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Comparing Source, Form, Redaction and Literary Criticism in terms of Assumption about History and Fo


Source Criticism
Source criticism is considered the oldest of the modern criticisms. It first appeared in the
seventieth and eighteenth centuries when scholars began to read the bible from a secular
perspective. Close reading of certain scripture passages revealed various discrepancies,
contradictions, and changes in literary style. In the NT, issues of source criticism revolved
around explaining the verbal similarities between extensive portions of Matthew, Mark, Luke.2
In 1796 J. G. Herder sought to explain the synoptic problem by assuming a common oral
tradition used by Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Gieseler in 1818 more fully developed Herder’s
theory explaining that the disciples created this oral tradition which soon became fixed in form.
Some time after it was translate into Greek, this common tradition was then used by the synoptic
writers. Though there is no doubt about a period when the gospels circulated orally, it must be
noted that at times, the degree of similarities seems to require more than just a common oral
tradition. Not minimizing the significances of a common oral tradition on the gospel writers, a
good number of scholars agree that the similarities we encounter require the existence of some
sort of a literary relationship. If a literary relationship existed between the synoptic gospels, then
what was the nature of these relationships? Three of the most common of these interdependent
hypotheses are:
1. Matthew wrote first, Mark used Matthew, Luke used Mark. (Augustine)
2. Matthew wrote first, Luke used Matthew, Mark used Matthew and Luke. (J. J Griesbach
1783, and 1789; W R. Farmer 1964).
2Richard Soulen and Kendall Soulen, Handbook of Biblical Criticism (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press,
2001), 178-179.
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