5 Works Exegetes Should NEVER Cite

The field of biblical studies is a field that blossoms with books and books and more books. Scholars love to read and write books. While we are people of "The Book" we are also people of "books". Many of us can easily be classified as bibliophiles. With so many books out there, however, the issue of which books to use and not to use is an important one. Certainly, some books are better than others. Some books are not worth the paper they were published on!

As a TA, one of my frequent duties is to grade students' papers. This can be both a joy and a pain. Part of that pain comes from terrible writing but part of it also comes from seeing students use sources for exegesis and interpretation that simply should not be used. In fact, the terrible writing often seems like a direct reflection of the sources that the student used. Having said these things, I offer to exegetes--with an eye toward seminary students-- a short list of 5 authors that should pretty much never be cited in an exegesis or research paper. (The same goes for sermons!) For each work below that should not be cited, I will give a few remarks as to why and then offer an alternative resources.

Please note that I am not saying there is NO value in these books. What I am saying is that they should NEVER be cited in a scholarly exegesis/research paper. Again, they should probably not be used to formulate sermons either. Many of these resources were written at times before great gains (e.g. manuscript finds, etc.) were made in scholarship. Further, they are often more devotional in nature than scholarly. By the same taken, neither am I attempting to somehow criticize the faith of these authors. I'm simply offering a critical review of their works. The fact is, I have works from each of these authors in my own personal library, which is part of the reason I feel that I can and need to offer a few words about them.

1. Matthew Henry: Mr. Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible has become something of a hit among Christian booksellers--both digital and print. There are a few reasons this is the case: 1) It is, as the title suggests, a one-volume commentary on the whole Bible. This means that instead of shelling out a bunch of money for separate commentary books and instead of taking up tons of shelf-space with a commentary set, you can have it all in one book. While saving extra cash and shelf-space seems sexy, that is not really the case. Why? 2) Well, you should know that you can get it anywhere online for free, including HERE. You can make your own copy for free and then sell it at whatever price you want to whoever you want! This is exactly what Christian publishers have been doing and they have been making quite a bit of money this way! 3) Since the book was written in the 1700s it is, in many ways, out-of-touch with the realities of today. I mean, this was written pre-World Wars, pre-terrorism, pre-media technology, etc. There are many, much better one-volume commentaries that are more timely and worth the cost. I will recommend two here: 1) The New Interpreter's Bible One-Volume Commentary (by Gaventa & Peterson), 2) Africa Bible Commentary: A One Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Authors.

2. William Barclay: Over the last decade, at two different points in my ministry, I was given William Braclay's complete set of commentaries on the New Testament. I still have one of those sets. These texts are more homiletical and devotional in nature than they are scholarly. In fact, there is little to no scholarship in them at all. Now reprinted in both the WBL (William Barclay Library) and NDB (New Daily Bible) sets, the covers are more appealing than they used to be, but of course, the weak content remains the same. Barclay was a respected churchman and professor throughout England all through the 1900s. This is not as outdated as the work of Matthew Henry but again, it is still outdated. It is also public domain, which means that Christian publishing houses can get it for free, print it and then sell it at whatever cost they want. You can get it for free HERE (E-Sword) and it comes packaged in platforms like Logos as well. If you are going for a complete commentary set (as opposed to the one-volume type) and you are operating on a small budget, I would recommend Eerdman's "socio-rhetorical" series with Ben Witherington. These are scholarly yet accessible to the church-goer and they are not terribly expensive.

3. Marvin R. Vincent: Vincent's Word Studies are another very popular resource found in Christian book stores. I had a copy of this text passed on to me when I first started seminary. However, like many older works, this one is outdated because it was published prior to many of the advances made in manuscript, text-critical and linguistic studies. While the glosses that Vincent's Word Studies are often correct, many of them are also less nuanced and ignorant of other possibilities. Once again, this text is public domain and it can even be downloaded for free to mobile phones You can access it online HERE. The standard alternative today is either BDAG or the TDNT (which needs to be re-edited before it falls into this category).

4. J. Vernon McGee: This famous preacher, known for his commentaries and his Thru the Bible Radio Network and book series, has also become somewhat of a hit among Christian retailers. While McGee was certainly no pushover when it came to the Bible, many of his methods and approaches have been outdated. More of a homiletician (preacher) than anything, McGee was not seeking to be scholarly in the most proper sense of the work but rather accessible. I think he achieved the latter. Yet, because of this his works are slim on good scholarship. Still, there are far more scholarly works by preachers and homileticians than Mr. McGee. A great example of provocative preaching points combined with scholarship can be found in Richard Swanson's "Provoking the Gospel" series, found HERE. Also, I am hoping that Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm writes more commentaries like the one she did on Mark. If she does, these might just be promising resources! Check out her work HERE.

5. Warren Wiersbe: Best known among readers for his "Be" series (e.g. Be Real, Be Joyful, etc.), Wiersbe has, for a long time, been a famous peacher, speaker and writer. He has been a renowned churchman and his devotional-oriented publications have amassed thousands of fans. Certainly, Wiersbe has made great contributions to the church and to teh world. Having said these things, his work do not measure up to the point of being able to be used in scholarly exegesis/research papers. A great alternative to Wiersbe's works, which could be engaged at a more scholarly level would be the Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preacher series, which is found HERE.

Rethinking Halloween: A Christian Viewpoint (Repost)

It has become somewhat of a tradition to repost here on Pisteuomen a piece I wrote a few years back regarding the relationship between Christians and Halloween.  Each year I have posted this, great conversation has been sparked and I hope that the same will be true this year.  So, if you are a Christian who is debating whether or not Halloween is right for you and your family, please, check out this post because it may just help you out.  Happy reading!

It's not uncommon these days in North America to find some Christian somewhere who makes it their agenda to moderate and critique holidays. Currently, this can be illustrated by a simple perusing of Godtube.com, where a ridiculous debate is going on between those who call themselves believers. Some think it is okay to celebrate Halloween and others do not. Those who do not, as you might expect, label those who do as "un-Christian", "satanic", "worldly", "secular", etc. I can't help but laugh on the one hand and be heart-broken on the other. Clearly, too many people who act as though they are holier-than-thou, are over zealous and under informed. Their logic isn't even clear most of the time!

So, how does one who calls themselves a Christian counter people who act too pious? Well, the place to begin is to rethink Halloween. In fact, it might not even be "re" thinking as much as "thinking in the first place". For example, it is helpful to know that Halloween doesn't have its origins in a secular holiday, no, it can be traced back to Christian roots; it was a Christian holiday celebrated by the Celts (e.g. All Saints' / Souls' Day or Hallow's Eve)--even though the Celts were considered by many to be barbaric. Even more than that, and perhaps, more importantly, it goes back to the end-of-summer Celtic celebration called Samhain, an agricultural festival. This was the time when people would soak up the "light" and prepare for the "dark" winter months. It was a time to celebrate agricultural fruits and goods before the harsh winter came and killed everything. Hmm, so, it was more about life than death in some ways, right? Yes!

So, the over-zealous evangelists who argue that this is a satanic ritual, a celebration of death, etc., need to chill out a bit. I sense that many Christians have a problem with all of the ghoulish attire on the one hand and the supposed celebration of death on the other. Well, as for the ghoulish attire, we may recall that in earlier centuries, the Church actually used ghouls and whatnot to ward off evil spirits. Many modern church buildings still have gargoyles on them. As for the celebration of death, I think too many people have over-played this whole idea. I mean, those of us who have lost loved ones, there are certain times of year and certain things we do to commemorate their memory: We think of them, look at pictures, share stories, go to graveyards, etc. None of this is considered evil, satanic or un-Christian.

On a similar note, some suggest that by celebrating death we are nullifying the resurrection. This is simply not true. First of all, Christians commemorate Christ's death (and resurrection) in communion; Christ Himself bade us to do this. Second of all, to remember the deceased is clearly not the same thing as worshipping them or celebrating death itself. It is this point that I feel many are missing. In missing this point, one Christian accuses another and everything just becomes ridiculous or, no joke intended, even "evil" and "nasty" and "ghoulish".

In the 19th century, when Halloween migrated to North America from Europe, it was not a "devilish" holiday still. For example, the whole custom of "jack-o-lanterns", a pumpkin with a candle inside, was meant to resemble the soul of a lost one who might be waiting in pergatory. It was meant as a reminder to pray for that person or to simply, remember them. But it was also meant to be a symbol of celebration, of celebrating that person's life on earth. So, people would be merry and jolly and walk through the streets singing, sometimes even with bands. Often, this turned into a type of parade. Still, the custom existed that, if you have a jack-o-latnern on your porch, it was not just a memorabilia thing, it was a "message" too; a message to others that your loved one might need prayer or that you might need help appeasing God with gifts for that person's soul. So, people began leaving gifts, nickels, dimes, quarters, etc. next to the pumpkins.

As time progressed, people, usually youths, began stealing these monies (which kind of became an expectation after a while) and run to the stores to buy treats and candies. Now, it's not too big of a step from this "thieving" to marauding and causing trouble--eventually, that's exactly what began to happen! Today, that's what much of Halloween has come to stand for and symbolize: pranks, danger, stealing, causing trouble, marauding, etc. And if there is anything to be against as a Christian, when it comes to Halloween, these types of things are it!

In a world where holidays have become increasingly domesticated (e.g. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, etc.), it seems as though Halloween is the one night, the one holiday, where youths can go out, act crazy and try to subvert the holiday norm(s)! This too, should give us pause! Not only should it give us pause for negative reasons but maybe positive ones too: Maybe we should stop watering down and domesticating all of our meaningful holidays!

So, in the end, there is no good reason for Christians to call each other names or to accuse persons of satanic or whatever. Just as well, there is no reason that Christian children should not be able to go out for candy, dress up and have fun. There is nothing evil about this. I would also say that our kids do not have to be "evangelistic" and dress up as Bible characters, etc. (though there is certainly nothing wrong with them being Bible characters). One last thought: Perhaps this holiday which is so often associated with darkness and evil, brings out the darkness and evil that reside in the hearts of many who call themselves believers. Yes, the name calling, the slandering, the hatred, etc. is all evil and it is all illogical. In my view, Halloween can be a profitable holiday, if for nothing else, to subvert those types of attitudes, a subversion done with merriment and tasty candy!


"Appealing To The Greek" or "How (Not) To Do A Word Study"

Here's a video I made last semester to share with students on how (not) to do a word study. The volume is a little static-ridden at times but is certainly bearable. The video is about 4 and 1/2 minutes in length and is certainly worth a look. So, check it out! (Note: For a better view, click the "full screen" icon in the lower right corner of the video.)
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Who's Afraid Of Hume Now? Keener's "Miracles" Praised

Many of you are not tuned-in to the Asbury Theological Seminary news feed, so, I thought I'd share some breaking news from Asbury with you all, particularly news concerning Dr. Craig Keener's forthcoming book on miracles.  I'll share just a few of the comments here and then you can click the link below to read the article in its entirety.

Keener worked on “Miracles” for three years. It’s a wide-ranging and meticulously researched work that cites more than 4,000 secondary sources and includes more than 3,000 references from extra-biblical ancient sources. Keener presents what many scholars are calling the most thorough, current defense of the credibility of miracle accounts in the Gospels and Acts. He debunks David Hume’s argument that uniform human experience prevents miracles from being credible. Keener challenges Hume’s claim about “uniform” human experience by citing stories from various global cultures and taking a multidisciplinary approach to the matter. Renowned scholar, Richard Bauckham says, “Keener mounts a very strong challenge to the methodological skepticism about the miraculous to which so many New Testament scholars are still committed. … So who's afraid of David Hume now?"

Several New Testament professors and scholars call “Miracles” the finest book ever written on the topic. Asbury Professor and esteemed scholar, Ben Witherington III adds, We have here perhaps the best book ever written on miracles in this or any age.” The book has also received praise for its dynamic approach to the subject. Wonsuk Ma, the Director at Oxford Centre for Mission Studies said, “It brilliantly serves not only biblical scholars but equally importantly mission thinkers and practitioners." While Keener hopes the book is encouraging to others, he explains it brought him to “a fuller understanding of God's miraculous power.”

Click HERE to read the article in full.


Review of Runge's "Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament" Pt 9

In this review I will cover two of the final three chapters (6-7) of Part 2 of Runge’s Discourse Grammar.  I will deal with each of these chapters in turn, beginning with the sixth chapter, which deals with the “Historical Present,” and then turn my attention to chapter seven, which reviews the notion of “Redundant Quotative Frames”.  I turn now to Runge’s discussion of the “Historical Present” (HP).

It is well-known by those who have studied languages that, while there are linguistic rules to be followed, there are almost always exceptions to the rules. In English, for example, it makes little sense that the singular word “goose” has the plural counterpart “geese,” while the singular word “moose” does not have the plural counterpart “meese”.  Irregular patterns like these often make languages difficult to work with!  When it comes to tense, there are also irregular patterns.  The HP might be thought of in this way!

The term “Historical Present” actually seems like somewhat of an oxymoron; how can a term be historical (past tense) but present (present tense) at the same time?  Unlike other grammarians, for example, those who have suggested that the HP is used for dramatic effect, tense reduction or the change of setting or character (125), Runge suggests the main function of a HP is to mark “some discourse feature” that is present (129).  Operating under the core assumption that choice implies meaning, Runge points out that the default verb form is not the HP and that other verbal options that might convey past-time action are available (e.g. the aorist or participles, the perfect, imperfect and pluperfect).  Runge says, “Based on the function of the verbal system that I am claiming here regarding past-time contexts, the imperfect marks the action as past-time and imperfective, whereas the function of HP is to highlight an even or speech that follows” (130).

It seems to me that Runge’s main contentions are as follows:  1) That it functions to break the discourse up into smaller, easier-to-understand chunks (because it is easier to process smaller chunks of data than longer lists), and 2) That it serves the purpose of highlighting discontinuity as well as events or speeches that are about to appear (133).  Here’s an example of my own, followed by an example from the Bible that Runge uses.  Notice the discontinuity that takes place when the switch from past-time to present-time occurs, and how it serves to highlight some form of speech that follows:

Last night (past-time), I had (past-time) dinner with my family.  We ate (past-time) pizza and we drank (past-time) soda.  We had (past-time) some very good conversation.  Suddenly (past-time), my son is (present-time) standing up in his chair saying (present-time), “I am (present-time) happy.”

Mt 14.34-15.1:  After they crossed over (past-time), they came (past-time) to Gennesaret.  When (past-time) the men of that place recognized (past-time) him, they sent (past-time) word into the surrounding region and they brought (past-time) him to all those who were (past-time) sick.  And they were (past-time) imploring him that they might only touch the edge of his cloak, and all those who touched (past-time) it were cured.  Then (past-time), Pharisees and scribes were coming (present-time) to Jesus from Jerusalem, saying (present-time)…”

In each of these instances, we see a discontinuity between past and present time.  We also see here, how the HP is functioning to prepare the way for some sort of speech or dialogue.  Even more, the HP is allowing us, in some way, to break the entire story up into two chunks (things that happened in past-time and things that happened in present-time).  Now, the tricky part to all of this is remembering that, even though the author has moved into present-time, the story is still rooted in the past.  It is almost as if by starting the story in the past, the author separates you from the events being narrated.  However, when the author switches into present-time mode, it is as if he is bringing you, his conversation partner at the present moment, back into the past with him!  He is taking you, the present discourse partner, back in time!  The HP makes me think of a time-traveling device, where I get to travel back in time but I myself do not change at all.  Such a concept may or may not be helpful to you; so, feel free to take it or leave it!

So far, this is likely the most technical and difficult chapter of the grammar to work through.  There are many intricate sentences (and paragraphs) and in my opinion, the great majority of pastors out there would have a very difficult time grasping the deep contents of this chapter.  Here is a sample sentence to illustrate my point, a sentence I found myself reading and re-reading more than several times:  “The processing task of hierarchy refers to the segmentation of the discourse into smaller chunks for purpose of easier processing by the reader or hearer” (132).  Is the word “the” missing in this sentence as well, between the terms “for” and “purpose”?  Here is another sentence which begins the following paragraph:  “In the case of HP, I contend that the usage associated with discourse boundaries or paragraphing is best explained as the next step in the cognitive processing of discourse devices:  segmentation for easier processing” (132).  Regardless, while there is value to what Runge is saying, this is nonetheless, a very difficult section of the book and since this grammar is geared towards pastors, I might suggest a rewriting of this chapter.

Chapter 7, as mentioned above, deals with what Runge calls “Redundant Quotative Frames” (RQFs).  A Quotative Frame (QF) itself is fairly easy to recognize.  For example, think of a speech or lecture where the speaker says, “And John Kennedy once said…” or “Albert Einstein once remarked”.  In the Bible, we see this quite often, for example, “Jesus said to them” or “He began saying…”  These are QFs and they “signal a transition from narrative proper to a speech or dialogue embedded within the narrative” (145).   If these are QFs, then RQFs, as defined by Runge, are those types of transition signals that “are not needed to determine who is speaking to whom” (145). 

Basically, there are two different uses of RQFs:  1) To use more than one verb of speaking to introduce a speech, and 2) To reintroduce the same speaker within a single speech.  Both of these have the “pragmatic effect of highlighting a discontinuity in the text, specifically within the context of the speech” (145).  In short, they simply draw or attract more attention to the speech itself!  Part of Runge’s main beef is with those who have widely misunderstood and misused the verb avpokri,nomai.  Whereas most have seen a term like this from the perspective of its origins, none have focused on “why the device is used in some cases and not in others” (147).  “Furthermore, any claim of Semitic influence must account for the attestation of redundant quotative frames in Greek that is not viewed as Semitically influenced” (148).

Having said this, Runge contends that it can be shown in a variety of languages, apart from those of Semitic orientation, that RQFs exist (149).  Though he provides no specific examples, his claim seems true enough; this is a cross-linguistic phenomenon!  There are two specific occasions which merit attention:  1) When changes in a speaker/hearer are made, and 2) Within the same speaker’s speech.  One example of each will suffice.

In English, if we were to say, “He said” this would express some type of continuity between the speaker himself and the content of what he said.  However, if we were to say, “He defended himself saying…” we would not only sense a discontinuity between the speaker and the content in view, but also discontinuity between the speaker and another speaker—thus, signaling a change in speakers.  Notice also that in the first example, you have one verb of speech and in the second you have two verbs linked together; this is sign of a RQF.  In the Gospels, RQFs “typically consist of a participial form of avpokri,nomai with a fine verb of speak, such as le,gw.  While RQFs can signal the change in speakers, they can also mark instances where, within the same speech, the speaker uses multiple verbs of speaking but there is no change in speaker.  This is to either “mark the introduction of a new point within the same reported speech” or “to slow down the discourse immediately preceding a key assertion” (151).  Thus, they can function as topic-changers and help segment or “chunk” the speech into smaller, more logical parts.  Of course, they also draw emphasis to the speech’s points of significance!  Runge draws on Lk 6.5 to illustrate this, a speech where Jesus shifts topics from David to himself.  Several other, excellent examples are provided as well.

While I found value in but still questioned the approach offered in chapter six, chapter seven, in my view, would be much more manageable for the average pastor.  Still, as I continue to read through this grammar and study my GNT alongside it, I must say that the text is opening up in ways that I’ve never seen it open up before.  I am grateful to Runge for this!  There’s still a lot of reading to be done within this grammar and the work of applying my findings, on my own, to the GNT, can be difficult work.  However, I’m excited about continuing my reading and implementing my findings.  If you haven’t done so you, head over toLogos and pick up a copy.  In the mean time, if you want to catch up on my other reviews of the Discourse Grammar, check out the links below:


Review of Runge's "Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament" Pt 8

For some odd reason, a few months back the thought crossed my mind:  Humans don’t eat humans (for the most part), so, isn’t it weird that animals eat animals?  In the end, I guess it’s not all that odd but the initial though kind of made me pause and ponder the concept for a few minutes.  Now, this may be a very crude analogy, but it is something that helps me understand the concept of “Metacomments” (denoted by the symbol V) which Runge talks about in Pt 2/Ch 5.  Runge defines a metacomment as the occasion “When speakers stop saying what they are saying in order to comment on what is going to be said, speaking abstractly about it” (101).  In other words, it is the act of commenting on a forthcoming comment.  So, how does my analogy above relate?  Well, like metalanguage, which is using language to describe language (an act of turning language in on itself) and metacomments, which is using comments to describe comments (an act of turning comments in on themselves), it is helpful for me to picture this in my mind like the act of humans or animals turning in on themselves.  Of course, it is much more abstract; it is language or comments turning in on themselves.  So, if I were to replace my thoughts a few months back with “comments” instead of animals, I might have wondered:  “Isn’t it odd that comments can turn in on themselves?”

Now, maybe that is not at all helpful to you; I warned you, it is a crude analogy.  Yet, it works for me.  A comment turned in on itself is nothing more than a comment about a comment.  Think of it as a two-part comment, let’s say, Part A and Part B.  In a metacomment, both parts are comments.  However, A is commenting on B.  For example, if Part B was the comment “going to church is important” then Part A, the metacomment, could be “I want you to know that…”  This forms the whole sentence:  “VI want you to know thatgoing to church is important.”  The comment “going to church is important” could stand on its own, but I have interrupted and slowed down the sentence thereby drawing attention to it, by using the metacomment “I want you to know that…”

Jesus uses metacomments when he says things like “Truly I say to you” or “ It has been said” or “I tell you the truth”.  Runge contends that metacomments like these “are used to introduce significant propositions, ones to which the writer or speaker wants to attract extra attention” (102).  The key marker for distinguishing whether a comment is indeed a metacomment or not, is to determine if the “speaker is interrupting what is being talked about in order to comment on what is going to be talked about” (102).  Since this is the case, the metacomment could essentially be removed from the text “without substantially altering the propositional content” (102).  This challenges the old Form Critical readings of the NT which asserted that many such coments were disclosure, request, petition or introduction formulas (103). 

In addition to this claim, Runge’s following suggestions are well-received.  Metacomments 1) Function as indicators regarding the author’s intent, and 2) Help readers understand both the text and the author’s stance towards the text (or what is being said) (105).  Thus, when Paul says “I want you to know” or “I do not wish you to be ignorant”, this helps readers both understand Paul’s intent as well as the position he takes on what is being said (106). 

According to Runge, “Metacomments are often used to create a mitigated form of a command, one that makes the point less directly than does an imperative verb form” (107).  It is akin to saying to someone, “Now, I want you to listen and listen real good” or “Now, I want you to think about this before you answer”.  These are mitigated forms of commands; they do not demand that the hearers do these things but they do contain a sort of implicit expectation that indeed, they will, without question, do them.  So, metacomments can strengthen exhortations, highlight new boundaries in a discourse, slow down or create a pause in a discourse and emphasize subsequent propositions.  Think of it as a type of “dramatic pause” (112) in the discourse. 

Additionally, there are a number of fpds (forward-pointing devices) such as redundant vocatives and purposeful attention-getters (117-22).  A great example of redundant vocatives is found in Eph 6.1, 4-5, where Paul addresses the Ephesians with the following vocatives: ta. te,kna (children!), oi` pate,rej (fathers!) and oi` dou/loi (slaves!).  As for the attention-getting fpds, Runge lists a handful: ivdou, (behold!), avmh,n (truly!), avlhqw/j (certainly!), ouvai, u`mi/n (woe to you!), o]j e;cei w=ta avkou,ein (let whoever has ears…!).

There is much value in what Runge is presenting here!  I do wonder if metacomments, in addition to looking forward, can also look backward.  For example, in class someone drew attention to 1 Cor 12.19ff the other day, where Paul says, “we have been speaking…”  Certainly, this points forward but in some real sense, it also points backward.  Can a metacomment function this way?  It does seem to meet the criteria of interrupting the discourse so as to comment on a comment (or comments), but it is not merely forward-pointing.  Also, I wonder, along with one of my professors, Fred Long, if Runge has considered in any depth the occasion when a metacomment might point forward to something else that points backward (e.g. 1 Cor 14.39, 15.58).  These are just a few questions I have at this point.  As I continue to read through this grammar, I am all the more excited about recommending it to you.  So, if you haven’t yet, surf your way over toLogs and get your copy.

Oh, and by the way, here are the preceding seven parts of this series:


Review of Runge's "Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament" Pt 7

Building on the previous discussion concerning how connectives function in relation to one another, Pt 2/Ch 4 is concerned with what Runge calls Point/Counterpoint sets and how they are related to propositions.  A “counterpoint” is indicated by the symbol B, while a point is marked with A.  While Runge refers to B as the proverbial first “shoe to drop” (73) and A as the shoe drop to follow, personally, I like to think of it as a 1-2 punch routine.  That is, Bmarks the initial, setup punch, which also prepares the way for a second punch (A) to follow.  In short, the writer hits the reader with a combination pattern; the first punch not only catches the reader’s/hearer’s attention, it also telegraphs an impending second hit/point to follow!  You may find it helpful to develop your own analogy!  I have found that even in just attempting to rethink such matters, whether I end up coming up with a different analogy in the end or not, is often helpful in leading me to a more clear understanding of such matters.

One example word that Runge uses in describing a point-counterpoint set is “although”.  Take for example, the following sentence:  Although I liked the introduction, the conclusion was very poor.”  Here, the term “although” functions as the initial punch in a 1-2 routine.  Even more, it is telegraphing that a second punch is on the horizon.  “Although” modifies the initial statement “I liked the introduction…”  Yet, this is followed with the counterpoint punch:  “…the conclusion was very poor.”  Citing Runge:  “The term point/counterpoint set describes clauses or clause elements that have been related to one another through one or more grammatical means” (73).  Runge helps substantiate this idea by examining four terms within this chapter:  me,n, eiv mh,, plh,n, and avlla,.  Each of these constraints force the reader/hearer to “relate the elements to one another in a particular way” (74).

For me, one of the most eye-opening aspects of this grammar has come in the way rethinking the use of me,n.  Where this has traditionally been viewed as related to de, or avlla,, thereby functioning correlatively, Runge offers a different and welcome suggestion, namely, that “me,n signals the presence of one common constraint: anticipation of a related sentence that follows” (75).  Thus, even where de, does not follow, me,nis always prospective—pointing ahead!  The most common occurrences of this point/counterpoint set are found in narratives and letters.  A great example (among many!) that Runge gives is Mt 3.11 where the me,n/de, set, while not needed because the contrasts are already explicit, serves the function of further accentuating or highlighting the contrast to an even greater degree!  While it has been ingrained in me to approach me,n/de, with the gloss of “one the one hand/on the other hand,” Runge’s suggestion that this me,n/de, point/counterpoint set functions, in the main, to further strengthen the connection between already present elements, is incredibly valuable.  Certainly, this opens us new options for how to approach this set when it comes to translation and interpretation! Here, me,n functions as the setup punch, while de, serves the purpose of delivering the second hit of the combination!

The next 1-2 punch or “point/counterpoint” example has to do with the use of “exception” or worded differently, “restriction” (83).  Basically, the punch format is as follows:  1) negation, 2) excepted/restricted element.  The conditional clause can alert us to such a phenomenon.  Runge’s illustration of the negation and exception/restriction combo is super helpful!  He explains it in terms of table that has a lot of items on it.  When the author delivers the first punch, he essentially knocks or sweeps everything off of the table.  That is the “negation” aspect; NOTHING remains on the table!  The second punch, however, would be akin to looking at all of the items now laying on the floor and proceeding to pick one of those items off of the floor and placing it once again on the table.  It is like saying, “This is not true at all (knocking everything of the table), except for this one thing (placing one thing back on the table; landing the second punch!).  Instead of simply pointing to one item among many on the table, the event of knocking everything off the table has a dramatic effect which is further accented by placing one item back on the table (that one item now receives all the attention)—an act that functions somewhat like the “punch line” of a joke in my opinion!

One example of this phenomenon can be found in Mk 6.4-5, where ouvk (the negation) is followed by eiv mh. (the exception). The statement “A prophet is not (ouvk) without honor” seems like a full-blown, totalizing statement.  If we stopped there, it seems like nothing else needs to be said; this is the final word!  Jesus has knocked every possibility off of the table of a rejoinder to this comment.  However, he adds a conditional statement, that is, an exception soon after.  In short, he seeks to qualify his own totalizing remark!  He says, “A prophet is not without honor (knocking stuff off the table), except (picking one item back up) in his hometown and among his relatives, and in his own household (sitting the item on the table and thereby bringing it squarely into view).”  We do this same thing very much today when we stereotype people groups but then go on to make exceptions for persons within those groups!  The negation/exception combo may be remembered by the saying “exception to the rule”; for example, when a law or command is given and then a sort of loophole is offered or found, the “exception to the rule” principle is at work.

Reviewing the third portion of this chapter, namely, the use of avlla, and/or plh,n to correct or replace, we already have a good analogy that we can stick with but do need to nuance.  Here, we use the same idea of knocking everything off of the table.  However, instead of picking an item from that initial group up off of the floor, this time we leave everything on the floor and bring in an item that previously was not part of the group, say, an item in our pocket or an item we took from another table or some shelf.  In my view, after reading this section, it seems that we can really no longer can simply use avlla,, as we traditionally have, as a mere adversative coordinating conjunction; now it seen to function within a point/counterpoint set where it functions as an attention-getting corrective to what it stands in contrast to (93).  For Runge, “elements introduced by avlla, and plh,n are highlighted for rhetorical purposes and could have been conveyed using more simplified structures” (92).

Let me give one example here and then follow-up with some concluding remarks.  In Php 2.4, Paul writes, “each one of you not looking out for his own interests” (B - counterpoint), “but (avlla,) also each of you looking out for the interests of others (A - point).”  Here, everything that’s on the table is within the phrase “each one of you not looking out for his own interests” and then, it is all knocked off the table.  A new element is brought in:  “but also each of you looking out for the interests of others.”  Here, the new element takes the place of the old element!  Going back to my boxing analogy of a 1-2 combo, we might say that the default combo is a jab (negation) followed by a left hook (exception).  Here, we keep the jab (negation) but replace the left hook (exception) with a right hook (avlla,).  We still have a 1-2 combo but have simply replaced one of the punch types.  The author is still setting up for a second punch but now he’s going to replace what might have normally been done, with a new type of strike.

So far, I have found this to be one of the richest sections of Runge’s book.  While I wonder if interrogatives can function as point/counterpoint sets (Runge does mention rhetorical questions in this section), I honestly cannot think of much more to question; the point of the material seems clear and evident.  So, having said that, once again, I would highly encourage you to get yourself a copy of Runge’s work and start to get your feet wet in the discourse approach.  You won’t regret it!


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Review of Runge's "Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament" Pt 6

In Part 2, Chapter 4 of Runge’s Discourse Grammar, the discussion focuses on “forward-pointing” devices. Such devices are “conventions used to attract attention to something significant in the discourse” that is, devices used to garner attention to elements of the discourse that otherwise would not have been recognized. (59). According to Runge, there are two criteria used to qualify and classify these devices:  1) None of the forward-pointing devices is actually required to understand the content that is being pointed to, and 2) Not only is the forward­­-pointing device unnecessary to understand the content of the forthcoming material, but in fact, the following material would actually be conveyed more simply without it (59).  To put it differently:  forward-pointing devices (fpd) are unneeded and can even be distracting; however, this need not be an inherently negative distraction!

For Runge, forward-pointing is denoted by the symbol D, while what it is pointing to, that is, the “target”, is connoted by the symbol C.  These symbols are quite helpful as they make me think of bow hunting, an event wherein an arrow is shot towards a target.  With the text, the author is the bow shooter, the forward-pointing device is an arrow ready to be shot and the target is somewhere ahead, out in front of the author, waiting to be engaged.  In English, as Runge points out, we use forward-pointing devices quite often.  The following phrases are a small sample of such devices:  Get this!  Listen to this!  Guess what!  You know what?  Here’s the deal!  This is my final offer. (61)  Likely, you can imagine certain situations in which you would use such phrases, for example, when breaking news to a friend, when sharing an important story, when clarifying statements, ideas or circumstances, when making a deal, etc.

So, as Runge asks, “why use a forward-pointing reference?”  Can we not get on with it and simply make the point that we want to get around to?  According to Runge, fpds function to slow down the discourse, which then allows anticipation to be built up causing the reader to expect something important or surprising to be said, in short, “it has the pragmatic effect of attracting extra attention to the target of the fpd” (61).  It seems to me that the most difficult aspect of wrapping one’s mind around this is concept is attempting to distinguish between the use and importance of the devices.  To put it differently, it can be difficult to make sense of the fact that the fpd is not needed and can even be distracting, yet is still there, in the text.  Think about the phrases used above “Listen to this!” and “You know what?”  The word “this” in each of those phrases is unneeded.  Indeed, one could simply say “Listen!” and “You know…” and still get the meaning of the point across as well as point forward.  The terms “this” and “what” are unneeded, yet they serve the function of helping point forward; one might say that they doubly assist readers in not skirting over the forward pointedness of the phrases.  Both “Listen!” and “You know…” point forward by themselves.  However, the terms “this” and “what” qualify the fpds and again, function to doubly assist readers in not missing the anticipation and/or the target.

Based on the principle that choice implies meaning, then, even though these fpds are not needed, they are still significant.  Runge surveys three types of fpds:  Interrogatives, Demonstratives and Adverbs.  I will deal with each of these elements in-turn here.  When it comes to interrogatives, Runge considers the terms ti,(what?) pou/ (where?) and poi,ou (what kind?).  In my view, it makes complete sense that interrogatives would be forward pointing as indeed, they expect some kind of response or answer.  Thus, little time really needs to be spent on this topic.  A couple of comments, however, are in order.  Firstly, it seems to me that when reading the New Testament (NT) one can use the presence of questions as alerts to possible fpds and targets.  Understanding fpds as telegraphs may be helpful in this respective; readers now have something to anticipate.  Secondly, forward pointing interrogatives can also serve to strengthen an author’s point.  As Runge says, when an author asks questions, over and against simply getting straight to the point, it provides listeners with an opportunity to think about the matter and let it “sink in” (66).

Similar to interrogatives, demonstratives can also function as fpds, they can “accomplish the task of attracting extra attention to a target” (66).  When speaking of demonstratives, Runge focuses only on tou,tw|and its related form tau,thn.  Interestingly, Runge asserts that within the NT fpds are “most often associated with the writings of John and Paul” (66).  For example, in Jn 14.21, the fronted prepositional phrase tau,thn th.n evntolh.npoints forward to the target avgapw/n to.n qeo.n avgapa/| kai. to.n avdelfo.n auvtou/.  The author could have just quoted the commandment without using the fpd via a demonstrative, however, the fpd slows the reader down, causes him or her to think about it and both draws more attention to the target/commandment than had he not used it.

Lastly, Runge speaks of adverbs.  His comparison/contrast of adverbs and pronouns is very helpful.  If we understand pronouns as substitute words that are anaphoric, that is, pointing backwards (to a noun), then we can understand some adverbs as cataphoric, that is, words that are pointing forward to a target.  Runge actually calls these types of adverbs “pro-adverbs” by which he means substitute words that stand in for and point forward to the kinds and degrees of verbal actions taking place.  For example, in Matthew 6.9, we find the fronted adverb ou[twj (in this way), which appears in the phrase “This way, then, you pray…” and is pointing forward to the phrase Pa,ter h`mw/n o` evn toi/j ouvranoi/j))) (Our Father who is in heaven…).  Here, the adverb, or to use Runge’s terminology, the pro-adverb, is pointing forward to a target phrase which provides the “kind” of prayer that the disciples should say.  Pro-adverbs can stand in the place of entire kinds and degrees of actions and can serve to highlight other minor or major themes in the discourse.  Runge offers preachers the following axiom:  “The same kind of attention-getting strategy can be utilized in your teaching or preaching” (69).

A very insightful and illuminating chapter, this portion of the book still raises questions for me.  For example, what about other types of questions, can/do they function as fpds?  There are hundreds of questions within the NT, perhaps surveying more of these would help further substantiate Runge’s arguments.  And what about the terms ouv or mh,, which often anticipate answers (even if there are expected rhetorical answers) are these fpds?  Or, what about Paul’s greetings or other such literary forms (e.g. miracle pericopae which point forward to a point or theme)?  These are just a few of the questions that arose for me and which I hope to continue thinking about and exploring as I read this excellent grammar.  Again, let me remind you, if you haven’t picked up your own copy over at Logos, you should go ahead and do so!


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Review of Runge's "Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament" Pt 5

In Pt 4 of my review of Runge’s Discourse Grammar, we looked at the first four “connectives” of chapter 2.  Here, in Pt 5, we will look at the final 5 connectives.  Let’s begin with ou=n.  Right out of the gate, Runge suggests that the two-pronged answer of BDAG (Note: There is a typo on Pg. 43 in the second paragraph, where “cite” should be “cites”), which contends that, on the one hand, ou=n is backward-pointing, and on the other hand, it is a marker of continuation in a narrative, is problematic.  For Runge, this is only partially correct; he wants to parse this out a bit more and suggest that while ou=n does indeed link discourse elements together, it also signals a new development (+).  Often times, he suggests, ou=n occurs at “high-level boundaries in the discourse, where the next major topic is drawn from and builds upon what precedes” (43).  Yet, it can “be used to mark lower-level developments in the discourse as well” (44).  Following Levinsohn, the contrasting of ou=n and de,show how ou=n “constrains what follows to be interpreted as a further development of the topic that has been resumed” whereas de, “permits a change of topic (44).  Let me provide examples of my own to try to help illustrate this.

I went to the store to go shopping.  The store was a few miles away.  So after (+ ou=n) I was done shopping, I returned to my car to drive home.
I went to the store to go shopping.  The store was a few miles away. 

Now (+ de,), after I was done shopping, I returned to my car to drive home.

You will notice that in both of the columns, the sentences are practically the same.  However, you will also notice a difference.  In the left column, the new development is both backward-pointing and carrying a sense of forward resumption.  In other words, while the ou=n represents a new development, it is not completely new; it is related to what came before and also marks a transition into a new but related course of action.  In the right column, you notice two “chunks” as opposed to one (in the left column).  This is marked by the de,, which signals a new development and functions as a change in topic.  In the left column, the movements are all related and in the third sentence, nothing else is expected by the reader.  However, in the right column, while the movements are related, the de, seems to suggest to the reader that a new idea has started and that further details of some event that happened after the shopping and upon the return to the car will be explicated.  In short, there is a slight change in topic.  One of the major takeaways here is that the traditional gloss of “therefore,” while helpful at times, does not always capture the nuanced idea of a new topic plus resumption.  Other glosses may be more successful in this regard!  As Runge notes, “Understanding what each connective uniquely signals is the key to overcoming the mismatches between English and Greek…Attempting to understand the constraints that a connective signals based upon one or two English glosses will only obscure the issue” (47).  This suggestion is taken in stride but it may have been helpful for Runge to either provide a domain of glosses or some tips for which glosses appear to work bests in various contexts (e.g. from book to book/author to author; for example, Runge, following Levinsohn, emphasizes that in John’s Gospel, ou=n is used a bit differently, that is, more or less the same way that de, is used elsewhere in the NT.).  Many exegetes, particularly those who have had but 1 year of Greek (which the front matter of the book says is all that’s required for using this grammar) may not have the propensity to deviate from “therefore” if they do not know which options are most likely to be used by the NT authors themselves!

The next connective in Runge’s list is di,a tou/to.  Here, the emphasis is on the use of di,a tou/to “in the absence of a full morphological conjunction” (48).  As such, di,a tou/to introduces a clause which has a “causal relation with the preceding discourse” elements, or put differently, it “reiterates a proposition from the preceding context” (48).  The key word here is “proposition”!  Whereas ou=n resembles di,a tou/to in that it marks new (+) development and (+) new continuity, di,a tou/to also signals the introduction of a proposition (which is related to the previous content but also functions resumptively, that is, it expresses relative continuity).  For me, the most recognizable takeaway here is the function of di,a tou/to as an indicator of an ensuing proposition!  In this way, then, di,a tou/to is often marked by the semantic constraint of causality.

If the first 6 connectives introduced by Runge are related by way of continuity, development and semantic constraint, then the following 3 are related by the fact that none of them mark development (51).  Let me deal with each of these in turn.

It may be helpful to begin our review of ga,r by taking note of Runge’s contrast of it with kai,, ou-n and di,a tou/to.  Whereas the latter three signal close continuity to what precedes, they also (with the exception of kai,) tend to mark new (+) development.  Ga,r, while closely connected to the preceding material, however, does not mark new (+) development, but instead, indicates “strengthening/support” (52).  Runge sums this up well:  “It [ga,r] does not advance the mainline of the discourse but rather introduces offline material that strengthens or supports what precedes…[it] can introduce a single clause that strengthens, or it may introduce an entire paragraph” (52).  Let me offer some examples of my own.

I built this house and (kai,; - no new development; equal state) I live in it.

I built this house, therefore (ou=n; + new development; result) I live in it.

I built this house so that (di,a tou/to; + new development; purpose) I may live in it.
I built this house, for (ga,r; explanatory material strengthening/supporting what precedes) I live in it.

Note the differences above in the simple sentences, where the three in the left column tend to express continuity and development (again, excepting kai,), whereas the right column’s sentence strengthens and intensifies the claim in the first half of the sentence.  Here, I am not merely stating that I built this house to live in, I am emphatically stating the fact that “I” built it, for “I” am the one living in it.  In other words, you know that it is owned by me and me only, because I am the one who built it and who lives in it.  Whether taken as implicit or explicit, the statement is suggesting that nobody else could have built or lived in this house.  This is the background information being relayed by using this connective, a different set of data and/or details than what is provided by the other connectives (which might leave room for the fact that while I built the house at one time and live in it now, I quite possibly could have moved out and someone else could have lived in it at an earlier point in time).  The nuance here is a bit tricky to parse out but Runge’s notion of strengthening here is, I must admit, quite fascinating and challenges me to read this tiny word in a much broader way.

The next two connectives that Runge reviews are me,n and avlla.  Because a much fuller description of these term’s functions are given later in chapter 4, only a basic overview of each is given here (54).  I start with me,n.  The core of what Runge wishes to focus on at this point is that me,n is a forward-pointing device: “It’s sole function is to create the expectation that some related element will follow” (54).  From that perspective, me,n can actually 1) Downgrade the importance of the sentence it appears in, that is, it can relegate the content of that sentence to a sort of secondary importance/significance, and/or 2) “explicitly correlate two elements that otherwise would only have an implicit relation” (55).  This is often seen in the me,n)))de, construction.  All of this appears to lead Runge to suggest that where many scholars and grammars suggest that me,n often be left untranslated, such a move is problematic.  Instead, this forward-pointer, which expresses new (+) continuity, does in fact, need to be translated.  More on this later but for now, even this brief distinction is quite helpful to me, someone who has been constantly reminded that me,n can often just be skirted over.

Finally, Runge’s short introduction to the semantic constraints of avlla,, while short, is actually helpful.  Whereas avlla, is typically defined as a contrastive conjunction, Runge offers a fuller treatment.  He argues that it is not avlla,itself, but rather the “context” in which avlla,often finds itself, that is decisive in whether or not the term functions contrastively or not (55).  In short, avlla, is not inherently contrastive, that is, contrast is “not a quality” of this connective; it is “context-dependent (55).  As such, avlla, while “nearly always used in the context of contrast” actually functions in a way that serves to sharpen the contrast being made (55).  Following Heckert, Runge argues that avlla, “provides a corrective to whatever it stands in contrast with” (56); “The constraint that it brings to bear is ‘correction’ of some aspect in the preceding context” (56).  For example, in the following sentence of mine, avlla, serves to sharpen the contrast between the first and second halves of the sentence:  I broke my bike but (avlla,) not on purpose.  The contrast is evident enough if we remove avlla, from the sentence:  I broke my bike…not on purpose. However, by adding avlla,, the first half of the sentence is sharpened or clarified or nuanced.  Without avlla,, you might think that I got angry and broke my bike or that I did it purposefully.  Yet, avlla,removes such thoughts and tells you that the breaking was a mere accident, a helpful clarification for one who might otherwise get in trouble.

There is no doubt in my mind that when it comes to Greek grammars, Runge’s work is up there with (maybe above?) the best of them!  Not enough can be said pertaining to the value of the nuances Runge provides on connectives alone!  I must say, I am eager to continue reading and reviewing, something I could hardly say about other grammars (although, I am a fan of David Alan Black’s work).  This approach helps bring the nuances of the texts to life in ways I've never seen before!  Thus, to echo what I’ve already reiterated four times, get yourself a copy of this work and let it challenge the ways that you’ve been thinking about Greek up to this point.  Head over to Logos and pick up your copy.  Let me just conclude with a chart that Runge provides on Greek connectives below, which may or may not be helpful to you:


Review of Runge's "Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament" Pt 4

Before moving on to review Chapter 2 of Part 1 of Runge’s Discourse Grammar, I want to reiterate a thing or two.  First of all, if you have not read the previous parts of this review series, I would highly encourage you to.  In those reviews and the comment sections accompanying them, I explain the vantage point from which I am approaching Runge’s work, namely, more as a teacher in the church and less as a linguist!  As I have shown, the preface and subtitle of Runge’s book explicitly state that coming at this grammar from such a stance is not only fitting, but expected.  Indeed, the following video is another place that explicitly states that this is aimed at pastors, preachers and church teachers, not simply linguists.  Thus, I am asking questions that a normal pastor or preacher might ask!

Another matter I would like to address, which Runge himself and Mike Aburey have drawn attention to is the fact that I may be conflating the terms Discourse Grammar and Discourse Analysis.  Where I have seen the lines between these two things as somewhat blurry, they want to draw sharp distinctions.  This is fair, to be sure!  Having said that, however, I do want to suggest that if these matters are blurry to me, the book might do well to clarify this in the preface or introduction because it might well be blurry to others also.  Furthermore, as I have stated in the comments section of Part 3, many of the questions I have raised thus far, particularly those having to do with Discourse Analysis (DA), are indeed related to the contents of the Discourse Grammar (DG).  This is not to say, however, that the two are the same or that they are mutually exclusive.  For me, the two are indeed connected.  Again, if this is a major point of contention, perhaps some clarification is needed at the front part of the book.  This is not a critique as much as it is a suggestion.  I cannot imagine a scholar writing an Introduction to the New Testament and then suggesting that it purposefully and wholly be separated from the New Testament itself.

Moving on, we find ourselves at Chapter 2 of Part 1, a chapter titled “Connecting Propositions”.  The aim of this chapter is to provide “a very basic overview of the different sorts of relations that can be communicated by the most commonly used NT Greek connectives” (17).  Runge opts to use “connective” in place of the traditional “conjunction” because “languages commonly use forms other than conjunctions to perform the task of connecting clause elements” (17).  More specifically, Runge reviews 9 “connectives” which, each in their own right, “play a functional role” in the NT’s discourse “by indicating how the writer intended one clause to relate to another” (18).  Here, I will survey Runge’s overview of the first four of these terms and offer some thoughts of my own along the way as well.  In Pt. 5 of this series, I will review the remaining 5 connectives.

One of the most interesting and insightful aspects of this chapter has to do with Runge’s non-traditional approach.  Whereas folks like Daniel Wallace have tended map or match Greek conjunctions to English counterparts, in other words, taking a logical approach where one word equals another in a certain context (e.g. ascensive kai, = even, connective kai, = and, also, etc.), Runge’s functional approach, less dependent upon using English grammar as its baseline, suggests that there may be a unifying function that each connective performs (18).  It is more helpful to understand how each connective differs “based on the function that it accomplishes in Greek” than to simply know “how to translate” them (19).  To put it differently, the goal is exegesis, not simply translation; unlike translation, exegesis allows for the elaboration of various “aspects of a passage,” even and especially those that “cannot be well-captured in translation” (19).

Following Behagel’s Law, which asserts that “items that belong together are grouped together syntactically” (19), Runge contends that connectives serve the role of specifying the “kind of relationship” between each of these items (19).  He begins with asyndeton, the grammatical concept which refers to “the linking of clauses or clause components without the use of a conjunction” (20).  Runge signals this feature with the symbol.  A helpful way to think of conjunctions is to think of them as constraining elements.  In other words, they constrain or limit the relationship between clauses or clausal elements.  For example, I could say “I laughed and cried” or “I laughed then cried” or “I laughed but cried too”.  In the first instance, laughing and crying are taken together, as happening at or around the same time; this is denoted by the word “and”.  In the second instance, “then” denotes sequentiality as the crying comes after the laughing.  In the third instance, the word but (modified by “also”) denotes contrast where, on the one hand I laughed, and on the other hand, I cried.  In each instance, the connecting words “and,” “then” and “but” help make logical connections between two actions.  However, I could just say, “I laughed.  I cried.”  Note here, that there is no connecting word such as “and” or “then” between these two actions/sentences.  Even so, as a reader, you make a connection between the two.  The act of connecting clauses or clausal elements in this way is called asyndeton.  Using Runge’s method, we would employ the marking to signal asyndeton:  “I laughed.  I cried.”  It might have been beneficial to have more written on how to recognize asyndeton.  For example, can asyendeton be recognized through repetition (of stem, person, number, case), parallelism, word order, etc.?  Beyond the absence of a connective, are other ways of recognizing asyndeton? 

Seamlessly, Runge moves from discussing asyndeton to kai,.  The most frequent word in the New Testament, this term is usually glossed as “and, even, also”.  That seems straight forward enough.  However, Runge suggests that this seemingly simple and familiar term actually serves the purpose of signaling an intimate link to what comes before it.  In other words, it is not simply a “connective” (and) or “adversative” (but), rather, it is a word that links together “items of equal status” (23-24).  This also means that it has no inherent judgment to make “regarding semantic continuity or discontinuity” (24) but constrains such “elements to be more closely related to one another than those joined by ” (26).  Further, if an author switches from kai,, particularly in a narrative, it should signal to readers/hearers that “a new development” is taking place, such as a transition to or from background information (26).  This nuance is certainly helpful.  Still, I would have liked for Runge to articulate, just a bit more, what he means by “status” in the phrase “equal status”.  Does this refer to time, kind, grammar, syntax, meaning, etc.?  It seems as though it would refer to equal syntactical status, that is, equal status within the clause, sentence, etc. itself.  However, Runge may have meant something different by this.

If the conjunction kai, signals intimacy between two elements (e.g. clauses, phrases, etc.), which denotes their “equal status” then for Runge, de, functions as discourse marker of development.  Sitting kai, and de,  side-by-side, Runge marks kai, with (-) and de, with (+) symbolizing either no development or new development.  As Runge says, “For speakers of English, development is a very difficult concept to grasp.  It is natural to conceive of temporal development, as in a sequence of events, but challenging to conceptualize logical development when it does not involve sequence” (36).  Here, Runge has hit the nail on the head!  It is, perhaps, even more difficult for those of us who have had kai, = and/even/also or de, = but/and ingrained in us, to begin thinking about how these terms might take on new force.  I must admit, I had to read this section of Runge’s discussion more than once to really get what he was suggesting.

Drawing on Levinsohn, Runge uses the concept of “chunking” as a way of understanding the function of de, (30).  Basically, chunking is breaking portions of a discourse down from larger to smaller chunks.  I might say that it’s the difference between attempting to eat an entire, unsliced or uncut turkey on Thanksgiving and slicing or shaving it up, so as to have smaller, more manageable chunks to consume.  Taking this gross analogy a bit further, we could even depict de, as the knife that cuts the discourse into smaller chunks.  Furthermore, each new cut or slice, each new de,, marks a new development.  Here is an example, where de, marks a new development (+) and kai, marks no development (-):

I laughed.  I cried.   I sang.   I went to the store. I danced.  I jumped.
I laughed de, I cried.                           (I laughed +then I cried.)

De, I sang kai, I went to the store.      (+Then I sang -and I went to the store.)

De, I spent money kai, I went home.  (+Then I danced -and I jumped.)

It is helpful to contrast kai,and de, to make sense of what is going on here.  You can see above, that in the first column, we practically have a list (Runge does something similar in his grammar) but I wanted to offer my own example with his symbols included (which Runge does not do at this point in the grammar).  In the list-like example, you can see that the ideas are connected only through asyndeton, that is, they are logically connected as they appear together and if you wanted, you might even try to read them sequentially, however, the context does not suggest that they had to happen in this order or even in the same day.  They are mere statements about things I did at some point or another.  They are connected logically, by way of being mentioned together, but not sequentially.

That all changes in the second column.  Here asyndeton is not used.  Instead, explicit connectives are used.  Furthermore, you can see how the connectives denote explicit developments, or not, by way of using kai, or de,.  Where kai, is used, there are no new developments; the kai, is, instead, functioning to relate the clausal elements equally or revealing their equal status.  The de,on the other hand, is marking a new development.  To put it differently, where a de, appears, we have new chunks or slices.  Thus, in each line, we have a new chunk or development, which is denoted by de,.  This perspective that Runge offers, while challenging to wrap one’s mind around at first, is really valuable once grasped.  It allows us to follow the discourse in a new way and discern whether and where new developments may be taking place or not.  The initial payoff may seem minimal but in all reality, the final dividends may prove incredibly rich.

This leads us to review the fourth discourse grammar element, the narrative to,te, which “can fulfill the same role as a connective in contexts where none are present” (especially Mt and Acts) (37).  The role of to,te is not to tell one about a specific amount of time that has passed but rather, that sequentiality is in view and as such, a new development has occurred.  This is not too far from the discussion above about de,.  So, how is it that “they differ from one another?” (38)  Runge suggests that while δέ is the “default development marker” it does not “specify the exact nature of the development” (38).  To,te, however, “makes explicit that the development that follows is temporal in nature” whether that temporality is generic or not (38).  To clarify, to,te is a “low-level break in the text” which marks a new development but does not lead the reader to believe that a whole new topic is in view!  Just as well, the segmenting effect of to,te has the capability of attracting emphasis or attention.  Runge gives some excellent examples of this.

In closing, let me give a quote from Runge as well as a snapshot of a table or chart which features the connectives and their functions, as described thus far (42):

“So far we have looked at two kinds of connective relationships: indicating the continuity of two joined elements ( versus καί), and signaling whether what follows represents the next step or development of what precedes (δέ and τότε).”

As a teacher and student of languages, I have found that it is often the shortest words that pack the most punch or carry the most force.  It is so easy to focus on the “theological words” or the big words at the exclusion of the short words.  Runge’s discussion thus far has not only reminded me of this but has helped me look at Greek differently, forcing me to pay extra close attention to these tiny connectives.  The further I get into Runge’s work, the more I become convinced of the fact that such an approach is incredibly valuable for those studying the New Testament.  So, head on over to Logos and pick up your copy of Runge’s work, I don’t think for a second that you’ll regret it!