A Prophet in Debate: The Rhetoric of Persuasion in the Book of Amos

A Prophet in Debate: The Rhetoric of Persuasion in the Book of Amos

Mullen, E Theodore Jr

KARL MÖLLER, A Prophet in Debate: The Rhetoric of Persuasion in the Book of Amos (JSOTSup 372; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 2003). Pp. xiv + 352. $130.

In this volume, Möller seeks “to demonstrate that the presentation of the debating prophet is the primary rhetorical means employed by the book’s authors or final redactors in order to achieve their communicative aims” (p. 2). Toward this goal, M. divides his work into two sections.

The first, which contains an introduction and two chapters, begins with M.’s presentation of his reason for choosing to analyze the Book of Amos rhetorically. He undertakes the following steps in his analysis: (1) an identification of the rhetorical units in Amos; (2) a description of the rhetorical situations of these units; (3) an investigation of their rhetorical genre; (4) an analysis of their rhetorical strategy and style; and (5) an evaluation of their rhetorical effectiveness. In chap. 1, M. attempts to determine the structural markers that guide the reader/hearer, then addresses the structural outline of Amos, bringing out a number of rhetorical factors. He concludes that the Book of Amos, when read as a rhetorical unit, contains a superscription and a motto, followed by nine major units. In chap. 2, M. approaches the book as a whole in order to address the problem and strategy of its reconstructed rhetorical situation. He emphasizes that, although the book appears to be an edited collection of prophetic materials, its structure is designed intentionally to capture the historical Amos’s debate with his office. Hence, though M. does not maintain that these are the exact words or visions of Amos, he does assert that they are consistent with his historical mission.

Part 2 consists of three chapters that present a detailed rhetorical analysis of Amos 1-4, concentrating on what M. isolates as the individual rhetorical units. He notes in his consideration of Amos 1:1-2 that he prefers to read the book within the eighth-century setting in which the superscription places it. This decision determines much about the way in which the remaining sections are interpreted. M, sees the following oracles against the nations (1:1-2:16) as providing the introduction to the remainder of the book. He divides Amos 3 into five small units and carefully analyzes them. He notes concerning these units that, whereas they may not represent the exact words of the prophet, they do capture his “original message” while reappiying it in 8 new context (pp. 246-47). After noting that scholars do not agree on the structure of chap, 4, M, divides it into four sections that continue the debate between Amos and his audience, M, then provides a brief summary of conclusions and an extensive bibliography that will be welcomed by anyone doing research on Amos. Indexes of references and authors cited conclude the volume.

Möller challenges his readers to refrain from making judgments about the origins of the Book of Amos until they have completed the rhetorical analysis. It is at this point that I find a major problem with M.’s method. Although he has given a detailed analysis of chaps. 1-4, he has provided only a summary discussion of chaps. 5-9, supplemented by references to other studies. To be convincing, M- would have to present the same level of analysis throughout the book, especially since the structural arrangement of the visions and the ending of chap. 9 involve major redactional concerns.

Möller is successful, in my opinion, in showing the skillfull rhetorical care with which the final redactors of each section constructed their units. Readers will profit greatly from his many insights about the rhetorical structure and effectiveness of these sections, His insistence on tracing the majority of the sayings to a historical Amos, his early dating of the book, and his views concerning a single redaction of its present form will find less support.

E. Theodore Mullen, Jr., Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Indianapolis, IN 46202

Copyright Catholic Biblical Association of America Oct 2004

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