Rhetoric & Homiletics: “That Says It All!”

The day after it was reported, one of the “media talking heads” made this simple comment . . . .

“If the home of the previous director of the FBI was searched by the FBI, that says it all.”

The argument being made was that if the FBI raided the house of the former FBI director, there was nothing more to say.  That said it all!  He was corrupt!

As I listened to that comment / “argument,” I immediately thought of Aristotle’s “topoi.”  This could be called the “topos” of “epitome” — or a subdivision of “the part to the whole.”
— “That says it all.
— “That epitomizes it.”
— The part (an event) speaks to the whole.
— The whole is seen in the part.


When Aristotle’s students were called upon to speak impromptu, they would call up topoi1 which they were taught to keep in their rhetorical toolboxes.

One such “topos” would be to call up the actions and/or the words of an individual and to “argue that such actions and/or words —  “say all that needs to be said.”

The “part” — whether it be an event, words, or action —  speaks to the “whole.”

The event, action, and/or words epitomize the whole point which is being made.

“You can see it all (whole) 
right there (in an event)!”

In a recent federal SEC prosecution of Goldman Sachs employee Fabrice Tourre (“The Fabulous Fab”), this topos was used.  Tourre was being charged with selling deceptive subprime mortgages to unwary investors, Tourre was confronted with an email he had written to his girlfriend.  In that email, he states that he had . . . . .

“just sold some Abacus bonds to widows and orphans that I met at the airport.”2

In essence, the argument made to the jury by the federal prosecutor was just that — “It says it all!”  Tourre didn’t care who he defrauded — even widows and orphans — THAT EMAIL SAYS IT ALL!

That email (words)
says it all (the whole story).


When you are looking for a way to . . . .

add content
explain a concept
make or construct an argument
begin or conclude a message
drive a point
exemplify a biblical pattern
arrive at and state a BigIdea3

. . . . the topos — “epitome”  (branch of “the part to the whole”)  may be helpful! 4


Biblical Examples: There are biblical events, dialogue, and/or actions, which also “says it all!”

When it comes to seeing and/or understanding a biblical truth, principle, or concept, an action, the words, or an event — “says it all.”.


For Instance . . . . 

Joshua’s decision to allow the making a golden calf — says it all!

Jeroboam’s setting up an alternate place of worship so that God’s people need not go to Jerusalem — says it all!

The widow’s giving of he last mite says it all about devotion and love.

Saul’s / Paul’s conversion says it all about the GRACE of God.

The thief’s salvation on the cross says it all about faith and not works!

The Pharisees’ words and actions concerning the healing of the blind man says it all about hard-heartedness.

Jesus, in calling a tax collector as a disciple, says it all about why He came!


Homiletical Usage:  What you are doing in calling up this particular topos is revealing a biblical pattern which is repeatedly found in the Scriptures.

“That says it all” — You are identifying a pattern which can be seen throughout the Scriptures.  It is not unique or peculiar to the secular.  Rather, that same pattern can be found throughout the Scriptures.

When you identify those examples and that pattern for the audience, you are helping them see a biblically existent pattern.

When you identify examples and/or demonstrate the pattern, the audience comes to understand the value and reason for the inclusion of that event, those words, and/or those actions. . . .

i.e., “The Lord puts this account into the Bible so that we can see this truth with all the clarity in which it needs to be seen.”

i.e., “Here is a principle which is found in this passage and laid out in such a way so as to say — “Do you see what it looks like?  The passage just lays out this principle in a way that it is epitomized in word and action.


The Generating Formula:  “Is this passage one of those passages which just “says it all?

As you work with different passages over time, ask yourself that formulaic question.  See if this-or-that passage just “says it all!”

If it does, then set up the pattern for the audience to understand how it is used in Scripture to drive that point home.
i.e., “This is one of those passages which just lay out a truth/principle/ biblical concept like no other passage does so effectively.  It just says it all when it comes to __?__”


Two Examples: Here is how it might appear using . . . .

Mark 12:41-44

There are events, words, actions which the Lord has put into the Bible which are designed to make it crystal clear what something means, or is, or looks like.

“It says it all” when it comes to understanding or seeing this-or-that biblical truth, principle, . or concept.

It is as if God has deliberately (and He has) put in events, words, and/or accounts in the Bible which are designed to visualize what it really looks like.  That passage just  – “says it all” when it comes to . . . . . .

Here is one of those “says it all” examples!

If you wanted to see love and devotion — the Lord says — Let me show you what the widow does with her last mite — not what a Pharisee or rich man does in his giving. It is not the rich, abundant giver which “say it all” when it comes to love and devotion — when it comes to sacrifice.

It is this widow’s act of giving that “says it all.”

It is after you have given and you are left with nothing — It is that kind of giving that the Lord points to and which “says it all.”

That act is the epitome of love and devotion.

That act speaks louder than any other kind of giving —   It says it all!

Jesus is pointing her out to His disciples because her actions just epitomize sacrifice, love, devotion.


OR  — when preaching a message from . . . .


John 9

When you read John 9 — you will find the story of stubborn unbelief — a story which has been included in the Scriptures, which is in many ways unbelievable in its happening because of Who and What takes place.

Who — Jesus  — He is going to perform a miracle — a miracle of restoring sight to a blind man — but not any blind man, a blind man who was known in the community for years AND a man who was blind from birth.

This account is one of the peppered accounts found throughout the Scriptures, which just “says it all!”

This account will say what few other accounts will say about hard-heartedness.  In fact, this account will “say it all” when it comes to personifying what stubborn unbelief looks like.

In the Old Testament, you would have to examine the response of Pharaoh to the announced and executed 10 plagues to see this truth set out as clearly as it is in this New Testament miracle performed by Jesus!

I am not sure there is another N.T. account which “says it all” — which says it like this account does.   It totally illustrates what Jesus was facing when it came to establishing and proving Who He was.

Had we been there — we would have made the point — “What else does Jesus need to do in order to prove that He is the Messiah — that He came from God — for no man can do these miracles that He does except God has sent Him!”


Other Information & Links:

1. Topoi:

“Though all arguments require a claim on a controversial issue and evidence to back up the claim, not all arguments work in the same way.  Aristotle realized this when he discussed the concept of the topics or topoi (Greek for “places”), which accounts for the different ways an argument may be advanced.  (In the ancient Greek sense, they are “places” to go to find and present arguments.)  This page doesn’t attempt to list all of Aristotle’s topics; we will be better served by concentrating on a handful of them.  The topics are not a set of arbitrarily drawn methods of arguing issues; they are based on the way people think–on the nature of a thing, the value of something, what causes things to happen, what course of action to take in alleviating a problem, and so on.  The topics are a mirror of the human mind, human reason.  Keep in mind that whereas one issue may be better stated as a definition argument, another might work better as a cause and effect one.  Note, too, that some arguments employ more than one topic: for example, an argument that is essentially definitional may also employ cause and effect in one section.  Most arguments are in some way proposal arguments; the answers they address may be seen as a proposed solutions to problems.  Knowing something about the different topoi helps good writers–and good citizens–understand how to present and interpret arguments well.  The best way to understand the way academic arguments–the Aristotelian topoi–occur is to practice reading and writing them.


2. https://www.ft.com/content/4798ae22-f552-11e2-b4f8-00144feabdc0



3. Examples Of A BigIdea:  From each of the above biblical passages, you could layout a BigIdea using this topos.

Mark 12:  It will be the sacrificial giving of our time, talent, and/or treasure which “says it all” about your love and devotion!

John 9: The ability to see and respond to what the Lord is doing in our lives and the lives of others, “says it all” when it comes to the hardness of our hearts.


4. Other Useful Words or Phrases:  To avoid being repetitious, there are other words and phrases (and adjectives-adverbs) which can be used to make the same point.

sums it up
totally illustrates
fully exemplifies
completely represents
the incarnation of
fully reflects
sums up
totally illustrates
completely exemplifies



Argumentative Use:  There are also arguments which can be created and driven by using this rhetorical topos.

If you have time for  “Facebook” — that says it all.  If you have time to post on Facebook, if you have time for social media, then you have time to read your Bible and you have time to pray.

If you have time to sit and watch television throughout the week — that says it all. Then you already have plenty of time for family.

Time for business, time for pleasure — but the songwriter asks “Have You Any Room For Jesus”  — yes — having time for business and pleasure — says it all!

To have the money for the latest techno gadget and then say that you do not have money for ministry — says it all!  It is not money, it is the heart.

You go on vacation sick, but then too sick to go to church — that says it all.

If you want more family time, turn off your TV.  Canceling church for the “Super Bowl” — says all that needs to be said — It says that it is not about family time!

To protect animals and not babies — says it all about America’s morality.



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