A Discourse Analysis Of Matthew’s Nativity Narrative -- By: William Varner

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 58:2 (NA 2007)
Article: A Discourse Analysis Of Matthew’s Nativity Narrative
Author: William Varner

A Discourse Analysis Of Matthew’s Nativity Narrative

William Varner


Discourse analysis (DA) as a discipline of studying written texts has been utilised in literary circles for over fifty years. Its emergence into biblical studies can be traced to the decade of the 1960s and it has been utilised mainly by scholars trained in descriptive linguistics. Although its terminology is still fluid, there is a common core methodology that warrants serious consideration that DA should be employed by NT scholars. Defining it simply as ‘grammar above the level of the sentence’, the author shows how DA’s tools can be employed to indicate how Matthew structured his Nativity narrative to convey his overall message. Scholars should not allow the distinctive terminology of DA to keep them from utilising it as a tool to discern authorial intent in the biblical texts.

1. Introduction

In his excellent Greek grammar, Daniel Wallace explains why he omitted any discussion of discourse analysis (DA) from his book with this statement: ‘DA is still in its infant stages of development, in which the methods, terminology, and results tend to be unstable and overly subjective.’1

Wallace is accurate in describing the emerging nature of DA, although ‘infant stages’ may be an inaccurate expression to describe a discipline that has been utilised in biblical studies for well over a

quarter of a century.2 Furthermore, at least two intermediate level Greek grammars by Stanley Porter and Richard Young which seek to define and describe DA were published just prior to Wallace’s grammar.3 These grammars attempt to integrate DA with traditional syntactic categories as well as to include linguistic insights from such related fields as semantics, speech-act theory and rhetorical analysis. Also, a number of collaborative monographs have been issued in the last fifteen years that have sought to develop the theoretical basis of DA as well as the application of it to specific biblical texts.4 Furthermore, scholars in the Summer Institute of Linguistics and NT scholars in South Africa have issued an abundance of articles and monographs on DA, particularly in their focused journals.5

The current ‘chronographer’ of DA has been Stanley Porter, who has sought to keep his readers abreast of developments in the field, and has himself contributed to those devel...

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