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1. Homiletics is the science of preaching. The term comes from the Gk. for being together, as in a crowd or conversation. The term “homily” came to signify an address to a Christian cong., in contrast to evangelizing non-Christians. The term has been applied either exclusively to the sermon in the parish service or more broadly to all preaching of the Christian religion. As a science, homiletics includes a formal theory: gathering preaching materials from the Word of God, from experience and observation, and from literature; arranging the materials in logical and psychological sequence; expressing the material in apt language; directing the material to the hearer by means of speech and bodily movement. Homiletics also includes a body of insights into the source and function of the Christian religion and its impact on the human mind, and into human nature as it responds to the spoken word.

2. The Jewish synagog developed a standard form of worship that included a sermon (e.g., Lk 4:16–32). Any competent mem. of the cong. was eligible to deliver such a discourse, but, if possible, the task was assigned to itinerant religious teachers. They learned the science of their craft by simple conference with, or imitation of, other rabbis or at the great rabbinical schools.

3. The NT provides no homiletical theory. Christ emphasized the content and purpose of the preaching message (e.g., Lk 24:45–48). The apostles stressed the sincerity and urgency of the message (e.g., 2 Co 2–5; 1 Th 4; 2 Ti 2:3; 1 Ptr 4:5). The early ch. soon developed a standard service in which teaching and preaching had a part (Acts 2; 6:4).

4. Under influence of rhetorical theory, standards and principles of homiletics were crystallized. Augustine* provided a summary of them in De doctrina christiana. Under influence of Aristotelian philos., principles of rhetoric and dialectic were applied to preaching. The influence of this method was curtailed by the fact that most clerics were poorly trained and that the preaching which most stirred the people was the direct and popular message of the preaching friars.

5. The Prot. Reformation vitalized the message of the parish minister by enhancing the place of the sermon in the service, by making the pastor the responsible shepherd, and by putting the Bible in the vernacular into the center of the sermon and the hearer's interest. M. Luther* was a direct and profuse preacher who used little theoretical form in his approach to preaching. But the Luth. Ch. early emphasized a humanistically trained clergy. Thus principles of rhetoric and dialectic resumed a formal position in Luth. preaching and in training Luth. preachers. Theol. disputes and emphasis on doctrinal formulations of the 16th and 17th cents. gave more emphasis to the argumentative polemical method in Ger. Luth. preaching than elsewhere. The prestige and position of theol. faculties in Lutheranism produced a theoretical scaffolding for preaching that withstood Pietism,* rationalism,* and the Enlightenment.*

6. In Am., homiletical theory was produced also by dissenting communions that set up strong ch. organizations and sems. In the past, Prot. homiletical theory largely emphasized traditional farms and related the sermon to the parish service. This process has been reinforced by the trend in much of Prottestantism to a more adequate attention to the service as a whole.

7. Homiletic theory is under review in light of audience and persuasion psychol. The impetus for this emphasis has come in part from new channels for evangelism in radio and publicity; in part from the effort to reach the pub. mind, which is not habituated to the authority of the Word of God. This emphasis has begun with rethinking of the “delivery” of the message and of the speaker's total participation in his message. The principles of persuasion as applied to the intrinsic message of the Gospel and expressed to the audience by every means at the preacher's disposal are subjects of current scrutiny. The result is homiletic theory that not merely concerns itself with the preacher's address to the Christian audience, but concentrates on the individual responding to analysis of his need and sympathy for his problem. RRC

See also Preaching, History of; Theology.

J. H. C. Fritz, The Preacher's Manual (St. Louis, 1941); J. M. Reu, Homiletics, tr. A. Steinhaeuser, 5th ed. (Columbus, Ohio, 1944); R. W. Kirkpatrick, The Creative Delivery of Sermons (New York, 1944); R. R. Caemmerer, Preaching for the Church (St. Louis, 1959); G. M. Bass, The Renewal of Liturgical Preaching (Minneapolis, 1967).

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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