The Grammar I’m Reading

Have you ever sat down in a big cozy chair beside a fire place, curled up with a copy of Daniel Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament?

I sure never have. (please, just bear with me)

But I have read that book – just not in that setting. Maybe someday, though I think I’d choose a book I haven’t read before.

I’m one of those guys who reads the preface. I also read the forward, copyright page & cataloging information, peruse the index, browse the bibliography, and examine closely the table of contents.

Some books have prefaces that you have to come back to and read again. Now there are a variety of reasons for this. It might be the personal details about the author. Dr. Burke’s Adopted into God’s Family: Exploring a Pauline Metaphor is like this, though in my case it helps that I took more classes from Dr. Burke in my undergrad than any othe professor, had him and his family over for dinner after I was married and continue to stay in contact with him relatively regularly (by the way, his Family Matters: A Socio-Historical Study of Kinship Metaphors is also wonderful).

For other books, it might be a statement or comment that pops into your mind from time to time. Wallace’s preface is like that for me. Specifically, its this statement:

“Contrary to the current trend, this work has no chapter on discourse analysis (DA). The rationale for this lacuna is fourfold: (1) DA is still in its infant stages of development, in which the methods, terminology, and results tend to be unstable and overly subjective. (2) DA’s methods, as shifting as they are, tend not to start from the ground up (i.e., they do not begin with the word, nor even with the sentence). This by no means invalidates DA; but it does make its approach quite different from that of syntactical investigation. (3) Along these lines, since this is explicitly a work on syntax, DA by definition only plays at the perimeter of that topic and hence is not to be included. (4) Finally, DA is too significant a topic to receive merely a token treatment, appended as it were to the end of a book on grammar. It deserves its own full-blown discussion, such as can be found in other works of Cotterell and Turner, D. A. Black.

That’s always been a hard one for me to read, particularly because, as excellent as Cotterell and Turner’s book is and how enjoyable is the book edited by D. A. Black, no usable introduction to discourse grammar exists. I emphasize both usable and introduction. The books that have been written thus far are simply not accessible. Jefferey Reed’s Discourse Analysis of Philippians is an enjoyable book, but in the words of Dr. Gerald Peterman, “For the reader unfamiliar with linguistics, his work is hard reading” (JETS 42:515, 1999).

But I’m encouraged.

Because I’m reading quite usable and understandable introduction to Discourse Grammar & Greek right now.

Are you still curious about what I’m reading? This is the very same book I mentioned yesterday: Cross-linguistic, focused on discourse, and builds on past grammars

But this book isn’t published yet, how are you reading it?

Well, I’m helping with some editing. And I have to say that what I’ve read thus far has been very impressive. This is the book I wish existed back when I was in my exegesis class – both the one I was taught or the one I TA’d.

And No. I’m not being paid for saying any of this.


Editor’s note: two years on this grammar was published: Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction to Discourse Features for Teaching and Exegesis by Steve Runge.

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