Category Archives: Rhetoric

Mr. Nance the Younger

“A wise son makes a father glad” (Prov. 15:20)

It is my sincere pleasure to announce that this year for Roman Roads Classrooms, the teacher of Logic and Rhetoric will be my son Josiah. He will also be teaching an Astronomy course (his favorite subject).

Josiah is an experienced teacher, having taught several math and science courses for the last three years at Sequitur Classical Academy in Baton Rouge, before returning to his roots in Idaho this year. He was a very popular teacher at Sequitur among both students and parents.  Roman Roads Classroom is blessed to have him as a teacher.

In his 12  years at Logos School, Josiah was one of my best students. He has a sharp mind, true artistic talent, a fun sense of humor, and a mature sense of the seriousness of life firmly founded on godly joy. He received his bachelor of arts in liberal arts and culture from New St. Andrews College in 2014, before being hired by Sequitur to help develop their math and science program.

If you want to learn logic, rhetoric, or astronomy, I highly recommend this young man!


Mr. Nance,

My son is in high school, and we want to use your Fitting Words curriculum. If he works through the Fitting Words text in tenth grade, would it be appropriate for him to work through it again as a review in eleventh and/or twelfth grade?

What would you advise? Thank you in advance.

Fitting Words: Classical Rhetoric for the Christian Student was designed to be taught as either a one-year intensive course, or a two-year regular course. In the front of the Fitting Words Answer Key are one- and two-year schedules. I would suggest that your son work through the curriculum over two years, tenth and eleventh grade.

In the first year the topics covered are:

Unit 1: Foundations of Rhetoric
Unit 2: Invention and Arrangement
Unit 3: Understanding Emotions: Ethos and Pathos
Unit 4: Fitting Words to the Topic: Special Lines of Argument

In the second year the topics are:

Unit 5: General lines of Argument (a review of logic)
Unit 6: Fitting Words to the Audience: Style and Ornament
Unit 7: Memory and Delivery

For twelfth grade, I would suggest a thesis paper (or papers, perhaps including a research paper) and defense, applying what they have learned in the first two years.


Analogies of Jesus

A parable is a type of analogy. Consequently, most of the recorded words of Christ are teachings by means of analogy. Many of the parables take the form of short stories, such as the story of the Prodigal Son, the Unforgiving Servant, or the Workers in the Vineyard. Some of the analogies used by Jesus, however, are not in story form, but simply use comparison (ordered-pairs and illustrative parallels) to illuminate or emphasize the point. Several of these appear in the Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew 5-7.

Ordered-Pair Analogies

Ordered-pair analogies, which take the form A is to B as C is to D, or simply A : B :: C : D, often appear in standardized tests.  But as we saw in my earlier post, Analogy in Proverbs, they often appear in the Bible as well in slightly more ordinary language. Here are two examples from the Sermon on the Mount.

“He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. 5:45)

We can simplify this analogy in standard form: ‘making the sun rise’ is to ‘sending rain’ as ‘evil and good’ is to ‘just and unjust.’ The first pair are similar, the second synonymous.

“But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.” (Mat. 5:39-41)

These three ordered pairs are applications of the general principle, “Do not resist an evil person. If he forces you to do something painful but otherwise not sinful, do even more.” This is such a familiar analogy that the phrase go the second mile has become a cliché.

Synonymous Pairs

Some ordered-pair analogies use terms that are basically synonyms. Here Jesus uses synonymous repetition to emphasize His point:

“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matt. 5:44)

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” (Matt. 7:7)

Antithetical Pairs

Other ordered pairs set up an antithesis using antonyms, as in these examples from the Sermon:

“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:19)

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt. 7:13-14)

Illustrative parallels

Jesus also persuades by means of illustrative parallels, which were explained in detail in my earlier post, Constructing Illustrative Parallels. Here are three examples, one from each chapter of the Sermon on the Mount.

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matt. 5:14-16)

The intermediate conclusion is that light is not meant to be hidden, nor to illuminate itself, but to shed light on something else. Thus we should neither hide our good works, nor use them to glorify ourselves, but to glorify our Father.

“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matt. 6:28-30)

Here the intermediate conclusion is, of course, that God clothes all of His creatures. Thus he will clothe you, His child.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” (Matt. 7:15)

The intermediate conclusion here is that some creatures who look harmless on the outside are concealing their true, dangerous nature. So be wary!

Analogy in Proverbs

In my first post of this series on analogies, I explained that one typical analogy form is the ordered-pairA is to B as C is to D, or more briefly A : B :: C : D. This is how most people think about analogies, having seen them in the vocabulary or reasoning sections of standardized tests. But in reading through Proverbs recently, I uncovered about fifty analogies, most of which can be reduced to ordered-pair form.

One Ordered Pair Illuminates the Other

For example, Proverbs 3:12 says,

“For whom the Lord loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights.”

This analogy can be reduced to an ordered pair:

The Lord : His beloved :: a father : his delighted son

The common concept between these analogous pairs is that the first corrects or disciplines the second. The comparison is helpful because the familiar, concrete image of a father correcting the son in whom he delights illuminates the less familiar, more abstract idea of the Lord correcting His beloved.

Here are two more examples:

“As a dog returns to his own vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Prov. 26:11)

“Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.” (Prov. 26:20)

In those examples, the first analogous pair illuminates the second.

Synonymous Pairs

Rather than using an analogy to illuminate the less familiar by means of the more, many proverbs simply restate the main point using synonymous pairs. Here are several examples in which the ordered pairs are synonyms:

“Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.” (Prov. 1:28, cf. Mt. 7:7)

“I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!” (Prov. 5:13)

“Does not wisdom cry out, and understanding lift up her voice?” (Prov. 8:1)

“For a harlot is a deep pit, and a seductress is a narrow well.” (Prov. 23:27)

Antithetical Pairs

Many other proverbs set up an antithesis, using antonyms in ordered pairs:

“The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just.” (Prov. 3:33)

“A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother.” (Prov. 10:1)

“The hand of the diligent will rule, but the lazy man will be put to forced labor.” (Prov. 12:24)

Analogies by means of Hebrew parallelism are employed throughout Scripture. In my next post, we will consider analogies in the New Testament.

Constructing Illustrative Parallels

In my last post, I claimed that there are three typical ways we use analogies: basic comparisons, ordered-pairs, and illustrative parallels. In this post I will explain how to construct an illustrative parallel, which is a powerful means of proof.

The Pattern

An illustrative parallel reasons from a particular example (the source) to a particular conclusion (the target). The process combines inductive reasoning (from the particular example to a general statement) and deductive reasoning (from the general statement to the particular conclusion) as shown:

I am fascinated by the inductive-deductive process that the mind goes through when reasoning by analogy, such as in the parables. For example, Jesus teaches in Matthew 5:14-15, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.” The source (“no one lights a lamp to put it under a basket, but to give light to the house”) inductively implies the general intermediate conclusion that what is meant to illuminate something should not be covered, and that it is uncovered not in order to display itself, but something else. So when he deductively makes the particular conclusion in verse 16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven,” we understand that we should do good works, not to shine a light on ourselves, but that men might glorify God.


Inventing good analogies can be difficult, but we can be helped using the pattern above. Say that you want to use an analogy to respond to this challenge: “Why study formal logic? Everyone can already reason!” You could argue that the study of formal logic helps to improve our reasoning skills by providing standards to distinguish between good and bad reasoning. This is your target. It can be deduced from the general statement that studying a language art can provide standards by which we distinguish between the proper and improper use of that art. Given this, we must then invent a source, a different example of the general statement, and one that is preferably more familiar that the target. What familiar language art provides us with such standards? English is a good example; the study of English helps us improve our speaking and writing skills by providing standards to distinguish proper English from improper. The basic analogy could then be simply stated: “‘Why study formal logic? Everyone can reason.’ That’s like arguing, ‘Why study formal English? Everyone can speak!’”

Imitating the Masters

Jesus is, of course, the Master of analogies, as of all other forms of argument. But there are also many lesser masters from whom we can learn this art. My favorites include C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Mark Twain, and Doug Wilson. Here are some of my favorites:

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen; not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” ― C. S. Lewis

“The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.” ― G.K. Chesterton

“Laws are sand, customs are rock. Laws can be evaded and punishment escaped, but an openly transgressed custom brings sure punishment.” ― Mark Twain

“We have no structure any more. We have no shared creed. We do not know what we are here for. It makes no sense to speak of our inherited ‘shared values,’ or better yet, ‘core values.’ If they are arbitrary, shared values are worthless. If they are arbitrary, core values are simply located where our intestines are, and are full of the same thing.” ― Doug Wilson

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” ― Anne Bradstreet

What are some of your favorite analogies? Leave a comment!

Reasoning by Analogy

I have been thinking about analogies lately, and finding them fascinating. There appear to be three basic uses for the term analogy.


First, almost any comparison, especially one in which a familiar, simpler, or concrete thing is used to clarify or illuminate something that is unfamiliar, complex, or abstract, can be called an analogy. For example, this excerpt from George Orwell’s essay “A Hanging” is considered an analogy:

They crowded very close about him, with their hands always on him in a careful, caressing grip, as though all the while feeling him to make sure he was there. It was like men handling a fish which is still alive and may jump back into the water.

The manner in which the guards handled the prisoner is compared to men handling a fish. Most people have tried to handle a live fish just pulled from the water that wants back in, so this comparison gives the reader a vivid mental picture of the less familiar situation Orwell is describing.


Second, we see analogies in what can be called ordered-pair form: A is to B as C is to D, or more briefly A : B :: C : D. Typically these appear in the vocabulary or reasoning section of standardized tests, like this sample question from the GRE. Choose the analogous pair:

A. player : coach
B. child : parent
C. student : teacher
D. intern : doctor

The best answer is D. Just as an apprentice is training to be a plumber, so an intern is training to be a doctor. A child does not formally study to become a parent, and a player or student is not necessarily studying to become a coach or teacher (respectively).

Illustrative parallels

Third, we see analogies being used for the purposes of persuasion, called arguments by analogy, or what Aristotle calls illustrative parallels. Here is an example from Aristotle’s Rhetoric II.20:

Public officials ought not to be selected by lot. That is like using the lot to select athletes, instead of choosing those who are fit for the contest; or using the lot to select a steersman from among a ship’s crew, as if we ought to take the man on whom the lot falls, and not the man who knows most about it.

Illustrative parallels use both inductive and deductive reasoning. We use inductive reasoning to mentally move from the source (e.g. we ought not use the lot to select athletes) to a more general, unspoken intermediate conclusion (we ought not randomly select someone for a skilled position). We then use deductive reasoning to move from this intermediate conclusion to our specific conclusion, the target (we ought not select public officials by lot).

In my next post, I will explain how to construct illustrative parallels.

What comes after Logic? Rhetoric!

Introductory and Intermediate Logic together provide a complete foundational logic curriculum. Informal, categorical, and modern propositional logic are all included. The next step in your student’s classical education is to begin to apply what he has learned in logic to effective speaking and writing. This means your student should move on to the study of formal rhetoric, the capstone of a classical education. Rhetoric applies the tools of logic – defining terms, declaring truth, arguing to valid conclusions, and refuting invalid ones – to the persuasion of people. Rhetoric puts flesh onto the bones of logical analysis, that we may breathe arguments into life through the wise use of fitting words.

Fitting Words: Classical Rhetoric for the Christian Student is a complete formal rhetoric curriculum. Presented from a thoroughly Christian perspective, Fitting Words provides students with tools for speaking that will equip them for life. Drawing from Aristotle, Quintilian, Augustine, and others, and using examples from the greatest speeches from history and scripture, this robust curriculum guides Christian students in the theory and practice of persuasive communication.

The complete curriculum includes:

  • Student text with 30 detailed lessons
  • Student workbook with exercises for every lesson
  • Answer key for the exercises and tests
  • Test packet with nine tests, review sheets for every test, and speech judging sheets
  • Video course in which the author introduces and teaches through every lesson

Rhetoric Interview

The following is a slightly edited version of a survey given me by Joshua Butcher – rhetoric instructor at Trinitas Christian School in Pensacola, Florida – regarding the teaching of rhetoric in a classical, Christian setting.

Josh:  How long have you taught rhetoric in a classical education setting?
Jim:  I taught Classical Rhetoric for 18 years at Logos School to 11th graders. I have also written a rhetoric text – Fitting Words: Classical Rhetoric for the Christian Student – and lectured through it.

Josh:  What are the essentials of rhetoric that every classically educated student should have?
Jim:  Do you mean, “What are the essential rhetorical skills that every classically educated student should seek to master?” Continue reading Rhetoric Interview

After Intermediate Logic?

What is recommended after Intermediate Logic? The short answer is: Rhetoric! But let me give you a bit more than that.

Introductory and Intermediate Logic together provide a complete foundational logic curriculum. Informal, categorical, and modern propositional logic are all included. The next step in a student’s classical education is to begin to apply what they have learned in logic to effective speaking and writing. This means that the student should move on to study formal rhetoric. Rhetoric applies the tools of logic: defining terms, declaring truth, arguing to valid conclusions, and refuting invalid ones. Indeed, of the modes of rhetorical persuasion – ethos, pathos, and logos – one-third is applied logic.

With this in mind, Roman Roads has released a new curriculum, Fitting Words: Classical Rhetoric for the Christian Student. I am the author of this text, and in Fitting Words I work to apply in rhetoric much of what the student has learned in logic. I am very excited about this project, because one significant reason that I wrote this text was to provide a satisfying answer the question of where to go next!

Take a look HERE for the most up-to-date information about Fitting Words.

King’s Grand Style

It has been maintained that Martin Luther King Jr. was the last American orator to use the grand level of style appropriately. In my rhetoric text Fitting Words, I define the grand level as that “in which the stylistic devices are intended to be dramatic, apparent, and impressive. Its purpose is not only to inform the mind and persuade the will, but to grip the emotions and heart. It is most appropriate for speeches delivered on formal occasions.”

Anyone who has listened to (or at least read) some of his speeches – especially his most famous “I Have a Dream” – is aware that MLK uses stylistic devices in a dramatic and impressive way, a way that can grip the mind and heart of his hearers.  Here are some quotes from my text which shows his skill in using the grand level of style. Continue reading King’s Grand Style