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:

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