Tag Archives: Steven Runge

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.


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:


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)


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.


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!  ↩

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.”


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.


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]


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.


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.


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].


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.  ↩

QOTD: Steve Runge on the Need for Preachers and Teachers to Learn the Original Languages

Steve Runge on the need for preachers and teachers to learn the original languages:

“Exegesis and exposition are all about understanding the original and drawing out the meaning. Translation is often an ill-suited medium for this, even though it is the one most commonly used. One may have a very clear understanding of something and still find it troublesome to capture all of the information in a translation. Do not worry: exposition gives you the opportunity to elaborate aspects of a passage that cannot be well-captured in translation[1].”

  1. Runge, Steven. Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament : A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis. Peabody Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, 2010, 19.  ↩

Blogging Through James: James 1:9-11

This semester I am taking Greek Exegesis of James with Dr. Plummer. Our final exam is coming up at the beginning of May. In preparation for this I am creating a short, running commentary on the text. For the reader of this blog it may seem that there is no rhyme or reason to what I choose to include but it is primarily covering aspects that I think will be pertinent for my final exam and what I want documented. Also see my post about the Greek vocabulary of James in formatted PDF and a flashcard app for mobile devices. Feel free to post any comments or questions or email me. The translation and notes are my own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Dr. Plummer.

James 1:9–11

NA28 Text
Parsing of Key Words
Definitions of Key Words

NA28 Text

9 Καυχάσθω δὲ ὁ ἀδελφὸς ὁ ταπεινὸς ἐν τῷ ὕψει αὐτοῦ, 10 ὁ δὲ πλούσιος ἐν τῇ ταπεινώσει αὐτοῦ, ὅτι ὡς ἄνθος χόρτου παρελεύσεται. 11 ἀνέτειλεν γὰρ ὁ ἥλιος σὺν τῷ καύσωνι καὶ ἐξήρανεν τὸν χόρτον, καὶ τὸ ἄνθος αὐτοῦ ἐξέπεσεν, καὶ ἡ εὐπρέπεια τοῦ προσώπου αὐτοῦ ἀπώλετο· οὕτως καὶ ὁ πλούσιος ἐν ταῖς πορείαις αὐτοῦ μαρανθήσεται.

Parsing of Key Words

  • ἀνέτειλεν – Aor Act Ind 3S ἀνατέλλω
  • ἐξήρανεν – Aor Act Ind 3S ξηραίνω
  • ἐξέπεσεν Aor Act Ind 3S ἐκπίπτω

Definitions of Key Words

  • παρέρχομαι – to disappear gradually, die out, fade, disappear, wither of plants
  • πορεία – way of life, conduct (see Pr 2:7 & 1 Cl 48:4)
  • μαραίνω – to disappear gradually, die out, fade, disappear, wither


  • v. 9 δὲ – marking a slightly new development but still continuing a similar theme.
  • Καυχάσθω – generally takes its object as ἔν τινι in or about a person or thing (BDAG).
  • v. 11 – the καὶ connection “constrains the connected elements to be closely associated with what comes before” [1] and then the final οὕτως καὶ shows emphasis relating the rich man and the flower of the grass


9 Let the humble brother boast in his exaltation 10 and the rich (brother) in his lowly state, because like a flower of the grace it will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass, and its flower falls, and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed, so too the rich (brother) will fall away in his way of life.


Is the rich man a believer or an unbeliever? In the context of the verse I opt for the rich man as a believer. In Jas 1:9, Καυχάσθω is assumed in Jas 1:10. I would also argue that ἀδελφὸς should go along with πλούσιος too.

Also see Varner:

“While the language reminiscent of Isaiah 40:6–7 is strong, it should be noted that the verbs (παρελεύσεται in 1:10;μαρανθήσεται in 1:11) are not used of eternal punishment in other biblical passages. There is also the possibility that the fading away refers to the riches and not the eternal passing of the rich person. If we also view Jeremiah 9:23–24 as the background, it should help us to understand that the boast is not ironic but is one in which believers are encouraged to anticipate a day when riches will mean little in light of living in accordance with God’s will (4:17). Finally, the idea that a person should boast or take pride in his own condemnation seems hard to take seriously. Therefore, the entire passage is both an encouragement to poorer believers, as well as a stern warning to richer believers.” [2]

  1. Runge, Steven. Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament : a Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis. Peabody Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers Marketing, 2010., 26  ↩

  2. William Varner, James, ed. H. Wayne House, W. Hall Harris, III and Andrew W. Pitts, Evangelical Exegetical Commentary, Jas 1:10 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2012).  ↩

Download the PDF here

Steven Runge Discourse Grammar Index


Good news! The index to Steven Runge’s Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament is availableThe index is in the 2nd edition but not the first. The index is available as a PDF on his NT Discourse site. You can download the PDF here

HT: Rick Brannan (tweet)

An Analysis of Runge’s Distinction between ἀλλά and εἰ μή in the Didache

Steven Runge has had some recent posts on the distinction between ἀλλά and εἰ μή. I thought it might be interesting to do a quick study through the Didache and see if his theory also holds up in extra biblical literature.

First a quick summary of his argument. The use of the adversative ἀλλά provides a corrective to the phrase that came before it. In this case the corrective was not part of the original set.

The below analysis will show that the Didache does follow Runge’s thesis about the distinction between ἀλλά and εἰ μή. There is one except where ἀλλά occurs in 1:6 but it is also combined with καί. The two terms combined bring across a “but also” element without negating that previous clause.


Didache 2:5 – οὐκ ἔσται ὁ λόγος σου ψευδής, οὐ κενός, ἀλλὰ μεμεστωμένος πράξει (Your word must not be false or meaningless, but confirmed by action)

In this case the writer could have just written “Your word must be confirmed by action” but for rhetorical punch he adds to elements that someone’s word should not be and then throws them out and says confirm your words by your deeds.

Didache 2:7 οὐ μισήσεις πάντα ἄνθρώπον, ἀλλὰ οὓς μὲν ἐλέγξεις, περὶ δὲ ὧν προσεύξῃ, οὓς δὲ ἀγαπήσεις ὑπὲρ τὴν ψυχήν σου. (You shall not hate anyone but you shall reprove some, and pray for some, and some you shall love more than your own life.)

By adding “you shall not hate anyone” the writer helps clarify the phrase after the ἀλλὰ while at the same time throwing it out and saying this is what you should do.

Didache 3:9b οὐ κολληθήσεται ἡ ψυχή σου μετὰ ὑψηλῶν, ἀλλὰ μετὰ δικαίων καὶ ταπεινῶν ἀναστραφήσῃ (Your soul shall not associate with the lofty, but live with the righteous and the humble.)

The writer emphasizes that associating with the lofty is the opposite of living with the righteous and humble. Once again the use of ἀλλὰ helps give a more complete picture in the readers thought.

Didache 4:9 Οὐκ ἀρεῖς τὴν χεῖρα σου ἀπὸ τοῦ υἱοῦ σου ἢ ἀπὸ τῆς θυγατρός σου, ἀλλὰ ἀπὸ νεότητος διδάξεις τὸν φόβον τοῦ θεοῦ. (You shall not withhold your hand from your son or your daughter, but from their youth you shall teach them the fear of God.)

The writers focus is on teaching your children to fear God and by using ἀλλὰ he shows us that by not doing that you are withholding from them.

Didache 4:10 οὐ γὰρ ἔρχεται κατὰ πρόσωπον καλέσαι, ἀλλʼ ἐφʼ οὓς τὸ πνεῦμα ἡτοίμασεν (For he comes to call not with regard to your reputation but those whom the Spirit has prepared.)

The writer emphasizes that God calls only those whom the Holy Spirit has prepared. Our reputation with others has no bearing on this.

Didache 5:2 …ἀγρυπνοῦντες οὐκ εἰς τὸ ἀγαθόν, ἀλλʼ εἰς τὸ πονηρόν… (who are vigilant not for what is good but for what is evil)

The writer is telling us the way of the persecutors and in his argument he makes it clear that they are passionate for evil.

Didache 8:2 μηδὲ προσεύχεσθε ὡς οἱ ὑποκριταί, ἀλλʼ ὡς ἐκέλευσεν ὁ κύριος ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ αὐτοῦ (Do not pray like the hypocrites but like the Lord commanded in his Gospel)

Instead of just telling us how we should pray the writer compares how we should pray not like the hypocrites.

Didache 8:2 μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν, ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ (Do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.)

The use of ἀλλὰ here negates leading into temptation and replaces that with “deliver us from the evil one.”

Didache 9:5 μηδεὶς δὲ φαγέτω μηδὲ πιέτω ἀπὸ τῆς εὐχαριστίας ὑμῶν, ἀλλʼ οἱ βαπτισθέντες εἰς ὄνομα κυρίου (Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist but (except) the ones who have been baptized into the name of the Lord.)

The use of ἀλλʼ here clearly marks out that only those who have been baptized should partake of the Lord’s Supper. He could have just said only those who have been baptized but for effect it has a greater punch to say “let no one…execpt”

Didache 11:8 οὐ πᾶς δὲ ὁ λαλῶν ἐν πνεύματι προφήτης ἐστίν, ἀλλʼ ἐὰν ἔχῃ τοὺς τρόπους κυρίου (Not everyone who speaks in the spirit is a prophet, but only if he exhibits the Lord’s ways.)

This clarifies that only those who exhibit the Lord’s ways may be a prophet.

Didache 15:3 Ἐλέγχετε δὲ ἀλλήλους μὴ ἐν ὀργῇ, ἀλλʼ ἐν εἰρήνῃ ὡς ἔχετε ἐν τῷ εὐαγγελίῳ (Correct one another not in anger but in peace, as you find in the Gospel)

The use here signifies that often correction comes in anger but by using the ἀλλʼ the author negates this as an option.

Didache 16:1 μὴ ἐκλυέσθωσαν, ἀλλὰ γίνεσθε ἕτοιμοι (Do not be unprepared but be ready)

This is pretty self-explanatory, being ready has no room for being unprepared.

Conclusion ἀλλὰ

The above analysis shows that Runge’s treatment of ἀλλὰ in the Bible is also true in the Didache.

Below I will analyze the use of εἰ μὴ and see if it follows Runge’s rule that the statement before the εἰ μὴ was a “potential member of the set”, which differs from ἀλλὰ because it was not a potential member.

εἰ μὴ

Didache 11:4–5 πᾶς δὲ ἀπόστολος ἐρχόμενος πρὸς ὑμᾶς δεχθήτω ὡς κύριος 5 οὐ μενεῖ δὲ εἰ μὴ ἡμέραν μίαν (Let every apostle who come to you be welcome as if he were the Lord but he not to stay for more than one day)

In this case there will be an apostle coming to stay but the writers qualifies it saying he should not stay more than a day.

Didache 11:6 ἐξερχόμενος δὲ ὁ ἀπόστολος μηδὲν λαμβανέτω εἰ μὴ ἄρτον (and when the apostle leaves he is to take nothing except bread)

Bread is a potential member of the set and the writer just clarifies it with εἰ μὴ

Didache 12:2 εἰ μὲν παρόδιός ἐστιν ὁ ἐρχόμενος, βοηθεῖτε αὐτῷ ὅσον δύνασθε· οὐ μενεῖ δὲ πρὸς ὑμᾶς εἰ μὴ δύο ἢ τρεῖς ἡμέρας, ἐὰν ᾖ ἀνάγκη (If the one who comes is merely passing through, assist him as much as you can. But he must not stay with you for more than two or, if necessary three days)

This is similar to 11:4–5 in that the writer says that a man is coming but then limits his stay.


The above analysis shows that Runge’s distinction of εἰ μὴ also stands the test in the Didache. These small aspects of the Greek language help give us a better understanding of the text. Often times we naturally recognize these distinctions when reading because of the context but knowing there are discourse explanation it makes us slow down to analyze the text.

A Grammatical Note on the Structure of Mark’s Prologue

Is the prologue of Mark 1:1–13 or 1:1–15? In France’s commentary on Mark he notes that the prologue is most likely 1:1–13 based on thematic reasons. He says:

“From v. 14 on the Spirit and the wilderness are no longer mentioned, and the scene has shifted from the Judaean wilderness to the inhabited towns and villages of Galilee. John the Baptist, a central figure in the prologue, has now been removed from the stage. The heavenly visions and supernatural actors of vv. 10–13 are replaced by everyday scenes people by ordinary Galileans. Verses 14–15 introduce the preaching ministry of Jesus which is to be the focus of the first act of the drama. The story has begun.”[1]

I think there is also a grammatical explanation that v. 14 begins the “first act of the drama.” Until now Mark has used the connective καὶ to join each step of the story. Along with his use of εὐθὺς this helps the reader feel the “quickness” of the story. When the reader reaches v. 14, Mark changes from the connective καὶ to δὲ[2] (Μετὰ δὲ τὸ παραδοθῆναι τὸν Ἰωάννην ἦλθεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἰς τὴν Γαλιλαίαν κηρύσσων τὸ εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ θεοῦ). Runge notes, “The use of δέ represents the writer’s choice to explicitly signal that what follows is a new, distinct development in the story or argument, based on how the writer conceived of it.[3]” Therefore, along with Mark’s unmarked use of καὶ he uses the marked δὲ to bring attention to the reader that the next part of the story is about to begin.

  1. France, R. T. The Gospel of Mark. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2002, 59.  ↩

  2. The only other use of δὲ before this is in v. 8 with the words coming from John, “ἐγὼ ἐβάπτισα ὑμᾶς ὕδατι, αὐτὸς δὲ βαπτίσει ὑμᾶς °ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ”. In this case it is used to express a contrast between his baptism and Jesus’.  ↩

  3. Steven E. Runge, Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament: A Practical Introduction for Teaching and Exegesis, 31 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010).  ↩