Book Review: Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

Firstly I should say that this is an academic book.  If you don’t have an interest in language or linguistics, and have no inclination to learn New Testament Greek, you probably will not want to read it.  If you are interested in both these things and want to study some of the nitty-gritty elements, I would highly recommend it.

Steven Runge’s Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament is a linguistic tool and, within the category of an academic book, is accessible and well presented. Although applying the principles to the handling of the Greek text of the New Testament, I would suggest that you do not need an enormous grasp of Greek to get a sense of what is being said here (although you do need to want to learn!).  What would be helpful is a basic grasp, or at least an interest in, linguistics.  By nature the book employs heavy usage of linguistic and grammatical language.

Runge looks at various discourse devices throughout the book.  As he says in his preface, his approach is cross-linguistic and function-based – i.e. it looks at the way languages operate in general, not just Greek, and it looks at how the linguistic features of a language or particular passage function.  Different languages use different methods to create emphasis and draw attention to certain elements, which is where translation becomes more challenging.

After introducing some key concepts and applying them to English examples, Runge then tackles a series of sections looking at various ‘discourse devices’.  He explains the nature and purpose of such a device – whether it be the use of certain connective words, framing devices or metacomments, to name but a few.  (Metacomments, if you’re wondering, are comments on what is going to be said – for example ‘truly I say to you’, or ‘I exhort you’.)  He uses Greek examples side by side with English translations, marking clearly each device. Most of these devices do not add to the literal meaning of the text  but they often give certain elements more emphasis or ‘prominence’, being used in a rhetorical way.

I feel it will be a very helpful resource in my own studies – in both Greek and language in general (showing its versatility).  I have been going through it with pencil in hand, studying it rather than merely reading it.

My only criticism is that it does not have a scripture reference index at the back.  I appreciate the passages are being used as examples rather than studied for themselves, but it is always useful to be able to look up any related information on a passage and I feel there is a noticeable gap in this regard.  Neither does it have an index of, for example, particular Greek words that it tackles in the main book.

However, it does have a helpful summary at the back which outlines the topics covered.

If you are studying Greek and have an interest in how language is used, I would recommend this book.

Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis by Steven E Runge (Hendrickson Publishers/Alban Books) RRP: £32.99

I received this book free from Alban Books for the purpose of reviewing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. 

3 thoughts on “Book Review: Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament

  1. Steven Runge says:

    A little late to the conversation here, but the omission of indices has been corrected in the second printing of the book. If you’d like a PDF version of them, please contact me.


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