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.

8 thoughts on “The Grammar I’m Reading

Add yours

  1. Mike,
    Thanks for the introduction and glad it fills a void. This project has been near and dear for many years, written in response to my frustration in trying to get into a field of study that doesn’t really exist yet. The grammar is part of a larger suite of resources. The foundation is an analyzed Greek text that annotates all occurrences of the discourse devices described in the grammar. This allows you to interact with it like you would any specialized commentary ( The grammar provides the theory and explanation behind the analysis, and is intended to provide a foundation for your own research. I have some conference papers and articles posted on my bio page, the link is embedded in my name above.

    Current plans are to release only an electronic version of the first edition. If there is enough interest to warrant it, we would consider a paperback version of what would be the second electronic edition. It is easier to make changed digitally than in print, but I understand the desire for a print version. The electronic book will work in either the PC or new Mac beta version of the software.

    If you would like a preview, drop me a note and I will send a sample: the preface, introduction and first chapter (

  2. Thanks Mike, for a tantalizing “head’s up” on this one. (I hope Logos pays you well for your creative “come on” to learn more! 🙂 )

    I’d be very sorry to see this limited to a e-version. Not only do I hate reading 300 pg books on screen, but it will never be shelved in a library and not as likely used as a textbook, etc. in e-only format. It will serve a legit role as an online ref tool, but if it’s argument is to have an impact, it will have to become a traditional print version–and the sooner the better. So hopefully v. 1 of the e-version will be treated like a beta version and soon published in print (without too long a “vaporware” period!).

    The sample posted on the historical present is interesting, though I note that he makes a basic assumption that I consider unfounded: that the verb is inherently temporal. Only seeing a 7-page excerpt I’ve no way to know if that is merely an assumption based on tradition, or if it’s actually argued elsewhere in the book. There’s nothing in the table of contents that suggests that it is discussed–nor verbal aspect either. Since aspect does play a discourse role (see esp. the very good work by Campbell–all 3 vols), I’d be skeptical of any treatment of discourse analysis that did not incorporate some discussion of this.

    I will look forward to reading it as soon as it is available.

  3. Wieland – digital
    Damian – I’ll buy you ream

    Steve – I enjoyed tantalizing everyone with my little mystery.

    Dr. Decker – Unfortunately, Logos is only paying me to edit. No commissions here. As Steve said above, if the interest is great enough we could see a second edition in print – and I agree that a print edition would be excellent – particularly for libraries. Probably the best thing for the book would be to see it incorporated into classes.

    As to verbal aspect, the fact that the book is based on the Lexham Discourse GNT, has a lot to do with the content, but I know that like the book the database is continuing to develop – its not a frozen entity.

  4. Dr. Decker, also, if you’re referring to the discussion of the historical present in the introduction, then I should say yes, there is a larger discussion focusing particularly on that phenomena.

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