Biblical Hebrew and Discourse Linguistics / Discourse Analysis of Biblical Literature: What It Is and What It Offers

By Howard, David M., Jr. | Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, March 1998 | Go to article overview

Biblical Hebrew and Discourse Linguistics / Discourse Analysis of Biblical Literature: What It Is and What It Offers


Howard, David M., Jr., Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society


Biblical Hebrew and Discourse Linguistics. Edited by Robert D. Bergen. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics; Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1994, 560 pp., $40.00 paper. Discourse Analysis of Biblical Literature: What It Is and What It Offers. Edited by Walter R. Bodine. SBLSS. Atlanta: Scholars, 1995, $29.95 paper.

Biblical scholars have long studied the Bible through the lenses of outside disciplines, ranging from the folklorist studies of the brothers Grimm to which Gunkel was indebted to the myth-and-ritual approaches of Frazer and others that informed the work of many Biblical scholars early in this century to the "new archaeological" approaches so influential today to the sociological approaches of Weber and others influencing Gottwald to Derrida's deconstructionist approach, which informs the work of too many Biblical scholars today. Happily, the field of general linguistics is now making its presence felt in Biblical studies as well, with considerably more profit than many other approaches offer. After all, Biblical texts consist in the first place of words, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, and texts, the relationships among which are accessed directly by linguistic approaches. This is one area where evangelical scholars-both Biblical and otherwise-are among the first-rank scholars in their disciplines; the field lends itself well to holistic analyses of texts, which evangelicals are prone to welcome.

Both volumes reviewed here are mere entrees into various linguistic approaches as they are useful in Biblical studies. Both are valuable starting points for exploring the great potential of linguistic study of Biblical texts. Unlike another valuable volume edited by Bodine, Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew (Eisenbrauns, 1992; reviewed in JETS 39/2 [1996] 343-345)-which contains essays on all the major aspects of linguistics: phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, discourse analysis, historical/comparative linguistics and graphemics, but which does not venture into any great depth in any one area-these two volumes attempt to introduce the reader to only one subdiscipline of general linguistics: discourse grammar, which is the study of language units larger than the sentence. Essays in the first volume originated in a Summer Institute of Linguistics conference in 1993 and those in the second in the SBL's Linguistics and Biblical Hebrew Section in 1988. Both are able to accomplish much in terms of displaying the theory and practice of a particular linguistic approach. The most valuable theoretical essays in these two volumes are Bodine's introductory essay in the volume he edited and K. …

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