Brian LePort’s Short Review of Runge’s Greek Discourse Grammar

Brian LePort recently posted a positive short review of Steve Runge’s Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Hendrickson 2010). My linguistic journey began when I was introduced to using linguistics as tool for exegesis when I took a Biblical Hebrew Syntax course at Southeastern Seminary. Then while at Edinburgh I purchased Runge’s DGGNT and ultimately utilised the concepts from the chapter on Information Structure (Word Order Analysis) for my MTh dissertation on fronting in Amos 3-6.

Three things confirmed for me on the reasonableness of the concepts advocated in DGGNT: First, it was a cross-linguistic approach. The principles found in the grammar have been utilised by linguists and fieldworkers working in numerous types of languages. Thus, the principles are reasonable because they derive from how language works and is processed.  Second, while at Edinburgh I worked with a lecturer in the linguistics faculty and she found the framework linguistically responsible. Here was a linguistics scholar, not a Greek scholar, validating the linguistic framework. The last reason is the explanatory power I found while writing my dissertation. I found that I could explain particular phenomena in Amos that either scholars just make intuitively, but with no exegetical basis, or simply could not answer because they felt the evidence was ambiguous.

A great quote from Brian’s original post that sums my own feelings:

I confess that prior to reading this book I overlooked most (or read without being very conscious) of the devices used by authors to do things as simple as emphasizing the main theme over against an athematic point, or when the author seems to be commenting/explaining the text within the text, or when the author wants to introduce a change in time or place. In fact, many of these chapters introduced ideas that were completely new to me. If not completely new, then paradigm shifting and mind expanding. I found that my reading of the text seemed to go from 2-D to 3-D in the process.

Read the entire review here.

Some Advice for Seminarians

After spending the first two years of teaching at Cal Baptist preparing lectures, getting to know my school and administration, immersing myself and my family in our local church, and trying to do my best to not mess it all up, I now have a bit of time each week to work on some things I’d laid aside. Namely, I now have a bit more time to read, write, and work in the original languages.

The last of these is the easiest for a busy seminarian or graduate to drop from their regular schedule. This is true for the graduate no matter if they’ve moved on to pastoring, teaching, church planting, the mission field, or some parachurch ministry. Starting a new work, or having more time to devote at a current ministry after graduation, always makes for a busier schedule. For me, at least, the easiest thing to drop out of that schedule was the languages. Likewise, in seminary, with many students working part or full time along with having a family while taking 4-5 classes, it is very easy to stop working with Greek and Hebrew (not to mention German, French, and Latin).

I remember my first semester at SEBTS vividly; I had always looked forward to attending seminary so I could learn Greek and Hebrew (yes, we all know I’m a nerd). Dr. Black took us through Greek I and II with a potent blend of a complete mastery of the language and an engaging teaching style. When we finished Greek II in the J-term, he challenged us to join the 5 minute Greek club. The club, as he told us, has no dues and no meetings. We just all agreed to read Greek for 5 minutes a day. At first this was something I knew I could do – I was taking Greek III that summer, and so I had to keep up with it.

But then, as I entered my second year of seminary, I took Hebrew I and II during the latter part of the summer and Hebrew III that fall, and so turned my attention away from Greek. At that time I was also preparing for the PhD entrance exam, and we were expecting our first daughter in January. I started part time at the seminary that October and was full time within a year. I was working in the Field Ministry Office trying to help Dr. Wade start a new program that partnered with churches for theological education, and so the excitement of entrepreneurial work took up my time as well. On top of that I was an adjunct for an online program, a part time staff member at our church, and a teaching assistant. And then I started the PhD program, took one Greek seminar, and that was that. I wasn’t a member of the 5 minute Greek club anymore, and I gave up my membership in the Hebrew version after we got to weak verbs.

None of the above is an excuse. I mention it only to say what all of my language professors told me, but what I never let sink in – it is very easy to let the languages go, and often they go with a whimper. Busy-ness kills continued language proficiency. I’m working on building mine back up, and at times it’s easier than at others. But if I had listened to Dr. Black, if I had kept my membership in the 5 minute Greek club, it wouldn’t be an issue at all.

So my advice is simple – don’t let the languages go. They are vital to understanding God’s Word to us, and that means that pastors and professors alike ought to know them and know them well. It’s better to keep on knowing them than to have known them once and left them.

John Wevers’ Guidelines for using the LXX in Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible

I recently read an older article from John Wevers on guidelines for using the LXX in textual criticism of the Hebrew Bible. The more the I interact with the critical apparatus of BHS, the more his words ring true.

  1. Formal Correctness. Make sure the information you are reading in the apparatus is factually correct.
  2. Clarity of Citation. There are things in the apparatus that are unclear. Do your best to understand what is being stated.
  3. Adequacy. Consider all the relevant facts about the Greek tradition in question.
  4. Text tradition and its proper presentation. Consider the textual family of the Greek reading.
  5. Avoidance of the irrelevant. There is a lot of irrelevant information in the apparatus for textual criticism of the Hebrew text. Not all notes are created equal.

John Wevers, Text History and Text Criticism of the Septuagint, VT 29 (1977) 392-402.

WHO IS ISRAEL?: A PERSPECTIVE FROM AMOS 7-9

Defining who “Israel” is can prove to be a difficult task because of the ambiguity of the term. In the book of the Twelve, “Israel” can refer to the restored covenantal people (Amos 9:7-10), the Northern Kingdom (Amos 5:1-3), Southern Kingdom (Mal 2:11), or an idealised future community of faith (Zech. 12:1-14:21).[1] The ambiguity does not just occur in different books of the Hebrew Bible, but even occurs within books.

In Amos 7-9 there are multiple ways to refer to Israel: Jacob, my people Israel, Isaac, House of Jeroboam, House of Israel, Booth of David. The remainder of this essay will describe how Amos 7-9 presents Israel and how this may impact the identity of God’s people.

Beginning in the first two visions (Amos 7:1-3, 4-6) the term “Jacob” is used in conjunction with “small” echoing Gen. 27:15, 42 connoting the historic people of Israel.[2] Thus, Amos’ first two visions are concerned with the longevity of the historic, covenant people of Israel.

Amos’ third vision (Amos 7:7-9) moves beyond historical Israel (7:8) and progresses to the present day divided nation with Yahweh’s claim that he will rise against the house of Jeroboam–the Northern Kingdom (Amos 7:9).

In verses 10-17, the narrative of Amaziah and Amos shows the issue of the Northern Kingdom and the question of Israel. In this narrative, Amaziah distinguishes between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms and makes the claim that the north is the rightful heir of the land and designates Amos, a “seer of Judah”only.[3] Amos’ reply is that his prophetic authority rests beyond the north and south and rests with all of Israel: “my people Israel (7:15).”[4]

After the vision that both the north and the south fill face judgment (8:1-3), Amos 9:11-15 asserts the restoration for all of Israel–the Booth of David. 9:7-8 deconstructs the idea of assuredness resting in election as Amaziah did. Anyone claiming to embody all of “Israel” as God’s people based on election and covenant will be subject to judgment[5] and will die by the sword (9:10). “Israel” as the restored people of God as presented in chapter 9 will be those who renew their vocation as God’s people.[6]

Amos presents “Israel” in its past, present, and future.   Thus, in Amos, “Israel” is presented in transition to identify with their past, their present split nation, and hope in a restored community of faith.[7] The description of “Israel” as found in Amos 7-9 may prove to describe that although “Israel” may represent a people’s historic roots through to a split kingdom, “Israel” as the eschatological people of God, will only be those who renew their calling as the people of God.

 


[1]          Heath A. Thomas, “Hearing the Minor Prophets: The Book of the Twelve and God’s Address,” in Hearing the Old Testament: Listening for God’s Address, ed. Craig G. and Beldman Bartholomew, David J.H., (Grand Rapids / Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2012).: 365.

[2]          J. Gordon McConville, “How Can Jacob Stand? He is So Small!” (Amos 7:2): The Prophetic Word and the Re-Imagining of Israel,” in Israel’s Prophets and Israel’s Past: Essays on the Relationship of Prophetic Texts and Israelite History in Honor of John H. Hayes, ed. Brad E. and Kelle and Megan Bishop Moore, Library of Hebrew Bible / Old Testament Studies 446 (New York / London: T&T Clark, 2006).: 139-143.

[3]          McConville, “How Can Jacob Stand? He is So Small!” (Amos 7:2): The Prophetic Word and the Re-Imagining of Israel,”: 145-146.

[4]          McConville, “How Can Jacob Stand? He is So Small!” (Amos 7:2): The Prophetic Word and the Re-Imagining of Israel,”: 147.

[5]          McConville, “How Can Jacob Stand? He is So Small!” (Amos 7:2): The Prophetic Word and the Re-Imagining of Israel,”: 151.

[6]          McConville, “How Can Jacob Stand? He is So Small!” (Amos 7:2): The Prophetic Word and the Re-Imagining of Israel,”: 151.

[7]          Thomas, “Hearing the Minor Prophets: The Book of the Twelve and God’s Address,”: 365-366. Thomas applies this to the presentation of “Israel” in the Twelve. It also addresses “Israel” within Amos 7-9.

 

Bibliography

McConville, J. Gordon. “How Can Jacob Stand? He is So Small!” (Amos 7:2): The Prophetic Word and the Re-Imagining of Israel.” In Israel’s Prophets and Israel’s Past: Essays on the Relationship of Prophetic Texts and Israelite History in Honor of John H. Hayes, edited by Brad E. and Moore Kelle, Megan Bishop, 132-151. New York / London: T&T Clark, 2006.

Thomas, Heath A. “Hearing the Minor Prophets: The Book of the Twelve and God’s Address.” In Hearing the Old Testament: Listening for God’s Address, edited by Craig G. and Beldman Bartholomew, David J.H., 356-379. Grand Rapids / Cambridge: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2012.

Paul Joyce appointed to Samuel Davidson Chair–Kings College London

Back in April, Paul Joyce was appointed to the Samuel Davidson Chair at Kings College London. Paul was previously at St. Peter’s College Oxford and has garnered international acclaim for his work in Ezekiel. I’ll always remember my first SBL in New Orleans when I was invited to the Oxford reception and I was introduced to Paul. He spent several minutes engaging me with questions about school, and introducing me to a number of other Old Testament faculty. There were many other (read: more important) figures at this reception and I was very humbled by his patience and his charity. He is more interested in lifting those around him up, rather than himself. If all Christian scholars were like Paul, Biblical Studies would be a healthier, less insecure environment.

Kings conducted an interview with Paul about his background and goals as the new chair. You can read the interview here. His post begins September 2012 and I am sure he will be great at Kings. Good luck Paul.

Compiling a Vocabulary List in Accordance

A friend of mine was preparing to preach on Deuteronomy 10:12-22 and asked if I could help him compile a vocabulary list from that section and where he could find where these words are used else where in the Hebrew Bible. Here is a step by step tutorial of how I compiled the vocabulary list and concordance.

First, make sure that you have selected Words in order to enable your search commands.

Next, you want to enter the Range of the text you are wanting for a vocabulary list and concordance. 

For my friend, he was wanting to examine Deuteronomy 10:12-22

Next, you want to connect your Range with the And and Wildcard commands. After you hit search the entire Range will be selected red.

Next, click on Analysis 

When you click on Analysis, your vocabulary list can then be ordered how you prefer–alphabetical or by frequency.

From there I went back to the Analysis tab and selected Concordance in order for him to find where each word was used else where.


David’s Census

I just got word that my paper, “Intertextuality Between 1 Chronicles 21:1-17 and Genesis 13 and the Problem of David’s Census,” has been accepted for presentation at this year’s ETS meeting. I’ll be presenting in the Textual Strategies in the Hebrew Bible section at 4:40 on Wednesday.

I’m excited but also nervous – those Hebrew Bible folks are intimidating!