Tag Archives: stanley porter

Upcoming Books of Note from Baker Academic

Receiving new academic catalogues from book publisher’s is always exciting as it is a time to peruse upcoming books in my field and related interests. I just received Baker Academic’s Fall 2015 catelogue and it has several upcoming monographs related to the New Testament. Below is a sampling of a few that I am particularly looking forward to.

Upcoming: New Testament & Hermeneutics

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Joel B. Green: Conversion in Luke-Acts: Divine Action, Human Cognition, and the People of God

Repentance and conversion are key topics in New Testament interpretation and in Christian life. However, the study of conversion in early Christianity has been plagued by psychological assumptions alien to the world of the New Testament. Leading New Testament scholar Joel Green believes that careful attention to the narrative of Luke-Acts calls for significant rethinking about the nature of Christian conversion. Drawing on the cognitive sciences and examining key evidence in Luke-Acts, this book emphasizes the embodied nature of human life as it explores the life transformation signaled by the message of conversion, offering a new reading of a key aspect of New Testament theology. (Amazon) December 2015

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Craig Keener: Acts: An Exegetical Commentary: 24:1–28:31

Highly respected New Testament scholar Craig Keener is known for his meticulous and comprehensive research. This commentary on Acts, his magnum opus, may be the largest and most thoroughly documented Acts commentary ever written. Useful not only for the study of Acts but also early Christianity, this work sets Acts in its first-century context.

In this volume, the last of four, Keener finishes his detailed exegesis of Acts, utilizing an unparalleled range of ancient sources and offering a wealth of fresh insights. This magisterial commentary will be an invaluable resource for New Testament professors and students, pastors, Acts scholars, and libraries. The complete four-volume set is available at a special price. (Amazon) October 2015

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Rodney Whitacre: Using and Enjoying Biblical Greek: Reading the New Testament with Fluency and Devotion

Many who study biblical Greek despair of being able to use it routinely, but veteran instructor Rodney Whitacre says there is hope! By learning to read Greek slowly, students can become fluent one passage at a time and grasp the New Testament in its original language. Whitacre explains how to practice meditation on Scripture (lectio divina) in Greek, presenting a workable way to make Greek useful in life and ministry. Ideal for classroom use and for group or individual study, this book helps students advance their knowledge of Greek and equips them to read the original texts with fluency and depth. (Amazon) December 2015

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Craig Bartholomew: Introducing Biblical Hermeneutics: A Comprehensive Framework for Hearing God in Scripture

Renowned scholar Craig Bartholomew, coauthor of the bestselling textbook The Drama of Scripture, writes in his main area of expertise–hermeneutics–to help seminarians pursue a lifetime of biblical interpretation. Integrating the latest research in theology, philosophy, and biblical studies, this substantive hermeneutics textbook is robustly theological in its approach, takes philosophical hermeneutics seriously, keeps the focus throughout on the actual process of interpreting Scripture, and argues that biblical interpretation should be centered in the context and service of the church–an approach that helps us hear God’s address today. (Amazon) November 2015

Recently Released: New Testament

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Karl Allen Kuhn: The Kingdom according to Luke and Acts: A Social, Literary, and Theological Introduction

This substantial, reliable introduction examines the character and purpose of Luke and Acts and provides a thorough yet economical treatment of Luke’s social, historical, and literary context. Karl Allen Kuhn presents Luke’s narrative as a “kingdom story” that both announces the arrival of God’s reign in Jesus and describes the ministry of the early church, revealing the character of the kingdom as dramatically at odds with the kingdom of Rome. Kuhn explores the background, literary features, plotting, and themes of Luke and Acts but also offers significant, fresh insights into the persuasive force of Luke’s impressively crafted and rhetorically charged narrative. (Amazon)[1]

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Richard Bauckham: Gospel of Glory: Major Themes in Johannine Theology

Throughout Christian history, the Gospel of John’s distinctive way of presenting the life, works, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus have earned it labels such as “the spiritual Gospel” and “the maverick Gospel.” It has been seen as the most theological of the four canonical Gospels. In this volume Richard Bauckham, a leading biblical scholar and a bestselling author in the academy, illuminates main theological themes of the Gospel of John. Bauckham provides insightful analysis of key texts, covering topics such as divine and human community, God’s glory, the cross and the resurrection, and the sacraments. This work will serve as an ideal supplemental text for professors and students in a course on John or the four Gospels. It will also be of interest to New Testament scholars and theologians. (Amazon)

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

In this volume, a leading expert brings readers up to date on the latest advances in New Testament Greek linguistics. Stanley Porter brings together a number of different studies of the Greek of the New Testament under three headings: texts and tools for analysis, approaching analysis, and doing analysis. He deals with a variety of New Testament texts, including the Synoptic Gospels, John, and Paul. This volume distills a senior scholar’s expansive writings on various subjects, making it an essential book for scholars of New Testament Greek and a valuable supplemental textbook for New Testament Greek exegesis courses. (Amazon)

Upcoming: Old Testament

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Karen H. Jobes and Moisés Silva: Invitation to the Septuagint 2nd Ed.

This comprehensive yet user-friendly primer to the Septuagint (LXX) acquaints readers with the Greek versions of the Old Testament. It is accessible to students, assuming no prior knowledge about the Septuagint, yet is also informative for seasoned scholars. The authors, both prominent Septuagint scholars, explore the history of the LXX, the various versions of it available, and its importance for biblical studies. This expanded new edition has been substantially revised and updated to reflect major advances in Septuagint studies. Appendixes offer helpful reference resources for further study. (Amazon) December 2015

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Ellen Charry: Psalms 1–50 (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible

The biblical psalms are perhaps the most commented-upon texts in human history. They are at once deeply alluring and deeply troubling. In this addition to the acclaimed Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, a highly respected scholar offers a theological reading of Psalms 1–50, exploring the various voices in the poems to discern the conversation they engage about God, suffering, and hope as well as ways of community belonging. The commentary examines the context of the psalms as worship–tending to both their original setting and their subsequent Jewish and Christian appropriation–and explores the psychological dynamics facing the speaker. (Amazon) October 2015


  1. It is interesting to note that this particular book uses the phrasing “Luke and Acts” while a majority of scholars would classify it as “Luke-Acts”. I’ll be interested to see if this has any hermeneutical significance in this work.  ↩

Overview and Conclusion: Runge on Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb (part 6 of 6)

This is a conclusion/overview of a series we (Shawn Wilhite and I) are writing on Steven Runge’s recent article, “Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb: Reassessing Porter’s Argument,” Novum Testamentum 56 (2014): 154–73. (see here)

Before reading Runge’s article or our blog series, please read Runge’s post on “Porter’s Use of Contrastive Substitution” on his blog, NT Discourse (www.ntdiscourse.org). This serves as the informative background to Runge writing an article deconstructing Porter’s contrastive substitution argument.

Personal Anecdote

Over the previous winter break, we had the opportunity of interacting with Runge in a class on Discourse Grammar and over a few cups of coffee. Apart from this eye-opening experience, we also saw a glimpse into the heart of Runge. Reflecting on our time, one particular quote stood out above the rest. Not only will we forever remember one particular quote, but it has shaped the way we view research, our pursuit of humble scholarship, and how we interact with ideas. He was discussing the nature of research and the guild of academics when he said, “I’m more interested in getting it right than being right.” He is a scholar, worthy of imitation: imitation, not only for the superb content he produces, but also the demeanor and way he goes about his research and writing.

So, with this personal anecdote, we encourage you to read his short post in order to give you a context for why his Novum Testamentum article is necessary. You can find his post here. He also wrote a follow-up post entitled, “Civility in Academic Debate”.

Series Overview

In part I, we introduce the problem and define contrastive substitution.

Definition: Contrastive substitution is when a verbal form has an aspect that can use another verbal form to communicate the same aspect in a different tense.

In part II, Brian highlights the background and reason Runge reexamines Stanley Porter’s analysis of contrastive substitution.

Porter does not provide a proper methodological framework for contrastive substitution, which allows him to draw incorrect conclusions based on the data.

In part III, Shawn highlights how Stanley Porter misrepresents Curtius and Collinge, two of three sources Porter uses to confirm contrastive substitution.

A closer look at the two sources reveal how Curtius does affirm semantic tense values but makes a sharp distinction between aspect and tense only for pedagogical reasons. Collinge is comparing Latin and other Indo-European languages. Focusing on Latin, his comparative substitution comments relate to the Latin verbal and case system, not the Greek verbal system.

In part IV, Shawn engages Porter and Carl Bache, Porter’s final source.

Shawn examines Porter’s interaction with Bache and shows how Porter (1) conflates Bache’s categories and (2) uses selective examples only supporting Porter’s thesis of verbal atemporal semantics.

In part V, Brian engages Porter’s claims from contrastive substitution.

Porter does not heed the warning of other linguists about dangers of separating tense, aspect, and mood. Porter also quietly shifts his language from “absolute tense” to “no tense.”

Conclusion

In concluding this series, one overarching principle we have seen, and hope other see too, is the importance of a methodological framework in order to interpret data. By providing a consistent methodological framework, the necessary “guard rails” are established to help guide and interpret the data and may prevent unnecessary conclusions. As Runge argues, Porters lacks a sturdy framework, consistent in linguistic disciplines, ultimately prohibiting him from giving satisfying results.

We hope you found this blog series helpful when engaging both Porter’s work and Runge’s response. For more on this topic and other discourse grammar goodness, check out Runge’s blog at NT Discourse.

Follow

Steven Runge: Twitter: @Steve_Runge Website: NT Discourse

Shawn Wilhite: Twitter: @ShawnWilhite Website: Doctrinae Coram Deo

Brian Renshaw: Twitter: @renshaw330 Website: NT Exegesis

Porter’s Claims from Contrastive Substitution: Runge on Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb (Part 5 of 6)

This is a continuation of a series Shawn Wilhite and I are writing on Steven Runge’s recent article, “Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb: Reassessing Porter’s Argument,” Novum Testamentum 56 (2014): 154–73.

In part I, we introduce the problem and define contrastive substitution.

In part II, I highlight the background and the reason Runge reexamines Stanley Porter’s analysis of constrastive substitution.

In part III, Shawn highlights how Stanley Porter misrepresents Curtius and Collinge, two of three sources Porter uses to confirm contrastive substitution.

In part IV, Shawn engages Porter and his final of three sources, Carl Bache.

In the following post I analyze Porter’s claims from contrastitive substitution. Porter claims on the basis of contrastive substitution that the Greek verb does not encode absolute tense. One issue is how Porter attempts to seperate tense from aspect. Porter then takes his statement one step further and argues that the Greek indicative verb does not encode any tense.

Seperating What Cannot Be Seperated

One of the main articles that is cited throughout Porter’s work is “Figure and Ground: The Interrelationships of Linguistic Categories.”[1] But as Runge explains, Porter often cites Wallace in support for his claims but he “does not engage Wallace’s discussion of what can reasonably be concluded from applying contrastive substitution.”[2]

In Wallace’s essay, he argues how the “classical trinity”[3] is difficult to separate, which is exactly what Porter does when he separates tense from aspect. Wallace says,

The problems with the classical trinity [i.e. tense, mood and aspect], as I shall detail in this section, are two. One, it is an arbitrary division of verbal semantics into compartments which are not quite as easily separable as one is led to believe. Time, aspectuality, and modality—the semantic fields to which the formal categories of tense, aspect, and mode [mood] are supposed to refer—are almost inextricably scrambled together[4]

Porter claims throughout Verbal Aspect[5] that the indicative does not encode absolute tense. But as Wallace stated above the distinction between tense, mood, and aspect is arbitrary and cannot actually be seperated. Therefore, when Porter tries to separate tense from aspect he is going against the grain from the linguists he cites for support. See also these quotes from Bache and Lyons:

… at this point there is not, and cannot be, in universal grammar any sharp distinction between tense and aspect, on the one hand, or between tense and modality, on the other.[6]

Thus, in our metalanguage we must specify aspect, tense and Aktionsart as separate categories and the distinctive intersection between them as intercategorical relations.[7]

Porter makes it seem on the surface that these linguists actually support his claim but when you read their works they are not arguing what Porter seems to be claiming. Therefore, if Porter is going to argue for the separation of tense and aspect he needs to provide a methodological framework to do so. The frameworks and arguments of the Bache, Lyons, and Wallace do not support Porter’s claim.

Contrastive Substitution

Porter argues on the basis of contrastive substitution that since verbs with the same tense can be used in different temporal context then they do encode any temporal reference. But no one would argue this. For example, in the English verbal system verbs do not encode any temporal reference. The use of different tense forms in the same temporal context does not prove that tense is not a semantic property but is “shown to accomplish a pragmatic effect normally associated with modality.”[8] Therefore, it is valid to say the Greek indicative verbs do not encode absolute tense but this claim is “both valid and meaningless” because it does not disprove the tenselessness of the indicative verb.[9]

Picirrili also shows the flaw in Porter’s logic examining how in English we commonly use a “past tense” verb in a “present tense” context to bring about a pragmatic effect. He says,

Part of Porter’s “logic” is that exceptions to a definition disprove the definition. In other words, if the Greek aorist and imperfect indicative, say, can be used for present time—as in wishes or polite forms, for example—this demonstrates that they do not really “mean” past time. I would simply raise a question by means of an English illustration, questioning only the logic of such an argument. If I say, “I wish I were you,” then it appears that I am using a past tense “were” to refer to the present time. Does that prove that “were” is not really a past time verb in English? Now the analogy of English usage says nothing about Greek usage, to be sure. But the logic holds: if English can use a truly past time verb, in certain circumstances, for the present time, without negating that it really is a past time verb, then logically Greek might do the same.[10]

By Porters theory, English, on the basis of contrastive substitution, would not encode any tense in the verb. The only valid conclusion one can make is the verb does not grammaticilize absolute tense. As we will examine in the next section this claim is quietly changed to argue that the Greek indicative verb does not grammaticalize any tense.

Changing “Absolute Tense” to “Any Tense”

Throughout, Porter seems to conflate “absolute tense” and “no tense.” On page 77, Porter states, “…Greek does not grammaticalize absolute tense with the Present” but later in the same paragraph he conflates this to say the present verb does not grammaticalized any tense, “thus it may be concluded that Greek does not grammaticalize present reference in the Present tense form, since the same form may be used with a variety of temporarl and non-temporal references.”[11] And then concerning the Aorist, "thus the range of usage fo the Aorist form indicates convincingly Greek does not grammaticalize temporal reference in the Aorist, even in the indicative. Just because a verb does not convey absolute tense does not mean that any temporal sense is conveyed. Also, in later works, Porter silently changes his claim by saying that there is no temporal reference in indicative verbs.[12] See the two quotes below:

In the period since my initial work on verbal aspect, and after having pursued much further research in this area, I believe now more than ever that I was essentially correct in my analysis of the Greek verbal structure as a coordinated system of three verbal aspects grammaticalized by three major tense-forms, in which temporal reference is not grammaticalized in either the indicative or the non-indicative mood-forms.[13]

and

Verbal aspect theory is the theory that tense-forms in Greek do not grammaticalize temporal relations, but another semantic category concerned with how a speaker or writer chooses to conceptualize and present a process. Contrastive substitution, as well as other determiners, shows that the tense-forms in Greek are not time-based, even in the indicative, but that temporal relations are established through other means. Instead, the tense-forms grammaticalize verbal aspect.[14]

Without having the proper methodological framework to establish the difference between “absolute tense” and “any tense” Porter has quietly changed the “valid and meaningless” claim that the Greek indicative verb does not encode absolute tense to any tense whatsoever. As stated above, this goes against the linguists he cites in support for his argument: the change of a verbal form (aorist and present), in the same temporal context, conveys a pragmatic effect. The pragmatic effect can only occur if tense is a semantic feature of the Greek verb. Otherwise, there lacks a default base to bring about this pragmatic effect.

Conclusion

To conlude, Porter confuses the categories in Bache’s four-fold framework[15] and does not heed to the warnings of Wallace and others that it is impossible to fully separate tense and aspect. He uses only examples used to support his claim and not examining all the evidence, which would disprove his theory. This shows, once again, that not providing a sound methodological framework at the beginning of research can (and often times does) lead to conclusions that do not tell the full story.

This allows Porter to quietly move the discussion from denying “absolute tense” to arguing that temporarility is not encoded in the verb at all. Without the proper methodological framework Porter is able to bypass this error and subsequent scholars have followed suite.

Runge adequetly shows the flaws in his argument concerning contrastive substitution and calls Greek scholars to reconsider the validity of Porter’s claim. The Greek indicative verb does not grammaticalize absolute tense but this is not saying it does not encode any tense at all. The “classical trinity” should remain distinct but not separated.

In the next post, we will conclude this series and examine some of the implications this has for further Greek studies.


  1. Stephen Wallace. “Figure and Ground: The Interrelationships of Linguistic Categories.” In Tense-Aspect: Between Semnatics and Pragmatics, edited by Paul J. Hopper, 201–23. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1982.  ↩

  2. Runge, Steven E. “Contrastive Substitutino and the Greek Verb: Reassessing Porter’s Argument.” Novum Testamentum 56 (2014), 155.  ↩

  3. Wallace, "Figure and Ground, 202.  ↩

  4. Wallace, "Figure and Ground, 202.  ↩

  5. Porter, Stanley E. Verbal Aspect in the Greek of the New Testament, with Reference to Tense and Mood. 3 edition. Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2003.  ↩

  6. John Lyons, Semantics (vol. 2; Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994)
    690.  ↩

  7. Carl Bache, Verbal Aspect: A General Theory and Its Application to Present-Day English (Odense: Odense University Press, 1985), 94  ↩

  8. Runge, Contrastive Substitution, 167.  ↩

  9. Runge, Contrastive Substitution, 167.  ↩

  10. Picirilli, Robert E. “The Meaning of Tenses in New Testament Greek: Where Are We.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 48, no. 3 (September 2005), 544.  ↩

  11. Porter, Verbal Aspect, 77–78.  ↩

  12. Runge, Contrastive Substitution, 169.  ↩

  13. Stanley E. Porter, “In Defence of Verbal Aspect,” in Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics: Open Questions in Current Research (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993), 34.  ↩

  14. Porter, “In Defense of Verbal Aspect,” 34; Stanley E. Porter, “Prominence: An Overview,” in The Linguist as Pedagogue (ed. Stanley E. Porter and Matthew Brook O’Donnell; Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2009) 58–59.  ↩

  15. For an in-depth look at Bache’s four-fold framework see Shawn Wilhite’s earlier post here: http://swilhite.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/baches-linguistic-framework-and-select-contrastive-examples-runge-on-contrastive-substitution-and-the-greek-verb-part–4-of–6/  ↩

Contrastive Substitution and the Nature of Tense: Runge on Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb (part 3 of 6)

Shawn Wilhite and I are blogging through a new journal article by Steven Runge. Here is his post (part 3 of 6).


Early this week, Brian Renshaw and I began a six-part series on Steven Runge’s recent article, “Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb: Reassessing Porter’s Argument,” Novum Testamentum 56 (2014): 154–73. (see here)

In part I, we introduce the problem and define contrastive substitution.

In part II, Brian highlights the background and the reason Runge reexamines Porter’s analysis of contrastive substitution.

In the following post, I engage Porter and two of his three sources (Curtius[1] and Collinge[2]). As Runge demonstrates, and I elaborate, Porter misuses and misrepresents Curtius and Collinge when describing contrastive substitution.

Contrastive Substitution and the Nature of Tense[3]

Continue reading

Methodology and Background: Runge on Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb (part 2 of 6)

In this second post (see part 1) examining Steven Runge’s article, “Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb: Reassessing Porter’s Argument”, I will examine the background, leading him to reexamination of Porter’s analysis of contrastive substitution.

Methodology

The purpose of Runge’s article is not necessarily to disprove Porter’s use of contrastive substitution but rather to “demonstrate his failure to develop a linguistically sound methodological framework.”[1] Runge argues that Porter misunderstands his sources, which leads to incorrect conclusions regarding contrastive substitution. In Porter’s writings it appears that he is in agreement with the linguists he cites but as Runge points out, the evidence is to the contrary.

Why is establishing a proper methodology so important? By providing a sound methodological framework you protect yourself from making incorrect or contrary assumptions. Runge shows that Porter does not provide (or provides very little) a framework for proving that the Greek verb does not encode any temporality[2]. In other words, Porter does not provide a framework that safegaurds against an improper understanding of the Greek verb. This leads to inaccurate conclusions regarding previous linguists understanding of the Greek verbal system with regards to contrastive substitution.

Standing on Fragile Ground

Porter sums up his argument by stating the following:

my formulation utilizes contrastive substituion to ilustrate that absolute temporal categories (such as past, present, and future) are not grammaticialized by the verb form even in the indicative mood that a particular verbal aspectual semantic feature is gramaticalized by a given form[3].

But as Runge explains in more detail later in his essay, Porter establishes contrastive substitution without providing the proper methodological framework before making his conclusion. Porter cites examples from the New Testament and forms conclusions without a “discussion of where this test originated, what parameters guide appropriate selection of contrastive examples, or what can be legitimately be concluded from its application to the use of different tense forms in ostensibly the same temporal context[4].” Without providing the origination of the test the reader is left to assume that the test is valid. Without a proper test Porter is left free to provide examples that may in fact be contrary to each other. Later in the article Runge shows that Porter cites only examples that agree with his conclusions. If the proper parameters were provided this could have been avoided.

His conclusions were largely accepted without properly examining the research behind the conclusions. As Shawn shows in his previous post Silva voiced these concerns in 1993 but they went largely unnoticed.

In general terms, I found Porter’s theoretical framework more convincing than Fanning’s … On the other hand, when it came to looking at their imple- mentation of the principles, I had many more problems with Porter than with Fanning: time and time again I failed to see either the logic or the evidence for his interpretations.[5]

Others after Porter have cited him as authoratative and taken his conclusions at face-value. These have led to twenty years of many NT scholars and students using unwarrented conclusions[6].

Conclusion

Your methodological framework matters. If there is one thing that I have learned from Runge in both his literature and in class is the importance of forming a proper framework for research. Working within your stated framework provides both gaurd rails for incorrect conclusions and allowing others to examine your methodology and test your conclusions. Unfortunately, as we will see in later posts, Porter misreprents his literature, which allows him to make conclusions that actually contradict each other when your examine the works cited[7].

In the next post Shawn will examine section two of the article: Contrastive Substitution and the Nature of Tense.


  1. Runge, Steven E. “Contrastive Substitutino and the Greek Verb: Reassessing Porter’s Argument.” Novum Testamentum 56 (2014), 155.  ↩

  2. Runge, “Contrastive Substitution”, 155n3.  ↩

  3. Stanley E. Porter, “In Defense of Verbal Aspect,” in Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics: Open Questions in Current Research (ed. Stanley E. Porter and D.A. Carson; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993) 32.  ↩

  4. Runge, “Contrastive Substitution”, 156.  ↩

  5. Moisés Silva, “A Response to Fanning and Porter on Verbal Aspect,” in Biblical Greek Language and Linguistics: Open Questions in Current Research (ed. Stanley E. Porter and D.A. Carson; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1993) 74–82.  ↩

  6. Runge, “Contrastive Substitution”, 156n3, states two major recent works that utilize Porter’s framework: Rodney J. Decker, Temporal Deixis of the Greek Verb in the Gospel of Mark with Reference to Verbal Aspect (Studies in Biblical Greek 10; New York: Peter Lang, 2001) 34; David Matthewson, Verbal Aspect in the Book of Revelation: The Function of Greek Verb Tenses in John’s Apocalypse (Amsterdam: Brill, 2010) 24.  ↩

  7. See Runge, “Constrastive Substitution”, 163.  ↩

Brief Book Review: How We Got the New Testament: Text, Transmission, and Translation

Buy on Amazon here

Stanley Porter makes another excellent contribution to New Testament studies in his most recent book, How We Got the New Testament: Text, Transmission, Translation. The book stems from a series on lectures in the Hayward Lectures at Acadia Divinity College during 2008. The purpose of the book is to serve as an in depth introduction into the origins of the New Testament and its subsequent translations. The book has three chapters, which cover these issues:

  1. The Text of the New Testament
  2. The Transmission of the New Testament
  3. The Translation of the New Testament

Text of The New Testament

The goal of this chapter is to introduce students to the text of the New Testament and the purpose of textual criticism in general. Porter explains the traditional purpose behind textual criticism in finding the original autograph of the authors (12–13). In doing so he introduces the student to the “major players” throughout the history of textual criticism. He then engages with Bart Ehrman’s, Misquoting Jesus, which he concludes “despite the bravado that accompanies his text, [Ehrman] provides lless-than-compelling arguments that the New Testament in fact misquotes Jesus, or any other text, in a way that presents destabilizing textual difficulties.”

I found this chapter particularly helpful in introducing the many aspects of textual criticism. This is a field that I am largely unfamiliar with but after reading I now have a base of knowledge that I can begin to engage in further research.

The Transmission of the New Testament

In this chapter Porter discusses the transmission of the text of the New Testament (hence, the title of the chapter). He does not enter into debates about the dating of specific books but the reader will be introduced to these in the chapter. Porter does believe that all the books of the New Testament were written in the first century. This chapter is helpful because it covers the manuscript evidence in a straight forward and succinct manner. One that has not been introduced to these issues would do well to read this particular chapter.

The Translation of the New Testament

This chapter traces the history of the translation of the New Testament covering the Septuagint (as a backdrop for discussing other issues), Syriac, Latin, and Coptic translations (149). He then begins a discussion on English translations with Wycliff, Tyndale, Authorized version, and others. The most fruitful part of the chapter is his discussion on the major issues in translation. He shows the convuluted history in theories on translation by providing quotes from history showing how many people thought differently of translations. For example, Cicero argues for a more thought for though translation by saying, “I did not translate them (orations) as an interpreter but as an orator…not…word for word, but I preserved the general style and force of the language (174).” Towards the end of the chapter he discusses the ever heated debate of “literal” versus “dynamic” translations. He argues that the formal equivalence method must “be done with the word group (or phrase) as the minimal translational unit-protests regarding the individual words notwithstanding—because it seems to be at this level that much of the translational work is being done.” Therefore, he concludes the “literal” versus “dynamic” debate has much more in common than is commonly purported.

Conclusion

Overall, I found this book extremely helpful. Porter has a knack for presenting difficult and often times confusing topics in a straight forward manner. I especially found his discussion on translation to be even handed. Often times in debates it is “literal” versus “dynamic” and Porter rightly diffuses this by saying that each are closer than they appear. He is open to different translation methods and says that this is an area where scholars can make much ground in the areas of discourse analysis for translation help. Overall, I highly recommend this book.

You can purchase the paperback copy here or the Kindle version here.

Thanks to Baker Academic for this free review copy.