Discourse Analysis As New Testament Hermeneutic: A Retrospective And Prospective Appraisal -- By: Jeffrey T. Reed

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 39:2 (Jun 1996)
Article: Discourse Analysis As New Testament Hermeneutic: A Retrospective And Prospective Appraisal
Author: Jeffrey T. Reed

Discourse Analysis As New Testament Hermeneutic:
A Retrospective And Prospective Appraisal

Jeffrey T. Reed**

Although I have subtitled this paper “A Retrospective and Prospective Appraisal,” the observant reader might realize that this is but a pedantic way of asking “What is discourse analysis, and what can it do for you?” As is the case with any methodology that claims to be a NT hermeneutic, scholars and students are most of all interested in what it is—that is, its purpose and central tenets—and what it can do for them in their analysis of the NT texts. I have therefore set forth a daunting if not impossible task for myself in this essay, since discourse analysis (as even its proponents will claim) is not easily defined, being comprehensive in scope as far as hermeneutical systems go. Furthermore linguists, and especially NT linguists, are known for obscure methodologies, often inventing fanciful words referring to only slightly modified, already-existing concepts. Nevertheless similar excuses are readily thrown around in scholarly circles often as absolution for not at least attempting to define a slippery concept. If discourse analysis is to have any lasting, substantive impact on the whole of NT scholarship (and to date it has not) it requires theoretical definition and then specific application, leaving it open to scholarly critique. In this essay I have taken up the former task, seeking (1) to define major tenets of discourse analysis based on the writings of its leading (especially linguistic) proponents and (2) to set forth a research agenda for future applications of discourse analysis to the NT. 1 It is only intended as a prolegomenon to a more detailed theory of NT discourse analysis.

I. Discourse Analysis As Hermeneutic

1. Preliminary definitions. Discourse analysis is here to stay, at least for a while. The tenth anniversary issue of the journal Text (1990), volume 11 of Annual Review of Applied Linguistics (1990) and the International Congress of Linguists in Berlin (1987)—where discourse analyses formed the largest contingent—all testify to this model’s popularity among practitioners of both

* Jeffrey Reed is a doctoral candidate in the department of Biblical studies at the University of Shefield, PO Box 594 Western Bank, Shefield, England S10 2UH.

theoretical and applied linguistics. Popularity has its problems, however. Because of its far-reaching impact, discourse analysis is one of the least well-defined areas of linguistics. 2 Idiosyncratic models and terminological confusion proliferate as more linguists, as w...

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