An interview with Steven Runge on his new commentary on Romans (Pt. 1)
Logos Bible Software just released Steve Runge’s excellent new commentary on Romans. Runge has introduced many of us into the world of discourse grammar with his first book Discourse Grammer and then a complete analysis of the New Testament. I will soon be writing a full review of the Romans commentary but in the meantime I had the privelege to conduct an interview with the man himself. This is a two part interview so be sure to look for part two coming out next week!
Dr. Runge, tell us a little bit about your journey to scholarship and specifically discourse grammar.
I started seminary a few years after coming to faith in Christ, wanting to learn how to study and teach the Bible more effectively. I had some excellent language and exegesis profs, but saw that languages were in a steady state of decline. Despite all the talk about how important languages were, few scholars I met could offer a very compelling case for the practical payoff for the average pastor. A two month mission trip to Ethiopia in 1993 really solidified what turned into “a holy discontent” like Bill Hybels describes. Frankly, it just pissed me off to see the decline, so I made it may mission in life to do practical things that demonstrated the practical payoff of language study for ministry. My inner framing contractor overshadowed my inner scholar.
What led to the idea of your grammar, the Lexham Discourse Bibles, and now the High Definition commentaries?
When I first began reading my way into linguistic approaches to biblical languages, it was terribly difficult. I felt like I was looking into this wonderful convention center full of amazing things, but all the doors were locked. Part of my discontent consequently focused on making it easier for others to come behind. The Lexham Discourse Greek and Hebrew bibles stemmed from my experience teaching. I found it terribly difficult to train students to master that level of analysis, yet even introductory students could interact meaningfully with a marked-up text. Stephen Levinsohn had come to the same conclusion in his work training Bible translators. So when I pitched the idea to Logos, they agreed to fund me for two years, and Levinsohn agreed to consult. Once the GNT project was completed, I felt something like Doctor McCoy in the “Star Trek: the Search for Spock.” I had the grammar in my head as a result of analyzing the entire Greek New Testament. I desperately wanted to get it out and on paper while it was fresh. I was given 100 calendar days by Logos to write the book, and I hit the deadline with a draft by Labor Day 2008.
The High Definition commentaries stemmed from a personal challenge from Bob Pritchett, CEO of Faithlife/Logos Bible Software. He said if discourse studies is so useful, then prove it: write a commentary that offers a rigorous analysis of the text, but that doesn’t require any background in Greek. Oh, and include graphics to help pastors and their congregation better conceptualize the text. He sketched these ideas on a napkin and then left my office. I came back a month later with some ideas, we thrashed on them, then put it up for Logos customers to pre-order. We ended up getting all the orders we needed to fund the project in about 8 hours. The Philippians volume was well received, so I decided to tackle on of the hardest ones next: Romans. It really turned out to be hard, and family crises added to the length of the production process.
Some people may be thinking do we really need another commentary on Romans? What makes your commentary unique to the field and what benefit is it to both pastors and scholars?
The primary goal of this commentary is to help you trace the flow of the writer’s argument, and to understand the various devices he used to pull this off. You will not find much if any discussion about backgrounds, authorship, or theology, as there are great resources available already. What I felt was missing was a text-based commentary that didn’t get bogged down in the detail, but could walk you through a tour of the text so that you could go and do the same for others. Whether I succeed or not is something different, but this was my goal.
Thanks Dr. Runge for taking part in this interview. We look forward to the second half next week!
In the meantime here is some information regarding the Romans commentary.
Organized into preachable portions of Scripture and featuring over 100 custom graphics, Romans is perfect for sermons, Bible studies, and small groups. Using principles of linguistics and Biblical exegesis, Dr. Runge illuminates the key principles and overall message of the book of Romans. This commentary not only helps you identify the big ideas of a passage, it gives you custom slides that you can export right into sermons and Bible studies. Dr. Runge provides applicable and approachable examples throughout, making clear every-day connections between ideas in Romans and practical living. The High Definition Commentary: Romans is a one-of-a-kind Bible teaching tool, and only available from Lexham Press.
Dr. Runge also has an excellent blog related to all things discourse grammar at NT Discourse.
In way of a preview to my review the graphics are one of the best features of the commentary. They both help explain the concepts but also provide resources for pastors and teachers to use when explaining the text. ↩︎