Friday, April 09, 2010

Relevance of Greek Discourse Studies to Exegesis and Textual Criticism

Stephen Carlson (Hypotyoseis) draws the attention to Stephen H. Levinsohn's online article, “The Relevance of Greek Discourse Studies to Exegesis," Journal of Translation 2 (2006) 11-21. In particular the article treats three discourse-related areas which, according to the writer, tend to be handled unsatisfactorily in exegesis: the order of constituents in the clause and sentence, the presence versus absence of the article with nouns, and the significance of the conjunctions used. Stephen Carlson rightly points out that these areas are of great significance for textual criticism as well.

Two years ago I had a fine student, Annika Ralston, who is acquinted personally with Levinsohn as she has been involved in work with Summer Institute of Linguistics. Anyway, she wrote an essay under my supervision: "Discourse Analysis and Interpretation: A Test Case in Matthew 24–25," and it is available here.


  1. It may be interesting research, but about how many variant-units does anyone expect to be settled by this?

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

  2. Timo FlinkApril 11, 2010

    Has anyone even attempted to settle all relevant variation units by this method? I doubt it. It might be interesting to test it and see what comes up.

  3. "Settle" I don't know, but it may affect the evaluation of internal evidence in many cases.

  4. Timo FlinkApril 12, 2010

    Indeed. Maybe someone should attempt to do a comprehensive study on the issue.

  5. I am applying some exegetical insights from discourse analysis in my work on the text of Galatians. They do, as Tommy put it, "affect the evaluation of internal evidence in many cases."

  6. Timo FlinkApril 13, 2010

    Thank you, Steven, for that information. Maybe NTTC should incorporate this method as part of the comprehensive examination of the internal evidence. Now I am wondering how many changes did it bring about? Percentage-wise?

  7. Timo FlinkApril 13, 2010

    More to the point, what sort of a "principle" should we use? Preference for a variation that is harder for the discourse or inline with the discourse? What are we saying about the scribes, if we think that discourse analysis helps to decide which readings are more likely the initial ones? Scribes as rhetoricians? Scribes as modernizers of the text? Scribes as the ones smoothing or improving the text?

  8. Timo FlinkApril 13, 2010

    my bad, sorry, I meant Stephen...

  9. Timo, I don't expect many changes; our text is fairly good as it is. As for what principle to use, I don't really see anything special for discourse analysis over any other kind of exegesis. I would expect the role of exegesis in NTTC to be the same no matter what. The difference is that discourse analysis can tell us better than some traditional exegetical approaches how the presence or absence of an article (or transposition or conjunction, etc.) is affecting the (larger) sense of the passage. These issues have been poorly treated in the literature over the past century or so.