Bible criticism is not an excuse to say the Bible’s rubbish and criticise everything contained within it, it’s about looking at it as a text and learning from it! This is some of the bits we thought about in unit one. Although, I haven’t yet said what the first module is – it’s an overview of the Old Testament!
Literary criticism in high speed…
Historical criticism asks questions of the source, the who, when and how. Form criticism asks the why and what of the text, looking at background setting, sometimes considering aural background too. Redaction criticism considers how the text has changed and the significance of the author input. Textual criticism is the differences between texts/copies. Rhetorical criticism is the resonance today of the author’s technique/artistry. Reader response is how we interpret to create meaning. Feminist criticism (or other marginalised group) is thinking from a different perspective, that of a traditionally marginalised group. Narrative criticism considers how the text works as a story – plot, point of view, characters, setting.
I can see how it would be easy to get caught up in one type of criticism, and to find views from another distracting or even to be asking the wrong questions, particularly when one area floats your boat and another doesn’t.
However, for me the who and how, is always accompanied by the why questions. Careful examination of a text at word level would be incomplete without examination at book level. To see something from meters away is vastly different than under a microscope, both are beautiful and unique but together provide a picture that is something else altogether. I love the play between these in the sense that what one highlights another ignores, and vice versa. Together though, they go a long way to providing a deep, rich, telling of God’s Word.
Reader response is the one that felt a little out of place with all the others, mostly because it is so subjective, difficult to critique, and varies from one reader to the next. But this is perhaps the one we automatically revert to, when not engaging in any of the others.
And for anyone with absolutely no clue what I’m talking about, I know exactly where you’re coming from, before doing this unit I didn’t have much clue either!
These types of criticism are ways of looking at a text, anyone who’s studied English literature may have come across some of these before, questions you ask, ways of investigating. The idea is that by looking at the texts in greater detail you can get a better understanding of what is being said. Understanding what was happening historically at the time a text was written can give you some clues as to why certain things are discussed. Looking at the language can help you understand the age of the text but can also give you some clues about differences that happen when you translate and how some ideas are somehow lost in translation.
Understanding where the reader is coming from in terms of their prior learning and experience can affect what a person is expecting to read, and what perspective slant they will put on what the text says. Asking questions helps understanding, even if that means asking more questions and looking for more answers, it all helps build a bigger, rounder, fuller picture!