McMaster Linguistic Exegesis of the New Testament
Linguistic Exegesis of the New Testament (LENT), a series of structured edited volumes, contributes to the growing body of literature on linguistic and exegetical analysis in New Testament studies by focusing on linguistic method in exegetical practice. To accomplish this goal, we have designed the volumes to be instructive in and usable for multiple contexts and purposes. Each volume in this series provides a collection of linguistically informed exegetical analyses of a sub-corpus of the New Testament. The purpose and benefit of this simple idea is to pro- vide a consistent and unified linguistic perspective across each volume, and, thereby, each sub-corpus of the New Testament. Multi-contributor volumes often lack methodological consistency and rigor. Such volumes may exemplify varying methods, or no method at all. Another limiting feature of such volumes is that they cover a wide range of test cases from different textual sources. Such volumes, when they are used, are often mined for the one or two essays that pertain to a scholar’s or student’s topic of research, while the rest of the volume is deemed irrelevant. This series has in mind a more useful way of applying its linguistic methodology in that it brings together methodologically similar studies that all focus on the same specific set of New Testament texts. As a result, we believe the nature of these volumes lends itself to the needs of indepen- dent researchers, professors, and scholarly pastors, while at the same time facilitating the pedagogical aims of the typical seminary exegetical course as supplementary texts.
Although the volumes in the LENT series cover the breadth of the New Testament, the volumes do not aim to offer comment on every single verse in the New Testament. All too often, traditional commentaries that aim for comprehensiveness end up merely parroting existing resources without making a contribution to the body of scholarship already available. The more recent development of exegetical handbooks has not, unfortunately, avoided this pitfall of repetition that does not advance our understanding of the texts. They tend to reflect the diminished exegetical capacity of most students of Greek. Instead, exegetical handbooks, when in the hands of students (and others), tend to become crutches for learning Greek; they are essentially used as parsing guides. By contrast, as potential supplementary texts for seminary or graduate-level seminars, and even valuable sources for scholars, the volumes in this series pro- vide a favorable alternative to the often-used exegetical commentary or handbook because they have explicit methodological aims and exemplifications. Further, they have clear advantages over commentaries because the essays in this series are not bound to a linear treatment of the text that often becomes cumbersome to wade through with their numerous comments on basic textual features, interaction with other commentators, and the many other features that make commentaries the pedantic genre of biblical scholarship that they are. Instead, each essay within the series is autonomous, addresses its own topic, and argues its own thesis. This demonstrates for students how linguistically-informed exegetical analysis can be creatively and productively used when applied accord- ing to a defined linguistic methodology. Further, to answer the question “What benefit will learning Greek have for my ministry or scholarship?” a synthesizing concluding chapter in each volume provides an additional instructive essay on the various kinds of exegetical payoff that arise from the essays in the volume. It is our hope that this feature will be viewed as a valuable addition by those who use these books.
Traditional series often reflect a spectrum of methodologies from various critical perspectives, traditional historical-grammatical analysis, or, more recently, theologically-driven exegesis. The result of this meth- odological eclecticism means that from volume to volume the linguistic perspectives represented in a series may shift to suit the goals of each individual author. The LENT series, by contrast, aims to introduce methodological consistency across the canon, and thus all of the studies in each volume approach the task of exegesis from a structural-functional linguistic perspective. Functional linguistics involves a top-down per- spective when analyzing the way linguistic elements work in a text. On this view, a text is seen as having a broad social and/or literary function (i.e., its genre) reflected in the type of language used in a given context (i.e., its register), and the sub-units within the text, including the units of discourse, the paragraphs, sentences or clauses, and word groups are all seen as having a functional meaning within this broader framework. The label structural narrows the scope of functional linguistics by introducing a complementary bottom-up priority, whereby the functional potential of texts is inextricably tied to the formal features of those texts. In short, structural-functional linguistics excludes a focus on some things traditionally understood to be part of some functional analyses (such as, for example, prototypes and conceptual schemata), while instead focusing on the close relationship between semantics (understood as meaning potential), syntax, lexis, and morphology.
The LENT series has been planned, so far, to make up a nine-volume series of books, divided according to various sub-corpora in the New Testament. Each subdivision of the New Testament has been selected on the basis of the similar content contained in those texts, balanced by the aim of having each volume cover a suitable amount of content from within the New Testament. Each essay is written from a structural-functional linguistic perspective as defined above, but the ways in which linguistics informs and shapes the individual essays vary from author to author. The analyses and arguments as well as the methods used to make them are all filtered through the same linguistic perspective. This allows for creative ways of marshaling the wide range of resources of the linguistic mod- els that are situated within the structural-functionalist perspective. This means that the essays are linguistically challenging, but they are more valuable for that fact, because they encourage thinking in terms of models and methods for engaging the biblical texts, rather than focusing on the static and bland re-labelling of morphological features and posturing on theological issues that are only tangentially related to the text itself. We believe that the volumes in LENT will encourage new and creative interaction with the biblical texts by exemplifying innovative exegesis relevant to the sets of New Testament books that researchers, pastors, and students are already engaged in studying.
The first volume of this series only covers one book, while most of the other volumes will group together related New Testament books or potentially sub-corpora of various types. We see the first volume, a compilation of linguistic analyses on the Epistle of James, as a great way to kick off this series because James is a short letter not immediately related to the other letters of the New Testament. The following volumes, which will not necessarily be published in this order, are designated to cover the following New Testament books:
• The Synoptic Gospels
• The Johannine Writings (the Gospel of John, the Johannine Epistles, and Revelation)
• Romans and Galatians
• The Corinthian and Thessalonian Correspondences
• Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians
• Paul’s Personal Correspondences (1–2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon)
• Early Jewish-Christian Writings (1–2 Peter, Jude, and Hebrews)
Stanley E. Porter, Zachary K. Dawson, and Ryder A. Wishart