SBTS at SBL 2015

There are a handful of SBTS associated people presenting at SBL this year:

Sunday, November 22

  • Michael T. Graham, Jr., “An Examination of Paul’s Use of Ps 51:4 in Rom 3:4 and Its Implications on Rom 3:1-8” – 1:30-2:00pm, Hilton-303
  • Shawn J. Wilhite, “Atonement in the Heavenly Holy of Holies: Early Reception of Atonement in Origen of Alexandria’s Reading of Hebrews” – Sunday, 5:40-6:05pm, Hilton-403

Monday, November 23

  • Jonathan Pennington, “Theological Epistemology in the Gospel according to Matthew: a Watsonian ‘Canonical Perspective'” – 1:40-2:0opm, Hilton-210
  • Shawn J. Wilhite is presiding over the History of Interpretation section focusing on “Apocalyptic Texts and the Psalter in Early and Medieval Interpretation,” – 4:00-6:30pm, Hilton-207
  • Jarvis J. Williams, “Rarely Will Someone Die for a Righteous Man: the Means and the Significance of Atonement in Rom 5:6-11 and the (Ig)Noble Jewish Martyrological Background” – 4:50-5:15pm, Hilton 306
  • Coleman M. Ford, “Eschatology and Ethics: Basil of Caesarea’s Use of Matthew in His Homilies on Wealth and Proverty” – 6:00-6:30pm, Hilton 209

Tuesday, November 24

  • Brian W. Davidson, “‘Warning’ or ‘Turning’ in Isa 8.11 & the Qumran Communities” – 10:00-10:25am, Hyatt-Embassy G

OT Textual Criticism LibGuide


Students in Old Testament exegesis classes at SBTS regularly have to work through textual criticism projects. Gathering all the resources to make a table of witnesses is one of their biggest obstacles.
I made this LibGuide to show them exactly what they need and where to find it in the library. Have a look if you like, but for whatever reason, at the moment none of our LibGuides are displaying well in Safari on a Mac. You might have to use Chrome or another browser.


  • There is a tab for each language of the most important witnesses.
  • There is a lexicons tab, where you can find the most important lexicons for each language.
  • There are two tabs that link to introductions to the field and OT textual commentaries.

Ken Penner on the Hebrew Verbal System of the Dead Sea Scrolls

The Center for Ancient Christian Studies (SBTS) has posted an interview I did with Ken Penner on his forthcoming book The Verbal System of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Here are the questions he addresses:

  1. What is the argument of the book?
  2. What piqued your interest in the verbal system of the Dead Sea Scrolls?
  3. How has the work developed between dissertation and publication? Any advice for students who hope to publish their dissertation?
  4. What tools or methodologies did you find most useful in your research?
  5. How does your analysis of the verbal system shed light on interpretive debates in the broader field of Dead Sea Scrolls scholarship?
  6. How does the verbal system of the Dead Sea Scrolls compare and contrast with the the verbal system(s) of the Hebrew Bible?
  7. Do you plan to extend your research and publish on the verbal system of the Hebrew Bible?
  8. Where does your view of the verbal system of the Hebrew Bible fit within the spectrum of recent debates?
  9. How accurately do the written sources reflect the spoken Hebrew of the time? Does the verbal system of the Dead Sea Scrolls result from natural linguistic development or intentional archaism? Do the Dead Sea Scrolls attest to a single common verbal system, or are there numerous parallel systems evident in the sources?

You can read the full interview here.

HB in the DSS using Accordance 11

Here is a video showing how you can use the INFER-search to find direct or indirect references to the Hebrew Bible in the DSS. The steps are the same as those listed yesterday for the NT in the Didache post. There is audio in this one. Steps:

  1. Open a tagged Hebrew Bible, limit your search as you would like, type an asterisk and press ENTER to find all the words in the range you prefer.
  2. Open your non-biblical DSS and run an INFER-search. You can also right-click and use the search back feature, as I showed yesterday, but that isn’t relevant for this video since I limited it to one verse in the Hebrew Bible.

Software for Sale – Logos & Brill

Several items for sale. If you are interested, you can use the form below to contact me.


Logos requires the buyer to pay a $20 license transfer fee. You only pay this once, whether you buy one or all of these items.



  • Dead Sea Scrolls Electronic Library, vol. 3: $300 or best offer — all non-biblical DSS from Qumran, tagged with translation and high-res images. Windows only. This is a CD that I would mail to you. I’ll cover shipping.

The Committee’s Goal & Guiding Principles

This post provides some reading notes on chapter 2 of Dominique Barthélemy’s Studies in the Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, trans. Stephen Pisano et al., Textual Criticism and the Translator 3 (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2012). Earlier posts provide notes on the Introduction and part 1, chapter 1.

Chapter 2 of part 1 overviews the committee’s understanding of the goal of textual criticism and the guiding principles with which they worked. Finally, Barthélemy surveys the committee’s understanding of how the Old Testament canon developed.

J. D. Michaelis had planned to gather a committee of scholars to assess all the textual difficulties in the Bible, but this plan was never brought to fruition. The Seven Years’ War intervened. In 1935 Paul Volz, who had recently done work on the text of Jeremiah, expressed the desire to carry Michaelis’ vision forward. World War II intervened. The need for a thorough study of textual variants in the Old Testament became even more pressing after the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In 1969 the United Bible Societies successfully gathered a world-renown committee, and they began to meet annually for four week sessions.

The goal of textual criticism

In recent years, the goal of textual criticism has been a hot topic of debate. There is plenty of talk in print and at the annual meetings about theories of textual criticism so this comment from Barthélemy is especially interesting: “Rather than debating theoretical positions, they [the committee] deemed it more worthwhile to focus on the critical task itself, and only thereafter to analyze the methodological implications of their common work” (84).

The committee sought to reconstruct the earliest attested text, a text that might be dated to roughly 300 BC. They worked with the presupposition that they could “on the basis of extant textual witnesses recover that text type which lay behind all the ancient variations,” and according to Barthélemy, this belief rested “in part on the hypothesis that the various textual traditions had not begun to diverge until after their content had come to be recognized as sacred, or — to use a convenient phrase, albeit ambiguous — until after they had become canonical” (87). The earliest attested text is that phase in the literary development of a biblical book that marked “the end of its literary development and the beginning of its textual history” (88).

Exceptions to the rule

The committee recognized in the course of its work that Proverbs, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel were exceptions to the rule. In these cases, they decided to follow MT, wherever it differed from the OG at a literary level. They committee regarded textual emendation outside the bounds of textual criticism primarily because their goal was to recover “the earliest attested text” — the second phase of the text’s development. Contextual emendation aims at recovering a pristine original (1st phase) reading.

Guiding principles

Barthélemy summarizes 15 factors the committee turned to as causes of textual corruption. He also discusses the way in which the committee handled inner biblical reworkings of earlier material, euphemisms, tiqqune sopherim, kethiv-qere readings, and the weight given by the committee to other scribal marks. These principles guided the committee’s evaluation of over 5,000 variants:

  1. Narrow basis for a variant form of the text: If a variant occurs in only one textual tradition, this should be a red flag, but one must weigh the witnesses, not just count them.
  2. Deceptively broad basis fora variant form of the text tradition: One can have several witnesses to a reading, but all of them could be dependent on an early interpretation of an obscure textual difficulty.
  3. Dependence of a variety of text forms upon one earlier form: Sometimes several variant readings can be explained as various scribal responses to an obscure textual problem.
  4. Simplification of the text (easier reading): The tendency of scribes is to simply the text, not make it more difficult.
  5. Assimilation to parallel passages: Some variants arose because scribes or translators made the passage more clear or detailed based on similar biblical passages. In these cases, the unassimilated form is, presumably, earlier.
  6. Translational adjustments to the text: Some variants arise based on the linguistic requirements of languages into which the text was translated. This factor is important in assessing whether or not a variant is based on different Hebrew Vorlage.
  7. Interpretive modifications: Variants can be due to theological interpretation on the part of a translator.
  8. Misunderstanding of linguistic data: Variants can arise do to a scribe’s or translator’s misunderstanding of biblical grammar and lexicography.
  9. Misunderstanding of historical data: Knowledge of a text’s historical and cultural setting disappeared, and therefore a scribe adjusted the text to make it more clear.
  10. Accidental omission of similar letters, words, or sentences: For example, ד or י can be confused with ר or ו.
  11. Accidental repetition of identical sequences: Sometimes a word or phrase or letter is accidentally written twice.
  12. Other scribal errors: This is the catch-all-the-rest category.
  13. Conflated readings or doublets: Short explanatory notes — written in the margin or above or below the line — were sometimes incorporated into the text itself.
  14. Conjectural emendation doesn’t fit with the committee’s understanding of the goal of textual criticism.
  15. Later, corrupt readings are better than a conjectured forms.

The developing “canon”

Finally, Barthélemy lays out the perspective on the process of OT canonization with which the committee worked. A few key quotes:

As we will see, the direction and extent of dispersion of textual forms varies from book to book. It is remarkable that at Qumran, as in the Christian church before Origen, this pluralism within which the sacred books were read seems to have been accepted without difficulty (128).

We have had to conclude from this that the stable point which we had believed (with Kittel) could be fixed around 300 B.C. continues to elude our grasp. In that era, certain portions of the Joshua-Judges-Samuel-Kings corpus were already transmitted in several distinct textual forms, and these continued to undergo literary innovations of limited extent throughout their transmission in Hebrew … In fact, the mirage of a text that was stable and unified (because of its canonical function) before the intervention of the Greek translators vanished before the committee’s eyes (132).

It seems, finally, that the only fixed point in the history of the Hebrew text which can serve as a base of reference is represented by the standard edition of the consonantal text that was produced by the rabbis at the end of the first century A.D. … We can then regard the Tiberian MT — at least for the books it contains — as an essentially faithful witness to the Bible that Paul read at the feet of Gamaliel. Even if this Bible does not constitute the only form of the Christian Old Testament, it does at least represent a particularly venerable form of it (137).

That is why this report devotes so much space to the history of interpretation. Because recent commentaries and dictionaries too often show little interest in those difficult texts that they eliminate through correction, it was essential to take a fairly large inventory of the syntactic analyses and interpretations that the most conscientious early Jewish and Christian interpreters offered for these texts. We hope that a given syntactic comparison or an original Judeo-Arab interpretation (even though 1,000 years old) will occasionally be able to remind us that the situation of some of these texts is not as desperate as a lazy critic may claim in order to justify the proliferation or the mediocrity of his conjectures (138).

The Early History of OT Textual Criticism

This post provides some reading notes on chapter 1 of on Dominique Barthélemy’s Studies in the Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, trans. Stephen Pisano et al., Textual Criticism and the Translator 3 (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2012).

An earlier post provides notes on the Introduction.

Chapter 1 surveys the history of OT textual criticism from its origin in the Early Middle Ages to J. D. Michaelis. Barthélemy states that most scholars know hardly anything about textual criticism prior to the advent of modern critical studies. The chapter is intended to fill this information gap.

The status of the vowel points in the 16th–17th centuries

Barthélemy begins by surveying the debates among sixteenth and seventeenth century scholars concerning the antiquity of the vowel points. Two works were at the center of the debate: Louis Cappel’s Arcanum and Critica Sacra, both of which argued against to J. Buxtorf’s Tiberias. Buxtorf argued that the accents preceded the Masoretes. In Aracanum Cappel argued that the Masorah was a highly composite work compiled over the centuries and the vowel points were a relatively recent addition. Concerning the validity of Cappel’s arguments, Barthélemy states, “They reveal a well-informed and quasi-prophetic understanding for his time of the progressive development of vocalization” (16). According to Cappel, the vowel points were not necessary to maintain a stable text.

Though Buxtorf read Cappel’s work, neither he nor anyone else responded to Cappel for nearly 20 years. After Buxtorf died, his son wrote a response to Cappel, but at this point Cappel’s arguments had won the day. Cappel further developed his approach to the text of the Old Testament, when in 1650 he published his Critica Sacra. Barthélemy writes, “This work definitively established the legitimacy and necessity of submitting the Hebrew test of the Old Testament to a criticism analogous to that used for any ancient secular literature.”

At the end of the seventeenth century critics were in agreement on two things:

1. The available Hebrew witnesses to the text of the Old Testament were remarkably unified.

2. If the autographs of the biblical books were accessible, these would have been considered normative (29).

Kennicott and de Rossi

The first conviction was tested and proven true by work of Benjamin Kennicott and Giovanni Bernardo de Rossi. Kennicott raised funds and organized a team of 315 people throughout Great Britain to collate hundreds of medieval Hebrew manuscripts. The project even gained financial support from King George III. The second and last volume was published in 1780. The methodology and execution of the work was criticized by J. D. Michaelis and many others, but all were, nonetheless, supportive of Kennicott’s massive endeavor.

De Rossi was a wealthy priest who was able to greatly enhance Kennicott’s collations, and unlike Kennicott, de Rossi did all of his additional collations himself. The final verdict on the work of Kennicott and de Rossi was less then sensational: The medieval manuscripts contain variants attributable almost exclusively to scribal error. The status of the Hebrew text of the Old Testament was not further developed until the work of Paul Kahle in the middle of the twentieth century.

… With regard to [MT] manuscripts, it is often stated that there are this many Kennicott manuscripts and that many de Rossi manuscripts, even though serious confusion exists regarding the identification of these manuscripts. What, in fact, was Kennicott’s work and what was de Rossi’s? It seems that much is obscure when one attempts to look back before the end of the eighteenth century outside of Germany (2).


The second conviction of seventeenth century critics was taken to task by the work of Spinoza. The stage was set by Thomas Hobbes and Isaac de La Peyrère. These authors demonstrated that portions of the Pentateuch showed signs of editorial activity that could not be attributed to Moses. Spinoza’s Tractatus developed this stream of thought into a systematic approach to biblical criticism. In order to properly interpret Scripture, one must first understand the Hebrew language and have a proper understanding of the situation in which each biblical book was originally written. Neither of these these are completely attainable therefore, according to Spinoza, the “author’s intention” concerning every detail is beyond our grasp. Spinoza believed that the big ideas concerning morality and salvation are plain enough in the text itself; the deficiency in our knowledge of Hebrew and the history of the biblical books only called into question “matters beyond normal comprehension, which can merely be imagined.”[1]

Spinoza was excommunicated and his views denounced, but his ideas were carried forward by Richard Simon. Simon took Spinoza’s questions seriously and attempted to write the literary history of the Old Testament Spinoza required. In 1678 Simon published Histoire Critique du Vieux Testament. Barthélemy Argues persuasively that Richard Simon was dependent on Spinoza in the first nine chapters of his Histoire Critique, the portion that proved to be foundational for the development of higher criticism. Simon deliberately concealed his dependence on Spinoza because  he wanted to avoid being criticized simply for his work’s association with Spinoza (60–62).

Spinoza’s argument that the Old Testament as we have it is not equal to the autographs made a lasting impact.  Simon argued that Jesus’ and the apostles’ interpretation of the Old Testament was in line with Jewish hermeneutics. Barthélemy notes that Simon “had no idea that pesharim of Qumran would one day provide us with re-readings in an eschatological vein which clearly predated our own era” (74).

Simon considered a prophet “any person appointed by the leaders of the ‘Hebrew Republic’ who carries out a redactional role with regard to the sacred books and who, because of that, possesses an inspired authority which enables him to fulfill it…” (75). He called them “public scribes.” Because these public scribes were inspired, it is a waste of time to search for the “authors” of each book. Regarding the Pentateuch, Simon considered Moses the author, but he recognized that changes and additions had been made to the book after the time of Moses. The historical books are summaries and compilations of ancient memoirs. The people who compiled these memoirs sometimes left in their composite products discrepancies found in their sources. They left these discrepancies because they were insignificant — for example discrepancies in the lists found in Nehemiah 7 and Ezra 2 (78). This perspective opens the door for Jean Astruc and the development of source and redaction criticism.

The “final form”

The only valid response to Spinoza’s sharp criticism is the one which Simon’s hermeneutic contributes to orienting prophecy … Spinoza, in fact, made the possibility or impossibility of interpreting prophecy authentically entirely dependent upon our capacity or incapacity to reconstitute the contents of the prophet’s thought, and to identify the circumstances and hearers  of his word. For Simon, none of that was of any importance … The most important thing is to be able to arrive at the second meaning principally intended by the prophetic Spirit, beyond the historical meaning which criticism helps to determine … Thus the contemporaries of the fulfillment as opposed to those of the prophet, find themselves in a privileged position for interpreting the prophecies. It is clear that this revolution had important consequences for the textual criticism of the Old Testament. The textual form which must serve as a point of reference is not the one constituted by ‘the autographs of Moses and the Prophets,’ but is constituted rather by the state of divinely guided maturation in which the books of Scripture are found at the time of the fulfillment, that is, at the time when the Messiah reveals himself in order to renew all things (80–81).

  1. 57, taken from Barthélemy’s quotation of Spinoza’s Tractatus in his Complete Works pp. 465–467.  

Overview of the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project

This post is some reading notes on the introductory essay in Dominique Barthélemy’s Studies in the Text of the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project, trans. Stephen Pisano et al., Textual Criticism and the Translator 3 (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2012).

The volume opens with an essay from James Sanders introducing Dominique Barthélemy and the work of the Hebrew Old Testament Text Project (HOTTP). Sanders highlights how Barthélemy’s Devanciers paved the way for a new understanding of the history of the Hebrew Bible (Les devanciers d’Aquila: première publication intégrale du texte des fragments du Dodécaprophéton trouvés dans le désert de Juda [Leiden: Brill, 1963]).

According to Barthélemy the text developed in four stages:

  1. The early literary forms of various blocks of texts in the hands of editors and schools before they became community texts; oral or written literary products as close as possible to those originally produced
  2. The rather fluid pre-Masoretic texts evidenced in the Qumran biblical scrolls and in the LXX; the earliest form or forms of text which can be determined by the application of techniuques of textual analysis to existing textual evidence
  3. The proto-Masoretic text evidenced in the Hebrew texts from Murabbaʿat, Masada and elsewhere (than Qumran) and in the second-century Greek translations (Aquila and Theodotion; cf. Symmachus and the Vulgate); the consonantal text as authorized by Jewish scholars shortly after AD 70
  4. The Masoretic Text (MT) of the tenth and eleventh centuries (the classical, Tiberian codices). (xvi, 87)

Eugene Nida, of the United Bible Society (UBS), formed the HOTTP to provide translators with “the most critically responsible text” (xxiii). Sanders explains that in the mid-twentieth century the most recent Western translations varied widely in how they handled text-critical problems. These translations were often consulted by UBS translators in the field; the variations in the Western translations were, therefore, unsystematically influencing the translations sponsored by the Bible society. Furthermore, the field had yet to thoroughly and systematically assess the text critical impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Sanders explains that the committee often debated the period into which a certain reading should be assigned. For the purposes of determining the “most critically responsible text,” however, “the crucial point was that we needed to find the juncture at which literary activity had basically ceased, indeed the point at which the history of the formation of a text ceased and the history of transmission of that text began. The two overlapped in some cases, as we have noted, but the distinction was important” (xxiii).

John A. Thompson, of the American Bible Society, provided a list of the passages most difficult for UBS translators. Eugene Nida invited six scholars to work on the project:

  • Hans-Peter Rüger (Tübingen) provided the committee with the readings of the ancient witnesses for each textual problem
  • James Sanders provided all of the readings from the Judaean Desert Scrolls
  • Norbert Lohfink (Frankfort) would research and report on modern critical studies for each passage
  • Barthélemy researched the history of interpretation up to the modern critical period
  • A. R. Hulst (Ultrecht) and W. D. McHardy (Oxford) “brought their long experience in the work of translation to the discussions” (xxiv).

The committee met annually and considered, in total, almost 6,000 of the most difficult Old Testament text critical problems. Sanders writes, “It was Barthélemy’s findings in the pre-critical literature that were basically new to modern textual criticism … It became clear that the medieval exegetes’ knowledge of Hebrew grammar and syntax derived from their thorough acquaintance with Arabic grammar and syntax and was superior to modern grammars of Hebrew, which are largely based on the structure of classical languages” (xxiv). During the course of their study, the committee “came to realize that ancient tridents, both scribes and translators, were less prone to ‘scribal errors’ than the field had thought, precisely because in the early history of transmission of the text there was more freedom than scholarship had realized to alter the text slightly to make it understandable to the communities the ancient tridents served. These then were not ‘errors’ in the usual sense but purposeful changes done in service to the communities that accepted the text as ‘canonical’ or authoritative” (xxv).

From Framing Houses to Framing Discourse

An Ιnterview with Steve Runge

discourse grammar

Last month, Steve Runge taught a class at SBTS on his Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament. While he was in town, he shared with us a bit of his story — a story I thought you would enjoy, too.

BWDSteve, thank you so much for making the trek to Louisville and sharing your research with us. We have thoroughly enjoyed having the opportunity to discuss with you your Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament. You also shared with us a bit of your own personal story, and that is what I would like to ask you a few questions about here.

Before you began your journey into the world of academic biblical studies, you owned your own construction company. Is this correct?

Steve Runge (SR): Yes, I ran Academic Construction as a front to fund my two grad degrees. I worked roughly 8-9 months of the year, spending the balance of my time writing and researching. I mainly subcontracted the framing of single-family houses, occasionally venturing into siding and decks when things got slow. My BA in Speech Communication never resulted in gainful employment, so I spent 18 years doing full time what I had intended would just be my part-time summer gig for HS and college.

BWD: How does one go from framing houses to studying cognitive linguistics and writing Greek grammars? What drew you to pursue a PhD?

SR: In my view it was the only logical career switch, though some have had trouble accepting this. The skills needed for each have a fair amount of overlap. After coming to faith my freshman year in college, I decided that I would try to get some Bible training if opportunity allowed. I was very involved in middle school ministry at my church when I graduated, so I decided to try seminary part-time a few years later. I doubted that I was smart enough to survive, so I decided to stay local and commute to Trinity Western Seminary about 35 minutes away in British Columbia. Based on my academic track record, I decided it would be better to fail quietly, locally, rather than to move somewhere and potentially fail more spectacularly. I wasn’t going to win any scholarships, I really had no idea what I was after other than wanting to be a skilled lay-teacher in our church. I took a job driving deliveries for a local lumber yard, working 3-10 hour days and every other Saturday. That gave me two days for classes, and at 6-9 semester credits, I could pay for it as I went. I moved back to building after completing my coursework.

After a few semesters of study, the demise of Biblical languages really began to weigh on me — what Hybels calls a “holy discontent.” I saw guys who wanted to be teaching pastors have to drop out of the MDiv because they couldn’t memorize. I saw others take the MRE (Masters in Religious Education) because they saw no practical ministry value in learning Greek or Hebrew. This was affirmed by the youth pastor who mentored me. He suggested I take something really useful like counseling. My wife and I spent 2 months in rural Ethiopia the summer of 1993, which only sharpened my discontent. I saw speakers of Amharic, a Semitic language, floundering learning Hebrew because it was taught via translation-English. They were using hand-me-down textbooks and learning our Western theological baggage, which had little to no relevance to their context. What was needed, in my view, was learning original languages so they could develop exegetically-relevant materials directly from Greek and Hebrew, without passing through English or the West. However, those teaching the languages specialized in Missiology or Church Planting, not Greek or Hebrew.

I came back from that summer determined to find some way of reinvigorating interest in the languages. Whatever the solution was, it had to demonstrate the practical payoff for ministry or no one would bother with it. Schools would just continue to cut back the credits required, pastors would continue telling new students it was just a hazing ritual, and national pastors would keep learning English to learn Greek or Hebrew.

Eventually, I found a topic and a doctoral advising team that would provide the theoretical framework needed to develop practical solutions, or at least baby steps in that direction.

BWD: When and how did Logos Bible Software enter the story?

SR: I have lived in Bellingham since moving there for undergrad in 1985. Logos moved there from nearby Oak Harbor in 2002. We had some initial discussions early on, but all I had to offer was some arm-waving about some ideas, nothing concrete and no terminal degree.  By September of 2006, I had nearly completed my dissertation, nearly died of a heart attack, and pretty well prototyped a database approach which marked up discourse features in the Hebrew text. They offered me a two-year gig to turn my idea into a product, which resulted in the Lexham Discourse Greek New Testament, which shipped in June, 2008. Next, after much begging and negotiation, came the Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament, written between Memorial and Labor Days of 2008.  It was first published by Logos in 2009, then in print by Hendrickson in 2010. Both of these projects were proof-of-concept for a larger suite of materials I envisioned while framing houses.

BWD: How often do you teach classes like the one you just finished here at SBTS? Is this something you would like to continue to do?

SR: I get a couple weeks a year to do something that fills my tank and gives me ideas for new projects. Teaching is the best route I’ve found for this. Part of the reason I’m at Logos is that it’s the best fit to tackle the issues raised by the decline of biblical languages. Another reason is that no school ever expressed interest in me, save one interview. So teaching intensive courses has really been my only choice, but this requires an invitation. Sam Lamerson gave me my big break in 2009 at Knox Seminary, then Dallas Seminary in 2012. I’ve also had the pleasure of leading workshops in the UK in conjunction with ISBL meetings in 2011 and 2013. I hope to continue doing this as there is opportunity like Southern offered this year. Mainly, I am interested in partnering with schools interested in adopting discourse grammar into their coursework.

BWD: You make a distinction between discourse grammar and discourse analysis. What is the difference?

There is an interesting difference we see in the application of linguistics to Greek versus Hebrew. In NT studies most of what we have seen has been focused on analyzing books, i.e. discourse analysis. That’s the sexy area everyone wants to get in on.  Not so in Hebrew bible; there, folks have mainly focused on describing features of discourse, ostensibly based on the idea that we need to understand the basic building blocks before we move on to do higher level syntheses of these features at the book level. Longacre’s Joseph is the main exception. I’m a carpenter, and there is a process to building a house. If you learn how to build a wall or frame a floor then you can work on adapting those basic skills to create what the architect has drawn. The better you get at the fundamental building blocks, the better able you’ll be to handle the complexity of real life applications.

The same holds true for language. I’d say it’s only been in the last two years that I’ve felt like I had a decent enough grasp of the fundamentals of discourse grammar to be ready to move on to analysis of books. I have published a commentary on Philippians for lay folks which is essentially my conclusions drawn from a discourse analysis of the Greek text. A handbook tracing my exegesis will be out by summer. A similar commentary on Romans is in press with a handbook following later this year.

I have always been interested in doing discourse analysis, but my inner carpenter has cautioned me to be patient. I have learned it is easier to build things correctly than to rush ahead only to tear it apart later. I got the nickname “rip-n-tear Runge” because of how good I got at disassembling things. Initially it was my own mistakes I tore apart, later it was the work of others who hadn’t invested enough time in their apprenticeship mastering the fundamentals. This is why I constantly stress the importance of a sound theoretical framework and a mastery of basic discourse features. I want to understand how and why things work the way they do.

BWD: Rip-n-tear Runge! That is fantastic. One more question for you, Steve. What is the master plan? Is there any hope that we will see a discourse grammar of the Hebrew Bible?


SR: I have a vision and some hopes, but not really a complete plan. The only plan I have is to equip folks who are smarter and younger than me with what I have learned, cast a vision for the potential payoff, and get out of their way. When I’ve done this I feel like I end up benefiting more than the other person. These folks provide the challenge and support to keep growing and learning from what they are doing. One of those folks is Josh Westbury, my colleague at Logos. He is nearing completion of his PhD in biblical languages with my mentor Christo Van der Merwe. He will head up the Hebrew side of Logos discourse projects going forward, including a Hebrew discourse grammar along the lines of the Greek volume. We have finished marking the discourse features for Genesis-Jeremiah; Ezekiel and the Twelve should ship by Easter. The initial version of the database should be completed this summer. The plan is for Josh to work on the discourse handbooks for the Hebrew bible. If interest in these projects continues to grow, I’d like to see analyses of the DSS, LXX and AF along with at least some handbooks before I die.

There is much to do, and we are working on creative ways to get more folks involved, like the discourse internships we are offering this summer at Logos. Presently there aren’t many options for pursuing a cognitive-functional approach to Greek within NT studies, but hopefully that will change. I’ve also had the privilege of informally advising some folks in their doctoral studies, helping them learn the fundamentals. I have tried to help them in the same way others have helped me, through directing their reading and discussing it on Skype or at conferences. Had it not been for folks like Christo, Stephen Levinsohn and Randall Buth investing in me, none of what I am doing would have been possible.

BWD: Glad to hear that you guys are almost finished with the Discourse Hebrew Bible, and I’m very excited to hear that you hope to do something similar with the DSS!

Steve, it has been such a pleasure to have you spend some time with us in Louisville. I really hope you will be able to return and teach this class again. The campus has been a buzz with conversation and excitement over it. Thank you for taking the time to share a bit more of your story with us.

Steve and Josh have bio pages at Logos where you can find more information about the projects they are working on. Steve blogs at New Testament Discourse, where you can learn more about the internships in Greek discourse grammar Logos is offering this summer.