The Vindication of Redaction Criticism
In biblical studies, redaction criticism refers primarily to an analysis of the manner in which editors have shaped the material they have inherited. This may apply either to the final form of the book (as in the case of the author of Chronicles reworking Samuel-Kings and other sources into a fresh composition) or to the intermediary stages whereby, for instance, the earlier sayings of a prophet are edited and shaped by an editor to reapply them to later situations during the process of book formation. This method is sometimes portrayed as a villain because some Bible readers think that it is a scholarly ruse to rob the text of its primary historical validity or of its presentation of the ipsissima verba of the prophet. It is thus regarded as in some sense contrary to what the reader wants to find in the Bible. In this chapter, however, on the basis of selected passages in the first twelve chapters of the book of Isaiah, the case is made that in fact it is the only way to understand how the words of an historically bound message from the prophet came to be preserved in the first place and opened up for reapplication to wider circumstances in the second. In other words, redaction criticism is the method that should best appeal to those who wish to appreciate the biblical text not just artistically but also theologically.
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