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March 30, 2010

Essay on Biblical Criticism

Biblical criticism is a scholarly activity that aims to make the text more, not less, meaningful. In the course of that activity scholars may be led to make suggestions as to how the text may have been changed over the years, especially during the process of scribal copying, or to suggest how an evangelist may have allowed his particular theological interests to influence his record. Biblical criticism follows four forms: source, form, redaction and narrative.

Originally biblical scholars tried to harmonize the Gospels, and evidence of this exists in the harmonization of the two infancy narratives. However, rather than harmonizing the Gospels, Griesbach set the synoptics in parallel. This posed the question, ‘How do we account for the similarities and differences?’ The way was open for source criticism to develop as scholars tried to establish the relationship between the synoptic gospels and their sources. Griesbach proposed that Matthew was written first because of its Jewish content however this theory was quickly discredited as scholars asked ‘Why would Mark abbreviate Matthew?’ Griesbach’s theory is based on the theory of St Agustine in the Middle Ages who was a proponent of Matthean priority.

Alternatively, modern biblical scholars (including Harrington) would, for the most part, propose Markan priority with Mark as the source or framework for the other two synoptics as Taylor asserts, Mark, for Luke is a quarry from which stone is obtained to enlarge an already existing building’. Although this proposal was valid it still did not account for the fact that Matthew and Luke still had similarities although the material was not in Mark. In 1863 Holtzmannn put forward a two-source theory i.e. that Matthew and Luke had used marks as a source as well as another common source known as ‘Q’. (more…)

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