The Role and Function of Lydia as a Rhetorical Construct in Acts: A Sociorhetorical and Theological Interpretation

Title: The Role and Function of Lydia as a Rhetorical Construct in Acts: A Sociorhetorical and Theological Interpretation
Authors: Gruca-Macaulay, Alexandra
Date: 2013-04-02
Abstract: This thesis investigates whether Lydia of Thyatira functions as a figure that has a particular rhetorical and theological function and force in Acts 16:9-40. There are a number of factors that would suggest that Lydia was of interest to the author of Acts. These include Lydia’s placement at both the opening and closing to the Philippi visit, and the fact that the sole case of explicit divine initiative in the rhetorical unit is directed at Lydia. These and other indicators would suggest that it is highly probable that the author intended Lydia to contribute to the overall rhetorical movement and unity of the passage. Yet, biblical commentary has not been able to suggest how Lydia might contribute to the rhetorical development of the text. Ultimately, too many questions regarding Lydia’s prominent profile in the text have remained unanswered. In response to uninvestigated questions raised by Lydia, this project employed socio-rhetorical interpretation (SRI), an exegetical approach that understands the cultural and social embeddedness of a rhetorical text. By means of an SRI analysis it was possible to identify the salient topoi of Acts 16:9-40, and to suggest how the author had used these in developing the rhetorical movement of the text. This project’s SRI analysis of Acts 16:9-40 shows that in stark contrast to the history of interpretation’s “Lydia the hostess,” a culturally-contextualized profile of Lydia presents the image of an immoral, degenerate, Lydian purple-selling “huckster.” Strikingly, however, Lydia’s inner heart is warranted by God, and her fidelity to God is argumentatively affirmed by the act of the Pauline group’s final visit to her home. In presenting Lydia through a cultural profile that would suggest a potential contaminant to a salvific “place of prayer,” the author sought to invert prejudicial cultural stereotype-centered socio-religious logic. Most significantly, the author sought to invert the type of cultural codes of material triumphalism that are embodied in the history of interpretation’s construct of high-status “Lydia the hostess” by portraying the disciples’ encounter with Lydia within a socio-cultural framework of shame and dishonour.
CollectionThèses Saint-Paul // Saint Paul Theses