Ned B. Stonehouse and Redaction Criticism Part Two: The Historicity of the Synoptic Tradition -- By: Moisés Silva

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 040:2 (Spring 1978)
Article: Ned B. Stonehouse and Redaction Criticism Part Two: The Historicity of the Synoptic Tradition
Author: Moisés Silva

Ned B. Stonehouse and Redaction Criticism
Part Two:
The Historicity of the Synoptic Tradition

Moisés Silva

[Part One appeared in the last issue of this journal, pp. 77-88.]

Truism though it be, genuine advances can be costly. Discoveries affect the structure of our knowledge and thus call for readjustment. Resistance sets in, sometimes creating enormous pressure to reject the new idea or at least to render it innocuous. This is as it should be, for truth must prove itself in the face of searching criticism.

One finds it baffling, then, that Dr. Stonehouse’s work caused so little stir. If, as argued in Part One of this article, Dr. Stonehouse anticipated redaction criticism—a discipline strongly attacked by evangelicals—how does one explain the acceptance of his work by conservatives who have not in any significant way altered their view of the gospels? Part of the answer is, embarrassingly, that most conservatives did not seem to perceive the significance of Stonehouse’s early volumes. Indeed, the reviews published by evangelicals are quite disappointing in this respect.1 Another reason, however, is that Stonebouse’s

books included a strong apologetic note that dulled the edge of his discovery. While downgrading the importance of harmonization, he continued to harmonize difficult passages; while stressing that the gospels were not primarily historical, he used this insight to strengthen his readers’ confidence in the historical trustworthiness of the evangelists. In my opinion, Stonehouse was justified in developing such a distinctive method, but one may argue that, as a result, evangelicals heard only what they wanted to hear—they felt reassured by the apologetic element and ignored the rest.

Stonehouse’s Last Book

To be sure, one is also tempted to wonder whether Stonehouse himself appreciated the significance of his reappraisal of the gospels. He probably did, if we may judge by his obvious discomfort in treating the Sermon on the Mount (WMMC, pp. 134f; note my comments in Part One of this article, p. 86). A direct confrontation with the problem, however, was to wait until his Payton Lectures at Fuller Theological Seminary, delivered in March of 1962 and published posthumously under the title Origins of Synoptic Gospels: Some Basic Questions (hereafter Origins).2 In this book Stonehouse addresses himself to

questions he had chosen to ignore previously, namely, source criticism and form criticism. With reference to sources, and in...

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