Nonspeculative Redaction Criticism

Form criticism applies the insights gained from the study of ancient folklore to identify and classify units of scripture which supposedly assumed distinctive forms during their period of oral, pre-literary transmission. Redaction criticism assumes the ‘results’ of form criticism but seeks to bring out how a writer could have edited (or redacted) the sources so that we are able to grasp his personal theological viewpoint. For example, we gain insights into the mind of an author X (e.g. Luke or the Matthean community) by observing how he uses [embellishes] a source document Y (Gospel of Mark), by making significant changes to the source document (e.g. additions or omissions in usage of source materials, changing words or phrases, supplying connecting ‘seams’, and reordering of sequence of events) to create a distinctive narrative framework of the life of Jesus with theological emphasis relevant to the needs of his intended readers.

Many critical scholars have concluded that the final form of the various units of the stories (pericopes/ pericopae) are strung together to form the four canonical gospels, the book of Genesis and the later chapters of the book of Isaiah are describing not so much the original historical reality of the stories, as providing insights into the social religious context of the author’s community (sitz im lebem). However, critics of form and redaction criticism contend that the ‘results’ of these criticism reflect more of the ingenuity of the critics than the actual historical processes in the formation of the biblical materials.

Craig Keener who authored the helpful book, the IVP Bible Background Commentary 2nd ed. (IVP, 2014) has given a humorous imitation of the ingenuity of the scholars applying their critical tools to uncover various layers of redaction in their analysis of source materials.

Newly Discovered Ancient Letter:


Nonspeculative Redaction Criticism

Unredacted Source: Nonspeculative Redactional Analysis by Craig S. Keener

**Footnote: I should stress that parody aside, redaction criticism has proven to be a useful tool in the study of the gospels when it is applied with caution and moderation {redaction, note added by NKW.  Evidence of vacillation, if not brain damage}

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