What Should I Read on Discourse Analysis?

by | Jan 14, 2021 | Greek

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. 

Start Here

“Why Your Exegesis Needs Discourse Analysis”

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! 

Advances in the Study of Greek: New Insights for Reading the New Testament

Constantine Campbell’s survey of the discipline is my recommended read that offers a thorough and accessible introduction. 

Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

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. 

Discourse Features of New Testament Greek: A Coursebook on the Information Structure of New Testament Greek

Stephen Levinsohn also brings out some specific discourse features in a book brimming with examples.

Exegetical Gems from Biblical Greek

Benjamin Merkle succinctly introduces the reader to discourse analysis in three and a half pages. 

Linguistics & Biblical Exegesis

Douglas Mangum and Josh Westbury’s edited volume includes two short sections surveying discourse analysis, both authored by Jeremy Thompson and Wendy Widder. 

Linguistics and New Testament Interpretation: Essays on Discourse Analysis

This is an edited volume from Black, Barnwell, and Levinsohn that includes chapters on both general methodology and specific applications to NT texts. 

Linguistics & Biblical Interpretation

Cotterell and Turner wrote two solid chapters on DA in which they define and illustrate key concepts.  

Analyzing Discourse: A Manual of Basic 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. 

Intermediate Greek Grammar: Syntax for Students of the New Testament

David Mathewson and Elodie Ballantine Emig, in their recent intermediate Greek grammar, include an entire chapter on DA.

Going Deeper with New Testament Greeek 

Kostenberger, Merkle, and Plummer also introduce discourse analysis in their intermediate Greek grammar by briefly discussing discourse boundaries, prominence, and cohesion. 

New Testament Greek for Preachers and Teachers: Five Areas of Application

Neal Windham included a chapter on DA in this handy introduction to putting your Greek to work in NT exegesis. 

Advanced Reading

Discourse Analysis 

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. 

The Semantic Structure of Written Communication

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. 

Ancient Greek Grammar for the Study of the New Testament

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).

Current Trends in Textlinguistics

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. 

The Greek Verb Revisited: A Fresh Approach for Biblical Exegesis

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 

The Book of James: A New Perspective

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

Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament Datasets

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. 

Discourse Analysis of the New Testament Writings

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! 

Conclusion

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

 

Brent Niedergall

Pastor, Grammarian, Runner

Brent Niedergall, MDiv, is Associate Pastor at Victory Baptist Church in Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. He’s gone to war in Afghanistan, felled towering trees, and parsed Greek verbs.

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