Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Modern Linguistics and Biblical Exegesis

I was recently reading The Face of New Testament Studies: A Survey of Recent Research(an excellent resource for the NT student to get 'up-to-date', well at least up to NT scholarship in to 2004).  

Stanley Porter, known as one of the leading Greek grammarians today, was one contributor with a chapter on Greek grammar and syntax.  Essentially, Porter called for NT students to recognize that Greek grammar and syntax (and thus, exegesis) is an evolving discipline.  Now it is not so evolving that we must abandon all previous notions of exegesis.  But for Porter, advances in modern linguistics have a lot to say about biblical exegesis.  He seems excited about the future of exegesis, though obviously discontent with where we presently stand.  He mentions that standard reference grammars are far outdated, and too much scholarship (and exegesis) is based on outdated reference materials (e.g., grammars, lexicons, etc.).  

The chapter was packed full of subjects that I haven't studied in depth, but Porter certainly sparked my interest in how modern linguistics may help the exegete (and preacher) of the Word of God.  And that is the goal, isn't it?  So Porter delivers a wake up call to the one who thinks the biblical exegesis is a rigid discipline, the rules of which are engraved on stone.  Questions of verbal aspect and time remain unsettled.  Lexicography has a long way to go: inscriptions are being discovered all the time, many of which are documented, but few scholars are noticing.  

In the end, I am encouraged that my desire to know Greek like a native finds itself in hopeful times.  In light of all of the scholarship that has come before us, advances in computer software, and the collaboration of so many scholars on the (public) web, current exegetes have the opportunity to produce far more in the study of the NT than ever before.  One life to live - to the joy of discovering God and His will in the Scriptures.


chrisa said...

Hey, good stuff. Scary world without context- even when a person IS doing correct exegesis. I think the presupposition is that grammar was handed down along with text and therefore it is set in stone (as we find it in our popular textbooks). It seems that the one who has looked at the most amount of text from a given period and looked often has the best advice to give on questions of grammar and lexiography. On the other hand, we dare not throw away the work of men who have tried to give us a comprehensive accurate system of grammar and word ranges. I wonder if Porter would say that some major doctrine could be altered do to fresh linguistical finds? I think this is why "putting the book together" is such an essential discipline. It really keeps a person on the right track even if we don't know eis has 5 more senses we have not yet discovered.

fellow laborer for Christ

like.a.cannon said...

Hello bg,

thank you so much for your input on my blog "7 reasons why the church is not a club" recently. I really appreciate your thorough and objective viewpoint as it helps me grow and sharpen my view.

to answer your question and to clarify my position. the first point i was trying to encapsulate was that i have seen in the church i teach at( the main reason i write this blog)is that I have a lot of Christians that would rather have "fellowship" and be comfortable with each other than go out and affect the world for the sake of the Gospel. I am not saying there is no camaraderie in the church of people that love serve and obey Jesus and that love and serve others,but that it is not the end all be all of christian life.

my last point was that the church is a holy set apart and sanctified body, but that we as the body of Christ should not try to A. push out "sinners and heathens" or B. get so comfortable and complacent that we dont start inviting other people to come on the journey of following Jesus with us. I think a church service should always have a good number of people who don't already love Jesus so they can get to know Him and therefore invoke the Great Commision.( which is not happening at my church as nmuch as it needs to be)

Again, thank you for being honest and scripturally sound. I can get big-headed at times and am glad someone can bring me back down.

Josh said...

I'm not sure what Porter might be willing to alter as far as doctrine goes, but I assume he is committed to at least some of the major historical doctrines. I agree that 'putting the book together' is essential. Perhaps that is why I'm so excited about the future of exegesis: as inscriptions continue to be catalogued, and as analytical tools become more efficient, and as we build on the years of study of Tomlinson and others, we have a great potential to get some books together. With just a short life to live, we (exegetes) will have to make it a team effort, eh?