Socio-rhetorical criticism is a interpretive tool for scripture that studies the words of a text rather than the meaning of the text specifically through various textures (Robbins, 1996, p. 1). One texture that can be a valuable tool for scripture interpretation is the social and cultural texture which studies the world individuals live within at the time of the writing of a given text and how it shapes the understanding of the text for them (Robbins, 1996, p. 71) Using this texture, it can shed some light on how an individual can find their identity by looking at scripture.
In the first century Jewish community that Jesus was born into and ministered to, rabbis were a long-standing religious institution for the Jews who, in the first century, were simply those learned in the Law of Moses rather than a particular office (Holman, 2003). The Jewish people were familiar with rabbis and their role as teachers in Jewish culture. The rabbi they followed identified disciples of ancient Israel, and the teachings that particular rabbi taught. Such was the case of Jesus’ disciples. Throughout the gospels, with the exception of Luke (Holman, 2003), Jesus is referred to as rabbi (Mt. 26:25, Mk 9:5, Jn. 1:49), and those who followed him were considered his disciples. Followership of a disciple to a rabbi was about more than information; it was about finding an identity of the disciple as an individual. Peter serves as an example of the process a disciple goes through following a rabbi. He was transformed from the man he was when Jesus found him (Lk. 5:10-11), taught the principles and ways Jesus subscribed to, and became the man he did that would help establish the church (Acts 2:14-40).
Every individual has the opportunity to discover their identity in a similar fashion, but it requires adopting an ancient cultural norm of followership modern people are not familiar with today.
Brand, C., Draper, C., & England, A. (2003). Holman illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville, Tenn.: Holman Bible Publishers.
Crossway Bibles. (2007). ESV: study Bible: English standard version (ESV text ed.). Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Bibles.
Robbins, V. K. (1996). Exploring the texture of texts: a guide to socio-rhetorical interpretation. Valley Forge, Pa: Trinity Press International.