Review supplement of Porter (2015) Linguistic analysis of the Greek New Testament

While working on editing the three parts of my review into a cohesive whole document to make available as a PDF, I realized that I had neglected to write anything at all on chapter 11. I have corrected this in the original post and also provide the added portion below.

I wish it was more positive. It is not.

Porter, Stanley. 2015. Linguistic analysis of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

In a similar vein, Chapters 11 and 12 present Porter’s responses to critiques and discussions put forward from two other voices in the discussion, Fanning (1990) and Campbell (2007), providing a valuable supplement to Porter’s views on the status quaestionis. However, at times, Porter’s language in chapter 11 borders on inappropriate. He has a tendency to obfuscate theoretical issues and leans heavily on rhetorical flourish rather than on the strength of argument when it comes to engaging with those he disagrees with. On the one hand, it is clear that Porter feels that those who disagree with him are attacking him—he accuses Evans (2001) as using “unnecessarily pejorative language”, for example—but on the other hand, he himself constantly uses phraseology such as “poorly supported or argued” without evidence that such assertions are true—a dubious approach in academic engagement, indeed. Later, he describes Wallace’s discussion of tense-aspect usage as, “a perplexing menagerie of concepts and ideas” (184). Suddenly, Porter’s complaints about the “pejorative language” of others feels like a prime example of the pot calling the kettle black.

As a result, while the chapter presents a useful summary of Porter’s own thought with regard to the critique of his work on the Greek verb, the tone is inappropriate and at times offensive. It speaks to the impasse NT Greek grammar is in when a quote like the following without context could just as easily be presumed to be a paragraph written by someone who disagree with Porter might say about him and his followers simply by removing the non- prefix to the word in bold below.

Moreover, they not only fail to be convincing, but also often fail to have logical or interpretive soundness. They are riddled with misunderstandings, misstatements, and mischaracterizations of their own positions, as well as often of matters of Greek grammar and linguistics, and in the end offer little to nothing of substance to the debate. In fact, with their clear dismissal, there appear to be . . . no logical or linguistic impediments to accepting the so-called nontemporal view of the Greek indicative verb (192).

This is a dismal place for the field to be where both sides of a topic view the other as “riddled with misunderstandings, misstatements and mischaracterizations.” I unfortunately do not know how we can escape it.


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3 thoughts on “Review supplement of Porter (2015) Linguistic analysis of the Greek New Testament

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  1. Mike,
    I have read this book several times, mostly because much of it is over my head😎 I like Porter a lot, but I noticed the same tendency in this section as you. The obvious disdain among these scholars, I have noticed similar tendencies in Fanning and Campbell, is pert near childish.
    I really appreciated that in this series you dealt with the issues, even disagreements, with respect.


    1. Thanks! This was a very difficult book to review. There’s a substantial amount that I fundamentally with and the constant temptation is to just attack, attack, attack. I’ve worked quite hard after the initial draft to revise, tone down, and keep things about the content. In some cases, that simply meant cutting things. Most of the disagreements (e.g. Greek as tenseless) are so extensively covered in so many places, I ended up decided it wasn’t worth rehashing any of those. So I chose different issues to push back on and then also suggest way to find some common ground (e.g. the discussions of monosemy/polysemy in part one).

      Despite the disagreements, this is an important book because Porter is an important voice in NT studies and he deserves to be engaged on his merits.

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