Kevin J. Levesque
Letter from Birmingham Jail
In "Letter from Birmingham Jail", Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. uses many writing techniques to respond to the rebuke he received from "fellow clergymen" on his "present activities" in the fight to end segregation. One of which is referencing of biblical persons.
King uses references to biblical persons throughout his writing. One reference of this nature is to Paul. King states, "… just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid." King uses the connection between Paul and Macedonia, and compares it to the connection between King and Alabama, to validate his reason for being in Alabama. This reference is successful because the intended audience of this letter are clergymen and would have an understanding of the Apostle Paul and his works in Christ. They would easily see the comparison of Dr. King's struggles with persecution in the face of what he believes to be right to the struggles of Paul and the early Christians in their efforts to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Dr. King effectively uses this writing technique to establish himself as a creditable writer and defend his actions. By the end of the letter he turns what began as a response to the criticism of his own actions into a rebuke of the church as a whole for their own failure to act.