Michael A. Rudolph, «Beyond Guthrie?: Text-linguistics and New Testament Studies.», Vol. 26 (2013) 27-48
The promise of linguistics for biblical studies has not yet been realized. While the bulk of the biblical, scholarly community has remained aloof and unimpressed, others have pursued this field of study, struggling with unfamiliar and often ill-defined terminology, even as they sought to develop an effective and objective methodology. This paper examines the work of one “eclectic” approach, the “Cohesive Shift Analysis” of George H. Guthrie, acknowledging its contribution, yet also suggesting corrective refinements.
30 Michael A. Rudolph
studies8, and because his methodology, which has been described as
eclectic, offers the opportunity to consider some of the critical principles
of linguistics without being restricted to one school of thought. It is the
thesis of this study that the contribution of linguistics to biblical studies
will not significantly progress unless certain critical, linguistic principles
are adequately understood and appropriately applied.
2. AN OVERVIEW OF GUTHRIE’S METHODOLOGY
Guthrie does not provide a formal definition for “Cohesion Shift
Analysis” in his monograph, nor in his later article, although his
discussion is descriptive of what it is and what it seeks to achieve (see
below). His student, Mark Taylor, however does. Taylor states, “Cohesion
shift analysis . . . is a means of probing the cohesion dynamics of a text
in order to discern where significant linguistic shifts occur in discourse.
These shifts can then be analysed in light of other dynamics of the text
to determine if the shift represents an intended boundary marker in the
The first two steps of the process (i.e., grammatical and constituent
analysis) are not unlike the work any other biblical scholar would utilize
in exegesis. The block diagram format Guthrie chooses to depict these
syntactical relationships in his grammatical analysis may be unfamiliar
to some10, but the observations are typical. In a somewhat similar fashion
to most standard grammars, Guthrie’s constituent analysis examines the
logical relationships between clauses or groups of clauses. If anything,
Guthrie’s work here may be more thorough, or comprehensive than some
and the terminology somewhat different, but the observations are, once
again, typical of most exegetical works11.
M.E. Taylor, A Text-Linguistic Investigation into the Discourse Structure of James
(LNTS 311; London 2006) xi; M.E. Taylor and G.H. Guthrie, “The Structure of James,”
CBQ 68, no. 4 (2006) 681; R. Van Neste, Cohesion and Structure in the Pastoral Epistles
(JSNTSup 280; London 2004) 9, 14–16. While Taylor was more closely mentored by Guthrie,
the influence of Guthrie’s methodology upon Van Neste is also evident.
Taylor, The Discourse Structure of James, 45. For Guthrie’s description, see Guthrie,
Structure, 54; or G.H. Guthrie, “Cohesion Shifts and Stitches in Philippians,” in S.E. Porter
and D.A. Carson (eds.), Discourse Analysis and Other Topics in Biblical Greek (JSNTSup
113; Sheffield 1995) 39.
See, G.H. Guthrie and J.S. Duvall, Biblical Greek Exegesis: A Graded Approach to
Learning Intermediate and Advanced Greek (Grand Rapids 1998) 27–37.
Ibid., 39–52. For a somewhat different approach to labeling propositional relationships,
see K. Callow, Man and Message: A Guide to Meaning-Based Text Analysis (Lanham, Md.
1998), 249–300; and Larson, Meaning-Based Translation, 297–377.