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Holman Bible Dictionary

Oration, Orator

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An elaborate speech delivered in a formal and dignified manner and designed to persuade an audience. An orator is one distinguished for skill and persuasiveness as a public speaker. Only the RSV used the term oration and then only once (Acts 12:21 ); NRSV used “public address.” Herod Agrippa's oration found praise for the rhetorical skill (Acts 12:22 ); Herod was judged for failure to give God the glory (Acts 12:23 ). A similar antipathy between skill in oratory and reliance on God's power is often found in Paul (1Corinthians 2:1-2,1Corinthians 2:4,1 Corinthians 2:13 ; 1 Corinthians 4:19-20 ).

Paul, spoke of “the debater of this age” (1 Corinthians 1:20 NRSV). Paul disclaimed “lofty words” and claimed to be “untrained in speech” ( 1 Corinthians 2:1 ; 2 Corinthians 11:6 NRSV) but elsewhere compared his preaching to a skilled builder laying a foundation ( 1 Corinthians 3:10 ) and spoke of destroying arguments and obstacles to knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:5 ). Acts often presents Paul as a persuasive speaker (Acts 18:4 ,Acts 18:4,18:13 : Acts 19:26 ; Acts 26:28-29 ). Festus, in fact, recognized Paul as a man of great learning from his speech (Acts 26:24 ). Acts also portrays Apollos as an eloquent speaker (Acts 18:24 ).

The Greeks classified oratory into three modes. 1. The judicial mode, the speech of the law court, concerns guilt and innocence. Examples of judicial rhetoric include the cases involving Paul which were brought before Gallio, Felix, and Festus (Acts 18:12-16 ; Acts 24:1-21 ; Acts 25:15 ,Acts 25:15,25:18-19 ; Acts 26:1-29 ). 2 . The deliberative mode is concerned with the expediency of a course of future action. Examples include the Sanhedrin's debate over Jesus' growing following which culminated in Caiaphas' suggestion that the expedient course was to seek Jesus' death (John 11:47-50 ) and Demetrius' discourse on what action was necessary to save the business of the silversmiths in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-27 ). 3 . The epideictic mode concerns praise and blame. Examples include Paul's praise of love (1 Corinthians 13:1 ) and his censure of the Galatians (Galatians 1:6-9 ; Galatians 3:1-5 ). Broadly speaking, this mode includes any exhortation to virtuous action (as in James). See Rhetoric .

Chris Church

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Oration, Orator'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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