Rhetoric of Kerygma: A Study in Papal Genres


Tae Jung

Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 1-1-2008


Campus Only

Submission Type


Degree Name



Communication and Rhetorical Studies


McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Calvin L. Troup

Committee Member

Richard H. Thames

Committee Member

Janie Harden Fritz

Committee Member

James C. Swindal


rhetoric, generic criticism, papacy, homiletics, kerygma and dogma


This study is focused on rhetorical dynamics in contemporary papal discourse from the perspective of generic criticism. The approach provides a critical framework in which individual elements of the discourse can be examined as parts of an organic whole, working together to achieve coherent rhetorical functions.

Through examining the generic elements in contemporary papal discourse, this study finds that contemporary papal discourse consists of three distinct rhetorical genres: didactic document, homiletic speech, and papal visit. Although these genres differ from one another in stylistic elements and some substantive elements, they share the same functional foundation: the rhetorical genre of homily. The genre of homily is recognized by its tripartite functions of proclaiming, teaching, and intriguing. Proclaiming is the manifestation of kerygma, seeking to convert non-believers; teaching is the function of dogma, directed to believers. The two contrasting and balancing aspects of kerygma and dogma generate tension, which in turn provides the third function of intriguing.

Kerygma produces the rhetorical condition that Dale Sullivan calls "kairotic," under which the response of pistis (belief) is prompted instead of krisis (judgment). The teaching function of the homily form is epideictic in nature and requires the pre-existing community. The homily form combines the two seemingly exclusive functions, extending the effectiveness of the artistic proof of good reasons toward skeptical publics. The skeptical publics, who do not respond to the kerygma with pistis, may still acknowledge the reasonableness of dogma and consider further conversations worthy. This strategic combination of kerygma and dogma is termed the rhetoric of kerygma. Through textual analyses, this study demonstrates that the rhetoric of kerygma is manifested both in the homily form and in the contemporary papal genres.

The rhetoric of kerygma may find applications outside religious discourse because it may help students of rhetoric to understand how orators working from positions of grounded certainty engage publics rhetorically on matters of contingency, especially when the publics are skeptical of the certainty.





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