Now Available!!! A Parallel & Interlinear New Testament Polyglot

Today, I am pleased to announce the release of Volume 1 in the brand new Hexapla series that I have been working on with one of my mentors, Dr. Fred Long.  The first installment, Luke-Acts, is found in Hebrew, Latin, Greek, English, German, and French.  For those wanting to retain language abilities for research or recreation, this volume, which contains the Gospel of Luke in interlinear format and the Book of Acts in parallel format, is perfect for you!  It is also perfect for biblical studies and theological students (especially those of upper-level study) as it will help you prepare for exams.  Well, instead of saying so much about it here, let me point you to the website where you can read about it, see some examples and purchase it!  To visit the site, click the following link:  www.NTPolyglot.com.  Also, work on future volumes is already underway, so, be on the lookout!  Spread the word about this great resource!


Getting Greek: Reading Philemon App

Hey Pisteuomen readers, I just wanted to publish a quick post to let you know about my latest app, the Getting Greek: Reading Philemon App. The purpose of this lightweight, intuitive and user-friendly app is to allow readers not simply to access the Greek text of Philemon on their smart devices, but also to enable them to both read the Greek text and hear it read simultaneously. This is my 10th app and you can expect more to come. You can get this app in the Android Market and you can also check out my app gallery HERE. You can also see screenshots, specs and a preview video of the app HERE. Enjoy!


Are The Top Biblioblogs Actually Blogs Or RSS Feeds?

It is becoming more and more popular within the blogging community these days, especially the Bible/Theology blogging community, to masquerade as a blogger while really being little more than an RSS Feed puller. This is quite annoying! I presume that part of the reason for this is due to traffic and stats. There's at least a half a dozen so-called blogs out there whose monthly goal is to be at the top of the Biblioblog rankings (e.g. The Top 50). You will see these blogs that I'm speaking of coming through with 5 or 10 or more postings per day. Yet, in most instances, NONE of those posts are original. I'll get back to this momentarily. Or, if they are original, they might be a paragraph in length, or poll-based or asking some question, etc. In other words, the content can hardly constitute any sort of worthwhile post. Furthermore, the content is rarely meaningful or relevant in any way to biblical studies/theological studies. Now, I'm not saying that posting stuff unrelated to the Bible on a so-called "Bible Blog" is wrong. It is your blog, write what you like! What I am saying is that I think it is annoying that folks are trying to pass this weak stuff off as substantive or meaningful content related to the Bible. Sadly, it is quite like holding a mirror up to many pulpits today!

Now, back to the the point about originality. Some folks out there (you know who you are and so does everyone else), have decided that in place of being able to write their own content, they can also just copy and paste the work of others on their own sites. Once they do this, they slap a title on it and hit "publish" and voila, they have another post, which will drive more traffic to their site. In short, all they've done is turn their so-called blog into an RSS Feed or Aggregator. They have co-opted and sometimes even plagiarized someone else's content so that they can get more hits, which will drive up their ranking on the Biblioblogs site. Some sites have even resorted to having multiple authors so that they can have more than one person scouring the feeds and so that they can both re-post content. Some sites, however, maintain but one author, which makes me wonder if they just sit around checking the Feed Reader all day waiting for whatever's next to come down the pipeline.

My critique here isn't simply a complaint, although it is that in part. There are other issues that, in my opinion, play into this whole issue. One issue is the egoism that many bloggers have. It is as if their whole livelihood is dependent upon traffic and stats and rankings. This leads into another issue: plagiarism and intellectual dishonesty. Hijacking the content of others is simply problematic. Sure, re-posting someone's content every once in a while is fine but multiple times on a daily basis really makes me question the integrity of some folks. If this is being done so out-in-the-open, one has to wonder what the ministries and academic practices of these folks looks like in private! Are they doing the same sorts of things in their sermons, lessons, lectures, papers, etc.? Furthermore, we already have feed aggregates like Twitter, Facebook, Google Reader and the Biblioblogs site, thus, these content-stealing blogs are simply not needed!

So, I guess I am suggesting that for those of you who are daily copying and re-posting the content of others, please quit it. Write your own material! Come up with your own material! There is something ethically problematic about simply copying someone else's work and posting it on your own site in full, even if you do provide a hyperlink somewhere back to the original content. To be clear, I'm not saying that you should never cite anyone's work on your blog. Again, do what you like, it is your blog! But I am suggesting that things should be done here in a way similar to what is done in the professional world: Cite the author, but realize that there is a point when too much citation simply becomes plagiarism and the stealing of intellectual property! There is a reason that the majority of blogs have "comment" features! If you want to interact with someone's post, don't simply copy and re-post it on your own blog. No, go to their blog and interact! And if you want to write response posts, fine but don't co-opt all of the material.

Again, you (and the rest of us) know who you are. Raise your standards and create your own content (if you have the capabilities). Give credit where credit is due. And for goodness' sake, if you're going to try to pass as a Bible or theology blog, write some freakin' stuff on the Bible or theology (that's your own!).


Review of Runge's "Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament" Pt 3

Steve Runge’s A Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament (DGGNT) is divided into four main sections, which are followed by a summary. In this portion of my review, I want to focus on Chapter 1 of Part 1, which is titled “Foundations” and as such, functions as an introduction to what Runge understands to be key concepts within his Discourse Analysis (DA) approach.

While this is a grammar which both Wallace (in the foreword) and Runge (in the preface) suggest is a “complement” to other grammars, as opposed to being in competition with them, some of my initial questions/critiques flow from this assertion. When compared to other grammars, I find it interesting that Runge opts out of providing rudimentary elements of Greek at the beginning of his “grammar”. Absent from DGGNT are any signs of an alphabet, pronunciation, diphthongs, breathing/diacritical marks, etc. In the foreword, Wallace urges students to take up and read this book, while Runge, in the preface notes that this work is one that “even first-year Greek students” can productively engage (xviii). Yet, if this were the only grammar one had to start with, this would certainly not be the case as they would not even know the alphabet! Therefore, in an updated version, I wonder if it might benefit Runge to consider adding brief sections on each of these phenomena.

Runge does begin his introduction, however, by exposing some of his philosophical undergirdings. For instance, he notes that in using a “function-based approach,” he desires to “describe grammatical conventions based upon the discourse functions they accomplish” not simply “their translation” (3). One major difference between the DGGNT and traditional grammars is that whereas other authors have tended to focus on word-level or sentence-level phenomena, Runge seeks to offer a “descriptive framework” that is functional across the board, in other words, a cross-linguistic framework (4). Instead of simply describing linguistic peculiarities away, as many grammars have tended to do, Runge argues that these peculiarities, in fact, point to the existence of significant discourse features that beg for the interpreter’s attention.

For Runge, there are at least three presuppositions of his approach that he desires to make explicit mention of: 1) Choice implies meaning, 2) Semantic or inherent meaning should be differentiated from pragmatic effect, and 3) Default patterns of usage should be distinguished from marked ones (5). While there are likely more assumptions underlying Runge’s approach (e.g. unspoken assertions about using modern linguistic theory to analyze ancient texts…and modern ones too), the annunciation of these claims from the outset are helpful for the reader. Here, let us deal with each in turn, and then say a few words also about “prominence” and “contrast”.

Much of Runge’s agenda, as we have alluded to, seems driven by the desire for a cross-linguistic analytic, that is, an “approach to language that applies just as much to Greek or English as to other languages” (5). In every language, including these two, choice always implies meaning. To put it differently, those who composed the biblical texts in Greek wished to communicate in certain ways, prioritizing and ordering events and words purposefully (5). An example of my own illustrates this presupposition. If I am at a 4-way intersection in my car and I am in need of gas and on each of the four corners there is a gas station, then I have four choices I can make. I can go to Station A, Station B, Station C or Station D. Yet, I do not just go. No, I choose to go. And inherent to my choice is a reason (or reasons). The reason might be based on whether or not I have to make a right or left hand turn, have to wait or not at some traffic sign or light, gas prices, etc. My choice is backed by reason and that reason implies meaning. It means something that I went to Station A over and against the other three stations.

DA suggests that when reading a text, we must pay close attention to the choices that the composer(s) made. A choice of words implies meaning, especially when there are multiple options available. For example, this past Sunday when I was working through Mark (Mk) with my class, in 1.12, we took note of the word ekballei. This is typically the word used of exorcisms throughout the Markan narrative. So, why would the author of Mk choose this word of the Spirit's relationship to Jesus, a word which had a lot of potential for confusion, when he could have chosen apostellei or agei, etc.? Choice implies meaning! This, I believe is a sound principle. As Runge notes, “If a (NT) writer chose to use a participle to describe an action, he has at the same time chosen not to use an indicative or other finite verb form. This implies that there is some meaning associated with this decision” (6).

Still, I am left wondering at this point how Runge’s DA accounts for socio-cultural motivations of linguistic usage? It is one thing to analyze the text in light of discourse, but it is a completely different thing to analyze the language used in light of socio-cultural motivations for using a word or set of words? For example, where DA can tell us that there is something significant to be said for using a participle over and against an imperfect, it does not seem to be able to tell us whether the participle used was local idiom, rhetorical polish or driven by social & cultural norms. For example, Runge could analyze the following sentence of mine, “You all are good readers” and he could tell you that linguistically, I used SVO word order and an adjective. (In fact, a similar example is used beginning on pg 12!) He could also tell you that I used a 2nd person plural verb (e.g. You all are). However, his DA could not tell you why I might have done that. For instance, he could not tell you that just a few miles down the interstate there stands a huge water tower that might embarrass many Kentuckians because of its poor grammar, which reads “Florence Y’all.” Thus, my choice to use the more proper “You all” might be driven by a socio-cultural resistance to the tower’s poor grammar. Or, it may not. So, I am left wondering at this point, where DA intersects with rhetorical and socio-cultural motivations behind language use!

This remains one of my concerns througout the following section: Semantic Meaning versus Pragmatic Effect. Here, Runge argues that “It is very important to distinguish between the inherent meaning of something (its semantic meaning) and the effect achieved by using it in a particular context (its pragmatic effort) (7). Runge provides some excellent examples of how choice not only implies meaning but that choice and meaning also create effects upon audiences (e.g. readers or hearers). Paying attention to linguistic signals, for example, the punch line in a joke or the sarcastic tone in a conversation reveals that speakers seek to create certain effects. Missing those signals may lead to misinterpretation and therefore misunderstanding…and even misappropriation! These signals or “markings” help things stand out so that they are not missed or glossed over too easily. As Runge contends, “Distinguishing semantic meaning from pragmatic effect is critical to providing a coherent and accurate description of the device and its function within the discourse.” (9) Otherwise, one is simply left with “messy discourse” (9). While being able to notice marking is certainly helpful in exegetical and hermeneutical endeavors, I am still left asking the same questions raised at the end of the previous paragraph above.

In the following section, “Default versus Marked Framework” I understand Runge to be showing how attention to “markedness” is often a way to overcome textual or linguistic ambiguity. It is difficult to see this early on in the book, however, just how “markedness” is all that different from “modification.” For instance, Runge suggests that his theory contains sets of words or ideas. In each of these sets, there is a default “member” (11). If “kids” is the default member in a set of words and we wanted to “mark” this word or signal that it deserves attention, we could say “my kids” or “your kids” and this would “signal the presence of some quality or discourse feature that ‘the kids’ would not have signaled” (11). Of course, I do see some nuance here that distinguishes this from modification but still, the concept is very close. I wonder if a new term is needed, if I’m simply misunderstanding or if the broadening of the traditional use of “modify” would suffice.

One takeaway from this theory is its resistance to the Word Use Fallacy (which has a variety of other names as well), that is, the fallacy that appeals to statistics of word use to bear the weight of interpretive freight. Here, the focus is not on word count but rather word choice and whether the term or terms used deviate (or not) from the default term. One caveat that Runge notes, however, is that “Factors such as genre and content can skew (default) frequency, so, care must be taken in selecting the default” (12). From here, Runge goes on to show how Wallace’s definitions and categorizations of conjunctions is confusing and even unhelpful (12). In particular, he points out that kai and de, Greek conjunctions, according to Wallace, serve multiple functions. Attempting to understand the logic of their function, however, is quite difficult. In fact, briefly looking ahead to chapter 2, Runge notes that kai and de need to be understood less in terms of specific glosses and more in terms of how they function to show continuity and discontinuity in Greek discourse (13).

This leads into a discussion of prominence and contrast. Prominence is simply a cipher for emphasis. Some linguistic moves or devices signal to the audience that emphasis is being placed upon certain words or aspects of the discourse (13). Like photographers, writers or speakers can frame things in such a way as to bring more attention or emphasis or prominence to them. One way that this can also be done is through contrast. For example, a writer can repeat a certain word throughout a sentence or paragraph but suddenly change their pattern up and use a different word. This contrast will alert readers or hearers to an important aspect of the discourse. It is like the co-worker who wears jeans and a t-shirt to work every day for twenty years, but then, one day, breaks the pattern and arrives in a suit. The breaking of the pattern “attracts attention, perhaps prompting questions about what it meant” (16). The snapshots of the mountain scene below, taken from the book (14), also illustrate both prominence and contrast. Can you point out how the different pictures use prominence similarly or differently to highlight the mountain or surrounding scenery? Can you see how contrast is functioning as well?

The point of this illustration is significant because, whereas “prominence is fundamentally about making something stand out in context…contrast, in turn, presupposes that a person recognizes the underlying pattern” (16). Ultimately, “The choice to break the expected pattern implies that there was some reason not to follow the pattern. The choice implies meaning” (16). Which of the above images deviates from the pattern? How? Why? What might the meaning of this deviation or contrast be?

So far, I am still very intrigued with Runge’s DA approach and already, a number of important questions have been raised. I will continue to ponder these matters and explore them in conjunction with and apart from the DGGNT. I look forward to reviewing Chapter 2 of Part 1. In the meantime, feel free to read along with me. Pick up your copy over at Logos.


Review of Runge's "Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament" Pt 2

Runge opens the preface of his grammar, A Discourse Analysis of the Greek New Testament, by noting that among New Testament (NT) scholars, those interested in linguistic analyses of texts, have often created more problems with and in their analyses than existed before they undertook their own work; often scholars merely “reshape the problems using complex jargon” (xvii). Some, like Daniel Wallace, have found this to be the case with those who have attempted to use Discourse Analysis (DA) on the NT. Thus, Runge’s grammar seeks to “fill this lacuna” by minimalizing the use of technical jargon and providing practical grammatical solutions to grammatical problems.

Runge is clear, however, that his work is not an attempt to simply reinvent the grammar wheel or to even “supplant previous work” (xvii) done in this field. Rather, A Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament seeks to help readers find their way through the maze of years and years worth of “contradictory claims” (xvii) from NT grammarians, specifically by describing discourse features apparent within the NT. Yet, Runge’s linguistic philosophy does not begin with nor is it grounded in Koine Greek. Instead, he argues for the viability of an analytic that is “cross-linguistic” (xvii), meaning that he wants to look at features common to all languages “rather than just focusing on Greek” (xvii). Runge describes this approach as “function-based,” which basically means that the discourse elements found in the Greek NT (GNT) are comparable to those found in other languages.

Having stated this, Runge proceeds to admit that certain portions of this grammar, specifically chapters 9-14, “are too complex to adequately equip the reader to do their own analysis after reading only this volume” (xviii). Immediately, the reader is left wondering how this squares with the earlier contention that this book “fills the lacunae” of other works that use overly technical jargon and concepts. The remedy, so-to-speak, is found in a “larger suite of discourse” (xviii) that Runge has created, particularly the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament (LDGNT) and the High Definition New Testament (HDNT). That the reader must spend an additional $100+ to be able to begin implementing Runge’s DA method might well be a turn-off for many readers—especially seminary students who often just cannot afford such resources!

Despite the cost, Runge believes that this approach, which he has invested his academic career in, “can sharpen exegesis and help turn the receding tide of interest in biblical studies” (xix). Even so, as Runge himself notes, this is all of little value if the benefits of DA are not “readily transferable to others” (xix), namely, parishioners, preachers, teachers, etc. (hence the subtitle: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis). While I find Runge’s approach fresh and exciting, I still have questions, which, hopefully will get answered as I continue reading. For example, at the outset, even though I am not in the main a linguist, I am wondering how DA works in a cross-linguistic setting where word order varies dramatically. I am also wondering if Runge will be able to escape the monotonous categorization that one finds in most other grammars or if he will actually end up doing what he accuses others of, that is, reinventing the grammar wheel with new jargon. Perhaps most of all, I am interested in seeing if the subtitle really bears the weight of its claims, that is, if it will assist someone like myself, who is often found in a teaching role within the church, in teaching and doing exegesis—a grammar that can accomplish this may well be worth more than its own weight in gold. Many grammars have promised such but they rarely ever deliver the goods! So, these are just a few of the questions that already, in the preface, I have started to ask. To be sure, there are others. Hopefully, I can raise those in future parts of this review but even more, I hope that those can be answered with some degree of promise and sufficiency. We shall see. For now, I will continue to take up and read!


Review of Runge's "Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament" Pt 1

In the coming weeks I will begin a chapter-by-chapter review of Steve Runge's Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis.  I must say from the start, however, that I am coming at this mainly from an exegete and a "student" of Greek.  I have no degree in linguistics or linguistic theory and so, I am certainly limited in that capacity.  Having said that, my reasons for wanting to review this work (available from Logos and also by Hendrickson) are twofold:  1) To force myself to not just read it, but to consume it and to become very familiar with its contents, and 2) In having only read through chapters 1 and 2 so far, I can see that it is an incredibly different way of approaching Greek than I've ever been exposed to.  Traditional grammars almost always seem category-driven but Runge's work, thus far, has a very conversational feel, is full of examples, does not seem rushed and, while it is dense, it is not overloaded with incredibly technical jargon.  From the start, I want to encourage folks to head over to Logos, who supplied my digital copy, and pick this great work up!