Overview and Conclusion: Runge on Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb (part 6 of 6)

This is a conclusion/overview of a series we (Shawn Wilhite and I) are writing on Steven Runge’s recent article, Contrastive Substitution and the Greek Verb: Reassessing Porter’s Argument,” Novum Testamentum 56 (2014): 154–73. (see here)

Before reading Runge’s article or our blog series, please read Runge’s post on Porter’s Use of Contrastive Substitution” on his blog, NT Discourse (www.ntdiscourse.org). This serves as the informative background to Runge writing an article deconstructing Porter’s contrastive substitution argument.

Personal Anecdote

Over the previous winter break, we had the opportunity of interacting with Runge in a class on Discourse Grammar and over a few cups of coffee. Apart from this eye-opening experience, we also saw a glimpse into the heart of Runge. Reflecting on our time, one particular quote stood out above the rest. Not only will we forever remember one particular quote, but it has shaped the way we view research, our pursuit of humble scholarship, and how we interact with ideas. He was discussing the nature of research and the guild of academics when he said, I’m more interested in getting it right than being right.” He is a scholar, worthy of imitation: imitation, not only for the superb content he produces, but also the demeanor and way he goes about his research and writing.

So, with this personal anecdote, we encourage you to read his short post in order to give you a context for why his Novum Testamentum article is necessary. You can find his post here. He also wrote a follow-up post entitled, Civility in Academic Debate”.

Series Overview

In part I, we introduce the problem and define contrastive substitution.

Definition: Contrastive substitution is when a verbal form has an aspect that can use another verbal form to communicate the same aspect in a different tense.

In part II, Brian highlights the background and reason Runge reexamines Stanley Porter’s analysis of contrastive substitution.

Porter does not provide a proper methodological framework for contrastive substitution, which allows him to draw incorrect conclusions based on the data.

In part III, Shawn highlights how Stanley Porter misrepresents Curtius and Collinge, two of three sources Porter uses to confirm contrastive substitution.

A closer look at the two sources reveal how Curtius does affirm semantic tense values but makes a sharp distinction between aspect and tense only for pedagogical reasons. Collinge is comparing Latin and other Indo-European languages. Focusing on Latin, his comparative substitution comments relate to the Latin verbal and case system, not the Greek verbal system.

In part IV, Shawn engages Porter and Carl Bache, Porter’s final source.

Shawn examines Porter’s interaction with Bache and shows how Porter (1) conflates Bache’s categories and (2) uses selective examples only supporting Porter’s thesis of verbal atemporal semantics.

In part V, Brian engages Porter’s claims from contrastive substitution.

Porter does not heed the warning of other linguists about dangers of separating tense, aspect, and mood. Porter also quietly shifts his language from absolute tense” to no tense.”


In concluding this series, one overarching principle we have seen, and hope other see too, is the importance of a methodological framework in order to interpret data. By providing a consistent methodological framework, the necessary guard rails” are established to help guide and interpret the data and may prevent unnecessary conclusions. As Runge argues, Porters lacks a sturdy framework, consistent in linguistic disciplines, ultimately prohibiting him from giving satisfying results.

We hope you found this blog series helpful when engaging both Porter’s work and Runge’s response. For more on this topic and other discourse grammar goodness, check out Runge’s blog at NT Discourse.


Steven Runge: Twitter: @Steve_Runge Website: NT Discourse

Shawn Wilhite: Twitter: @ShawnWilhite Website: Doctrinae Coram Deo

Brian Renshaw: Twitter: @renshaw330 Website: NT Exegesis

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