Source Criticism

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  • Source Criticism and the New Testament
    • What is Source Criticism?
      • A method of study of a text which seeks to understand the underlying sources that are reproduced within it
      • "It is reasonable to infer from (the opening verses of Luke or Acts) that he (the evangelist) knew of some of these earlier writings" - Wenham
        • Wenham also argued that members or the early Christian community  were highly literate
          • Unlikely that writings did not exist before the canonical gospels
      • the gospels have "undergone a much more complex editorial process than is often imagined" - Wenham
    • Method
      • Powell's Presuppositions
        • 1. There was a lengthy period of time between the actual event and the writing of the books
        • 2. Whilst it was a time of oral transmission, it is most likely that some of these events were physically recorded in writing before the gospels
        • 3. These materials would have been saved by communities and circulated or preserved
        • 4. These materials were used for reference (as sources) by the evangelists and were edited
      • The Focus of the Source Critic
        • a) Explaining internal evidence
          • combining agreements and disagreements of texts
        • b) Wording
          • Verbal disagreement within the gospels
            • "The extensive verbal agreement of Matthew, Mark and Luke in various passages seems to most people to point to some sort of literary connection, direct or indirect, between the synoptic gospels" -Wenham
        • c) Style
          • the primitive style of Mark compared to the other synoptics
        • d) Ideas and theology
          • argument that the gospels reflect the theology of their times or communities
        • e) External evidence
          • primarily the testimony of the early church fathers
    • Implications for the New Testament reader
      • May encourage the believer since the evangelists were both responsible historians and theologians
      • It may however indicate "that the evangelists' only sources were vague and unreliable folk traditions transmitted over a long period of time" - Wenham
      • Wenham argues we should not be concerned about the reliability simply because the evangelist records their gospel in their own voice
      • Positives of source criticism
        • 1. Helps understand the history of the gospel traditions and the methods of writing
        • 2. Helps understand the "redactional concerns" of the evangelist
        • 3. "Answering the source critical questions may help us decide about some of the difficult points of interpretation in the different gospels" - Wemham


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