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.
36 Michael A. Rudolph
“The method certainly will need refining”34. To properly assess these
criticisms it is best to consider certain foundational linguistic principles,
noting the input of these scholars where appropriate.
b. The Significance of Cohesion
The first linguistic feature that should be considered is the definition,
nature, and contribution of cohesion itself. Regarding this issue, it is
the work of Halliday and Hasan, that lends credibility to, is suggestive
for, and was appealed to in support of Guthrie’s approach. Halliday and
Hasan state, “Cohesion occurs where the interpretation of some element
in the discourse is dependent on that of another. The one presupposes
the other, in the sense that it cannot be effectively decoded except by
recourse to it”35. In concluding their work by offering a means of cohesive
analysis that tracks the nature and span of cohesive ties36 in the text,
Halliday and Hasan pose a series of questions culminating with these:
“Does the density of cohesive ties remain constant or vary, and if it varies,
is the variation systematically related to some other factor or factors?
What is the relation between cohesion and the division of a written text
into paragraphs”37? In so doing, they appear to link the discussion of
cohesion with the question of structure. They leave the question, however,
While the musings of Halliday and Hasan may appear to allow for
Guthrie’s pursuit of a cohesive strategy for structural analysis, Guthrie’s
methodology is likely not the answer they sought. This is made apparent
by a comparison of their view and utilization of cohesion. While Halliday
and Hasan, as well as Guthrie, each affirm that cohesion is what makes
a text a unified whole38, their use of the concept differs significantly
beyond this affirmation. For Halliday and Hasan, cohesion is but one
of many textual characteristics39 linking distinct units of a text in both
Guthrie, Structure, 147. This process is important and typical of any scholarly
discipline. See also J.T. Reed, “Discourse Analysis as New Testament Hermeneutic: A
Retrospective and Prospective Appraisal,” JETS 39, no. 2 (1996) 228.
Halliday and Hasan, Cohesion in English, 4. They add, “When this happens, a relation
of cohesion is set up, and the two elements, the presupposing and the presupposed, are
thereby at least potentially integrated into a text”. The bulk of their work consists of a
discussion of five types of cohesion: reference, substitution, ellipsis, conjunction, and lexical
cohesion. See also pp. 31–324.
Ibid, 329–55. Halliday and Hasan define a cohesive tie as the “occurrence of a pair of
cohesively related items” (3).
Ibid, 1. Cf., Guthrie, Structure, 49.
Halliday and Hasan state, “Cohesion is a necessary though not sufficient condition
for the creation of text. What creates text is the TEXTUAL, or text-forming, component of