Chapter five of How Biblical Languages Work very appropriately begins with this verse found in Luke 1:3, “It seemed fitting for me…to write out for you in consecutive order.” In considering Biblical languages there must not only be consideration for the phrases and clause but also for a much broader picture of understanding discourse. A discourse determines how phrases and clauses are used. Both Hebrew and Greek have certain discourse patterns that should be considered. One example is found in a Hebrew word that is translated, ‘and it came to pass’. This phrase gives the setting in past time for a narrated event. Basically it is saying that what follows is something that happened in the past. Therefore, the entire discourse must be interpreted accordingly.
There are also discourse patterns in Greek. One example is found in John chapter one. Notice the words flesh and became. By putting the word flesh before became the writer is highlighting the overall theme that Jesus Christ became a real human being and that He lived among His disciples. Once again, the entire context must be taken into consideration as part of the overall discourse.
The authors of How Biblical languages work also addresses the various discourse types and discourse tools. There are many different types of discourses, such as: narrative, explanatory, and hortatory. It is interesting to note that preaching is often a hortatory discourse. In this discourse type we find phrases such as: ‘you must’ or ‘you should.’ There are also discourse tools that should be considered such as discovering paragraphs and other units, and keeping track of participants.
Understanding discourse is a vital tool in being able to ‘rightly divide the Word of truth.’ Any student of the Bible should be able to identify the various types of discourse found in the pages of scripture. The student should also be able to identify the paragraphs and units of scripture. Thankfully, we are blessed today with many tools and resources that help us in such study.