Tacitus, a well-respected historian and senator of the Roman Empire, is recorded as saying:
“The breastplate and the sword are not a stronger defense on the battlefield than eloquence is to a man amid the perils of prosecution.”
As a matter of fact – if my memory and search engines serve me right – the man even wrote a book in defense of this characteristic that he so adored and sought to employ in his daily activities. Tacitus, along with many other ancient thinkers and speakers, viewed eloquence in speech and action as the key to unlocking true emotion; indeed, these men saw this form of persuasion as the only form of speaking and living, and, from what I can tell, despised the speech or lifestyle that betrayed their expectations. In the world of old and in the present world, eloquence has made its presence known and attempted to imbue the words of men with a captivating quality.
Eloquence is a quality that appeals to human nature. This much is evident when one takes a cursory glance at the annals of history. Paul recognized the power of improper words that would be brought before listeners in an eloquent manner. Many passages record his warnings about persuasive speakers, but his words to Timothy stand out the most in my mind, for he tells the young man:
“For the time will come when [the brethren] will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (NKJV, II Tim. 4:3-4).
This is a familiar passage to many; it seems that Paul and the Spirit by which he spoke intended for these words to be familiar. The apostle recognized that men and women would, indeed, turn their own ears away from the truth, but he also recognized, as he says, that they would be “turned aside” to falsehood. In the great context of the passage, would it be improper to say that the eloquence of men would be used in a negative manner to convince brethren of the heresy that they were already leaning towards and consistently considering? Not at all, from my perspective.
Question, then! Eloquence is defined, fundamentally, as “fluent or persuasive speaking or writing.” If you open Google and type in “define eloquence”, this is the definition that you get. What role, based on this definition and your own thoughts, does eloquence have within the words, writings, and actions of those professing the Christian faith? When individuals stand before a congregation to encourage and teach them, should they be eloquent? When you and I try to talk to others about the great deeds of our Savior, should we be eloquent? What precedents do we see for eloquent behavior? Essentially, what role should eloquence play in the life of a Christian?