Three weeks ago I started to give a response to a question about the Messianic Secret. At first I thought I could handle the question in a post or two. As seems to happen a lot on the blog, once I explained all the background that led up to the development of the idea, and then explained it, and then talked about its aftermath – Voila! We had an entire thread. All to the good, I suppose.
I have now gotten to the point of talking about how in the 1950s, New Testament scholars moved away from focusing on the oral traditions behind the Gospels (the concerns of the “form criticism”) to looking at the theological and literary investments of the Gospels themselves (“redaction criticism”). Scholars now had a renewed interest in seeing what these particular authors – the anonymous writers of the Gospels – wanted to emphasize, individually and distinctively, about Jesus. It came to be realized afresh that each writer had his own emphasis, his own story, his own perspective – that Matthew’s was very different from John’s which was very different from Mark’s which was very different from Luke’s, etc.
The way they originally got to this was by realizing that if two of the Gospels had used one of the others as a source, then it was possible to see how they had changed the source, and that would provide clues as to their own invested interests. The only reason to change a source you’re copying is if you want to present the account differently. The differences can then tell you what you want to emphasize.
Over time – decades really – this method of redaction criticism took hold and came to be refined. Eventually, some scholars realized that in an odd way …
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