doctrinal formulations. But it is the figural and demonstrative side of Christian discourse that will concern us first: its resort to signs, of which its characteristic use of metaphor is a part, and its performative and declaratory quality. How do either of these fit the context of the empire, or do they? First it will be necessary to examine the figurality of Christian discourse in more detail; but then I wish to construct a hypothesis to bring the characteristic Christian literary forms, and especially the development of an oral mode in the form of regular preaching, into closer relation with the prevailing culture.
There were various ways in which the figural quality could manifest itself. One was certainly metaphor. Ignatius of Antioch, whose letters to young Christian communities were written while under guard or en route to Rome where he was to undergo martyrdom, takes up the manner of Paul: "Put away, therefore, the bad leaven which is old and stale, and be converted into the new leaven which is Jesus Christ. Be salted in Him, lest any of you lose your savor, for by your savor will you be judged." But there is also the explicit or implicit contrast between the surface meaning and the hidden meaning: "Beg only that I may have inward and outward strength, not only in word but in will, that I may be a Christian not merely in name but in fact. For, if I am one in fact, then I may be called one and be faithful long after I have vanished from the world. Nothing merely visible is good, for our God, Jesus Christ, is manifest the more now that he is hidden in God." Seeing in visions is another manifestation of this tendency. The second-century writing known as the Shepherd of Hermas operates with many layers of visions, each with a meaning in need of interpretation. Revered and beautiful ladies appear to the author with revelations. An angel, a beautiful young man, explains that the first of
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