Evangelicals, Redaction Criticism, and the Current Inerrancy Crisis -- By: David L. Turner
GTJ 4:2 (Fall 83) p. 263
Evangelicals, Redaction Criticism,
and the Current Inerrancy Crisis
Evangelicals in America are currently engaged in discussions about the viability of redaction criticism as an exegetical method for those committed to biblical inerrancy. Robert H. Gundry’s Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art has been a catalyst in the present debate. This study surveys the background and the current situation by summarizing and evaluating the works of three men: Ned B. Stonehouse, Grant R. Osborne, and Robert H. Gundry. Also, the contemporary problems of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) are outlined. It is recommended that the ETS adopt the “Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy” as a proper clarification of its own historic position.
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Without a doubt, a crisis exists today in the evangelical world in the area of biblical inerrancy. One factor which has been a catalyst in the present controversy is the rise of redaction criticism. Evangelicals who hold to inerrancy are currently attempting to articulate an approach to the synoptic gospels which honors them as inspired documents which record historical events from unique theological perspectives. This dual nature of the gospels—history and theological purpose—is universally acknowledged. However, severe difficulties arise when men attempt to work out the specific implications of these factors. It is not an overstatement to say that the traditional orthodox approach to inerrancy is hanging in the balance, since some evangelicals today are beginning to view purportedly historical events recorded in the gospels as unhistorical theological tales.
Redaction criticism (RC) has been defined as
a method of Biblical criticism which seeks to lay bare the theological perspectives of a Biblical writer by analyzing the editorial (redactional)
GTJ 4:2 (Fall 83) p. 264
and compositional techniques and interpretations employed by him in shaping and framing the written and/or oral traditions at hand.1
RC has come into prominence in the 20th century largely through the works of Willi Marxsen,2 Günther Bornkamm,3 and Hans Conzelmann4 on the synoptic gospels. As practiced in most circles today it is based upon two other critical approaches to the NT—source criticism and form criticism. The prevailing theory of source criticism is the “two document theory”: Matthew used Mark and another source, Q, in composin...
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