Seeing the Forest and the Trees

For those faint of heart who would prefer to avoid another of my long-winded blog posts, just order this. The rest of you, read on.
When it comes to the Greek New Testament, Logos Bible Software has a great host of tools to help you see the trees. Lexical tags in the various tagged editions of the GNT (including the various interlinears and reverse interlinears) link to lexicons and help you find the range of meanings possible for a given word. Morphological tags in the same texts provide some contextual clues to help determine the meaning and use of the word in the particular instance under study. Learning grammars help students recognize the most common morphological and lexical trees for themselves.
But, while one can learn a lot of useful things by examining the trees, some of the greatest riches of studying the New Testament in Greek come when you can step back and see the forest. That is, at some point the student needs to look at things above the word level. ‘Syntax’ is the term we use for describing how words form into phrases and clauses, and how those structures are used to form sentences. Logos Bible Software has tools for working at the syntax level as well. Reference grammars tend to contain a lot of word- (tree-) level detail on areas like morphology (how words are formed) and phonology (how a language sounds), but they will frequently contain some good information on larger structures like phrases and clauses as well. But few reference grammars approach the Greek New Testament above the level of the sentence. Last year, Logos Bible Software released an edition of the OpenText.org syntax database, which graphs out sentence, clause, and phrase relationships and provides a powerful searching interface for working at the syntactic level. Other syntax databases for the Greek New Testament are also in the works.
There are, however, a growing number of scholars who are looking at much larger units of text than the sentence. The branch of linguistics dedicated to looking at larger blocks of text and analyzing how language is used to convey meaning on a much broader scale is ‘discourse analysis’. (‘Text-linguistics’ is another term sometimes applied to this field.) Recent posts on this blog by Dr. Runge have been giving you a taste of some of the data we’ve been working on to show discourse level features. But I wanted to call your attention to a new collection of books just posted on the prepub page. The Studies in New Testament Greek Collection contains a number of insightful books and essays on the topic of discourse analysis. The books provide some of the theories for how to analyze texts, and then apply the theories so you can see the results. This collection introduces other fields related to discourse analysis, such as ‘rhetorical criticism’ (an examination of how authors use various language elements to persuade or make an argument) and essays on how the cultural context of the New Testament should inform our exegesis. (For example, there are many essays on the topic of how bilingualism in 1st century Palestine should effect how we read the New Testament.)
If you skim the authors and editors of the volumes in this set, you’ll notice several by Stanley Porter (Author of Idioms of the Greek New Testament) and Jeffrey T. Reed (with Stanley Porter, one of the OpenText.org fellows) as well as D.A. Carson (author of Exegetical Fallacies), just to name a few. In addition to discourse and rhetoric, there are many essays in this collection that treat on other intersections between linguistics and biblical studies. This collection serves as an excellent introduction to the value of linguistics for interpreters of scripture.
The preorder price is only $240 for 16 volumes – I paid more than $100 for each of those Greek books in print! I’m very excited about this offer, and hope it generates enough interest to go into production quickly. Order yours today!

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3 Responses to “Seeing the Forest and the Trees”

  1. Mike February 28, 2008 at 11:07 am #

    I’m really excited about this collection! But I’m also a little disappointed that one book is missing!
    The Rhetorical Analysis of Scripture: Essays from the 1995 London Conference (JSNT Supplement Series, 146) By Stanley E. Porter (Editor), Thomas H. Olbricht (Editor)

  2. Vincent Setterholm February 28, 2008 at 2:26 pm #

    Thanks for the comment, Mike. Continuum (the publisher of JSNTSS) actually has a few more books on rhetorical analysis as well as other New Testament linguistics resources. If you want, think of this collection as Volume 1. If we get enough orders to produce it, we’ll be able to go back to Continuum and discuss licensing more titles in this category.

  3. Mike February 28, 2008 at 6:03 pm #

    I like the sound of that! I have my order in, I hope that more come.