Books I’m Reading

I have a few posts in process, including my next part of “Discontinuous Syntax in the New Testament.” Hopefully that will be up in the next week.

In the mean time, here’s my present reading list and a few thoughts on their content (excluding DS). I like to think that its a good balance between Biblical studies and linguistics (on the literature side of things, I’m also working my way through War and Peace, which is excellent. Tolstoy is one of my favorite authors).

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians by J. O. F. Murray.

This is an old commentary from 1914 in the original series of the Cambridge Greek Testament. Technically, this volume is in the “second series,” but the first series never had a volume on Ephesians to begin with, so it doesn’t really matter. Its an excellent commentary, which at 254 pages gives more space to Ephesians than a few of the most recent ones on this letter (e.g. Witherington & Talbert). Murray’s discussion of the Greek text is often excellent (generally better, I think, than the commentaries mentioned previously), but at times unhelpfully piecemeal and perhaps tends to see the individual trees better than the forest, but this isn’t any different than, say, Hoehner. I like Murray as much as I do O’Brian and Lincoln.

The Descent of Christ: Ephesians 4:7-11 and Traditional Hebrew Imagery by W. Hall Harris III

If I remember correctly this was originally Harris’ dissertation. He argues that Paul’s words in these verses refer to Pentecost on the basis of Jewish interpretation of the Psalm Paul uses here. Its good. Again the text critical discussion in particular is excellent. But in general, I’m still debating what I think of his thesis. What he does have going for the book is the fact that really no interpretation seems satisfactory.

Isaiah (NIBC) by John Goldingay

I really wish that I could afford his ICC volume on this Old Testament prophet, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. Nonetheless, this is an excellent, albeit short, commentary. I appreciate the author’s emphasis on the original context and the way he takes his scholarship seriously, even for a shorter commentary like this.

The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text With Introduction and Commentary 3rd Edition by F. F. Bruce

This was one of the last books Bruce published before his death in 1990. In fact, it may have actually been published after his death, though I’m not sure. The date is 1990. The majority of the content is very similar to his NICNT volume revised in 1988, but this commentary focuses more on Greek and deals with a whole lot of textual criticism. His Greek text in the 3rd edition is neither Westcott and Hort or the Nestle Aland text, but his own critical text, though it is probably closer to the NA26/27 than WH, though I can only speculate on that based on the introduction. I haven’t actually compared them. And of course, his handling of the text is that of a experienced classicist and scholar.

Optimality Theoretic Syntax edited by Peter Sells

“What in the world is that!?” you say. And rightly so. Well, in a sense, Optimality Theory a sort of overall view of looking at how grammar as a whole functions universally. It originated in Phonology, but even then its potential application to all parts of grammar was recognized. The basic idea is that for a certain construction, whether phonological, syntactic, morphological, etc. to be grammatical, it must also be optimal. The optimality of the construction is dependent upon what constraints it violates. Shoot, I’m not explaining this well. Perhaps the best way to explain it is to point you to a little story that should connect with Biblical scholars: “The Rise of Optimality Theory in First Century Palestine.” That title should catch your eye.

Language Typology and Syntactic Description: Volume 2, Complex Constructions 2nd ed. edited by Timothy Shopen

I’ve mentioned the other two volumes of this set before and I cannot recommend these volumes highly enough – 1300 pages of pure linguistic goodness. Volume 2 covers such exciting topics as Coordination, Complementation, Noun Phrase Structure, Relative Clauses, Adverbial Clauses, Discourse Structure, and Sentences as Combinations of Clauses. Thus far, I’m part way through Complementation, which by itself is over 100 pages long. In chapter one on coordination, I really appreciated Martin Haspelmath’s delineation of semantic subtypes of coordination, which provided some food for thought in terms of thinking about the large variety of Greek conjunctions. His discussion of Ellipsis was also very helpful. Right now, I’m in the process of revising my Logos/SBL Syntax paper on ellipsis in Paul’s letters and I would like to incorporate some of his comments.

Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics by John Lyons

This is an old book from 1968, but its still an excellent read. Lyons is a clear writer. His historical survey of grammar is very good and he does a great job (unlike some recent NT Greek linguists) recognizing and emphasizing the distinction between Transformational grammar and Generative grammar. Some of his discussions, such as the one on phonology, are quite dated now, but over all, the book has maintained much of its value, something that I think has to do with the author’s writing ability.

Describing Morphosyntax: A Guide for Field Linguists by Thomas Payne

I’m not that far through this book, but I’ve read enough to know that I like it. Its not a good book for an introduction to analysis in general, but its a great reference for those who already have an idea of what’s going on. Its basically a survey of morphology and syntax with discussions about how to describe them for previously unstudied minority languages. The book doesn’t answer every question you might have, but its very helpful nonetheless and I’ve learned a good amount from it. And as far as I can tell, its theory independent.

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