Below is Part II of the first draft of my master’s thesis research proposal. You can find Part I here.

In my analysis of the rhetorical function of Jesus’ question-asking in the Gospel of Luke, I will build upon the methodology pioneered by Douglas Estes in his book The Questions of Jesus in John. The thesis will seek to closely examine the syntactic, semantic, and pragmatic properties of Jesus’ response to at least seven distinct conversations in which he is challenged by an opposing entity. To borrow language from Estes, the purpose of this thesis will not be to understand what the questions of Jesus in Luke are saying as much as it will focus on what, exactly, they are asking.[1] Understanding how questions work linguistically and the role they play in narrative dialogue will be of the utmost importance. Bringing together the fields of rhetorical biblical criticism and erotetic logic, I expect my analysis to reveal a portrait of Jesus as a rhetorical challenger who leads his interlocutors into dialectical traps. Such a study may be undertaken using a variety of biblical criticism tools. However, it should be made clear that my study will only make use of rhetorical and literary narrative criticism. For the sake of focus, closely related approaches (e.g. redaction criticism, source criticism, historical Jesus studies) will not be utilized.

Material Focus
As mentioned above, my secondary material focus will be foundational texts in the fields of rhetorical biblical criticism and erotetic logic. Special attention will be given to the argument and methodology of Douglas Estes’s book, The Questions of Jesus in John (Leiden: Brill, 2013), as it is currently the only book to undertake an exhaustive study of the rhetorical function of questions in a New Testament text. Brief attention may be given to other related texts—for example, Kierkegaard or Wittgenstein’s theories regarding the rhetorical and philosophical purpose of questioning—as necessary.

The primary text of my thesis will be the Gospel of Luke, specifically the question-based confrontations found in 2:48-49, 5:21-23, 6:2-4, 10:25-37, 18:18-19, 20:1-8, and 20:22-24 (Note: these selections are subject to change as my thesis develops). Brief attention will also be given to other passages from the Lukan text as is germane to the present work.

Limitations and Delimitations
As is also the case with biblical studies, the field of erotetics is quite vast, and significant works have been published in a diverse number of languages, especially French and German. The most substantial limitation of my thesis will be my use of primarily English sources. Comparatively speaking, more work has been done in the rhetorical analysis of questions in Hebrew Bible texts (though it still largely remains an unexplored subject). While I may consider some of the research in this particular field of work, I will be unable not be utilizing these sources extensively, as I currently have little experience with the Hebrew language. However, it is difficult (if not impossible) to undertake a serious study of New Testament rhetoric without at least a relative familiarity with Koine Greek, and I plan to utilize extensively those sources that illuminate the Greek text of Luke and related Hellenistic works.

Any discussion of a Gospel literary portrait of Christ has the potential for consideration of a wide-ranging number of related issues, including redaction criticism (i.e. Did the Jesus-as-Challenger motif really originate with Luke?), the “Synoptic Problem,” and historical Jesus studies. For this reason I have chosen to delimit the focus of my thesis solely to a rhetorical and literary narrative analysis of the Lukan text. This does not mean, however, that social-scientific consideration of question-asking in first-century Hellenistic thought will be completely excluded from my study; indeed, a separation of Luke’s use of rhetoric from his social context would be nearly impossible, since our social and historical settings inform how we argue and persuade. Finally, the sheer number of questions asked in the Gospel of Luke would be overwhelming for any single graduate thesis (the number of questions asked by Jesus alone in the third Gospel totals roughly 106), so I will further confine my study to seven specific passages in which Jesus confronts his interlocutors with a question (see above).

My thesis will be organized as follows:

  • Chapter 1: Introduction to Thesis (3,000 words)
    This section will include the general introduction to my thesis. This introduction will consist of my statement of the problem, in addition to a preliminary examination of the current status of the problem (to be further explored in Chapter 2). Chapter 1 will also include my thesis statement itself. Additionally, I will also include a discussion of the criteria for the selection of my primary texts to be used in my argument, as well as a brief introduction to my methodology (to be further illuminated in Chapter 3).
  • Chapter 2: Lit Review (5,000 words)
    This section will examine how other scholars of Lukan rhetoric have addressed Jesus’ response to questions in the Third Gospel, and will seek to show why current considerations of interrogative rhetoric are insufficient/unsatisfactory. I anticipate that many who have dealt with this subject in the past have—as Estes has previously noted with his study of Johannine question rhetoric[2]—simply chosen to read Jesus’ questions as veiled propositions. I will also examine how commentators throughout history have treated the passages germane to my thesis.
  • Chapter 3: The Science of Question-Asking: Erotetics and Rhetoric (5,000 words)
    This section will serve as a defense of my major premise that the use of erotetics can be helpful in observing the Jesus-as-Challenger motif in the Lukan text (to be further explored in Chapter 4). I will also briefly consider the history of the philosophical perception of the rhetorical function of questions, as well as interrogative logic (erotetics)—that is, a twofold study of what questions are and how they work—especially within the context of narratival rhetoric.
  • Chapter 4: Jesus the Challenger (6,000 words)
    This chapter will be the exegetical crux of my thesis. Taking cues from Estes, I will examine the rhetorical impact of the questions of Jesus in seven passages from the Gospel of Luke. Using these passages as case studies, I will carefully explore the rhetorical function of each question Jesus asks in challenge/dialogue situations, noting its persuasive and rhetorical qualities, and will ultimately suggest that Luke’s depiction of a questioning Jesus causes a portrait of Jesus-as-Challenger to emerge from the narrative. This chapter will also include a very brief discussion about the notable absence of Jesus questions once the narrative arrives at the Passion episode—i.e. Why does Luke spend most of his Gospel building up an image of Jesus-as-Challenger and then blatantly undercut this same image once Jesus is put on trial?
  • Chapter 5: Conclusion (2,000 words)
    The conclusion of my thesis will contain a reexamination of my research problem, and restate how I have sought to answer my research question.

Total: ~25,000 words, (~75 pages)

[1] Estes, The Questions of Jesus in John, p.10.

[2] Ibid, p.66.