Against every dictate of common (or is it merely human?) sense, the apostle Paul once audaciously claimed that, in his own intentional crafting of his gospel message, he adhered to this startling PR strategy:
“Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it it written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scholar? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the foolishness of what we preach [i.e. the message about Jesus crucified] to save those who believe…And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony [or ‘mystery’] of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, in order that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:17-2:5)
The obvious follow-up question: did Paul actually practice what he preached? In another context altogether Charles Cranfield provides indirect confirmation for Paul’s single-minded committment to the breathtaking content of the gospel, over and against the showy form it might be delivered in, as he carefully weighs the literary merits of Paul’s greatest letter:
“As far as style is concerned, the epistle shows considerable variety. The style varies with the subject matter. Quite often it approximates closely to the style of the Hellenistic diatribe. Sometimes it is the style of liturgical utterance or of the solemn confession of faith. Sometimes there are resemblances to Jewish Wisdom, sometimes to the manner of Jewish biblical exegesis such as we find in some of the Qumram texts, sometimes to the rules of the Rabbis. There is nothing to suggest familiarity with classical Greek literature…and there is little, if any, evidence of the concern for literary grace for its own sake which is characteristic of classical Greek prose. John Chryostom recognized that it was no use looking for the smoothness of Isocrates, the majesty of Demosthenes, the dignity of Thucydides, or the sublimity of Plato in Paul’s letters, and admitted Paul’s poverty and the simplicityand artlessness of his composition; and Gregory of Nyssa speaks of Paul as adorning his sentences mone te aletheia [‘only for the truth’].
For the most part the real grandeur of Romans as a piece of literature derives from its content and from the sincerity, directness, and personal involvement of the author. At the same time, it would be quite incorrect to assume that the epistle is totally devoid of literary elegance; for it affords clear evidence that Paul knew the various figures of speech of the rhetoricians and that it came naturally to him to make use of them from time to time…But these things are used by Paul unselfconsciously, not as ends in themselves but as natural means to the forceful and compelling expression of what he has to say. It is the content that is all-important. And it is to this concentration on the content of what has to be expressed and subordination of outward form to it that at any rate some of his anacolutha [broken syntax in sentences] should be attributed.” (C. E. B. Cranfield, Romans 1-8, ICC, pp. 25-26)