Tag Archives: romans

An Interview With Steven Runge On His New Commentary On Romans (Pt. 2)

If you would like to read the whole interview in one post see here. Or if you would like to go to part 1 click here.

Purchase

Logos Bible Software just released Steve Runge’s excellent new commentary on Romans. Runge has introduced many of us into the world of discourse grammar with his first book Discourse Grammer and then a complete analysis of the New Testament. I will soon be writing a full review of the Romans commentary but in the meantime I had the privelege to conduct an interview with the man himself.

How long did you work on this Romans commentary?

The book was in process for three years, but I did not work on it consistently during that time. Other projects and the needs of my folks kept me away more than I wanted, and I also learned some important lessons about how NOT to write a longer book. ‘Nuf said.

How does discourse grammar allow you to both zoom in to understand the particulars of a passage while maintaining the overall picture of the book?

I’ve heard complaints from some that what I do isn’t really “discourse” anything because I don’t go above the sentence level. Hmm. Whatever you call my approach, identifying lower level features is not the end of the game, but just the beginning. The theoretical model I follow, based on the work on cognitive comprehension of reading by Walter Kintsch, views reading as an iterative process rather than bottom-up or top-down. So as I analyze lower-level features, these necessarily inform the next level of analysis as I move up the text. But after I have analyzed smaller units into higher-level structures, my approach demands that I corroborate my findings by reconciling them with the lower-level features. This lead to the the kind of conundrum presented by bibles making a major break at Romans 8:1.

The problem? All the linguistic markers point to the major break being at 7:25b with ἄρα οὖν. This data forced me to rethink the relationship between 7:14 ff. and Romans 8. So although I may not be doing what some think discourse analysis demands, I never claimed that I was doing that. But I am certainly moving in that direction, as the HDC Romans volume will demonstrate. Discourse grammar was a necessary precursor to master lower-level features, setting the stage to move from discourse grammar to discourse analysis. Look for more on the latter in 2015.

One of the more controversial passages in Romans is 7:14–25. The major question is whether Paul is speaking of his pre-Christian self or himself as a Christian. How specifically does discourse grammar shed light on your interpretation?

The conundrum I hit at viewing 7:25b as the beginning of the talk about the Spirit necessarily impacted my reading of 7:14–25. I’m not going to spoil it, but I believe we have been asking the wrong questions about this passage, especially if it is without carefully considering the connection to 8. Paul has dealt with the penalty of sin, but not with the ongoing problem of sin in the flesh that we all face until our bodies are finally redeemed (8:23). Paul is well aware that we will need to contend with sin until either our death or Christ’s return. 7:14–25 describes the universal struggle all of us contend with until the final redemption. The devil is our adversary, but the desires of our flesh are an even more present one, as he makes clear. The solution to these two laws that he sees at work in us (7:25)? No longer living enslaved to the flesh, but with our mind set on the Spirit so as to put to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom 8). That’s it in a detail-less nutshell, but there are all kinds of thematically-loaded references in these chapters that clarify Paul’s intentions. I don’t think Paul is talking about either his pre-Christian experience or is present struggle, but rather the universal struggle that we all face in this present fallen flesh until we are fully redeemed.

Just a quick note from Brian: These are actual images from the commentary. One of the great aspects of these are they they are easy to save and implement into powerpoints for teaching or preaching. Also, Logos provides blank templates with the corresponding background so you can also add your own slides as well. Personally, I think the images throughout the commentary add both another way of examining the passage but also to be able to understand the concepts better.

How does one enter the world of studying discourse grammar?

I have a blog post on that very topic at my site that covers that very topic, as it is one of the most frequently-asked questions I receive. You’ll also find a lot of introductory materials to work through including a free sample of the Discourse Grammar. I blogged my way through the chapters as I wrote in order to test out my explanations. Most all of my conference papers and articles are posted on the Publications page.

If you want to see what the practical payoff is for applying discourse grammar to exegesis, both the Romans and Philippians High Definition Commentaries are on sale through Oct. 28. Just use the coupon code HighDefCom at checkout for 15% off.

Thanks Dr. Runge for taking part in this interview!

Other information about the Romans commentary:

//fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/bbntya4j84

From Logos:

Organized into preachable portions of Scripture and featuring over 100 custom graphics, Romans is perfect for sermons, Bible studies, and small groups. Using principles of linguistics and Biblical exegesis, Dr. Runge illuminates the key principles and overall message of the book of Romans. This commentary not only helps you identify the big ideas of a passage, it gives you custom slides that you can export right into sermons and Bible studies. Dr. Runge provides applicable and approachable examples throughout, making clear every-day connections between ideas in Romans and practical living. The High Definition Commentary: Romans is a one-of-a-kind Bible teaching tool, and only available from Lexham Press.

Check out Dr. Runge’s excellent blog related to all things discourse grammar at NT Discourse.

An interview with Steven Runge on his new commentary on Romans (Pt. 1)

Purchase

Logos Bible Software just released Steve Runge’s excellent new commentary on Romans. Runge has introduced many of us into the world of discourse grammar with his first book Discourse Grammer and then a complete analysis of the New Testament. I will soon be writing a full review of the Romans commentary but in the meantime I had the privelege to conduct an interview with the man himself. This is a two part interview so be sure to look for part two coming out next week!

Dr. Runge, tell us a little bit about your journey to scholarship and specifically discourse grammar.

I started seminary a few years after coming to faith in Christ, wanting to learn how to study and teach the Bible more effectively. I had some excellent language and exegesis profs, but saw that languages were in a steady state of decline. Despite all the talk about how important languages were, few scholars I met could offer a very compelling case for the practical payoff for the average pastor. A two month mission trip to Ethiopia in 1993 really solidified what turned into “a holy discontent” like Bill Hybels describes. Frankly, it just pissed me off to see the decline, so I made it may mission in life to do practical things that demonstrated the practical payoff of language study for ministry. My inner framing contractor overshadowed my inner scholar.

What led to the idea of your grammar, the Lexham Discourse Bibles, and now the High Definition commentaries?

When I first began reading my way into linguistic approaches to biblical languages, it was terribly difficult. I felt like I was looking into this wonderful convention center full of amazing things, but all the doors were locked. Part of my discontent consequently focused on making it easier for others to come behind. The Lexham Discourse Greek and Hebrew bibles stemmed from my experience teaching. I found it terribly difficult to train students to master that level of analysis, yet even introductory students could interact meaningfully with a marked-up text. Stephen Levinsohn had come to the same conclusion in his work training Bible translators. So when I pitched the idea to Logos, they agreed to fund me for two years, and Levinsohn agreed to consult. Once the GNT project was completed, I felt something like Doctor McCoy in the “Star Trek: the Search for Spock.” I had the grammar in my head as a result of analyzing the entire Greek New Testament. I desperately wanted to get it out and on paper while it was fresh. I was given 100 calendar days by Logos to write the book, and I hit the deadline with a draft by Labor Day 2008.


Runge Books

The High Definition commentaries stemmed from a personal challenge from Bob Pritchett, CEO of Faithlife/Logos Bible Software. He said if discourse studies is so useful, then prove it: write a commentary that offers a rigorous analysis of the text, but that doesn’t require any background in Greek. Oh, and include graphics to help pastors and their congregation better conceptualize the text.[1] He sketched these ideas on a napkin and then left my office. I came back a month later with some ideas, we thrashed on them, then put it up for Logos customers to pre-order.[2] We ended up getting all the orders we needed to fund the project in about 8 hours. The Philippians volume was well received, so I decided to tackle on of the hardest ones next: Romans. It really turned out to be hard, and family crises added to the length of the production process.

See all Runge’s work at Logos here.

Some people may be thinking do we really need another commentary on Romans? What makes your commentary unique to the field and what benefit is it to both pastors and scholars?

The primary goal of this commentary is to help you trace the flow of the writer’s argument, and to understand the various devices he used to pull this off. You will not find much if any discussion about backgrounds, authorship, or theology, as there are great resources available already. What I felt was missing was a text-based commentary that didn’t get bogged down in the detail, but could walk you through a tour of the text so that you could go and do the same for others. Whether I succeed or not is something different, but this was my goal.

You can purchase the commentary here.

Thanks Dr. Runge for taking part in this interview. We look forward to the second half next week!

In the meantime here is some information regarding the Romans commentary.

//fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/bbntya4j84

From Logos:

Organized into preachable portions of Scripture and featuring over 100 custom graphics, Romans is perfect for sermons, Bible studies, and small groups. Using principles of linguistics and Biblical exegesis, Dr. Runge illuminates the key principles and overall message of the book of Romans. This commentary not only helps you identify the big ideas of a passage, it gives you custom slides that you can export right into sermons and Bible studies. Dr. Runge provides applicable and approachable examples throughout, making clear every-day connections between ideas in Romans and practical living. The High Definition Commentary: Romans is a one-of-a-kind Bible teaching tool, and only available from Lexham Press.

Dr. Runge also has an excellent blog related to all things discourse grammar at NT Discourse.


  1. In way of a preview to my review the graphics are one of the best features of the commentary. They both help explain the concepts but also provide resources for pastors and teachers to use when explaining the text.  ↩

  2. Speaking of pre-order, the High Definiton Commentary on James is available for pre-order now!  ↩

Beale and the Latter-Day Justification

The Reformation brought a much needed understanding of justification back into Christian theology. Justification is by faith alone. This idea needed to be hammered home because it had been lost in the church. Salvation was thought of to be based on a person’s own merit and you could lose that if you weren’t working hard enough. But with every theological shift in thinking (whether good or bad) it tends to swing the pendulum to far in the opposite direction. The battle cry became “justification by faith alone” but then any talk about a “future justification” or “works playing into the future justification” makes the reformed community shutter. I am in this group but I always paused at passages like Rom. 2:6 “he will render each one according to his works” or James 2:14–26 where James says we are justified by our works. I first took the idea that this are rewards in heaven because after you have been justified works play into different levels of rewards in heaven. This never made complete sense to me but I went along with it. Then my understanding came to be that works are the fruit of a justified man but this still doesn’t fully satisfy an explanation for the passages listed above. It seems that works play into a final justification somehow but I have never really come across a clear and helpful explanation. Most of the ones I have heard are part of this fear of talking about a final justification (rightly so in some cases, depending on how you are talking about it). I am still working this out for myself but I thought the following was helpful.

This is where G.K. Beale comes in. A good friend of mine recommend that I read ch. 15 “The Inaugurated Latter-Day Justification” in his New Testament Biblical Theology because he gives a good argument/explanation for understanding justification on the last day. Beale gleans much from Richard Gaffin’s book By Faith, Not By Sight. Beale helpfully calls this the twofold understanding of justification. Here is an excerpt below:

On 2 Corinthians 4:16 – This removing of the execution of the physical penalty is a final part of the eschatological, two stage, already-not yet effects of justification

  1. Resurrection of the “inner man”
  2. Resurrection of the “outer man”. (see Rom 8:10–11, 23)

Richard Gaffin refers to this double justification as “justified by faith” and “yet to be justified be sight”. In that the complete overturning of the death penalty lies still in the future, there is a sense in which the full justification/vindication from that penalty is also still yet to be carried out, though this carrying out is ultimately an effect of the earlier declaration of justification from the complete penalty of sin that comes by faith.

He then gives the following analogy that I found extremely helpful

A man has been wrongfully convicted of a crime and has begun to serve a jail sentence. When new evidence has been adduced to demonstrate his innocence, the court nullifies the former verdict and declares him not guilty. However, because of the necessary administrative paperwork, the actual release of the prisoner does not take place for another three weeks. Thus, the prisoner’s justification occurs in two stages:

  1. The court’s announced verdict of “not guilty”
  2. The subsequent bodily release from the prison, which was a punishment of the former guilty verdict that was decisively overturned three weeks earlier, the full effects of which are now carried out.

I thought the prison analogy gave a very helpful understanding of how there can be a twofold nature of justification. In my next blog post I will give his arguments for how good works play into this final justification/vidication.