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

Introduction: Background and Basic Characteristics of Criticism
Inquiry into the origins of the New Testament can be dated back to the nineteenth and
twentieth century. Though several critical opinions were offered prior to the 1800, non were
known to offer substantial detail regarding the origin of the New Testament. Reformers such as
Martin Luther made statements about some New Testament books, but only regarding their
unsuitability for directly supporting the doctrine of justification by faith. At any rate, the age of
reason gave rise to modern criticism which subjected the bible text to the scrutiny of human
reasoning. Rationalism had been enthroned and all else revelation included, was to bow down to
it. The rise of criticism out of such backgrounds then draws attention to the anthropological
character, and this raises problems. There was no doubt in the minds of the earliest modern
critical scholars that human reason should be allowed to pronounce on the authenticity of the
text. It was this tendency for modern criticism to exult itself above the clear statement of the
New Testament, that led to the development both of skeptical schools of thought, and of strong
reactions from those committed to the absolute trustworthiness of the Bible. It is thus important
to understand this background when approaching NT criticism.1
The thesis of this paper will be to compare source, form, redaction and literary criticism in terms
of their assumptions about history and their focused goals. I will begin by defining each
criticism, discussing their assumptions about history, and explaining their focused goals. I will
then move on to interact with the material, comparing each criticism against each other in terms
of their assumptions about history and their focal goals.
1 R. K Harrison, B. K. Waltke, D. Guthrie, G. D. Fee, Biblical Criticism, Historical, Literary, and Textual (Grand
Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979), 85-7.