keeping an eye on the tree and the forest

Dave's Exegesis is my eclectic site of exegesis on pretty much everything I can think of, whether biblical studies, theology, music, movies, culture, food, drink, sports, or the internet.



I had my honeymoon.



I got married.

What Kind of…?


I’m not much for these tests, but Kalila does them all the time and I thought, what the hell?

Your Linguistic Profile:

50% General American English
40% Yankee
5% Dixie
5% Upper Midwestern
0% Midwestern

Why I Believe in Discourse Analysis


Today I had breakfast with 3 beloved friends at the Stone Soup in Ipswich. Among the things we talked about was why my roommate Matt and fellow blogger John should take a class with Scott Hafemann. Fellow blogger Josh and I were trying to make the case that a Hafemann class is the reason we are at seminary. He is tough as nails, but he teaches students to use the reading tool we learned in New Testament Interpretation called Discourse Analysis (DA). Both Josh and I are thoroughly convinced that there is no other way to do biblical exposition and uncover an author’s argument. Both Matt and John are not so much convinced and have their reasons, but their hesistations are like many that Josh and I find in seminary students who have learned this tool. Once we hear objections about DA, our blood quickly comes to a boil, and we make our way up to the proverbial microphone to plead with people to learn it and love it. Below are some introductory thoughts about DA from our beloved prof Hafemann:

Most students of the Bible do not know how to read (= exegete) for understanding. Instead they merely read for information, gladly pouncing upon an author, holding him or her up with their well-trained eye, and then robbing the text of its conclusions. But although their minds become filled with many stolen treasures, they never fool anyone. Everyone knows they are thieves and can be exposed at any time with a good question. The owner’s conclusions have merely become the thief.s opinions. And such stealing is wrong, even when the opinions in view are biblical opinions.

Discourse analysis is designed to help us become “honest” readers who desire to understand rather than steal. The two best teachers I have ever had both taught me that to understand (our goal in exegesis) involves thinking an author’s thoughts after him or her. Or to put it another way, the goal of reading the Bible is to be able to restate an author’s original intention in such away that if the author were listening he or she would agree. The goal is to see reality through another person’s eyes. But this is simply impossible until one has thought his/her way, step by step, after the author. This is where the art/skill of discourse analysis fits in.

In discourse analysis we do not attempt to put the author’s words into our own — rather, we simply attempt to isolate each proposition (the author’s “steps”) and to demonstrate how they relate to one another. Having done so, we then can trace the logical development of the author’s argument step by step by indicating how the flow of thought moves from logical level to logical level. Finally, after we have a flow chart of the author’s argument, we will be able to isolate out each of the author’s main logical levels and gain an overview of the argument’s development. The result of our labor will be an understanding of the main point of a text and the ways in which it is supported. Discourse analysis has four distinct but related steps:

• Separate out the individual propositions of the text.
• Determine the logical relationships between the propositions.
• Trace the flow of the argument from step to step.
• Organize the text into its major logical levels, thus establishing its main and supporting points.

There are essentially 18 kinds of relationships under 4 headings:

Coordinate Relationships-Different Ideas
Series-each makes its independent contribution to the whole
Progressive-each proposition is a further step toward a climax
Alternative-expresses an opposite possibility arising from a situation

Subordinate Relationships-Support by Restatement
Way-End-statement of an action and the means of the action
Comparison-statement expressing an action and one showing what it is like
Negative-Positive-two alternatives, one is denied and the other is enforced
General-Specific- a proposition stating a whole and one setting forth the parts
Fact-Interpretation-an original statement and one clarifying its meaning

Subordinate Relationships-Support by Distinct Statements
Ground-a statement and the argument or basis on which it stands
Inference-supporting proposition which always precedes a supported one
Cause-Effect- an action and one automatically consequent upon that action
Conditional-like the “Cause-Effect” exceptthe existence of cause potential
Means-End-the relationship between an action and one that is intended
Temporal-a proposition and the occasion when it can occur
Locative-proposition and the place where it can be true

Subordinate Relationships-Support by Contrary Statement
Adversative-a main clause that stands despite a contrary statement
Situation-Response-also self-explanitory

The main objection I have heard as to why DA should/will not be used is that most arguments in Scripture are obvious and do not require such intentional structuring. Also, one can be tempted to force a structure on a passage that never intended such outlining. With regard to the first objection, I would say that this is inaccurate. People do not really read hard and close to see any “obvious” arguments. Plus most people do not have the categories in order to evaluate an argument. DA provides us with categories that are proven to apply in every spoken and written language and cause us to wrestle with the wording of every passage we hope to exegete. With regard to the second objection, DA is intended to draw out structure, not impose it on a thought, as Hafemann stated above. DA is about observing thought through a logical lense.

DA is at the heart of this blog because DA is at the heart of exegesis. I would agree, that we do not always have to spell things out neatly in a chart, but it is imperative that we understand these categories and are able to apply them appropriately.