Why hasn’t discourse analysis caught on in New Testament studies?

This is the title of Stanley Porter’s blog post on April 24:

Why hasn’t discourse analysis caught on in New Testament studies?.

Porter has been very influential in New Testament studies for both of my M.A. thesis topics (related to inter-biblical allusions and discourse analysis, respectively). Both of these topics push the boundaries of exegetical interpretation because these research topics relate to the most complex modes of human communication. For that reason, these analyses are notorious for being used to support more or less subjective analyses of the text. They get at the heart of what is a possible interpretation and what is more probable interpretation.

Porter has started to answer his question in at least 5 different ways, which I quickly summarize here…

  1. D.A. compared to Old Testament studies.
  2. D.A. compared to other linguistically-informed exploration of the New Testament.
  3. D.A. is particularly difficult to get a handle on.
  4. D.A. does not have the same supportive structure (like commentary and monograph series and journals dedicated to the field).
  5. D.A. may have false expectations associated with its use (especially in relation to “objective” or “non-objective” readings.

Porter’s last paragraphs…

For whatever reason, discourse analysis has not garnered the recognition that other approaches have. However, that is not to say that it does not have much to offer. I believe that a robust and linguistically well-grounded discourse method—especially one that is grounded in functional language analysis—can potentially offer much for interpreters of the Bible—perhaps more than other, more traditional approaches. It can help the interpreter to focus upon the text as a text, and be able to speak more precisely about the features that make up such a text. It can provide a language to differentiate the various functions that parts of the language play in communication of meaning. It may be able to help to differentiate the ideas of a text from the means by which these ideas are communicated. The focus on units larger than the clause, while also realizing that clauses are made up of smaller units, brings an inherent balance to a discipline such as New Testament studies that runs the risk of being either too focused upon big ideas (often called theology) or too fixated on small units (such as an individual word).

Readers may be interested in knowing about the founding of BAGL—Biblical and Ancient Greek Linguistics—a peer-reviewed international journal dedicated to the linguistic study of ancient Greek. See www.macdiv.ca for details. The journal welcomes discourse analytical submissions as well.

This is all very good. I need to respond.

Online: Journal of the Linguistics Institute of Ancient and Biblical Greek (JLIABG)

I learned from Rick Brannon at ricoblog that the Linguistics Institute of Ancient and Biblical Greek has published its first online issue:

Runge, Steven E. 2008. “Relative Saliency and Information Structure in Mark’s Parable of the Sower.” JLIABG 1:1-16.

From the Institute’s website:

“The Journal of the Linguistics Institute of Ancient and Biblical Greek (JLIABG) is a fully refereed on-line journal specializing in widely disseminating the latest advances in linguistic study of ancient and biblical Greek. Under the senior editorship of Stanley E. Porter and Matthew Brook O’Donnell, the journal looks to publish significant work that advances knowledge of ancient Greek through the utilization of modern linguistic methods.”

You can subscribe here to an RSS feed of the journal or sign up to receive email notices of journal updates.

According to the Institute’s page on Areas of Research Under Investigation in the LIABG, their research interests correspond very closely to several areas that I have been investigating in the Greek text of James (i.e. discourse function of conjunctions, paragraphs as discourse units, and the discourse function of vocatives). From their website…
The following list provides an indication of some the open questions for research that are currently being investigated or are of interest to the members of the Institute.
  • developing a discourse grammar of conjunctions
  • the identification and classification of the paragraph as a unit in Greek discourse
  • discontinuous constituents in Greek syntax
  • the quantitative and qualitative analysis of register
  • the morphology, grammar and discourse function of the vocative case
  • a Systemic-Functional analysis of voice in Greek