Ned B. Stonehouse And Redaction Criticism Part I: The Witness Of The Synoptic Evangelists To Christ -- By: Moisés Silva

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 040:1 (Fall 1977)
Article: Ned B. Stonehouse And Redaction Criticism Part I: The Witness Of The Synoptic Evangelists To Christ
Author: Moisés Silva


Ned B. Stonehouse And Redaction Criticism*
Part I: The Witness Of The Synoptic Evangelists To Christ

Moisés Silva

We are justified,1 wrote H. S. Reimarus more than two centuries ago, “in drawing an absolute distinction between the teaching of the Apostles in their writings and what Jesus Himself in His own lifetime proclaimed and taught.”’ Hardly anyone listened.

At the turn of the twentieth century W. Wrede asserted that, due to a number of theological motifs, Mark’s Gospel as a whole does not offer “a historical view of the real life of Jesus. Only pale residues of such a view have passed over into what is a supra-historical view for faith. In this sense the Gospel of Mark belongs to the history of dogma.”2 The time was now ripe.

When the dust had settled, New Testament scholarship found itself doing redaction criticism.3 The distinctive feature of this discipline in contrast to its predecessor, form criticism, which focused attention on the oral transmission of individual stories and sayings—is its interest in the composition of each gospel as a whole, thus looking upon the evangelists as original authors whose theological perspectives gave shape to the material. This approach, hints of which are evident among a few earlier scholars

* A revised version of two lectures delivered at Westminster Theological Seminary on February 15th, 1977, under the auspices of the Harry A. Worcester Fund. This work is gratefully dedicated to the faculty of the seminary, who honored me with the Ned B. Stonehouse Fellowship for the years 1970–72.

(R. H. Lightfoot, E. Lohmeyer, K. L. Schmidt, even Wrede), marked a dramatic shift from the critical scholarship of the thirties and forties.

One is surprised. then, to discover that the late Professor Stonehouse4 had already applied that very approach (evincing mature reflection, we should emphasize) to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark by 1944. More perplexing yet is the recognition that, while redaction criticism was formed in the womb of historical scepticism of the most severe kind, Stonehouse’s work was designed to strengthen confidence in the historical reliability of the gospels! I propose in this article, expository in character, to support the claim that Stonehouse did in fact anticipate redaction criticism. In a subsequent, evaluative article we shall examine the implications of his work for the evangelical view of biblical historicity. However, since...

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