St. Augustine Essay

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Augustine Rhetoric Augustine of Hippo has long been recognized as an important figure in the history of rhetoric. Some scholars believe that without his influence, rhetoric, the central study in the Roman educational system, might not have survived into the Christian era. Certainly the fact that the most influential theologian of the time had been a professor of rhetoric meant that someone who really knew what was at stake came to guide the thought of his day. Disillusioned though he was with the rhetorical practice of his own time − the self-serving rhetoric of display practised by the orators of the second sophistic period − Augustine yet knew what the value of rhetoric was. His famous defence of rhetoric in On Christian Doctrine1 establishes the importance of the art of speech as central to the Christian cause. Neutral in itself, as Augustine believed, it could be used both for good and for evil: the refusal of Christian orators to use it would give the enemy − the servants of Evil − a dangerous advantage. Yet rhetoric, as it was reworked by Augustine to be consistent with Christian culture, was in many ways radically different from the old rhetoric of the classical era, as well as from 1St Augustine of Hippo, On Christian Doctrine, trans. D.W Robertson (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1984) IV II. The sophistic practice of Augustines own day. The old mentors and models − Cicero and Quintilian, for example − were now challenged by new ideas coming from a very different perspective, a Hebraic one. In as much as communication was practised by the ancient Hebrews, that culture had a rhetorical practice, if not a rhetorical theory; but although there are analogues to classical concepts at every point, the perspective is altered by the inclusion of the divine in the whole process. Classical rhetoric

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