Today we look at Gospel Criticism, the methods used in studies of the Gospel from the beginning of the 20th Century until the hey-day of redaction criticism in the 70s and 80s.
Here are the basic streams that flowed into this current:
Source criticism: the analysis and comparison of the synoptic Gospels by using a Synopsis so that one could discover the sources behind our Gospels. The basic theories are what I call the Oxford hypothesis and then also the Griesbach hypothesis.
Oxford: Mark and Q (stuff only in Matthew and Luke but not in Mark) were used by Matthew and Luke. Matthew also used a source called “M” (stuff only in Matthew) and Luke used “L” (stuff only in Luke).
Griesbach: Matthew was first, Luke used Matthew and edited it; then Mark came along and condensed the two into Mark.
Form criticism: the analysis of the “forms” now found in the Gospels and the inference and speculation of how those forms were used prior to the Gospels and how they were shaped by the early churches (called “Gemeindetheologie”, or “community theology”). Here are some basic forms: parables, miracles, pronouncement stories (brief setting that ends with Jesus making a profound statement), etc..
Redaction criticism: the analysis of the Gospels with a view to isolating the particular editing made by the Evangelist (Mark, Q, Matthew, Luke, John), what his theology looked like, and how that fit into his community.
Tradition criticism: the analysis of particular episodes in the Gospels (called “pericopae”) to see how they can be layered into what will lead us back to the historical Jesus. This developed into the criteria of authenticity mentioned last week in our Historical Jesus studies.
Now a few sources:
The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels has a good discussion of each of these.
Scot McKnight, Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels.
Interpreting the Synoptic Gospels
E.P. Sanders and Margaret Davies Studying the Synoptic Gospels.