Full Text for Redaction Criticism And Its Implications (Text)

Redaction Criticism And Its Implications T HOUGH 'Till3 PURSUIT of redaction crlticis~n as a formal disciplillc is less than t-trrenty-fil7c ycars old its nntccede~lts can be traced to threc Gernlnn scholars who flourished {luring the last two centuries. 'Thc first, Hcrrnaxln S. l?cimar~ts :~ttelnpted to show that Jcs~ls was ill? UIISLICC~SS~LI~ politicill nlcssianic pretender, that t71c disciples Ivcrc disappointed charlatans \vho invented the early Christian faith rather than go back to worlting for a living after the clcbacle of the crucifixion, and that they stole the body of Jcsus in orcler to haw an e~npty tomb to support thcir story of it rcs~~rr~ctiozi! ' Ucimar~ts' main thesis was that the Gospels are not historical and that much which they contain .r.i7as created after the events which they claim took place. After Ilcimarus came David I;. Strauss who flourished during the first half of thc nineteenth century. Hc too calleci attention to the creative elclllcnt in the Gospels. ficcording to Strauss, the Gospels are largely myth and cannot bc considered as historical nor can .rve explain away tllc clelnent of the miraculous. The third scholar considereci briefly is TVilhelm IVrede. Accord- ing to lTrredc, throughout thc Gospel of Alark thc disciples are por- traycd as misunderstanding Jesus and his ministry. They did not uncle~stand the yarablc of the so.cvcr, Jesus' power over the elements, Jcsus' ~i.alking on the w~iter, the nature and the meaning of the transfiguration, ancl they were completely confused at Gcthsemane. 'The clisciplcs consistently ~ilis~~nderstood Jesus' words and ~vorks. This ~nisunclerstanding represents the evangelists' conception rather than historical truth. Throughout the Gospel of Mark, according to IVrede, Jesus' Messiahship 11lust be kept a secret. Jesus demands silence about His identity from dcnions, ancl from the disciples about His miracles. I-Ie wishes to rcnlain incognito. I11 a11 this no motive is ever given. Therefore, argues \Vrede, the hllessianic Secret is a theological con- cept at jr7orlc in the tradition. Mark docs not reflect historical actualitv but the undcrstsncling of Christians after Jesus' resurrection. 'ivrcdi therefore, madc two claims: that hfarlc is an historicizing of non- historical nlaterial ancl the text represents icleas at -cr?orl< in the tradi- tion.? I3edaction criticism, as wc ltnom it today, came into its own through C;. Bornltamln's "Die Sturn~stillung in1 Rlatthaeusevan- geliun~ . "-' His (Uornkaninl's) remarks makc it evident how far he is build- ing on the form-cri tical method. Hc attributes to form criticism thc n~ethodical elaboration of the insight that the gospels must t~e uniferstooct as l:cryg~.;lzn, and not as biographies of Jcsus of Naz:ircth; a~itl ti:l:it tiley cannot be fitted into any of the litcrary categories of aniquity, but that they are stamped and cleterinined in every respect by faith in Jesus Christ, the Cnrcificd ancl Risen One, both in their content and their form, as a whole anci in detail, 'This has put an cnd to the fiction of the Qz.lest of the Historical Jesus, as t-hougl~ it ~vo~zld cver be possible to distil out of tilc gospels n picture of the historical Jesus free from all the 'over-pr-\inttng' ac!eled by faitll. Faith in Jesus Christ as t.hc Cxucified and Risen Onc does not belong to n later stratunz of the traditio~?; this faith is the place ~vflere traclition was born, out of ~r~hich it has grown :~nd tbroug.ll which it hecomcs intel- ligibfc.. ?'his fait'll explains thc consc~entious~less and faithful- ness 1.vit11 ~rcgarti.cle history). Yet e\ren where Jesus is the subject of a sentence, the subordinatiox? remains; a clear cxamp'le can be seen in the con- nectioll bct~veen Acts x, 38a ancl 38b (p. 176). 111 1.~1~ the presencc (of JCSLIS) cannot hc rcprescnted by the Spirit, for as a factor in redemptive history the Spirit is allotted a definite place. Onc cannot, of coursc, infer the presencc of thc 'person' of Christ. It is precisely because the persoil is in Heaven that mediation by thc nanlc is necessary (ftnt. 17 8). As the coixmunity derives its rrnderstancling of Christ from the impressions it rcccives in its own experience, from this point of view God and Christ arc so close togctl~er that thc statenlents about the part played by the one and by thc other arc not sharp- ly distinguished, for it .cvouId serve no purpose to do so (p. 179). he passagcs about Jesus praying to the Father) indicate the same two-fold relationsllip of Jesus to God and to the niorld, that of suborclination and prc-eminence (p. 180). . . . the period of Jesus apl2ears as ;I reclenlptive epoch of a unicluc kind, in which the Spirit rests upon one person only. This uniqueness is underlinetl still more by thc fact that be- tween thc Ascension and I'entecost there is an interval without thc Spirit (p. 184). 'CVc f-ind a clcar subordinationism, which derives from tradition ancl is in harmony with Luke's view of history. Jcsus is thc instrument of God, who alone detcrmincs the plan of salvation. From the point of view of the community, howcver, the work of Jesus scellls coml>letely identical with that of the Father (p. 184). . . . )esus is present in a tnlofold way: as the living Lord in Heaven, ant1 as a figure from the past by means of the picture of him presented by tradition (p. 186). . . . Luke builds up the picture of the three stages through which the coursc of Jesus' life leads to the goal set by God's plan of salvation. Tradition supplies the material, but the structure is Luke's own creation (p. 18 7). So much for thc Christology of Lukc. The second part of "The Centre of History" is dcvoted to "The Life of Jesus." This, again, is summarized by quoting significant passages: 'The acco~int of his (Jesus') present position results from the un folcting of the actual faith which the cornillunity possesses, and the account of his fitturc l~osition is provided by eschatology (p. 187). It is ~~cll laloun, and neccls no further proof at this point, that I,~iiarticular, something needs to bc said :tbotlt sources. Inspiration, of course, does not preclude sources. Thucydides ancl Polybius are taken at face value concerning their sources. But not Luke. In their superior rvisciom the redaction critics often consider Luke 1 : 1-4 either as unauthentic (despite the clear cviclence of textual criticism) or as a passage which is not to be taken seriously: Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the tki3.zg.s 1.t7hicJ~ have beep1 acco~qdishe~r! among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the begilzning ~t?ere eye1~7it.izesses anci ministers of the TVord, it scellled good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write n~z orderly nccozint for you, most excellent TheophiIus, that you illany KXOIV the truth (nsphaleia) concerning the things of which you have been infornlecl (Lk. ! : 1-4, RSV). This 13assage neitllcr confirms nor denies Mark as a source for Luke. Thc word "narrativeJ' cannot be prcssecl into service for the many so-callccl forms. Luke speaks of things "which have been accomplished," not history mixed with fiction of a "mere whisper of the life of thc historical Jesus" (1,ightfoot). They were delivered to Luke (paradidonzi, cf. I Cor. 15: 3 n-hich becomes meaningless for Bart11 and Bultmann), not passed on from Sitz irn Leben to Sitz irn Leben and finally written down for a so-called "theologicalJ' pur- pose at a late date. 'There n7ere eje~t)it~zesses right from the beginning (cf. I Cor. 15: 5) who vouched for what actually happened. Luke followed all these things closely. He cannot be accuseci of disinterest in or disregard for geography, history, sequence of events or detail. He wrote "an orderly account," which can be understood both chronologicaIIy and topically. Ancl, last, but not least, his specific Purpose is certninty (crsl77?alein), a very strong ~vord in the original which means, literally, zrr~sIi~~~~iizyizess. This one nord alone does away with exaggerated symbolism, contradiction, and deliberate re- writing, all so typical of redaction criticism. It should be clear fro111 a study of hfarsseil 2nd Conzeln~ann that redaction criticisin gives the Gospels thrust nrhich is primarily, if not solely, an ethical one rather than a sanctifying (in the broader sense) thrust. And this Icrtt'is to a confusion of not only the I