New Testament

  • REDACTION CRITICISM, Stephen S. Smalley
  • Published 2014


New Testament critics in the last century were preoccupied with the sources of the Gospels, chiefly the synoptic Gospels. At the beginning of this century they turned their attention to the first stages in the history of the Gospel tradition, to the original form of the teaching of Jesus. 1 Tradition criticism, as we have seen, was a special case of form criticism. Today, in a relatively new approach to the analysis and study of the Gospels, the centre of interest in New Testament criticism is moving from source criticism and form criticism to an examination of what happened at the final stage in the composition of the Gospels. Redaction criticism (Redaktionsgeschichte) has come to birth. 2 These critical methods belong together, and any sharp distinctions drawn between them must necessarily therefore be artificial. They arise out of each other, and can be used to complement each other in the study of Gospel origins. It is important to recognize this as we consider redaction criticism on its own. What is redaction criticism? The term "redaction" in Gospel criticism describes the editorial work carried out by the evangelists on their sources when they composed the Gospels. 3 It has been suggested by Ernst Haenchen that "composition criticism" would better describe the study of this process. In fact, however, "redaction" and "composition" criticism, although close together, are strictly speaking different disciplines. One (redaction criticism) is the study of the observable changes introduced by the Gospel writers into the traditional material they received and used. The other (composition criticism) examines the arrangement of this material, an arrangement which is motived by the theological understanding and intention of the evangelists. And some scholars expand the term "composition" in this context to include the construction of wholly new sayings by the Gospel writers, which are then (so it is claimed) attributed by them to Jesus. 5 It is possible that in the future composition criticism will need to be distinguished from redaction criticism, just as redaction criticism is currently distinguished from form criticism. But meanwhile, and for convenience, the term "redaction criticism" can be understood as the detection of the evangelists' creative contribution in all its aspects to the Christian tradition which they transmit.

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{CRITICISM2014NewT, title={New Testament}, author={REDACTION CRITICISM and Stephen S. Smalley}, year={2014} }