Tuesday, October 17, 2006

H-C Method

There have been some questions from Joe and Matthew and I have a couple of papers on the historical-critical method to the Bible. Plus this is my research phase for the second work I"m working on--integral applied to Biblical theology.

Some basic definitions of the different types of criticism--from a paper I'm writing. [Links from Wikipeia, not the greatest but on these topics bad really].

Textual Criticism: The study of the differing manuscripts of the Bible. Textual critics through comparison of different manuscripts try to get back, as close as possible, to the original text of the Holy Scriptures. They work through copyist errors.

Redaction Criticism: The method of studying how the editor and/or author of a Biblical text expressed his theological outlook by the way in which he arranges the pre-existing sources that he uses. E.g. The Gospel of Matthew takes sayings of Jesus and places them within the context of Jesus giving a Sermon on a Mount, which Matthew uses to express this theological aim: namely that Jesus is the New Moses, the fulfillment of the law.

Form Criticism: Also known as Genre Criticism. Form criticism studies the typical literary form (genre) of a Biblical text: parables, legends, genealogies, etc. Form criticism works form the notion that Biblical texts were originally passed on orally. Form criticism studies reconstructs possible reasons for why certain stories/texts were remembered—what their function in a community of faith might have been.

Source Criticism: Studies what were the sources that Biblical authors/editors used in establishing a text. Source Criticism is very closely connected to historical study and seeks to establish the original sources and attempts to reconstruct what, if any,

Historical Criticism: Seeks to establish the historical events surrounding biblical texts. In relation the Hebrew Bible, it uses results from ancient economics, archaeology, as well as internal clues within the text itself.

Word Study: Studies the meaning, history, and use of words in the Hebrew Bible. Word study studies cognates from ancient Near Eastern religions as a way of comparing possible meanings, connotations within the Hebrew text itself.

What all of these methods assume is that the Biblical hermeneutics can not be read different from other forms of literature. The Bible can not be treated "special" as if the same rules do not apply to the Bible.

Usually the conglomerate of methods begins with textual criticism. Text criticism works to define, as best as possible, what the original text of the Scripture is. For the NT, the earliest manuscripts we have our from a couple hundred of years after the NT was itself written--which itself was written anywhere from 20-100 years after Jesus in a language different than Jesus (Greek versus Aramaic).

Also, the writers of the New Testament did not see themselves as writers of Scripture--the later Church decided that. For the earliest New Testament authors, when they refer to the Scriptures they mean the Hebrew Scriptures.

Those Scriptures--the Hebrew ones--were, scholars maintain, originally oral stories passed down into written verse.

So before we get to any notions of what is found, what is the meaning of Scriptures look at some of what is going on:

Hebrew Scriptures:
1.Oral stories--partly within the culture in nature, partly influenced by local cultures.
2.Writing down of some of these stories
3.The redaction/editing of these stories
--The Deutoronomic History/Theology During King Josiah (7th century BCE)
--The editing of the Hebrew Scriptures during the Babylonian Exile
4.Later post-exilic writings (Job, Wisdom of Ben Sira, Daniel)

Those Scriptures were then translated in Greek (Septuagint).

The early followers who were later to become Christians read the Bible--in Greek--and then read their experiences/reflection of Jesus and the Crucifixion through this Greek version Hebrew Bible. Was this a legitimate reading of the Hebrew Bible?

Sayings of Jesus (parables, pronouncements) and stories of Jesus kept in memory through oral transmission. Cross-cultural studies of oral bard/storytellers (however much these can be applicable to ancient Hebrew tellers) show that their conception of true to the story is more in terms of meaning/substance than details of exact grammar, word for word repetition, etc.

These oral sayings going through layers of transmission/contexts are then placed within a written form, in for example, the Gospels, formed to the theological intention of the author(s) and themselves later edited /glossed.

The editions come much later. The Church doesn't decide what consists of the canon--the rule, the Scriptures--until hundreds of years later, sometimes, e.g. The Book of Revelation, until maybe 500-600 years later.

The original editions were written in Greek with no punctuation, letters in line (all lowercase--godisnothing "god is no thing versus god is nothing"). And while there are manuscripts that are more reliable from reconstructed scholarly (e.g. Masoretic text) while others not. But there is no "original" "orginal" text that can create an objective standard against which all others are judged.

There are simply a collective of such texts that are co-judged together in relation to the modern tools of textual thought. [Because of this certain reader-response/poststructural textual scholars talk about not being able to get back to anything to an original--a sliding chain of signifiers only].

After textual....then hstorical criticism.


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