the weblog of Alan Knox

Macro-structure analysis

Posted by on Mar 12, 2009 in scripture | 5 comments

I’m finishing a paper for a biblical theology seminar. The topic of the paper is the use of discourse analysis in biblical theology.

Discourse analysis primarily focuses on analyzing the meaning (semantics) of a passage or speech above the sentence level. That is, someone using the tools and methodologies of discourse analysis would examine meaning at the paragraph, section, book, and higher level of the text.

I already appreciated macro-structure (structure above the sentence level) analysis. I recognized the benefit of macro-structure analysis to show (for example) that 1 Corinthians 13 was not about marriage. However, the research for this paper has demonstrated that macro-structure analysis is even more important than I originally thought.

We must exegete the words, phrases, clauses, and sentences. This type of micro-structure analysis is very important. However, we can’t stop there, and that can’t be our focus. If we leave our interpretation at the micro-structure level, then I believe we are missing much of the author’s meaning (or, at least, we are likely to miss his meaning). It is very similar to the old adage, “You can’t see the forest for the trees.”

Primarily, I want to encourage my readers to consider macro-structure, even up to the book level. It seems that the books of the New Testament in particular were written to be read as a whole. We miss something when we only read bits and snippets.

I may post my paper – or parts of it. It will take alot of editing to be suitable for a blog post.


5 Comments

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  1. 3-12-2009

    Alan,

    What you are saying makes perfect sense when we remember that the NT books were written as a whole and are, in fact, literature. When I finish reading any other book than the bible, I never think about one particular verse or chapter. Rather, I muse on the overarching themes and meaning of the author. We ought to do this with the bible as well. Good post.

    Can you post your paper on line?

  2. 3-12-2009

    Eric: I doubt if Paul would have considered most of his letters as literature. But all texts regardless of literary quality can be studied via discourse analysis. DA looks at the structure of language and thus isn’t limited to literature.

    Alan: I’ve heard that in teaching discourse analysis, Robert Longacre with his thick Texas accent pronounce “micro” and “macro” exactly the same. And I’m looking forward to see whatever parts of your paper appear here.

  3. 3-12-2009

    Eric,

    I’m still trying to decide how to post my paper. Plus, my paper is an application of macro-structure analysis, not a defense or description of macro-structure analysis. I may need to write a couple of introduction posts first.

    Mike,

    I would love to spend some time SIL. For now, I have to spend time in their books and with Dave Black.

    -Alan

  4. 5-26-2009

    In response to the following: Alan: I’ve heard that in teaching discourse analysis, Robert Longacre with his thick Texas accent pronounce “micro” and “macro” exactly the same. And I’m looking forward to see whatever parts of your paper appear here.
    I had the privilege of studying under Dr. Longacre. That was a number of years ago, but I do not recall a strong Texas accent. I think he would have expressed the terms “micro” and “macro” quite distinctly. He is not a native of Texas.

  5. 5-26-2009

    Daniel,

    I posted a summary of my paper in a series of posts that begins here.

    -Alan