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Jul 20 / Steve Runge

Honoring Stephen Levinsohn in London

Levinsohn at the presentation in London

On July 4, 2011, more than two years’ of preparation came to fruition when I presented  Discourse Studies and Biblical Interpretation: A Festschrift in Honor of Stephen H. Levinsohn to the honoree at the International meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature. Levinsohn has played a significant role in shaping my approach to linguistics, a process that first began via email in 2000. Over the years he has served as an informal doctoral adviser and mentor. I’d send him questions and he’d reply with reading lists, very much in keeping with the British model of research.

For those unfamiliar with the term, a Festschrift is a collection of essays typically written by students and colleagues that is presented to a scholar upon retirement, turning 65 or 70, or some other milestone. Since Levinsohn has never formally held a post at a college or university, the contributors were all scholars with whom he’s interacted over the years: at conferences, on publication projects, or both.

When the location for the 2011 ISBL meeting was first announced in 2009 I began looking into possibility of organizing a Festschrift volume. Potential contributors were contacted, a special session was requested from the SBL, but the real glitch was a publisher. No one I contacted expressed much interest in producing the project  since these projects typically lose money. I approached Logos Bible Software about the matter, and they were willing to take on the project despite the financial outlook. They agreed that Levinsohn deserved to be honored, and committed to invest the resources needed to see the project come to fruition.

From left-to-right, Margaret Sim, Jan and Buist Fanning, Jenny Read-Heimerdinger, Stephen Levinsohn, yours truly, Bryan Harmerlink of SIL, and Ronnie Sim

When the last articles from contributors arrived this January, John Barry and his publication team took over the project, doing a fantastic job. The final version was sent off to production by early Spring, more than enough time to ship the presentation copies of the book to the UK. On the morning of July 4, Jenny Read-Heimerdinger, Margaret Sim, Buist Fanning,  and I presented papers, with Ronnie Sim presiding over the session. The papers were new, not the ones presented in the book. At the end, a copy of the Festschrift was presented to Stephen. In his usual style, Stephen questioned each of the presenters, pointing out areas that needed clarification or correction. That evening Logos sponsored a dinner for the presenters in attendance.

Few projects I have worked on have proven more difficult or more rewarding. Seeing Levinsohn’s work honored has been a bucket-list item of mine for some time, and it was really a blessing to see everything come together. Here is a list of the contributions:

  • “Discourse Analysis as an Aid to Bible Translation” by Iver Larsen
  • “Why Hasn’t Literary Stylistics Caught on in New Testament Studies?” by Stanley E. Porter
  • “Let Me Direct Your Attention: Attention Management and Translation” by Robert A. Dooley
  • “How Orality Affects the Use of Pragmatic Particles, and How It Is Relevant for Translation” by Regina Blass
  • “Organization and Allusion in Ezekiel 20” by Ronald J. Sim
  • “Breaking Perfect Rules: The Traditional Understanding of the Greek Perfect” by Constantine R. Campbell
  • “Greek Presents, Imperfects, and Aorists in the Synoptic Gospels: Their Contribution to Narrative Structuring” by Buist Fanning
  • “The Verbal Aspect of the Historical Present Indicative in Narrative” by Steven E. Runge
  • “Particles and Participles: A Helpful Partnership” by Margaret G. Sim
  • “The Semantic Effect of Floating Quantifiers in New Testament Greek” by Lindsay J. Whaley
  • “The Discourse Function of ἀλλά in Non-Negative Contexts” by Rick Brannan
  • “Information Structure Issues in Copular εἶναι Clauses” by Nicholas A. Bailey
  • “Evaluating Luke’s Unnatural Greek: A Look at His Connectives” by Randall Buth
  • “The Use of the Article Before Names of Places: Patterns of Use in the Book of Acts” by Jenny Read-Heimerdinger

If have not already done so, I’d strongly recommend ordering a copy of this volume. I’d also ask readers to spread the word to those who might also be interested in it. It is only available electronically at this time, and can be read using the free Logos app for Mac, PC, iPod/iPad, and now Android. I’ll keep you posted about a print version if and when that happens. Presently it is not available in print.

For those of you not in attendance, Craig Baugh recorded some of the presentations and has made them available with the speakers’ permission. Please contact him directly for links to other presentations. Here are the links to the presentations by myself and Levinsohn:

“In Honor of Stephen H. Levinsohn: Discourse Studies and the Greek New Testament” Section

Paul and Pauline Literature Section

Hellenistic Greek Language and Linguistics Section

I’ll do a post later on about my experience teaching through the Discourse Grammar of the Greek New Testament at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford the week before ISBL. Headed out on vacation tomorrow.


  1. Refe / Jul 21 2011

    Very excited to download this volume and start reading. Thanks for putting this together.

  2. Rod Decker / Jul 22 2011

    I sure hope there will be a print edition. That’s the only way it’s going to make it into library collections.

  3. Ann White / Jul 22 2011

    Great to read a report of the proceedings. Thanks for working this through for Stephen Levinsohn. I also have greatly appreciated his help and encouragement, as well as yours.

  4. Phillip Marshall / Jul 22 2011

    Got my pre-pub order in last week–was very excited to see this coming soon. Thanks for organizing this and for your heart to honor Levinsohn. He deserves it.

  5. Randall Tan / Jul 31 2011

    Steve, would it be OK for me to mention this blog post & put a link to it on the SBL Greek Language and Linguistics Section website? I think a lot of the people who are interested in our section would be interested in the Festschrift & the links to the recordings of your presentations.

  6. Steve Runge / Aug 1 2011

    Randall, that would be great if you could let people know about the book, especially with Levinsohn being one of the presenters in November. I will try and get my papers posted here as well this week.

  7. Randall Tan / Aug 4 2011

    Thanks, Steve. I’ve made the announcement, referring people to your blog post here. That way they will hopeful check out your post & get more information about the Festschrift as well.

  8. Micheal W. Palmer / Aug 10 2011

    Thank you, Steve, for organizing this project. I too have been influenced a great deal by Levinsohn’s work. It is great to see him honored in this way.

  9. Clif Olson / Oct 29 2011

    Thanks for posting the info on this. I have a great admiration for Stephen and his work. This is great!

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