Brian W. Davidson

teacher @highlandslatin,

PhD candidate @sbts,

research expert @sbtslibrary

Discourse Commentaries by Steve Runge

You don't own a New Testament commentary like this these. Even if you have every commentary mentioned in Carson's popular NT Commentary survey, you'll find Steve Runge's High Definition Commentaries a helpful addition to your library. Runge's High Definition Commentaries on Romans and Philippians are 15% off for the next 24 hours (use HighDefCom at checkout), so I thought I would write a brief explanation of why I think they are so useful for both academics and pastors that are less interested in scholarly debates.

For those outside academia

Those outside of academia tend to lose interest in commentaries that spend too much time surveying scholarly debates. There is a time and place for every sort of commentary, even those that focus more on secondary literature than the text. But Runge's commentaries are different in ways that pastors and students will appreciate. They are clearly written, relevantly illustrated, and while they are informed by scholarly discussion, Runge only mentions contemporary debates when doing so will help the reader contextualize his comments on the flow of the text. For example, as Runge discusses the end of Romans 3, he writes,

There have been significant debates recently regarding what Paul means by “works of the law.” Does he intend to signify a works-based view of salvation, one that is earned rather than received by faith? Or does he refer to something else, to covenant fidelity within the Jewish community? Paul does not offer a clear definition; he assumes his audience knows the meaning of this phrase … In some contexts, in which the focus is clearly on final judgment for sin, keeping the law is seen as being related to the outcome of that judgment. But there are other contexts in which this is clearly not the case, where the focus is more on inclusion versus exclusion from the body of believers.

In 3:20–21 Paul brings these two notions together.

For academics

It is rare to find a modern critical commentary that deals systematically with the discourse features of the text. Some will help you track with flow of the text, but they don't ground their explanations in discourse grammar. Discourse grammar is not the only way to think about a text; rather, it is an important, supplementary tool. Runge's commentary builds on his highly acclaimed Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament and the graphic illustration of this approach that one finds in the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament. The three resources build on one another.

  1. Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament — a systematic explanation of the discourse features used by NT authors to structure their writings
  2. Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament — a morphologically tagged edition of the SBL Greek New Testament that is marked up to show each of the discourse features
  3. High Definition Commentaries — concise, clear commentaries that analyze the flow of the text by focusing on the discourse features.

The High Definition Commentaries explain the relevance of the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament in light of the systematic approach to grammar presented in the Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament. Runge's commentaries apply cutting-edge linguistic research to the New Testament.

When I've heard people explain discourse grammar, the most common question is "Can you give me examples of how this changes the way we should think of the text?" The best answer is found in Runge's discourse commentaries.

An Example: Romans 3:21-26

Here is an example of the way Romans 3:21-26 is marked up in the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament:


Note that δικαιοσύνη δὲ θεοῦ διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς πάντας τοὺς πιστεύοντας ("the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe") is marked with symbols that looks like the silhouette of a person. Hovering over the silhouette tells you that this is a "right-dislocation." The pop-up defines this discourse feature as "appositional information that is added at the end of a clause that further describes some previously-mentioned entity in the clause, and agrees morphologically with the previous mention." At the end of the definition the reader is provided a link to further explanation.

How is this relevant? In his commentary, Runge explains,

In 3:22, Paul restates the “righteousness of God” as if there is a need to add more detail about which righteousness he has in mind. He repeats this phrase to emphasize its importance and prompt his audience to read the verse as if it were a second pass at the same idea: God’s righteousness has not only been revealed and witnessed to, but it is a righteousness of God through faith rather than some other means, and it is available to all who believe, not just to the covenant community of Israel.

Futhermore, verses 22-24 are filled with explanatory statements and grounds clauses (e.g., γάρ … and διά + acc.), which are labeled in the left column of the Discourse Greek New Testament with "support," "elaboration," or "bullet." Runge comments and includes a very helpful illustration:

In Greek, the way Paul structures verses 22–24 compares to how a dialogue might unfold. Each support clause plays the rhetorical role of addressing a possible question and redirecting the flow of the argument. By reframing things in light of the question being addressed, Paul makes it easier to track the development of his argument.

I highly recommend all of Steve Runge's work, and again, the High Definition Commentaries on Romans and Philippians are 15% off for the next 24 hours.

You can watch Steve Runge explain more in this video.

Overview of the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project

Holmes-Parsons Ecclesiastes