Another Useful Topoi . . . .

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If you are unfamiliar with “rhetorical topoi” you may want to go back and read the several discussions which explain and address this classical rhetorical concept.

Here is another “topos” (“place”) which can be used to . . . .

  • expand on a concept
  • clarify a truth or principle
  • fuel an exhortation
  • bolster a point which is being made
  • develop an application
  • etc.

We can give it a label so that it can be quickly brought to mind when a speaker is preparing and developing his speech or message.

Not Over & Above, Just Right

Aristotle wrote three books on public speaking, and other men such as Cicero, Quintilian, and Plato also contributed to the classical foundations of rhetorical theory.  It is from this classical foundation that much of today’s theoretical structure and thought is derived.  “Topoi” is one such classical concept which is little realized and understood by those teaching homiletical theory.

One of the classical “topoi” is “obligation” /  “duty” / or “ought.”  The crux of this topoi is that there is an “ought” that should both direct and constrain the actions of men.  It is a “place” where a speaker’s mind can and should go when developing content and arguments.

“Living during the rise, dictatorship, and death of Julius Caesar, Cicero* was a renowned politician, lawyer, and rhetorical theorist.  . . . . This category also includes issues of obligation where the central debate revolves around the question of whether or not someone or something is required to do something.” (an examination of Cicero’s De Inventione)


This topos can be used in developing a speech or a message by letting this topos of “not over and above, just right” act as a brainstorming tool, letting it generate ideas in your thinking processes.

The mental templates go something like this . . . .

It is not about going over and above; it is just about doing what is right.

Do what you ought to do!

It’s not “over and above”  – we are talking about, but right!

No heroics needed — Just what we ought to do!


Here is how it can work during the preparation process.  As you are thinking about what the passage is addressing, take this “topos” and throw it into the mental wheels of your thinking and let it clunk around and mesh.

Let’s give it a try . . . . Off the cuff . . . .

Take any number of New Testament passages which address “boldness.”

i.e. — Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. – Acts 4:13

Boldness is what we ought to exhibit.  Being bold is not going above and beyond what the Lord expects of us.  You will have to go to Stephen to find an example of going above and beyond.  You will have to face some of the various events which marked Paul in II Corinthians 11 to be in the company of those who go above and beyond.  Being bold is just what we ought to exhibit when it comes to our witness for Christ . . . .


Let’s go to the Old Testament and use a lesser known account — Abagail & David – I Samuel 23.

Abigail rushes to save the life of her husband, a husband who Scripture says was a fool.  She did what she should have done, whether he was a fool or not!  Marriage carries the responsibility of doing what is right.  She did not go “over and above,” she just did what was right.  She knew what was right and did what was right!

Likewise, we as God’s people are not going “over and above” when we defend our spouse — or when we deliver a fool  — or when we defend those who seem like they deserve their due rewards.  We are doing what is just right when we, by our words and actions, help, or deliver, or stand alongside those who are facing the unordinate wrathful actions of others.

If you think what you are doing is “over and above” you will think yourself to be gracious, rather than just doing what is right!  That was right for you to do this-or-that, it was not noble or heroic.

You have heard those exact words from some who have volitionally stepped into a situation, to the aid of another, and said – “I was no hero – I just did what was right, what many others would have done.


Add to your “mental generating list of topoi” – Not over and above, just right.  At times this will help you . . . .

  • develop a point
  • illustrate a point
  • drive home a truth
  • create an introduction
  • construct the Big Idea
  • develop a conclusion
  • expand on a concept
  • clarify a truth or principle
  • develop some applications
  • etc.


*”Every subject which contains in itself a controversy to be resolved by speech and debate involves a question about a fact, or about a definition, or about the nature of an act [value], or about. . . the processes of deciding it.” –Marcus Tullius Cicero, On Invention

2 thoughts on “Another Useful Topoi . . . .

  1. Hey, I just found your blog this morning. I appreciate the content you putting up. It might only appeal to a certain group, but what I’ve seen so far is valuable and contains some useful reminders, if not new stuff we’ve never even thought of. God bless.


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