Thanks to the generosity of the author, I’ve received a copy of Will Varner’s The Book of James: A New Perspective (amazon.com). The subtitle is “A Linguistic Commentary Applying Discourse Analysis.” Thanks, Dr. Varner!
I’ve been interested in working through this for a few reasons. First, the church I attend will be working through the book of James in the late summer/fall, I think, and I’d like to work through Varner’s stuff as part of that. Second, I haven’t seen a commentary focused on linguistics/discourse targeted at a less academic level (outside of Runge’s High Def Commentary on Philippians, but it is a different beast altogether) and wanted to see how it frames the discussion and approaches the problem of discourse/linguistics for the non-academic. Third (and related to the second) I’ve always had the idea that I’d like to write something discourse-y (is that a word?) on the Pastorals, so it’s good to see what others have done and are doing.
I’ve done an initial read of the introduction and a bit more. Varner seems to have hitched his syntactic wagons to the OpenText.org analysis (which I am intimately familiar with, having implemented it for Logos Bible Software; a static visual representation is also available online at OpenText.org). This is good and bad. It is good because OpenText.org is out there and known to some degree, it is bad because there is an (admittedly not too steep) learning curve to begin to think in OpenText.org-ese. It’s bad (at least for me) because I’m not a fan of the contained-box-style notation that OpenText.org uses in its online form, and that is what Dr. Varner has emulated in his commentary. All told, Varner includes the Greek text with translation beside it in a table, and then has the contained-box-style visuals after that. I’d rather have had the Greek text once, perhaps even with a less detailed block outline or some other notation influenced by OpenText.org. I just think it would’ve been easier to refer to and it would lose the confusion of the unfamiliar box notation. The other thing I’m dealing with is that I would probably describe myself as post-OpenText.org these days. It was great and formative as I really began to understand how text functions above the word level, but it is now, to me, quirky enough in terminology and approach (what, really, is a ‘definer’ and how is it different than a ‘qualifier’ in ways that aren’t describable using more standard morphological or syntactical terminology?) that I tend to lean more toward the Cascadia analysis these days (this is also in Logos).
What I’ve read of the commentary is good; I hope to dig into it in greater detail soon. Discussion of cohesion is promising, and there is some discussion/use of semantic chaining as well. The introduction seems heavy on citations from Porter and Reed; though they have done some foundational work in this area (particularly Reed in his Philippians volume). I’ve been reading some stuff from Scandiavians lately (in the Coniectanea Biblica New Testament Series), while this is more “textlinguistics” than “Discourse Analysis” (slight differences), there is some good stuff (particularly in discourse markers, continuity/discontinuity, and the like) that should make its way into more stuff than it has.
Also sad (in the intro), for me, were the “forthcoming” citations of Porter and O’Donnell’s Intro to Discourse Analysis that has been “forthcoming” for more years than I have digits to count on my right hand. I’d love to see that one, too, but will be waiting for a few more years if past history of Porter’s cited “forthcoming” titles is any indicator. (note: I know this isn’t Dr. Varner’s fault, he’s using the sources he has and needs to use. I just wish the blasted thing would finally be published.)
I plan on blogging more as I get further into the book. That may be awhile, though, as my available time is largely consumed by my work with the Apostolic Fathers and a class on the text of the NT I’m teaching for six weeks (through mid September).