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.
34 Michael A. Rudolph
interrelatedness (step four) and progression (step five) of each unit within
the larger text will be considered.
Step four, the analysis of the interrelatedness of the each unit within the
larger discourse, is once more divided into four parts. At this level, Guthrie
looks for the use of macro-inclusions26. Second, he looks for the repetition
of key lexical terms, or closely related terms, throughout the text that
form, in a sense, semantic threads weaving the text into a unified whole.
Third, Guthrie identifies any transitional techniques that are used to link
successive units—e.g., hooked key words and overlapping transitions27.
Finally, Guthrie depicts the resulting relationship of embedded units in a
diagram illustrating the overall picture of his structure28.
In the fifth and final step, Guthrie analyzes the text to determine
how the author progresses from unit to unit. By this Guthrie means one
should note the logical or cohesive relations, as were utilized earlier at the
clausal level. In addition, he reiterates the importance of considering the
cohesive shifts and transitional techniques discussed in step four29. Taylor
seems to add a further volitional nuance to this step when he states, “The
structure of the discourse and the intentionality of the author must be
evaluated in light of the whole composition30.
3. AN EVALUATION OF GUTHRIE’S METHODOLOGY
a. The Response of Critics
There is much in Guthrie’s work that is commendable. He has justifiably
earned respect from colleagues and students for his contribution to an
In his analysis of Hebrews, for example, he suggests, and supports with extensive
parallels, an inclusio between 4,14-16 and 10,19-23. Guthrie, Structure, 79–82.
Guthrie considers this “one of the most neglected aspects of structural assessments
of New Testament books” (Guthrie, “Shifts and Stitches,” 41). For Guthrie’s discussion
of these techniques, expanded from Parunak, see Guthrie, Structure, 94–111. Cf., H. Van
Dyke Parunak, “Transitional Techniques in the Bible,” JBL 102 (1983) 525–48 and Berger,
Exegese des Neuen Testaments, 13–27. Two of these techniques are particularly significant
in Guthrie’s methodology: hooked key words and overlapping transitions. The remaining
examples are basically variations of these two forms. Hooked key words may be defined
as a key concept utilized at the boundary of one unit and throughout the adjacent unit.
Thus, such a concept could serve as a concluding comment in one unit and as an important
concept in the next, or as an important concept in one unit with an introductory function
in the next (Guthrie, Structure, 96–102). Guthrie defines an overlapping constituent as “a
passage used simultaneously as the conclusion of one block of material and the introduction
of the next. . . . The two occurrences of overlapping constituents in Hebrews are found
at 4,14-16 and 10,19-25, passages which also form the inclusio around the second major
movement of the author’s expository material” (Ibid, 102).
See Guthrie, “Shifts and Stitches,” 40–41, 57.
Taylor, The Discourse Structure of James, 44.