I’m currently reading George Parsenios’ work Rhetoric and Drama in the Johannine Lawsuit Motif for review. In it Parsenios explores the implications of reading John’s Gospel through the lens of Greek tragedy and forensic rhetoric. I must admit that I’m a bit skeptical of this endeavor, namely because I don’t see how we are supposed to conclude that John had Greek tragedy or legal rhetoric in mind while writing his Gospel. Parsenios admits as much in his opening chapter, saying:
We can say almost nothing with certainty about what [John] read, apart from the Old Testament. We know only such generalities as the fact that the tragedians were part of the school curriculum throughout the Hellenistic and Roman periods in the East, or that many prose authors in the Roman Empire regularly rely on tragic language and scenarios in a phenomenon that is called the “thearicalization of ancient culture.”
Parsenios then concludes this section by arguing that:
regardless of what John read, if we read John in concert with ancient rhetoric and ancient drama, we will read John differently, and with greater insight.
My question is whether Parsenios can legitimately move from his first statement to his second without doing detriment to John’s intention for his Gospel.
I’m inclined to say that he cannot and should not.
What about you?