Rawlings School of Divinity
Doctor of Philosophy
Richard Alan Fuhr
Personification, Prosopopoeia, Hope, Romans 5
Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion
Lott, David V., "Paul's Personification of Hope A Historical-Rhetorical Approach to Romans 5:5" (2022). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 3584.
Recognized allegory has existed from antiquity to the current times and withstood the vicissitudes of scholarly research. Embedded beneath the realm of the overarching rhetorical device of allegory exists the often recognized yet readily overlooked literary device of personification, the “giving of face” to a concept or an abstract. Once considered the tool of the simple and naïve, it lay in the shadows of rhetorical criticism through the years and is only starting to elicit credible academic research. However, even within the purview of this research, there is a bifurcation of focus between what critics assert is literary personification (giving human attributes to abstract concepts) and figural personification (giving current voice and face to a historical figure who is not present). This is especially apparent in the studies of personification in Paul’s master discourse in Romans 5–8, where academia is replete with his universal personifications of Death, Sin, Wrath, Law (Nomos), Grace, Righteousness, and Wisdom. While these abstracts are well–developed, studies on specific personifications remain conspicuous because of their absence. Against this backdrop, the current study shows that a particular personification is presented prominently in Romans 5:5, where Paul attributes human activity to the abstract noun “hope,” creating a “minor” personification. Notably, he is confronted with the arduous task of explaining the complex concept of a future divine savior embodied in the present reality of Jesus Christ to a mixed audience of Jews and Gentiles with varying cultural ἔθος (“ethos,” mindset based on tradition and culture) and πάθος (“pathos,” emotional attachments or feelings not guided by God). How would the audience have reacted to Paul’s words? Would this apparent “minor” personification allow Paul to bridge the schism between the cultures with a unified theological statement? Paul presents his theological and Christological argument by layering his audience's historical, literary, and cultural realities. These layered concepts are best explained and argued using devices such as personifications. Further, personification is far more effective in terms of clarity and conveyance than explicit theological statements. Yet, there exists a paucity of attention in academia. That is unfortunate as by using this literary device, Paul makes a profound Christological statement, with his thoughts encapsulated in the personification of hope. Therefore, this study argues for Paul to address the underlying cultural and theological ἔθος and πάθος of the Roman Church; he effectively uses the particular personification of hope in Roman 5:5 in his presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.