If you saw my previous post, “What Should I Read on New Testament Textual Criticism?”, you know what to expect here. This time the subject is discourse analysis (DA) and particularly for its use in NT exegesis. These are my categorized recommendations according to the path I’ve taken in my own study. Know that there is a lot of stuff out there. And there are surely many, many wonderful resources I’ve omitted. But this is what I’ve read and found helpful so far.
Maybe I should have chosen a better title for this post since my first recommendation requires a listen. This is a Tool Talk podcast from 2018 and a nice point of entry. Todd Scacewater says, “Discourse analysis is the examination of language above the level of the sentence.” And why should we care? Todd says,
The Bible is written in language and discourse analysis is one of the best [linguistic] tools that we have…to understand language better. Discourse analysis can help us better understand the Bible because it’s written in language.
Give it a listen!
Constantine Campbell’s survey of the discipline is my recommended read that offers a thorough and accessible introduction.
Steve Runge’s practical guide equips the reader to identify and understand a slew of discourse features in the Greek New Testament. With simple explanations and plenty of examples, this one is highly recommended.
Stephen Levinsohn also brings out some specific discourse features in a book brimming with examples.
Benjamin Merkle succinctly introduces the reader to discourse analysis in three and a half pages.
Douglas Mangum and Josh Westbury’s edited volume includes two short sections surveying discourse analysis, both authored by Jeremy Thompson and Wendy Widder.
This is an edited volume from Black, Barnwell, and Levinsohn that includes chapters on both general methodology and specific applications to NT texts.
Cotterell and Turner wrote two solid chapters on DA in which they define and illustrate key concepts.
In what is a really fun read, Robert Dooley and Stephen Levinshohn offer a useful guide to their grab-bag approach to discourse analysis. Bonus points for drawing illustrative material from Graham Greene and Albert Camus.
David Mathewson and Elodie Ballantine Emig, in their recent intermediate Greek grammar, include an entire chapter on DA.
Kostenberger, Merkle, and Plummer also introduce discourse analysis in their intermediate Greek grammar by briefly discussing discourse boundaries, prominence, and cohesion.
Neal Windham included a chapter on DA in this handy introduction to putting your Greek to work in NT exegesis.
Gillian Brown and George Yule’s book is a standard work on discourse analysis in general. It is technical and covers many important concepts in depth.
I’ve only started this one, but I’ve used several of the commentaries from SIL that apply the Semantic and Structural Analysis (SSA) of identifying a text’s components and the relationships these components bear to one another.
You can read my review of Heinrich von Siebenthal’s grammar here. There I noted:
After examining sentences, the organization and structure of the text is the next logical step. It’s nice to see a grammar include discourse grammar as one of its parts and devote some genuine attention to the topic. For the actual work of analyzing discourse, the author’s methodology of choice is Semantic and Structural Analysis (SSA). This approach is “aimed not only at considering individual propositions and their relations to their immediate neighbours, but also highlighting the way in which they relate to the overall content communicated by the text” (629).
This edited volume from Wolfgang Dressler from 1978 is “current” no more, but it does contain some interesting chapters worth reading. Ridiculously expensive new, but you can probably find an affordable used copy.
I almost overlooked including this one until a friend on Twitter (Thanks Vincent!) reminded me that this edited volume from Steve Runge and Chris Fresch does, in fact, speak to discourse considerations. There’s even a chapter by Steve Runge entitled “Discourse Function of the Greek Perfect.”
Applications of Discourse Analysis
Want to see DA in action? Will Varner’s commentary applies discourse analysis across the entire book of James.
High Definition Commentaries
Steve Runge has written several “High Definition” commentaries in which he puts his DA methodology into action in whole books of the NT. He’s done James, Romans, Philippians, and Galatians. You can read my review of his commentary on Galatians here.
Steve Runge combed the entire text of the Greek New Testament tagging every discourse featured discussed in his Discourse Grammar along the way. Impressive! This is a dataset for use in Logos Bible Software.
I haven’t read this one (yet!) from Todd Scacewater, but I felt like not including it would be a glaring oversight. A lineup of contributors tackle every writing in the NT. It’s about time someone took this on!
DA is a hot topic. And, while it has its proponents and naysayers, I appreciate its focus and contribution to understanding the structure of a text. These resources demonstrate how there are many ways to go about doing this. If you’re just wading into the field, some of these suggested resources will help you to get started. Let me know what books, articles, podcasts, etc. you’ve found helpful that I’ve left out.
Image Credit: Brent Niedergall