|Last revised: 3/10/05
Contained below is a manuscript summarizing the class lecture(s) covering the above specified range of topics from the List of Topics. For updated information about the class see the class announcement board. Quite often hyperlinks (underlined) to sources of information etc. will be inserted in the text of the lecture. These should be consulted as possible sources for answering either the Objective Questions (Exam 1 option) or the Take-Home Questions (Exam 3 option). Test questions for all three exam options will be derived in part from these lectures. To display the Greek text contained in this page download and install the free BSTGreek from Bible Study Tools.
|22.214.171.124 OT Apocrypha||126.96.36.199 OT Pseudepigrapha||188.8.131.52 NT Apocrypha|
|3.1.1 The Historical Aspects||3.1.2 The Literary Aspects|
|184.108.40.206 Historical Criticism||220.127.116.11 Form Criticism||18.104.22.168 Social Scientific Exegesis||22.214.171.124. Narrative Criticism|
|126.96.36.199 The Temptation of Jesus|
|Freed||NOSB (Metzger)||Harris||NOSB3 (Coogan)|
188.8.131.52.1. NT Apocryphal Gospels
Several documents have become known in the last several centuries that fall into this category. They tend to fall into three groupings: (1) those with a basically narrative format somewhat like the canonical four gospels, (2) the infancy gospels that supposedly tell more details about the pre-public ministry life of Jesus, and (3) the sayings gospels. For English translations of many of these documents, see the Non-Canonical homepage and Jesus of Nazareth in Early Christian Gospels.
In the first category the following are included: the Gospel of Peter, the Secret Gospel of Mark, the Egerton Gospel, the Oxyrhynchus 840 Gospel, the Gospel Of The Hebrews, the Gospel Of The Ebionites, the Gospel Of The Nazoreans, the Gospel of Barnabas, and the Gospel of Nicodemus (see Acts of Pilate). Among the infancy gospels are the Infancy Gospel of James, the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, the Infancy Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew, and the Birth of Mary. Included in the sayings gospels, which contain only accounts of what Jesus supposedly taught rather than also what he did, are the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Mary, the Secret Book of James, the Secret Book of John, the Dialogue of the Savior, the Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel, and Epistula Apostolorum. This third category of gospel genre reflects the heavy influence of the Jewish wisdom literary tradition. Additionally, these documents suggest the essential literary nature of the Q source that Matthew and Luke heavily drew upon in the composition of their gospels, although none of these gospels themselves gained a place in the canon of the New Testament. These are but some of this type of documents arising in post-apostolic Christianity.
During the period (app. 100- 500 AD) when the authoritative documents that would eventually make up the canonical New Testament were being determined, these gospel documents arose and were used in certain Christian communities as authoritative sources for understanding Christian faith and practice. Gradually, the often times dramatically different view of Christianity found in them led to their rejection by so-called orthodox Christianity. For more details on this see the section on canonization in topic 1.6.
The article in the Encyclopedia Britannica states the issues well: "As the New Testament canon was gradually given definite shape, these apocryphal books came to be excluded, first from public reading in churches, then from private reading as well. With the development of creeds and of systematic theologies based on the nascent canon, the apocryphal books were neglected and suppressed. Most of them have survived only in fragments, although a few have been found in Greek and Coptic papyri from Egypt. They are valuable to the historian primarily because of the light they cast on popular semi-orthodox beliefs and on Gnostic revisions of Christianity; occasionally, they may contain fairly early traditions about Jesus and his disciples. In the 3rd century, Neoplatonists (followers of the philosopher Plotinus, who advocated a system of levels of reality) joined Christians in attacking such books as 'spurious,' 'modern,' and 'forged.'
"The difficulties the New Testament apocryphal books caused at the end of the 2nd century are well illustrated in a letter by Serapion, bishop of Antioch. He stated that he accepts Peter and the other apostles “as Christ” but rejects what is falsely written in their name. When some Christians showed him the Gospel of Peter, he allowed them to read it, but after further investigation he discovered that its teaching about Christ was false, and he had to withdraw his permission.
"In the early 4th century Eusebius himself found it difficult to create categories for the various books then in circulation or used by earlier authors. He seems to have concluded that the books could be called “acknowledged,” “disputed,” “spurious,” and absolutely rejected. Thus, the Acts of Paul, the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Gospel According to the Hebrews were rather well attested, and he called them spurious but disputed. He definitely rejected books used by heretics but not by church writers: the gospels ascribed to Peter, Thomas, and Matthias, and the Acts of Andrew, John, and other apostles. About a century earlier, the North African theologian Tertullian had written about how a presbyter who wrote the Acts of Paul had been deposed.
"Without reference to the standards of canonicity and orthodoxy gradually being worked out by the churches of the 2nd through 4th centuries, it is evident that many of these books reflect the kinds of rather incoherent Christian thought that church leaders were trying to prune and shape from the 1st century onward. Often such works represented what was later viewed as inadequate orthodoxy because the views presented had become obsolete. All the apocrypha taken together show the variety of expression from which the canon was a critical selection."
184.108.40.206.2. NT Apocryphal Acts
In the canonical New Testament one finds the Acts of the Apostles as the lone example of the early history of the Christian movement. Additional writings in this genre intended to supplement and expand the information found in the canonical NT document. These documents include the Acts of Peter, the Acts of John, the Acts of Paul, the Acts of Andrew, the Acts of Thomas, and the Acts of Pilate, which are generally considered as the more important of these documents. For the English translation texts of 25 of these documents see the Non-Canonical homepage. Many of the early church traditions about the activities of the original twelve apostles have their origin in these documents. The historical reliability of the data in these documents is not very great, and thus what is said about the activities of the apostles is seldom to be taken seriously. But, they do serve to help the modern Bible student better understand how these first century Christian leaders were viewed in subsequent centuries.
Regarding the genre issue for these documents the online Encyclopedia Britannica article states the questions well: "The various acts, close in form and content to the contemporary Hellenistic romances, turned the apostolic drama into melodrama and satisfied the popular taste for stories of travel and adventure, as well as for a kind of asceticism that was generally rejected by Christian leaders: Andrew (including the Acts of Andrew and Matthias Among the Cannibals), Barnabas (a companion of St. Paul), Bartholomew, John (with semi-Gnostic traits), Paul (including the Acts of Paul and Thecla, with a Christian version of the story of Androcles and the lion), Peter—with the apostle's question to the risen Lord, “Lord, where are you going?” (“Domine, quo vadis?”) and Peter's crucifixion upside down, Philip, Thaddaeus (his conversion of a king of Edessa), and Thomas (with the Gnostic “Hymn of the Pearl”)."
220.127.116.11.3. NT Apocryphal Letters
This grouping of apocryphal documents typically goes beyond, although including, documents written in an ancient letter format. These include the Teachings of Addeus the Apostle, the Epistle of the Apostles, Community Rule, the Apocryphon of James, the Correspondence of Jesus and Abgar, the Sophia of Jesus Christ, John the Evangelist, the Apocryphon of John , the Narrative of Joseph of Arimathaea, the Epistle to the Laodiceans, the Correspondence of Paul and Seneca, the Prayer of the Apostle Paul, the Letter of Peter to Philip, the Letter of Pontius Pilate to the Roman Emperor, the Report of Pilate to Caesar, the Report of Pilate to Tiberius, the Pistis Sophia, the Avenging of the Saviour, the Three Steles of Seth, and the Book of Thomas the Contender.
Although not a part of the NT Apocrypha, the letters of the Apostolic Fathers constitute an important source of early second century documents reflecting the subsequent influence in Christian tradition of the letter format especially as developed by the apostle Paul. These include the letters of Polycarp, Clement, Ignatius, and Barnabas.
18.104.22.168.4. NT Apocryphal Apocalypses
Among the non-canonical apocalypses are the Apocalypse of Peter (Akhmîm), the Apocalypse of Peter (Gnostic), the Apocalypse of Paul (Visio Pauli), the Apocalypse of Paul (Gnostic), the Book of Thomas (the Contender), the Apocalypse of Thomas, I, II Apocalypse of James, and the Questions of Bartholomew.
As set forth in the online Encyclopedia of Britannica article, "other than the Revelation to John, which some early Christian writers rejected, there are apocalypses ascribed to two Jameses, the Virgin Mary, Paul, Peter, Philip, Stephen, and Thomas. Only the Apocalypse of Peter won any significant acceptance and is important for its vivid description of the punishment of the wicked.
"In addition, it should be noted that there were apocryphal books with titles not so closely related to the New Testament. Among these are: the Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (and its later revisions, such as the Didascalia Apostolorum, or the “Teaching of the Apostles,” and the Apostolic Constitutions), and the Kerygma of Peter, a favourite at Alexandria, as well as various Gnostic works, such as The Dialogue of the Redeemer, Pistis Sophia (“Faith-Wisdom”), and the Sophia Jesu Christi (“Wisdom of Jesus Christ”). From the 5th century there is even a Testamentum Domini (“Testament of the Lord”), an expansion of the 2nd–3rd-century Roman Church leader and theologian Hippolytus' Apostolic Tradition."
3.1. The Historical and Literary Aspects of a Text
Every written text possesses both historical and literary aspects, whether composed today or two thousand years ago. Biblical interpretation centers on the interpretation of a pericope, a natural unit of text material, of scripture text. Any interpretative approach that can be considered legitimate must respect these aspects and seek to devise methods that take both into account. In the history of biblical interpretation, appreciation of this nature of written texts did not emerge seriously until the Enlightenment and the Protestant Reformation. Gradually, over the past four hundred years biblical scholars have come to recognize that they could profit immeasurably by learning from their colleagues working in the fields of history and literature. In western Christianity this appreciation has blossomed in the last half of the twentieth century.
Every student of the Bible must then become sensitive to these aspects of the biblical text. To be sure, interpretative skills in utilizing the insights of historical and literary methods will vary greatly from the beginner to the seasoned scholar. But, the essential method of interpretation remains the same at what ever skill level the Bible student is working. The objective here is to introduce the beginning to these aspects so that he/she can begin learning how to incorporate them into a program of reading and studying the scripture.
These aspects can be charted as follows:
|Historical Aspects:||Literary Aspects:|
|1. External Aspects||1. External Aspects|
|2. Internal Aspects||2 Internal Aspects|
22.214.171.124.1. When was the text written?
The general time frame of the composition of the document is usually quite helpful for interpreting individual passages inside the document. Of course, the importance varies from document to document inside the New Testament, as well as from passage to passage within a document. For the four canonical gospels in particular redactional criticism provides essential insight into this determination. The assessment of the believing communities as the initial targeted readership helps to explain the distinctive approach often found in an individual gospel document. The insights of form criticism also are valuable in laying a foundation for understanding the time frame of the composition of a document. With the letters in the New Testament determining a time frame for them becomes important with a few rare exceptions such as James. Thus considerable effort should be spent developing a reconstruction of the life and ministry of Paul as a background to interpreting his writings. An historical background to the general letters that includes assessments of the time of writing is important but typically not as important as with Paul.
The level of importance for the time of writing issue will vary from one passage to another inside a document. When the issues within a passage deal with a specific event in the life of the author such as Paul, knowing when the author wrote about this becomes important, and sometimes crucial for understanding exactly what he is talking about. Several passages within Matthew's gospel become much clearer with the realization of when this material was written after a process of decades long oral transmission.
Again, the tools for determining these issues include the historical critical commentaries, Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias, NT introductions and study Bibles.
126.96.36.199.2. Where was the text written?
Identifying where a document was written is important in varying degrees depending upon the nature of the document. Usually determining the location of the composition of the document is closely linked to the issue of whom the document was written to. For example, a common redactional critical conclusion regarding the place of composition builds off the statement of Ignatius the bishop of Antioch in Syria ca 110-115 C.E. and sees the gospel composed in this region during the 70s of the first Christian century. Identification of place sometimes plays a significant role in the interpretative process. Paul's letter to the Galatian churches is a case in point. Identifying Corinth as the location of the composition of this letter either toward the end of the second missionary journey or during the third missionary journey necessitates his statement in Gal 1:6 as "so quickly you are turning from the one who called you" as meaning "so quickly after I visited you...", whereas the identification of the location as Antioch at the close of the first missionary journey leads this statement to be understood as "so quickly after your conversion...." Yet for some documents in the New Testament this identification is not of major importance to the interpretation of its contents. Most of the general letters in the NT would be examples of this.
188.8.131.52.3. By whom was the text written?
This issue is usually labeled 'authorship' concerns.
One very big caution needs to be observed here. The Meriam-Webster online dictionary defines author as "one that originates or creates." This idea usually suggests nowadays the picture of a writer setting at a computer typing out the text of a literary work. One person is producing the work from thinking up the ideas to creating the written product that is submitted to someone else for publication. The online Encyclopedia Britannica article adds these insights: "one who is the source of some form of intellectual or creative work; especially, one who composes a book, article, poem, play, or other literary work intended for publication. Usually a distinction is made between an author and others (such as a compiler, an editor, or a translator) who assemble, organize, or manipulate literary materials. Sometimes, however, the title of author is given to one who compiles material (as for publication) in such a way that the finished compilation can be regarded as a relatively original work. The word is ultimately from the Latin auctor, 'authorizer, responsible agent, originator, or maker.'”
In this contemporary U.S. perspective, then plagiarizing becomes "transitive senses : to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source intransitive senses : to commit literary theft : present as new and original an idea or product derived from an existing source" (online Meriam-Webster dictionary under 'plagiarizing') Thus, identifying the true author is very important because copyright issues are at stake. Also, royalty payments from publishers are involved. The author transfers 'ownership' of his/her ideas in written expression to the publisher who then make money from selling the published expression of them. For someone else to take these ideas and sell them is not only morally wrong but is illegal because it represents theft.
This way of looking at the issue of authorship is a modern western viewpoint created by the printing press and publishing companies needing to generate income for survival. None of these things existed in the ancient world. No printing press, no publishing companies, no royalties to authors, no legal tradition defining ownership of 'intellectual property' etc.
Consequently, the issue of authorship takes on different definitional boundaries in the ancient world. Two aspects of this bear emphasizing for our purposes here. (1) The composition of documents in the ancient world was a far more complicated process than in our world. Most documents, outside of personal letters that tended to be equivalent to about one half page on modern paper( i.e., download into a file document 3 John which is longer than the norm for that time) took weeks and months to compose because of the primitive writing tools available. The task of doing the actual writing was normally turned over to a professional scribe called an amanuensis who had specialized training in taking down oral dictation and then later composing a full document from dictated notes. Paul's letters were composed this way; Tertius is identified in Rom. 16:22 as the one who wrote Romans and Silas is so identified as having written 1 Peter in 1 Pet. 5:12. Thus the term 'author' becomes muddled somewhat in this ancient way of composing documents. (2) Writing under another's name in that world was considered a way to complement the well known person. Pseudonymity was not a bad action in that world. No theft of ideas was involved; no publisher was around to take legal action. And so on. Considerable indication exists that the schools of disciples or the 'communities' associated with a Paul or a John felt a divine mandate to produce materials in the name of their leader as a way to continue his teaching that addressed subsequent needs in the community. While our world views such negatively, the ancient world had the opposite attitude.
In light of these distinctions between our world and the ancient world, the issue of authorship should be appropriately addressed within the framework of ancient perspectives. To impose modern definitions exclusively on to this issue with documents in the New Testament is to not play fair with those documents as well as to create some impossible-to-answer questions that were of no interest to the ancient world. We have to learn to live with some uncertainty here. Find out as much as can be legitimately determined with confidence and resist the impulse to overstate the data.
184.108.40.206.4. To whom was the text written?
This question has different levels of importance as well. For the canonical gospels identifying the communities the gospels were initially speaking to -- by using Redactional Critical procedures -- is very important to detailed understanding of the individual passages.
This insight plays a critical role in helping to explain the distinctive presentation of an event in Jesus' life by a given gospel writer when that same event is describe in one or two other gospels, e.g., the temptation of Jesus. Apart from research here one is at a loss to explain why Matthew sequences the three examples of temptation differently from Luke. The Jewish messianic emphasis of Matthew guided this sequence, while Luke's temple emphasis in his gospel guided his sequence. Neither was particularly concerned with chronology, rather their theological intent guided the pattern of presentation.
With the 'real' letters in the Pauline section of the New Testament, this determination of addressees of each letter is very essential to interpreting the passages inside the letters. Reading his letters have often been characterized as like listening to one side of a phone conversation. So much understanding of the party on the 'other end of the phone line' is assumed by the writer that the more one knows about that other party the more sense one can make out of the letter. The importance of this ranges from the most difficult of Paul's letters, 2 Corinthians, to the least significant reader identity letter in Romans. Yet, in each letter in the Pauline corpus the more we can know about the initial readers the better we can understand the contents of the letters.
With the so-called General Epistles (also called the catholic letters) reader identity tends to be of lesser importance. This is in part because some of these documents are not true letters, namely Hebrews and James. They merely contain segments of ancient letters but basically are in the genre of ancient Jewish homily. Thus these two documents are addressed very broadly to Jewish Christians without specific geographical location. The letters of John have similar broadly defined recipients without geographical identity, as do Jude and 2 Peter. 1 Peter identifies the recipients as located in the northern coastal region along the southern edge of the Black Sea, but still in very broad categories. In spite of these limitations identifying all that is possible about the situation of the initial readers of these letters still plays a helpful role in the interpretative process.
A foundational tool for this is again the Historical Critical methodology. The formal discipline of New Testament Introduction has concentrated on these issues since the late 1700s in western Christian scholarship. The discoveries of archaeologists and others have helped to vastly expand our knowledge of how the ancient world lived and functioned. This growing reservoir of historical understanding can only enhance the work of the serious Bible student in a quest to understand the New Testament in terms of the world into which it was born and within which it functioned at the beginning.
220.127.116.11. The Internal History of the Text
Whereas the external history of the text probes issues related to the composition of the text, the internal history explores references to occurrences and movements through time and space that are found within the passage itself. Particularly in narrative type passages the depiction of an event builds on identifying when and where kinds of aspects in order to describe clearly what took place. Very helpful is to spend time studying the geography, culture, and history of the first century world, especially that of Palestine. Some awareness of the basics is essential to Bible interpretation.
Numerous tools exist that can provide very good insight; one especially helpful volume is Backgrounds of Early Christianity by Everett Ferguson. The formal discipline called New Testament Backgrounds or NT History emphasizes study in these areas. All of this is an outgrowth of the emergence of Historical Criticism as an interpretative method.
18.104.22.168.1. Identifying time and place markers inside the text
As a contribution to the historical methodology and also to the narrative critical methodology the identification of the locations of and the movements through time and space inside a scripture passage need to be identified. This identification becomes more important typically for narrative passages than for didactic passages, but often plays an important role in both. The historical critical concerns focus on learning when and where this event took place.
In the temptation of Jesus narrative, for example, all three gospel accounts indicate that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the "wilderness." Where is that located? A study of Bible dictionaries and commentaries will provide the answer, so that the Bible reader has some sense of where this event took place geographically. Walter Harrelson under "Desert" in the Mercer Dictionary of the Bible says that the word Desert in the Bible means " a wilderness area, rather than pure desert, characterized by wild animals, little vegetation, few areas suitable for agriculture, and in general a dearth of water. The area south of Judah, called the NEGEB, and the wilderness of the SINAI peninsula re the chief regions called desert in the Bible. In addition, the Rift Valley below the DEAD SEA, the `ârãbâ, is designated desert or wilderness in several biblical texts." Thus we gain a better understanding of where this temptation experience occurred. From narrative critical concerns we next raise the issue of what the 'desert' may suggest. D.A. Carson in the Expositor's Bible provides insight here: "The 'desert' (cf. on 3:1) is not only the place associated with demonic activity (Isa 13:21; 24:14; Matt 12:43; Rev 18:2; Trench, pp. 7-8) but, in a context abounding with references to Deuteronomy 6-8, the place where Israel experienced her greatest early testings." Thus, identifying the background to the word 'wilderness' begins to help make this passage much more meaningful.
Also important are the references to time found inside your passage. In this same temptation narrative, Mark indicates that Jesus was being tempted 40 days, while Matthew adds that he fasted 40 days and 40 nights. In his comments on Matthew's version of this event, D.A. Carson notes that the "forty days and nights reflected Israel's forty-year wandering (Deut 8:2). Both Israel's and Jesus' hunger taught a lesson (Deut 8:3); both spent time in the desert preparatory to their respective tasks" (Exp Bible, 112).
These time and place indications found inside the scripture passage can play a vitally important role in helping make sense out of what happened during the episode.
22.214.171.124.2. Identifying social customs inside the text
Often the content of a scripture passage will touch on various types of social interaction, such as relationships within a family, relations between the wealthy and the poor etc. Because our North American culture typically defines these relationships very differently than first century Judaism and/or Greco-Roman culture, the Bible student needs to gain a clear understanding of the parameters of appropriate and inappropriate social interaction in the first Christian century. Otherwise, he/she runs the risk of falsely reading modern U.S. cultural norms back into the New Testament and thus make the mistake of incorrectly interpreting the scripture passage.
The methodology that provides insights into this aspect of the scripture text is called Social Scientific Exegesis. Earlier labels for this methodology included Sociological Exegesis. Sometimes the label Social Scientific Criticism will be used. Whatever the label, the procedure adapts the modern methodology of sociological analysis to the reading of ancient texts.
Family relations are a case in point, illustrating the importance of using the insights from this method for more accurate exegesis of scripture passages. In U.S. culture the American family is typically perceived as composed of a husband and a wife possibly with children. This creates two basic sets of relationships: (1) between the husband and the wife, and (2) between the parents and the children. In the average situation, the husband and wife are reasonably close to the same age. They have both voluntarily chosen to marry because they fell in love with one another. Marriage is perceived as the uniting to two individuals in order to create a new and distinct family separate from the families of both the husband and wife. In the ancient family, however, the sets of relationships were more extensive and different. First, and very important, the male held absolute authority in the household. The patriarchal tradition of the dominant rule of the male in the ancient Jewish religious heritage gave the Jewish male full control of the rest of the family members. In the Roman culture this control went further; the ancient tradition of patria potestas extended the Roman man's power to have life and death authority over every family member as long as he lived. Thus there were three sets of relationships: (1) the wife to her husband; (2) the children to their father; and (3) the slaves to their master. The adult male occupied all three roles as husband, father, and master. Marriage was arranged with the couple having little or no say in the selection of their spouse. The fathers or legal guardians made this decision. Typically the woman was married off in her early teens after having reached puberty, while the Jewish male wasn't considered an adult, that is, eligible to marry, until after his thirtieth birthday. Roman culture followed a somewhat similar pattern, although the Roman male might be considered marriageable in his late twenties. Marriage was first and foremost the building of connecting links between two clans or families. This made children absolutely essential since this meant the 'mixing of the blood' of the two families and thus bound them together. The children born into the family were under the absolute control of the father. The aristocratic Roman and sometimes also the Jewish family included any slaves as an essential part of the family. In both Jewish and Roman traditions the obligations in these three sets flowed from the wife/children/slaves to the male head of the family. These obligations were extensive and absolute. The male head of the family had few if any obligations to the members of the family. One must read the New Testament Haustafeln (domestic code) passages against this cultural backdrop, if a correct understanding of these scripture passages in their historical setting is to be gained. Only then can the truly revolutionary nature of the NT positions leveling the plane between husband and wife, as well as the imposition of mammoth responsibilities on the male head of the household, be understood.
3.1.2. The Literary Aspects
Not only is an ancient text such as scripture produced in a specific historical setting, but ancient writings including scripture contain literary qualities that are an additional essential part of the interpretative process. The online Meriam-Webster dictionary defines 'literature' as "writings in prose or verse; especially : writings having excellence of form or expression and expressing ideas of permanent or universal interest." The documents of the New Testament fall within the boundaries of this definition and can thus be considered as literature.
Literary analysis of a written text involves the examination of several characteristics of writing in an effort to more clearly understand how the writer's thoughts are put together in order to create a larger presentation of ideas. Two categories of the aspects of this analysis exist: (1) those that lie outside the passage itself, i.e., the external aspects, and (2) those that are found inside the passage, i.e., the internal aspects. Although these labels aren't commonly used, they do serve as helpful groupings for a study of the literary qualities.
126.96.36.199. The External Literary Aspects of the Text
By external is meant literary qualities that lie outside the content of the passage itself, but that the passage depends on for expression of ideas. The most important of these is typically labeled 'literary setting' or 'literary context.' This simply refers to exploring the issue of how the ideas found inside the passage contribute to the larger expression of ideas found in the entire document. That is, how does this passage fit, given its location at a specific place inside the larger document? Also important: the determination of the literary context not only helps the Bible student see how his/her passage contributes to the flow of ideas in the entire biblical document, but just as importantly, this determination helps establish boundaries of legitimate meaning in the translation/interpretation process for the ideas contained inside the passage itself.
The negative tones associated with Bible 'proof-texting' are derived from a failure to realize this very important part of biblical interpretation. When a verse of scripture is lifted out of its context, brand new meaning not legitimately found in the context is frequently attributed to the words of the scripture verse. By stitching together a number of verses so lifted out of their original context, one can make the Bible 'say' absolutely anything he/she wants it to say. Obviously such methods are false and produce false understanding of the teachings of scripture.
188.8.131.52.1. Identifying the literary context of the text within the larger document
What is the literary context of a passage? When one has detected the building blocks of written material, that is the pericopes, which individually constitute an identifiable scripture passage (for example, the temptation of Jesus in Mark 1:12-13), the next question is why does this passage fall where it does in the total content of the scripture document? If the document is mostly made up of narratives, then the location of an individual narrative may have to do with chronology. That is, it took place historically at that point in the central character's life. Such is the case with the Mark 1:12-13. In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) the temptation of Jesus is one of the events that took place at the beginning of public ministry by Jesus. Naturally, the gospel writer would place this passage in the part of his story of Jesus describing those preparatory events that launched Jesus' public ministry. But not all the episodes in the gospels fall in such a pattern. This becomes clear from comparing the descriptions of the same event in two or three of these gospels. When Jesus was rejected in his home town of Nazareth is an illustration. In Luke 4:16-30 it is placed at the beginning of the ministry in Galilee, whereas Matthew 13:53-58 and Mark 6:1-6 place it at the end of the time that Jesus spent in Galilee. Quite clearly the concern of the gospel writers is not chronological. One or the other (or perhaps both) are more interested in the point of this rejection by people who knew Jesus. The idea of people rejecting Jesus contributes to what each gospel writer is trying to get across about the beginning or the end of the ministry in Galilee proper. Thus, as D.A. Carson notes regarding Matthew's account, "placing this periocope immediately after the discourse on parables extends the hostility and rejection of the scribes and Pharisees even to Jesus' hometown (cf. Mark 6:1-6)" (Matthew, 335). Often the gospel writers are much more interested in making thematic points by their sequential placement of episodes. Understanding this helps the Bible student to better grasp the point of a passage.
How can I determine the literary context of a passage? This involves the use of several tools: NT introductions, Bible dictionaries and commentaries. First, find outlines of the entire scripture document in which your passage is found. Then locate where in that outline your passage shows up. By looking at the outline headings you should be able to draw some tentative conclusions about the context. Next, the commentaries on your passage should address the issue of literary context, although not all do a good job of it. The Word Biblical Commentary series tends to be one of the better commentaries at this point.
Since Redaction Criticism and Rhetorical Criticism can touch on this issue of literary context, one should seek out the commentaries that especially emphasize these methods in their comments on the scripture text.
184.108.40.206. The Internal Literary Aspects of the Text
The literary issues arising from within the scripture passage deal with at least two significant issues: (1) the determination of a literary form, sometimes called genre, and (2) the determination of the flow of ideas contained inside the passage.
220.127.116.11.1. Identifying the broad genre of the text
In regard to literary patterns found within a scripture passage genre can be detected at different levels. Here we will treat the broad issue of genre that relates to the entire scripture book in which your passage is found. In subsequent chapters dealing the the four broad categories of genre below, we will address the sub-genre issues that arise under each broad category.
Once again the online Meriam-Webster dictionary defines genre as "a category of artistic, musical, or literary composition characterized by a particular style, form, or content." To get something of an idea of the wide diversity of patterns in modern literature go the Stories.com web site containing genre categories for most modern literary composition. More precise are the comments of Ralph Wood in the Mercer Dictionary of the Bible: "Genre is a French term used to designate literary kinds or types; e.g., tragedy, comedy, epic, history, parable, letter, fiction, poetry, gospel, oracle, apocalypse. From the Renaissance through the eighteenth century, the genres were thought to be fixed and timeless categories which describe all literary works regardless of their author or subject matter, their era, or place of composition. The genres were also ranked in a hierarchy, from epic and tragedy at the top, to lyric and comedy at the bottom. But with the rise of such new forms as the novel and the long descriptive poem, and especially as the Romantics perfected the lyric, the old notion of genre-ranking fell into disuse. Genre is now regarded as a useful interpretive device rather than a criterion for determining the worth of a work" (Genre, Concept of, 323).
Ralph Wood, in this same article, makes the valid observations that: (1) "One needs to understand what formal or technical characteristics the text possesses, what literary conventions it observes." (2) "Genre categories are especially useful when interpreting biblical texts that are essentially narrative in type." (3) "Determining the genre of a text also enables the reader to compare it with similar literary types both within and outside scripture." (4) "To understand the genre of a biblical text, therefore, is to recognize its own suppositions, to enter a life-world other than our own, and thus perhaps to be transformed by the new spiritual order it creates" (Wood, 323-324).
One very important point needs to be made at the outset: the word 'gospel' has two different meanings, reflecting the pattern of early Christian use of the Greek word for gospel, euangelion (eujaggevlion). Inside the New Testament documents themselves the word euangelion exclusively refers to the gospel as a system of belief. In subsequent Christian writings the second meaning of euangelion emerges and refers to the written documents such as the Gospel of Mark that describe the life and teachings of Christ. Our study of genre here is concerned only with this second meaning of the word euangelion.
A very interesting question is posed in the New Oxford Study Bible regarding the gospel genre: What type of literature would a second-century librarian in Alexandria Egypt have assigned a gospel if a manuscript copy had been presented to a library? (NOSB, NT, viii) Would it have been assigned to the ancient laudatory (or encomium) biography? Examples of this type of ancient biography include Xenophon's Agesilaus, Isocrates' Evagoras, Tacitus' Agricola, and Lucian's Life of Demonax. These works attempted to praise the greatness and merit of the person who is the subject of the writing. Or, would it have been assigned to the broader genre category of ancient biography? Perhaps it might have been assigned to the sub-category of biography called aretalogy, which means the "relation of wonderful deeds of a god or hero" (Dictionary of Difficult Words). Could some combination of these genres account for the literary form called 'gospel'?
Any single one of these genres or any combination of them do not provide a satisfactory answer to the origin of the gospel genre. Some similarities of certain traits in these forms of ancient biography can be detected in the gospel genre, but substantial characteristics exit in the gospels in a repetitive manner that are not found in these ancient biographical genera. The orally transmitted sources of materials used in composing the canonical gospels, the literary relationship among the first three gospels, the so-called synoptic gospels, and other aspects strongly suggest that this literary form in the New Testament represents an essentially new genre created by early Christianity as the most appropriate vehicle for telling the story of Jesus Christ to its world.
But this view is not universally held by New Testament scholars. As Charles Talbert notes, "since the late 1970s there has been a growing consensus that the canonical Gospels are types of ancient Mediterranean biography, participants in the same large grouping as Philo's Life of Moses and Philostratus's Life of Apollonius of Tyana. If so, then the canonical Gospels can no longer be regarded as literarily unique. Participation in the ancient biographical genre does not, however, undermine the uniqueness of the canonical Gospels' content any more than the participation of Gen 1 in the genre of ancient Near Eastern creation myth detracts from its uniquely Hebraic witness to the Creator" (Genre, Gospel). See Freed, 56, for a helpful summary of these two viewpoints.
In the NOSB article these important points are validly made regarding the uniqueness of the gospel genre: "The canonical gospels are not romances or folk-tales; they purport to retell actual events. They are not biographies; they concentrate on the public career of Jesus with little or no attention given to his environment, training, and development of character. They are not simply memoirs of a teacher, philosopher, or wise man; the ministry of Jesus embraced not merely word and example but actions. And as regards this action, the gospels do not give a neutral account of what happened; rather they tell of the work of God in the career of Jesus, and they present their story as an offer of salvation for all who will believe. In short, the gospels represent a genre all their own because they present the tradition of Jesus from the viewpoint of faith in him as redeemer. Hence it was the intention of the four evangelists that their gospels be understood not only as narrative, but at the same time and especially as proclamation" (NOSB, NT, viii-ix).
Also important to remember is that the NT Apocryphal gospels are classified under this genre as well, although they are not a part of the New Testament canon. In terms of literary patterns, they exhibit a much wider array of forms both as a document itself, and through the use of sub-genre. As is described in the Encyclopedia Britannica: "A few papyrus fragments come from gospels not known by name (e.g., Egerton Papyrus 2, Oxyrhynchus Papyrus 840, Strasbourg Papyrus 5–6). There are also the Gospel produced in the 2nd century by Marcion (a “semi-Gnostic” heretic from Asia Minor), who removed what he regarded as interpolations from the Gospel According to Luke; the lost Gnostic Gospel of Perfection; and the Gospel of Truth, published in 1956 and perhaps identical with the book that Irenaeus (c. 185), bishop of Lyon, said was used by the followers of Valentinus, a mid-2nd-century Gnostic teacher. The Gospel of Truth is a mystical–homiletical treatise that is Jewish–Christian and, possibly, Gnostic in origin. In addition, there were gospels ascribed to the Twelve (Apostles) and to individual apostles, including the Protoevangelium of James, with legends about the birth and infancy of Jesus; the lost Gnostic Gospel of Judas (Iscariot); the Gospel of Peter, with a legendary account of the resurrection; the Gospel of Philip, a Valentinian Gnostic treatise; the Gospel of Thomas, published in 1959 and containing “the secret sayings of Jesus” (Greek fragments in Oxyrhynchus papyri 1, 654, and 655); and an “infancy gospel” also ascribed to Thomas. Beyond these lie gospels ascribed to famous women, namely Eve and Mary (Magdalene), or named after the groups that used them: Ebionites (a Jewish Christian sect), Egyptians, Hebrews, and Nazarenes (an Ebionite sect)."
Thus in identifying a passage as part of the gospel genre, the Bible student realizes that: (1) The passage intends to interpret the actions and words of Jesus positively from the theological stance of belief in Him as the divine Savior of all humanity. (2) The passage is not strictly speaking a scientifically based history or biographical portion of the earthly ministry of Jesus, although elements of history and biography are present. (3) The passage contributes to the larger purposes of the gospel writer in painting a religious portrait of Jesus with the distinctive tones understood by the writer himself. Correct interpretation of the passage, then, depends in part on being able to see this full portrait and how the passage fits into this picture. Here the work of Redaction Critical scholars has made invaluable contribution; commentaries specializing in this methodology can provide helpful insight and thus should be consulted. Also the study of the double and triple tradition parallels to the passage are basic to realizing the distinctive tones emphasized by individual gospel writers.
The single document in the New Testament generally grouped under this genre is the Acts of the Apostles, although passages throughout the remainder of the New Testament contain historical oriented materials. For an introduction to ancient views of history see the above section 3.1.1. In general the book of Acts follows very closely ancient patterns of history writing, especially in the use of the basic 'building blocks' for presenting a 'philosophia' through history. The two most dominant 'building block' material found in Acts are narratives and speeches. The narrative passages divide into two categories: episodic and summary narratives. Within the various episodes described in Acts, two identifiable sub-genre emerge: miracle narratives and commissioning narratives. In the speeches category, two distinct types of speeches are found: missionary and defense speeches. With the use of these materials the story of Christianity in its first three decades is effectively told.
When evaluated by the standards for writing history during the first Christian century as set forth by Dionysius of Halicarnassus in his On Literary Composition and especially his On Thycydides, the writer of Acts stands out as an accomplished history writer in the ancient world. The period from AD 30 to 61 is covered, and the two pivotal early leaders of Christianity (Peter during the Jewish Christian phase in chapters 1-12 and Paul during the Gentile mission phase in chapters 13-28) are the focus of the presentation that traces the beginnings of the movement from Jerusalem, the religious center of the world for ancient Judaism, to Rome, the political and military center of the ancient world. This literary genre was later imitated in subsequent Christian writings; see section 18.104.22.168.2 for details.
When the Bible student has identified the passage in Acts as belonging to the history genre, several implications of this become apparent: (1) The writer of Acts is not writing history within the framework of modern definitions of history. Thus his use of sources will be different; the building blocks for telling his story will be different; his purpose will not be the same as a modern historian's purpose. (2) The passage represents a portion of the story designed to undergird the writer's philosophia. What point is Luke trying to make in telling the story of Christianity in its first three decades? Again, commentaries using Redactional Critical methods will be important to consult, since these will be more concerned to fit the passage into the larger theological purpose of the entire document. Advanced reading of summaries of Acts in Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, and introductions will help the Bible student better grasp how the passage contributes to the 'big' picture. As the details of the passage are examined, the Bible student should be sensitive to their connection to the writer's theological aims.
The bulk of the documents in the New Testament fall into this genre category, although a few documents make very limited use of the letter form. The 13 letters of Paul comprise the largest segment, and consistently adhere to the ancient letter format. The 7 documents of the General Epistles are the second segment. Hebrews is tucked in between the pauline corpus and the general epistle section, reflecting ancient uncertainty over what to do with it. In contemporary discussions it is generally listed with the general epistles for the sake of convenience. The order of listing in both sections has nothing to do with time of writing. Instead, the sequence of listing is based solely on the length of the document with the longest first in the list and the shortest being last in the list. This is true for both the pauline corpus and the general epistle section. The single exception to this sequence is where more than one letter is written to the same group or individual, or by the same writer. In these cases, the length of the first letter determines the location of all the letters grouped together; notice 1 and 2 Corinthians below as an illustration of this.
|Pauline Corpus||General Epistles|
The letters of Paul more closely follow ancient patterns of letter writing, than do the general epistles typically, although 2 and 3 John would be exceptions to this. Two of these documents are Jewish homilies -- Hebrews and James -- and make a very limited use of ancient letter forms, so that one can question whether they should be called letters. The pattern included the following:
3.2.1. The Influence of the Reformation and Renaissance
The Reformation produced the interpretative principle of sola scriptura. That is, the exclusive foundation for Christian belief and practice is the Bible. For the reformer Martin Luther, this became central to his attacks on the wrongs he sensed in the Roman Catholic Church of his day. Repeatedly he argued in the debates with his Catholics opponents that the church's teachings were not grounded in biblical principle, and that Christianity could only achieve legitimacy and spiritual health in so far as it followed the teachings of Jesus as set forth in the New Testament. Luther's most lasting contribution to the cause of Christ in general has been in renewing interest in studying scripture and seeking to establish it as foundational for every Christian community's faith and practice. Another reformer, John Calvin, ultimately played a more influential role at this point. Calvin's massive commentaries on the books of the Bible, as well as his Institutes of the Christian Religion, have in some way shaped the approach of most of Protestant biblical interpretation for the past four hundred years.
The Renaissance has exerted enormous influence on biblical interpretation in western culture and society. Two areas in particular have changed dramatically the way the Bible is understood in western Christianity: (1) the shift in the definition of history from the ancient understanding, and (2) the application of the emerging Scientific Methodology to principles of Bible interpretation.
As previously described in the above sections, the way history was viewed in the ancient world was severely modified to focus attention on "What really happened in the past?". Particularly in the early stages of the modern era the empirical view of history dominated studies. History became a major interest, and the separation of fact from fiction became a crucial part of historical research into the ancient past. In the ancient world, history was the tool of philosophy and the investigation into the past was prompted by concerns to find insights that served to strengthen one's approach to interpreting life in the present. Whether the past was factual or legendary made little difference; the main interest lay in the lessons that could be learned from this past. Another important shift with the modern definition of history was to limit history to actions of humans in the past. Supra-human activity such as that of God or the gods was excluded from modern scientific based history. The ancient world had no such limitation of understanding; history was readily the story of both the divine and the human.
The Scientific Methodology that emerged from the Enlightenment dramatically changed western society forever. The procedure of doing research from doubt and questioning has profoundly shaped modern biblical study. Friedrich Nietzsche put it well several centuries ago: "Here the ways of men part: If you wish to strive for peace of soul and pleasure, then believe; if you wish to be a devotee of truth, then inquire." Thus critical studies of the New Testament were born out of this stance. The quest for objective Truth using principles of research learned from this developing methodology in the natural sciences became the chief goal of biblical studies beginning with the late 1600s. It continues to exert powerful influence throughout Christian thinking all across the theological spectrum. Most of the theological 'wars' between various Christian communities over the past several centuries have been fought over this issue. The emergence of the Post-Modern era at the end of the twentieth century has brought about a severe de-emphasis upon this quest for so-called 'objective' Truth. The realization continues to grow that this is the pursuit of a fantasy; more realistic is to recognize one's own biases and to strive for relative objectivity. Pure objectivity exists among mortals only in a cemetary!
One important by-product of this has been the sharp distinction drawn between 'critical studies' and 'theology.' In the U.S. tradition of separation of church and state, this distinction has been highlighted and provided the basis for religious studies programs in state supported colleges and universities all across the U.S. Such programs by legal limits cannot advocate a 'sectarian' view of religious or biblical studies; that is the responsibility of the church related colleges and universities in their religion or theology departments. Thus in the state school one finds a 'religious studies' program, while in the church related school a department of religion or theology exists. Religion can then be legally taught in the state university, but Christianity is investigated along side and on the same basis as other world religions. Such programs are usually attached to the philosophy or social sciences departments.
An ongoing discussion has emerged over the past several centuries over which approach is either legitimate or the preferred one. Oftentimes a false and very destructive dichotomy between 'critical' and 'theological' has been pushed. This particularly happens in the typical liberal versus conservative religious debates. To sever the connection between these two aspects is ultimately to negate the value and possible benefits of both. For the Christian critical studies of Christianity cannot ultimately become an end within itself; theology that ignores the insights of critical studies becomes shallow and fruitless both intellectually and spiritually. The continuing challenge then is to find an appropriate balance between the two in order to best achieve specific goals of study.
22.214.171.124. Studying Religion in an academic setting
Students taking a religion course in a state supported community college or university come to the study of the Bible with a certain set of expectations that typically are very different than the vast majority of students enrolled in the same course in a private, church related university. The professors teaching this course in these two very different academic settings work under vastly different guidelines mandated both by federal and state laws, as well as by the administration of the school they work for. This is true in the United States, because of our legal system and tradition of the separation of church and state. In most other countries, the situation would be vastly different than here in the U.S. For example, in most European countries, the state supported universities would also be the church related universities training the ministers for the churches, so that no dual system of universities is necessary.
Within a U.S church related university setting such as GWU, what is the approach to the academic study of the New Testament in Religion 102 and Religion 305 for G.O.A.L. students? Each university adopts its own official policy that the members of the religion department and adjunct professors who teach this course are expected to follow. Ultimately the board of trustees are the final decision makers on the policy standards for the university. The policy recommendation begin with the department and proceed through the administrative levels until they are refined and recommended and passed by the board of trustees. This is important for students to understand. Also important is that the policies should contribute to the mission statement of the university and be in harmony with it. The university is held accountable at this point every so often by the accrediting agencies such as SACS.
In light of this, let's return to the original question: what is the approach to the academic study of the New Testament in Religion 102 and Religion 305 for G.O.A.L. students? To answer that question, one must first examine the catalogue statement, since this constitutes the official statement of policy by Gardner-Webb University on the academic approach to the study of the New Testament at this university. The current catalogue description of Religion 102 and Religion 305 reads as follows (pp.205, 206): "An introduction and survey of the New Testament focusing upon the history, literature and faith that gave rise to Christianity and its contemporary relevance." This course, as one of the two core required courses, contributes to the officially stated objectives of the religion department for these two OT and NT courses (p. 199):
The department seeks to lead each undergraduate student enrolled in the survey courses to demonstrate the ability to:These statements were carefully evaluated so as to contribute to the university statement of purpose (p. 7):(1) identify and discuss the significance of the major people, places, events, themes and types of literature of the Old and New Testaments.
(2) trace the historical development of the canons of the Old and New Testaments.
(3) identify, assess, and utilize appropriate resources in biblical interpretation.
(4) utilize the principles of critical analysis in interpreting a passage of Scripture.
Gardner-Webb is a private, coeducational university affiliated with the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina. Its purpose is to provide learning of distinction in the liberal arts and in professional studies within a caring community based upon Christian principles and values. Students, faculty and staff are part of a community of learning, and Gardner-Webb seeks to prepare and encourage students to make meaningful contributions to the global community in which we live. To this end, the University strives to develop students intellectually, spiritually, socially and physically. They should be able to think independently and critically, communicate effectively, relate well to persons of diverse backgrounds, understand the natural world, understand the development of civilizations, understand and appreciate aesthetic values, and grow spiritually. To support this development and foster a community dedicated to life-long learning, Gardner-Webb emphasized Christian values, academic freedom with responsibility, free intellectual inquiry and discussion, recognition of the dignity and worth of the individual, and strong faculty-student relationships. While pursuing these values, Gardner-Webb seeks to instill the traits of good citizenship in its students and strives to be a good institutional citizen.Thus, at GWU an official policy provides specific guidelines for each professor to work within in the teaching of the New Testament survey course. In the administrative evaluation of each professor each year the prof is held accountable for whether or not he or she has followed these guidelines in teaching this course. To be sure, issues like promotion etc. hinge on these evaluations. The university leadership rightfully will not long tolerate a professor who is unwilling to work within specified guidelines. Otherwise, chaos would soon envelope a university and plunge it into destruction. This represents one aspect of the academic study of religion -- the professor's.
3.2.2. Specific Methods of Exegesis
In the modern era of interpretation of the Bible, a variety of ways for reading the texts of scripture have emerged. The following attempts to provide an overview of the more dominant approaches that have made an impact on biblical studies. With the impact of the Enlightenment upon Western thought, modern biblical studies could not help but be significantly influenced as well. Add to that the reaction of many scholars to the failures of church leaders to address major social issues existing in both Europe and North America during the eighteen and nineteenth centuries. Alternatives to the proof-texting dogmatism of traditional interpretation that allowed orthodox Christianity to bury it's head in the sand in the midst of these injustices during the Industrial Revolution, for instance, needed to be found to 're-discover' the true Jesus who had spoken out for justice and righteousness centuries before. The voices of anti-religion were bursting out all over the west and the biblical scholarly world was committed to not surrendering the message of social justice to these voices of rising Marxism. Convinced that Jesus was the true voice of justice and righteousness who represented authentic hope for a hurting and wounded world, the community of biblical scholarship engaged itself eagerly in reading the biblical texts to discover this voice anew as a way to assert the legitimacy of the Christian voice in a modern world increasingly suspicious of religion.
Very important to understand is the reality that these methods of interpretation build off of either the historical or the literary aspects of a written text. Historical Criticism and Literary Criticism represent procedures that are rather pure emphases on either the historical or literary aspects. The other methods will typically incorporate elements of both aspects of the written text, while the procedure for each will be oriented dominantly toward one or the other aspect of the written text. For example, Form Criticism is dominantly literary in its procedure, but especially with the older versions the form critical procedure also incorporates important historical aspects of analysis.
The English word 'Criticism' is bothersome to many individuals, since at the popular level of meaning it carries strong negative tones. The English word is intended to be understood at its technical level of meaning, rather than at its popular meaning. The difficulty ultimately stems from this English word as clumsy translation of the earlier German term Kritik, which was typically applied to most of these methods in their original development in Europe. In this context, the German term Kritik is more accurately rendered in English as Technical rather than Critical. But the facts of life are that the English terms Critical, Criticism have firmly established themselves as part of the English language labels of most of these procedures. These interpretative methods are not designed to criticize the Bible. Instead, they are simply technical procedures designed to facilitate a much more accurate and clearer understanding of the contents of the Bible. These "Criticisms" are but tools for doing exegesis of biblical texts. Of course, any method in the hands of some interpreters can turn negative into a hostile stance toward scripture. But, this has much more to do with the interpreter than it does with the interpretative method.
The relationship between these technical methods of interpretation and a personal Christian faith varies from scholar to scholar. Out of my experience of having both worked in the U.S. and in Europe over almost 40 years of pastoral and teaching ministry, I have generally found the European scholars to be more consistently individuals of deep religious faith and also involved in their local congregations than I have observed the American scholars to be. Of course, abundant exceptions to this pattern do exist.
The connection between technical, academic oriented work with the Bible and personal religious faith tends to follow one of several patterns. (1) From the early days of the modern era of biblical scholarship a stance developed that the scholar does his/her technical scholarship in one area of life, one's career, and that one's personal religious faith lies in another very different area of life, one's religious devotion. And that these two spheres must not be allowed to interact with one another, else one's 'objectivity' as a scientific scholar is compromised. Thus, F.C. Bauer who taught at the University of Tübingen in Germany in the late 1800s raised radical questions about Jesus and the Christian faith as a scholar, but led his family in deep, lengthy family altar daily and himself typically spent two or more hours each day in prayer and meditation as a deeply pious Christian. No contradiction between these two very disparate patterns was seen. This has been a very influential model for many scholars over the past two hundred years.
(2) Of course, the opposite extreme is to be found as well. Faith is pitted against technical scholarship so that one seemingly has to choose between becoming a competent scholar and losing his/her Christian faith, or hanging on to one's religious faith and then engaging in scholarship only as an apologetic in order to criticize technical scholarship as dangerous to the Christian religion. Among American scholars especially, individuals who have opted for one or the other of these options can be found in sizable quantity. The American tradition of separation of church and state, coupled with the growth of the teaching of religion in state universities in our country, seems to have fostered the acceptance of this option, and many scholars then have chosen the first of these options in order to advance their professional careers. Those who have opted for retention of their faith in the second pattern can be found primarily among professors who teach in ultra-conservative Protestant universities and Bible institutes across the U.S.
(3) In the past several decades another approach is finding growing acceptance and is becoming much more influential among American scholars to the extent that it has been the dominate option for most of the modern era among European scholars. One can find ways to be among the best technical scholars and at the same time be very religious and committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ. And these two spheres of one's life can be deeply integrated with each other, unlike the older European model. Both Evangelical scholars and Roman Catholic scholars especially after Vatican Council II have led the way here. To be sure, the issue of Faith and Reason, as it's usually defined, is a tough struggle and each scholar has to come to his or her own way of resolving the tension between the two. But the sage advice of W.T. Conner, who taught theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary for several decades in the first half of the twentieth century, remains vitally relevant today: "Even an old cow grazing in the pasture has enough sense to graze around the grassburrs and nettles!" Increasingly, scholars on both sides of the Atlantic are finding ways to pull the two spheres together in a wholesome integration that produces a first class scholar who is also a deeply religious and committed follower of Jesus Christ. The result is a scholarship that does its technical work on a par with any scientist but the resulting scholarly insights contribute to building a deep faith in Christ grounded on solid biblical understanding. Christianity can benefit greatly from the work of these kinds of scholars!
126.96.36.199. Historical Criticism
Foundational to virtually all modern exegetical approaches to biblical study in the modern era is historical criticism. With the renewed emphasis upon history coming out of the Enlightenment, a new found emphasis upon Christianity as a historical based religion emerged as well. Christianity grows out of Jesus of Nazareth, a historical person who lived and died in a very real part of the world at a definite moment of time. Christianity emerged out of Judaism, also with a historical orientation. The sacred scriptures of both religions, the Old and New Testaments, are documents with historical materials playing very significant roles. Thus an interpretative method giving strong emphasis to historical understanding to texts was a natural consequence. With the development of modern historiography, the application of this to biblical studies was inevitable. For an important summation of this methodology see Robert H. Headrick, "Historical Criticism," PhD Seminar Paper (in Adobe pdf format, requiring the free Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer).
188.8.131.52.1. History of the Procedure
184.108.40.206.2. Description of the Procedure
220.127.116.11.2.1. Sources for understanding the life of Jesus.
18.104.22.168.2.1.1. Outside the canonical gospels.
22.214.171.124.2.1.2. The reliability of the canonical gospels.
126.96.36.199.3. Application of the Procedure in Doing the Analysis Paper
188.8.131.52. Source Criticism
184.108.40.206.1. History of the Procedure
220.127.116.11.1.1. The Synoptic Problem
18.104.22.168.1.1.1. The Nature of the Problem
22.214.171.124.1.1.2. Possible Solutions to the Problem
126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52. The Two Document Hypothesis
184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.1. The Issue of Q
18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124. The Two Gospel Hypothesis
126.96.36.199.2. Description of the Procedure
188.8.131.52.3. Application of the Procedure in Doing the Analysis Paper
184.108.40.206. Form Criticism
220.127.116.11.1. History of the Procedure
18.104.22.168.2. Description of the Procedure
22.214.171.124.3. Application of the Procedure in Doing the Analysis Paper
126.96.36.199. Redaction Criticism
188.8.131.52.1. History of the Procedure
184.108.40.206.2. Description of the Procedure
220.127.116.11.3. Application of the Procedure in Doing the Analysis Paper
18.104.22.168. Social Scientific Exegesis
A good introduction to this method is John H. Elliott's What Is Social Scientific Criticism? in the Guides to Biblical Scholarship series from Fortress Press.
22.214.171.124.1. History of the Procedure
Early in the twentieth century biblical scholars in several circles began to realize the need for reading passages with this social interaction in mind. The so-called Chicago School with scholars like Shirley Case Jackson pioneered studies in this field in the early 1900s. Emphasis on this field waned somewhat during the period of the two world wars while other methods came to the forefront of attention among biblical scholars. But beginning in the 1970s renewed interest in this discipline surfaced both in the U.S. with publications by Wayne Meeks and Richard Horsley along with European scholars such as Gerd Theißen at the University of Heidelberg in Germany. Gradually the discipline over the past three decades has evolved into a very significant aspect of reading New Testament texts. Of course, not every scripture text will touch upon social interaction, but a high percentage of them will in some way or another. The methodology termed Social Scientific Exegesis tends to consider social interaction from two angles: (1) a social history underneath the text, and (2) reading the passage through a social interaction grid or filter developed from all relevant data, ancient and modern, that contributes to understanding the nature and parameters of appropriate behavior when individuals interact with one another. Contemporary anthropology contributes to the modern data sources, while archaeology, classics etc. provide sources of data about the ancient world. Within the past decade this discipline is increasingly combined with Rhetorical Criticism for interpreting NT texts. In studying your scripture passage look for commentaries that contain the word 'social' in the title of the commentary or the commentary series; these will emphasize this aspect of biblical interpretation.
126.96.36.199.2. Description of the Procedure
One excellent social background series containing several volumes devoted to this perspective is the Library of Early Christianity volumes edited by Wayne Meeks, published by Westminster/John Knox Press.
188.8.131.52.3. Application of the Procedure in Doing the Analysis Paper
184.108.40.206. Literary Criticism
220.127.116.11.1. History of the Procedure
18.104.22.168.2. Description of the Procedure
22.214.171.124.3. Application of the Procedure in Doing the Analysis Paper
126.96.36.199. Narrative Criticism
188.8.131.52.1. History of the Procedure
184.108.40.206.2. Description of the Procedure
220.127.116.11.3. Application of the Procedure in Doing the Analysis Paper
18.104.22.168. Rhetorical Criticism
22.214.171.124.1. History of the Procedure
126.96.36.199.2. Description of the Procedure
188.8.131.52.3. Application of the Procedure in Doing the Analysis Paper
184.108.40.206 The Temptation of Jesus: An Illustration of Exegesis
The temptation of Jesus serves as the test case scripture passage to illustrate the application of these principles and insights. A brief exegesis of the Matthean passage will be set forth following the principles of exegesis that grow out of the above material.
For a listing of these under the appropriate groupings see the Christian Classics Ethereal Library under Early Church Fathers. English translation texts of both the Latin and Greek fathers are available for viewing and/or downloading. This is a very helpful site for studying this material.
2"For example, what seem to be literary echoes from the Wisdom of Solomon are present in Paul's Letter to the Romans (compare Rom 1.20-29 with Wis 13.5,8; 14.24,27; and Rom 9.20-23 with Wis 12.12, 20; 15.7) and in his correspondence with the Corinthians (compare 2 Cor 5.1,4 with Wis 9.15)." NOSB, AP, v-vi.
For more detailed examination of this see Freed, 55-56, and especially the online Catholic Encyclopedia on Gospel and Gospels.
*The study of these terms is based on the classical Greek lexicon by H.G. Liddell and H. Scott, pages 842-843.
Choose the translation, type in the word Mark in the search field and click on Find. Such a search in the NRSV turns up 34 references, but only 8 of them refer to the person John Mark. Study these 8 verses in order to gain understanding about this person.
For more discussion see the NOSB3 discussion at the beginning of the Book of Revelation on pages 420-421 of the NT section. Also, very informative, perhaps better, is the same article in the earlier edition of the NOSB on pages 362 and 363.
Carson, D.A. "Matthew," in vol. 8 of The Expositor's Bible. Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
Coogan, Michael D., editor. New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version. Third Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. (Abbreviated as NOSB3)
Freed, Edwin D. The New Testament: A Critical Introduction. Third Edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2001. (Abbreviated as Freed)
Harris, Stephen. The New Testament: A Student's Introduction. Third Edition. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company, 1999. (Abbreviated as Harris)
Harrelson, Walter. Mercer Dictionary of the Bible. s.v. "Desert."
Liddell, Henry G., and Scott, Robert. A Greek-English Lexicon. Rev. Edition. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1973.
Metzger, Bruce M. and Murphy, Roland E., editors. New Oxford Annotated Bible: New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994. (Abbreviated as NOSB)
Talbert, Charles H. Mercer Dictionary of the Bible. s.v. "Genre, Gospel."
Wood, Ralph C. Mercer Dictionary of the Bible. s.v. "Genre, Concept of."