Books I’m Reading

I have a few posts in process, including my next part of “Discontinuous Syntax in the New Testament.” Hopefully that will be up in the next week.

In the mean time, here’s my present reading list and a few thoughts on their content (excluding DS). I like to think that its a good balance between Biblical studies and linguistics (on the literature side of things, I’m also working my way through War and Peace, which is excellent. Tolstoy is one of my favorite authors).

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians by J. O. F. Murray.

This is an old commentary from 1914 in the original series of the Cambridge Greek Testament. Technically, this volume is in the “second series,” but the first series never had a volume on Ephesians to begin with, so it doesn’t really matter. Its an excellent commentary, which at 254 pages gives more space to Ephesians than a few of the most recent ones on this letter (e.g. Witherington & Talbert). Murray’s discussion of the Greek text is often excellent (generally better, I think, than the commentaries mentioned previously), but at times unhelpfully piecemeal and perhaps tends to see the individual trees better than the forest, but this isn’t any different than, say, Hoehner. I like Murray as much as I do O’Brian and Lincoln.

The Descent of Christ: Ephesians 4:7-11 and Traditional Hebrew Imagery by W. Hall Harris III

If I remember correctly this was originally Harris’ dissertation. He argues that Paul’s words in these verses refer to Pentecost on the basis of Jewish interpretation of the Psalm Paul uses here. Its good. Again the text critical discussion in particular is excellent. But in general, I’m still debating what I think of his thesis. What he does have going for the book is the fact that really no interpretation seems satisfactory.

Isaiah (NIBC) by John Goldingay

I really wish that I could afford his ICC volume on this Old Testament prophet, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. Nonetheless, this is an excellent, albeit short, commentary. I appreciate the author’s emphasis on the original context and the way he takes his scholarship seriously, even for a shorter commentary like this.

The Acts of the Apostles: The Greek Text With Introduction and Commentary 3rd Edition by F. F. Bruce

This was one of the last books Bruce published before his death in 1990. In fact, it may have actually been published after his death, though I’m not sure. The date is 1990. The majority of the content is very similar to his NICNT volume revised in 1988, but this commentary focuses more on Greek and deals with a whole lot of textual criticism. His Greek text in the 3rd edition is neither Westcott and Hort or the Nestle Aland text, but his own critical text, though it is probably closer to the NA26/27 than WH, though I can only speculate on that based on the introduction. I haven’t actually compared them. And of course, his handling of the text is that of a experienced classicist and scholar.

Optimality Theoretic Syntax edited by Peter Sells

“What in the world is that!?” you say. And rightly so. Well, in a sense, Optimality Theory a sort of overall view of looking at how grammar as a whole functions universally. It originated in Phonology, but even then its potential application to all parts of grammar was recognized. The basic idea is that for a certain construction, whether phonological, syntactic, morphological, etc. to be grammatical, it must also be optimal. The optimality of the construction is dependent upon what constraints it violates. Shoot, I’m not explaining this well. Perhaps the best way to explain it is to point you to a little story that should connect with Biblical scholars: “The Rise of Optimality Theory in First Century Palestine.” That title should catch your eye.

Language Typology and Syntactic Description: Volume 2, Complex Constructions 2nd ed. edited by Timothy Shopen

I’ve mentioned the other two volumes of this set before and I cannot recommend these volumes highly enough – 1300 pages of pure linguistic goodness. Volume 2 covers such exciting topics as Coordination, Complementation, Noun Phrase Structure, Relative Clauses, Adverbial Clauses, Discourse Structure, and Sentences as Combinations of Clauses. Thus far, I’m part way through Complementation, which by itself is over 100 pages long. In chapter one on coordination, I really appreciated Martin Haspelmath’s delineation of semantic subtypes of coordination, which provided some food for thought in terms of thinking about the large variety of Greek conjunctions. His discussion of Ellipsis was also very helpful. Right now, I’m in the process of revising my Logos/SBL Syntax paper on ellipsis in Paul’s letters and I would like to incorporate some of his comments.

Introduction to Theoretical Linguistics by John Lyons

This is an old book from 1968, but its still an excellent read. Lyons is a clear writer. His historical survey of grammar is very good and he does a great job (unlike some recent NT Greek linguists) recognizing and emphasizing the distinction between Transformational grammar and Generative grammar. Some of his discussions, such as the one on phonology, are quite dated now, but over all, the book has maintained much of its value, something that I think has to do with the author’s writing ability.

Describing Morphosyntax: A Guide for Field Linguists by Thomas Payne

I’m not that far through this book, but I’ve read enough to know that I like it. Its not a good book for an introduction to analysis in general, but its a great reference for those who already have an idea of what’s going on. Its basically a survey of morphology and syntax with discussions about how to describe them for previously unstudied minority languages. The book doesn’t answer every question you might have, but its very helpful nonetheless and I’ve learned a good amount from it. And as far as I can tell, its theory independent.

7 thoughts on “Books I’m Reading

  1. I am going to have to get the one by Goldingay on Isaiah – I once bought the Acts one by Bruce, and my wife made me return it (worried about money) – I got it for a preaching class – though I ended up preaching out of John. Bruce was considerd the dean of scholars – he handles the Hebrew as well as the Greek. The one by Hall would be interesting to browse.

  2. Daniel, your paper is similar to the basic view that I hold, although I do take Paul to be directly quoting the Psalm rather than summarizing it (if I understood you correctly). In my opinion, Paul is either quoting a version we no longer have or he’s intentionally changing for his purposes. I’m inclined toward the latter, even though it makes Evangelicals uncomfortable.

  3. Mike, I am working on a project right now closely related to this, your thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    Paul uses legei (3rdPl PAI) 35 times. The only 2 times it is not clear that he is citing the OT is Eph 4.8 and 5.14. Obviously you know what I think about 4.8 and I am working on 5.14 as well. Considering this I have two questions for you: if Paul is using a different tradition, would you consider this a viable textual critical issue for Ps 68? In other words, should we rethink the text of Ps 68 in light of Paul quoting different text tradition? Second, if he is deliberately changing it, why does he introduce it with legei, and if legei does introduce OT, why would he change it? I would love to hear what you think.

  4. Daniel,

    Those are hard questions. Honestly, Paul’s use of the OT is definitely not my expertise by any means. My interest in this passage has more to do with my general interest in Ephesians (hence the name of the bog) than anything else. I honestly don’t know how to answer you questions. My opinions on the passage are based on no more than a basic understanding. If you looked at my brief exegesis of 4:7-10, you’ll see that.

    Here’s a 3rd possibility that I don’t know if anyone has written about before: what is Paul is quoting the OT, has changed the text, but did so unintentionally. We know for a fact that the church fathers regularly quoted the NT from memory and often their memory failed them. Is it possible that we have a similar phenomenon here in Ephesians?

    Again, I’m not sure, but it at least seem plausible.

  5. There is one commentator that does suggest this, but I cannot remember off the top off my head who it was. While I don’t think its right, I am not predisposed against the idea of Paul accidently misquoting the Psalm, but it would have interesting theological implications. Would we say that Spirit worked through Paul’s misremeberence to still produce produce the teaching that follows through 4.16? Would such a reality open any license for similar contemporary adjustments of texts, or is Paul safeguarded by the Spirit. Would this change how we saw this passage or even Ephesians as a whole? While these theological considerations do not automatically push me away from the possibility of a misquotation (I try to always respect the text over my theology), it does present some interesting theological musing, don’t you think?

  6. Theologically speaking, it does make things interesting, though I don’t think its necessary to open things up to contemporary adjustments. It is the text Paul penned that is inspired, nothing else.

    As you continue working on studying this, keep posting on it, I’ll be interested in it.

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