Review of Combrink on Structural Analysis

by Vern S. Poythress

[Published in the Westminster Theological Journal 42/2 (spring 1980): 440-441. Ued with permission.]

H. J. B. Combrink: Structural Analysis of Acts 6:8–8:3. Stellenbosch Theological Studies, 4. Capetown: Dutch Reformed Church Publishers, 1979. 36.


Combrink’s structural analysis of Acts 6:8–8:3 deserves particular attention as a mature representative of biblical interpretation in terms of the type of “discourse analysis” being developed in South Africa. This particular form of discourse analysis originated with J. P. Louw in


p. 441

1973.1 Since then it has been rapidly developed in the South African Neotestamentica series, in application to both narrative and epistle.

The center piece of this type of discourse analysis is the theory of the colon and the colon cluster. The colon is roughly equivalent to a grammatically closed sentence, the colon cluster roughly equivalent to a paragraph. The analysis in question breaks the text up into blocks as far as possible by formal criteria (p. 6). Then the blocks are organized into larger and larger units (colon clusters) by means of observations about cohesion.

There is no doubt that the analysis of the text in terms of blocks and their relations to one another can be a useful exegetical tool. But at present the methodology is hindered by the lack of a clear uniform theory about the relation of surface structure to deep structure and grammar to phonology and semology. If such a theory were to be developed, I think that it could resolve the current difficulty with respect to a relative clauses (pp. 4-6). Greek relative clauses are grammatically a species of dependent clause, not a complete sentence. But semologically or topically, they are frequently used to introduce new paragraphs, sometimes of considerable length. Moreover, theory is needed to relate to one another adequately the “formal” and “material” kinds of observations that Combrink makes about the text.

Vern S. Poythress
Westminster Theological Seminary

1 J. P. Louw, “Discourse Analysis and the Greek New Testament,” Bible Translator 24 (1973) 101–118; idem, Semantiek van Nuwe Testamentiese Grieks (Pretoria: University of Pretoria, 1976), 75–176.


Sign up to receive new posts via e-mail