:14-21. Furthermore, there is a transition from the peroratio and the epistolary post script in the section of prayer in Eph 6:18-20. But why is there no section of prayer between the proofs and the peroratio? I have stated that it is because the peroratio is similar to the force of the set of proofs, it is exhortatory in nature, and therefore it does not need such a transition. But perhaps something else is going on? Perhaps there is more to the structure of Ephesians than my previous proposal suggests?


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  1. Pingback: The Composition of Ephesians « The Letter to the Ephesians

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