Steven E. Runge, Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis (Lexham Bible Reference Series; Peabody: Hendrickson, 2010). (Amazon.com)

Runge, DISCOURSE GRAMMAR OF THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT
Runge, DISCOURSE GRAMMAR OF THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT

Steven E. Runge’s Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis is a very helpful book for those who want to move beyond reading Koiné Greek in order to translate it into English to reading it to better understand how the it functions. Runge advances beyond what grammarians can tell us about the semantic meaning. You will learn how to think about how language operates in general and then you’ll see how understanding the mechanics of the language helps you understand Koiné better.

The book is divided into four parts: (1) Foundations; (2) Forward-Pointing Devices; (3) Information Structuring Devices; and (4) Thematic Highlighting Devices. In Part 1 Runge dedicates his time to showing the reader why his approach has value. This includes discussions on paying attention to an author’s choice of words or word placement, the pragmatic effect of those choices, and so forth. Then he introduces his approach through the study of prepositions. The reader should go from thinking that “kai = and” to asking how kai functions in a sentence in Greek, especially when contrasted with a word like de (another word often translated “and” but one that has a different function from kai). I found this section expanded my understanding of the text and it helped me to stop thinking about how to merely translate when I should be trying to understand Koiné itself.

In Part 2 Runge discusses what he calls “forward-pointing devices” which includes lessons on reference and target, point/counterpoint, metacomments, the historical present, redundant quotative frames, and tail-head linkage. In Part 3 he moves on to “information structuring devices” which includes a variety of “framing devices” that highlight temporal, topical, spatial and other forms of change in the text. Also, he has sections on emphasis and “left-dislocations”. In Part 4 he discusses “thematic highlighting devices” such as overspecification and “right-dislocation”, thematic additions, change of reference, and near/far distinction. (If you want to peak at the book to see examples of these concepts I recommend viewing it through Google Books since it is not possible for me to reproduce examples from each one here).

Now, if you want a more critical, thorough review of this book you’ll have to look elsewhere because I’m not qualified. I read this book with the posture of a someone who—in the words of Esteban Vázquez— “felt like I am learning Greek all over again.” I confess that prior to reading this book I overlooked most (or read without being very conscious) of the devices used by authors to do things as simple as emphasizing the main theme over against an athematic point, or when the author seems to be commenting/explaining the text within the text, or when the author wants to introduce a change in time or place. In fact, many of these chapters introduced ideas that were completely new to me. If not completely new, then paradigm shifting and mind expanding. I found that my reading of the text seemed to go from 2-D to 3-D in the process. This is the sort of book you’ll want to purchase and then work your way through slowly. Whereas many grammars—even those like Wallace’s Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics—are helpful, this book seems to take things another step altogether really forcing you to be observant when reading the Greek New Testament. I highly recommend this book because I believe it will help you become a better reader if you read it.

Advertisements