Redaktionsgeschichte And The De-Historicizing Of The New Testment Gospel -- By: William L. Lane

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 11:1 (Winter 1968)
Article: Redaktionsgeschichte And The De-Historicizing Of The New Testment Gospel
Author: William L. Lane

Redaktionsgeschichte And The
De-Historicizing Of The New Testment Gospel

William L. Lane*

[* Gordon Divinity School, Wenham, Mass.]

Redaktionsgeschichte is a relatively new discipline in Gospel research, based on the premise that the editorial work of the synoptic evangelists served a conscious theological purpose.1 To the extent that form-critical analysis is assumed to determine the limits of the redactor’s work, Redaktionsgeschichte is the child of Formgeschichte. But the child is engaged in open rebellion against the parent. Form criticism, with its interest in small units of tradition within the text, traced their development back to earlier stages in the tradition in order to account for their form in terms of the presumed life situation in which they arose. The decisive question was: What is the life situation out of which a given unit of tradition emerged? The “redactors” or “editors” of the Gospels were considered essentially as “collectors” of developed traditions who contributed almost nothing to the formation and shaping of the material. In opposition to this critical reconstruction, the proponents of Redaktionsgeschichte consider the evangelist-redactors to be the crucial figures in the formation of the Synoptic Gospels. In the construction of the framework of the gospel and in the use of techniques of style they were guided by a distinctively dogmatic purpose. It is necessary for New Testament research, therefore, to move beyond the formation of individual units of tradition to the form and shaping of the canonical Gospels themselves. In pursuing this quest, Redaktionsgeschichte asks as the essential question: What was the life situation out of which a particular Gospel emerged?

The concern of Willi Marxsen is the evangelist Mark who first created the distinctive literary form designated “the Gospel.” His monograph, Der Evangelist Markus—Studien zur Redaktionsgeschichte des Evangeliums, submitted originally to the theological faculty of the University of Kiel as a Habilitationsschrift, was published in 1956 and republished in 1959. Marxsen’s basic presupposition is that the well-planned, particular character of the Gospel of Mark—in contrast to the anonymous character of individual passages derived from oral tradition—demands “an individual, an author-personality, who pursues a certain goal throughout his work” (p. 9). The individual impetus exerted in fashion-

ing the oldest Gospel may be estimated from the fact that, unlike Matthew and Luke, who had Mark’s structured account before them, the first evangelist had at his disposal onl...

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