Christian apologetic dialogues are often dismissed as functional literature (“Gebrauchsliteratur”). In this paper the author uses the concept of literary staging (“Inszenierung”) to outline a hermeneutics for Christian dialogues that appreciates them as genuine literature. This hermeneutics is applied to the two oldest preserved examples of this genre: the analysis of literary staging shows Justin's Dialogue with the Jew Tryphon to be progress from a platonic elenctical dialogue to an instructional conversation on the basis of the Holy Scriptures. The Octavius of Minucius Felix transforms the sceptical method of Cicero into a paradigm of Christian eloquentia. Thus, the specific literary staging of the dialogues reflects what the authors considered to be the new and truthful character of the Christian philosophy: for Justin it is the right exegesis of the biblical scriptures, for Minucius the overcoming of philosophical scepticism in argumentation and method. The concordance of literal form and philosophical content proves both dialogues to be genuine literature.
© Walter de Gruyter 2009