Book Review: Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament

linguisticanalysisTitle: Linguistic Analysis of the Greek New Testament: Studies in Tools, Methods, and Practice

Author: Stanley Porter

Bibliographic info: 448 pp.

Publisher: Baker Academic, 2015.

Buy the book at Amazon

With thanks to Baker Academic for the review copy!

This volume is a collection of studies, many of which are papers that the author has delivered at past conferences (e.g. SBL and SNTS), though which have until now remained unpublished. The author, Stanley Porter, is a name that I am sure is familiar with those acquainted with studies on linguistics of the Greek New Testament.

The studies in this volume are divided into three sections: (I) Texts and Tools for Analysis; (II) Approaching Analysis; and (III) Doing Analysis. Each of the studies tackle matters of the Greek New Testament in various linguistic perspectives.

The four chapters in the first section discuss matters necessary for the linguistic analysis of the Greek New Testament, including topics such as lexicography and computer-related issues. An interesting conclusion of Porter’s in this section is that the “Louw-Nida lexicon is an underutilized resource in New Testament studies, while the Bauer type of lexicon is probably best seen as reflecting an earlier day and age in lexicography.”

The eight chapters in the second section discuss the way of approaching linguistics analysis of the Greek New Testament, including discourse analysis, verbal aspect, sociolinguistics, and ideational meta-function within a register. As an aside, Porter is the only person I’ve come across (as far as I can remember) who really brings the subject of register into conversation with studies on the Greek New Testament (there are two chapters in this volume where Porter discusses the concept of register).

The nine chapters in the third section provide specific examples of linguistic analysis, such as a register analysis of Mark 13, verbal aspect in the Synoptics and extrabiblical texts, a study on the grammar of 1 Tim. 2:8, and the utilization of the Prague linguistic school of thought to examine the opponents in Romans, Philemon, and Colossians. The final chapter in this section looks at hyponymy as a possible instructive interpretive device for discussing the Trinity in the New Testament (hyponymy refers to how a word’s semantic field is included within that of another word). While various models and analogies have been provided in recent theology to explore the concept of the Trinity (e.g. narrative, process, social), Porter offers up his own linguistic model that draws upon the notion of hyponymy in order to explore the relationship between the biblical usage of terms such as “God” and “Lord.” It was a brief study but an interesting approach.

This volume is a technical discussion of various linguistic aspects of the Greek New Testament, so considering that most biblical students typically just learn the Greek language and learn next to nothing about linguistics in the process, I think it is fair to say that this volume will be mostly inaccessible to the average biblical studies student. However, those who study the Greek New Testament and have some knowledge of linguistics will no doubt benefit from this volume and, I imagine, it would make a useful supplemental tool for an advanced Greek New Testament course.

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