Friday, December 24, 2010

Discourse Analysis: A giant spotlight on what you haven't noticed when translating the GNT

Yesterday I was skimming through the blog when I noticed he had written an article about my old Greek instructor, Steve Runge. Turns out, Steve has gone on, gotten his doctorate and is now working for Logos Bible Software.

Steve was a great teacher. I can still remember his opening lecture for first semester Greek. He was full of excitement and zeal when he told us everything he's learned from knowing Greek (including an increased appreciation for classical music!). I can only imagine how tough it was for him to go through the endings chart over and over when there was so much else he wanted to teach. I will tell you one thing about the guy: He pushed us. We were translating chunks of text straight out of the GNT by the end of our first semester (way ahead of the class taught by the other prof).

Steve... err... Dr. Runge has written a new book Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament. All of the reviews on Amazon are positively glowing. In fact, Daniel Wallace wrote the Forward. How's that for high praise? The only thing that would be even better is if Runge were honored through cheer and song like Wallace was.

So, what is discourse analysis you ask? Well, busy pastor/teacher, it is like a breath of fresh air to the grind of translating the text for your sermon prep. I know, I know, you say "Zack, I see the text glowing in front of me, I hover my mouse over the word, review the applicable parsing info, and then move on. What I do can hardly be called translation, why should I take the time to learn this?" Precisely because you spend so much time mouse-hovering over the text. I know what that is like. I struggle with those same crutches (please don't be made at me, Dr. Runge!!). Discourse analysis takes you out of the trenches and forces you to look at the text as a unit. For instance, if you are doing mouse-over-translation for Col. 1:3 you aren't going to ask the question "Why does Paul use the article in τω θεω when he didn't use it the past two times. You are too busy trying to decide if you have to translate that as "the God" or just "God." (Note: example taken from Levinsohn's very very good book Discourse Features of New Testament Greek - also worth the read). Discourse Analysis helps you see the big picture, it reveals ways the argument or narrative is turning that might not be readily apparent through a word-by-word translation. The best part is it helps you ask those simple questions (why the article?) that you never would have asked before.

I have assembled quite a few free resources on DA below, including excerpts from Runge's new book. Check them out, read the reviews, and ask yourself one question: Could my preaching benefit from this?

*UPDATE* If you want a quick overview of the importance of DA, read Steve's comments for the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament that he edited here.

Greek NT Discourse Analysis Resources:

"The Relevance of Greek Discourse Studies to Greek Exegesis" SILJOT 2(2) 2006 by Levinsohn
Analyzing Discourse: A Manual of Basic Concepts by Dooley and Levinsohn
Sel-Instruction Materials on Narrative Discourse Analysis by Levinsohn (170pp)*
"οτι  Recitativum in John's Gospel: A Stylistic or a Pragmatic Device" by Levinsohn (14pp)
Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament by Steve Runge (TOC, Preface, Chapter 1) (Excerpt on Instantaneous Imperfects) (Larger Excerpt from the book)*
Also see Runge's blog NT Discourse.
"A Brief Introduction to Verbal Aspect in New Testament Greek" DBSJ 12 2007 by Nasselli 
"The Greek Verbal Network Viewed from a Probabilistic Standpoint: An Exercise in Hallidayan Linguistics" Filologia Neotestamentaria 14 2001 by Stanley Porter and Matthew O'Donnell

*Note: Whenever possible I have attempted to link to the webpage that hosts the file. In the few situations where I have located the file on a google search, but have been unable to find the original post/site I have linked directly to the file.

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