Redaction  Criticism   

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The systematic analysis of an author's techniques of integrating source material into a literary work. By studying narrative transitions, repeated themes, & organization of material, the redaction critic tries to clarify that author's personal views, the character of the original audience & the circumstances that prompted the composition.

Redaction criticism of the gospels developed after WW2 as the inevitable sequel to form criticism, which arose after WW1. While form critics focus on distinguishing small elements of oral tradition from their current gospel contexts, redaction critics focus on patterns that are typical of a particular work by contrasting it with others.

The principles of redaction analysis were anticipated by

  • William Wrede, whose study of Mark concluded that the motifs of disciples misunderstanding & the messianic secret were theological concepts of the author rather than historical reports; &
  • Martin Dibelius, who argued that each gospel was molded by the author's views of God's historical plan.

But the discipline was defined by the work of three disciples of Rudolf Bultmann:

  • Gunther Bornkamm, Tradition & Interpretation in Matthew (1948);
  • Hans Conzelmann, Theology of St. Luke (1954); &
  • Willi Marxsen, Mark the Evangelist (1956).

It was Marxsen who coined the name "redaction history," which English scholars translated as redaction criticism.

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last revised 11 January 2019

 

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