One of the recurrent questions that I plan on coming back to periodically is the discussion of Hebrew Rhetoric. Clearly the Hebrew Scriptures reveal rhetorical devices, but is it valid to presume that the rhetorical forms were taught or handed down through oral "prophetic" schools or "scribal" traditions, or something like that. It is clear that unlike the Greeks, the Hebrews did not record any written (that I know of) treatises or handbooks about rhetoric. However, the patterns of the Ancient Near Eastern text that we do have reveal surprisingly similar forms of writing and style, yet with significant (in my opinion) variations within the Hebrew Scriptures. Clearly, "Greek" Rhetoric, or what might be better termed Athenian Rhetoric was inseparably linked to the philosophical underpinnings of those who taught. The rhetoric of the sophists clearly differed from the rhetoric of Isocrates, which in turn differed from the rhetoric of Plato (insofar as one takes the Phaedrus literally). It may be obvious to assume that the religious, cultural, and archaeological variances between the ANE and Mediterranean world play a role in how "rhetoric" (something like "the artful use of language") would be understood and taught.
I am presently reading a book about Judaism in the time of Jesus. It is less scholarly than I would have preferred, but it does contain some interesting items concerning Second Temple Judaism that I have not been exposed to. The author (Wylen) is a Rabbi, and comes from an explicitly "historical" (what I would call historical-critical) perspective as opposed to a theological, religious, or variously other styled hermeneutic. I'm 2/3 of the way through the book and the only looming annoyance I have is the seemingly arbitrary way he treats the "silences" and "evidence." Several times he has made sweeping conclusions on one side of an issue (either silence or scanty evidence) only to come down on the other side on a separate issue of equivalent support. Well, I suppose another annoyance is the frequency with which he concludes with "nothing more can be known" or "we can never know" statements, which are clearly overemphasized. The wealth of archaeological material that has yet to be translated from the ANE not to mention the number of dig sites that have not been fully excavated make it very likely that new textual or non-textual fragmentary (or even complete) evidence will be uncovered that will break new ground in Biblical studies. The field seems ever in flux, at least from my exposure to the literature. One of the conclusions that I find myself most sympathetic toward is the notion that Second Temple Judaism and early CE/AD Christianity do not develop upon a direct line from the OT/Hebrew Bible. I would be more conservative in my dating that Wylen, but the Intertestamental/Second Temple Period between the OT/Hebrew Bible and the NT/Rabbinic writings is significant and perhaps under emphasized by theologians in Christian and Jewish circles (at least outside of academia).
Work on Plato's Laws has come to a halt due to family visiting and a wedding, but I am hoping to post my thoughts on its comparison to Plato's Republic when I get back on the stick. Any suggestions about the organization of my posts is welcome, since this one in particular has been "off the cuff" "stream of consciousness" and "on the fly."