Round Four: The Redaction Debate Continues -- By: Grant R. Osborne

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 28:4 (Dec 1985)
Article: Round Four: The Redaction Debate Continues
Author: Grant R. Osborne

Round Four: The Redaction Debate Continues

Grant R. Osborne*

Many might wonder at the choice of a boxing metaphor for the title to this paper. I would argue for its viability, however, on two grounds: Paul uses boxing imagery frequently to depict spiritual discipline (e.g. I Cor 9:24–27), and dialogue on key issues such as this is the way by which a society maintains internal discipline in its positive sense. Moreover, this is now the fourth year in a row in which redaction criticism has been a major focus of debate within the Society (i.e. since the meeting on Biblical criticism in 1982). The issue has come to the forefront of evangelical debate because of its serious implications for the evangelical doctrine of inerrancy. Any formulation of a doctrine of Scripture must be forged in the furnace of gospel studies, for the historical and theological problems in the gospels are a major key for delineating the way Scripture treats itself. Until one has grappled with the many problem passages and seeming contradictions within the four gospels, no knowledgeable claim can be made for Biblical authenticity or authority.

My purpose in this paper is to update the current debate in terms of recent work on the topic and then to suggest a possible consensus view that interacts seriously with the problems and possible solutions. Current opinion is moving in two disparate directions: A growing number of evangelical schools are taking a moderate stance on redaction criticism, resulting in a nuanced use of the methodology in several current and forthcoming works; at the same time many remain troubled, believing that the discipline cannot be separated from the higher critical assumptions that underlie its origins. These concerns will provide the focus for this paper.

I. History And Definition

We cannot begin to define or understand the issue until we have studied the development of redaction criticism outside and within evangelicalism. Perhaps the earliest precursor of redaction criticism was Ned Stonehouse, who anticipated the later school in his studies on the synoptic gospels.1 Redaction criticism originated in two or three articles by Gunther Bornkamm in the early 1950s, collected together with essays by his students.2 The term Redaktions-

*Grant Osborne is associate professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.

geschichte was first used by Willi Marxsen.3 Yet in reality the discipline was the ste...

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