A brief anecdote
focused on reporting a memorable saying or action associated with a prominent
person. The Greek word referred to "what is useful (or needed),"
especially in confrontations with others (war, business, debate). In Greek
rhetoric it designated a narrative statement or story that could be cited to
make a point.
- reference to a well-known
- a striking comment or gesture.
The central person may
be either active or passive: that is, the figure in the spotlight could be the
agent who delivers the saying or action; or the recipient. As an oral form
the chreia was flexible & could be expanded to include:
- identification of others who
encountered the central figure;
- identification of the
occasion or setting;
- reaction by either the main
character, those encountered or both.
favored chreiai as illustrations in long speeches; Cynic philosophers, on the
other hand, collected chreiai as ammunition for social confrontations & as
paradigms for Cynic social behavior, somewhat like Zen masters' use of the koan.
research many scholars describe the Jesus anecdotes used to compose the
synoptic gospels as chreiai, since this term covers more of the stories &
sayings than terms used in earlier analysis of the gospel texts
story, paradigm, apophthegma). Some scholars argue that the synoptic gospels' use of strings of
chreiai to present the story of Jesus points to social similarity (or even
possible links) between the early Christian movement & wandering
information on the chreia & use of this form by Greek & Latin authors,
see Patterns of Persuasion in the Gospels by B. L. Mack & V. K.
Robbins (Sonoma: Polebridge Press, 1989), pp. 1-67].
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