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homiletics

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Definition:

The art of preaching; the rhetoric of the sermon.

The foundation for homiletics lay in the epideictic variety of classical rhetoric. Beginning in the late Middle Ages and continuing to the present day, homiletics has commanded a great deal of attention.


See also:

Etymology:

From the Greek, "conversation"

Examples and Observations:

  • "The Greek word homilia signifies conversation, mutual talk, and so familiar discourse. The Latin word sermo (from which we get sermon) has the same sense, of conversation, talk, discussion. It is instructive to observe that the early Christians did not at first apply to their public teachings the names given to the orations of Demosthenes and Cicero, but called them talks, familiar discourses. Under the influence of rhetorical teaching and the popularizing of Christian worship, the talk soon became a more formal and extended discourse . . ..

    "Homiletics may be called a branch of rhetoric, or a kindred art. Those fundamental principles which have their basis in human nature are of course the same in both cases, and this being so it seems clear that we must regard homiletics as rhetoric applied to this particular kind of speaking. Still, preaching is properly very different from secular discourse, as to the primary source of its materials, as to the directness and simplicity of style which become the preacher, and the unworldly motives by which he ought to be influenced."
    (John A. Broadus, On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons, 1870)


  • "Homiletics [in the 18th and 19th centuries] increasingly became a species of rhetoric, preaching became pulpit oratory, and sermons became moral discourses. Less bound to classical rhetorical models, zealous fundamentalist and 20th-century homileticians adapted various inductive, narrative-based sermon strategies derived, respectively, from biblical models (jeremiad, parable, Pauline exhortation, revelation) and theories of mass communication."
    (Gregory Kneidel, "Homiletics." Encyclopedia of Rhetoric, ed. by T.O. Sloane. Oxford Univ. Press, 2001)


  • "Here . . . are the 'Rules' we've come up with for writing for the ear. . . . Adopt them or adapt them as you see fit. And with each sermon manuscript you write, pray the Lord will make you clear, concise, and directed toward the needs of your flock.
    1. Active voice is more alive than passive.
    2. Don't use a 50¢ word when a 5¢ word will do.
    3. Remove unnecessary occurrences of that and which.
    4. Remove unnecessary or assumable information and get to the point.
    5. Use dialogue for added interest and life.
    6. Don't waste words.
    7. Use contractions where appropriate.
    8. Verbs are more alive than nouns.
    9. Accentuate the positive.
    10. Avoid the 'literary' sound.
    11. Avoid clichés.
    12. Remove forms of the verb to be whenever possible."
    (G. Robert Jacks, Just Say the Word!: Writing for the Ear. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996)
Pronunciation: hom-eh-LET-iks
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