The term Redaction Criticism (Redaktionsgeschichte) was coined by W. Marxen (Mark the Evangelist, 21) to denote the method whereby a researcher investigates how an editor or author expresses his (of her) theological outlook by means of the arrangement and editing of pre-existing traditional material. Traditional material is literally that which is handed on to the author, his sources, in whatever form these may have taken; these sources could include oral sources, written sources and complete gospels. The assumption is that some changes to the sources are theologically motivated, and, therefore, redactionally significant. Often these theological assertions that are redactionally woven into the gospel are subtlely and tacitly directed to a situation in the community that the author intends to address. N. Perrin defines the discipline of Redaction Criticism as the determination of "the theological motivation of an author as this is revealed in the collection, arrangement, editing and modification of traditional material, and in the composition of new material or the creation of new forms within the traditions of early Christianity" (What is Redaction Criticism, 1).
In the heyday of Form Criticism, it was assumed that the writers of the gospels were mere compilers of tradition; in writing their gospels they added nothing theologically significant to the erstwhile isolated units. With the advent of Redaction Criticism, however, this assumption was challenged: The gospel writers became authors in their own right, expressing their distinctive theological outlook by means of their redaction of the tradition. In his 1956 essay, "End-Expectation and Church in Matthew," Bornkamm explains, "The Synoptic writers show—all three and each in his own special way—by their editing and construction, by their selection, inclusion and omission, and not least by what at first sight appears an insignificant, but on closer examination is seem to be a characteristic treatment of the traditional material, that they are by no means mere collectors and handers-on of the tradition, but are also interpreters of it." Thus, as Marxen explains, there are actually three "settings in life" to be considered when interpreting the gospels. Not only must one distinguish the first setting in life of a (authentic) tradition deriving from Jesus’ ministry from the second setting in life, the use to which the early put this tradition, but must also distinguish both from a third setting in life: The situation of the writer of the gospels, who are as much authors as they are collectors of tradition.
Redaction Criticism had its beginnings in Germany in the late 1940’s, but precursors to the application of method can be found among the works of earlier scholars. Most studies on the gospels since that time have includes a redactional-critical component as standard methodology. It has become an indispensable aspect of any study of the gospels or part thereof.
Redaction Criticism assumes the results
of Source Criticism and Form Criticism. First, before one can determine
how a gospel writer handled his sources, one must determine what these
sources were; this means that the redaction critic must adopt some theory
of the nature of the literary relationship (or even lack thereof) of the
synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and the relationship between
one or more of the synoptic gospels and the Gospel of John. If these literary
determinations are wrong, then the whole redaction-critical enterprise
will be flawed, since the sources that the redaction critic assumes were
used by an author were not actually used. Second, Redaction Criticism
assumes the form-critical premise that originally the tradition circulated
as isolated and independent units and that they can be classified formally
corresponding to a Sitz-im-Leben of the early church.
1.2. Principles of Redaction Criticism
1.2.1. Detecting Redactional Aims
The redactional activity and contribution of a gospel writer will be detectable in several ways.
A. The traditions from the sources chosen to be included and excluded: The redaction critic determines what from the source(s) a gospel writer incorporates into his gospel, and then looks for patterns that will disclose a principle of selection. This principle of selection may be a clue to the theological interests of the gospel writer. It may be for theological reasons that Matthew or Luke, for example, omit a Markan tradition: The omitted tradition may be at odds with a theological emphasis adopted by the authors of Matthew and Luke. On the other hand, if Matthew includes material this may be a clue to his theological purpose
B. The arrangement of the material chosen from the sources: The redaction critic determines how a gospel writer either arranges previously disparate traditions or re-arranges material from his sources. The redaction critic looks for patterns in how a gospel writer arranges his material or makes changes to the arrangement of material from his sources; such patterns may reveal the author’s theological outlook. This arrangement is examined on a micro level, how the author changes the elements within an individual unit of tradition. The arrangement of tradition is also examined on a macro level, how the overall structure affects the meaning and significance of individual traditions. This is sometimes called Composition Critical Analysis, which is a sub-discipline of Redaction Criticism.
C. Significant additions or omissions to pericopes: The gospel writers make changes to the traditions that they use, adding to them or omitting portions of them (It is obvious that Matthew and Luke change their Markan source; there is little doubt Mark also made changes to his source(s) and that Matthew and Luke altered their non-Markan sources.) Not all changes to tradition are theologically motivated, but in some cases they may be. Again, patterns of changes where the same (or similar) idea is inserted or deleted increases the probability that this is a theological interest of the author.
D. The change in wording of the tradition: When it can be established that a gospel writer alters the wording of the tradition, one may explore the possibility that this change was redactionally motivated. The author changes the wording in order to make a theological point.
E. The "seams" used to join together units of traditional material: The gospel writers create transitions from one unit of tradition to another. What is said in these transitions may indicate the author’s theological interests and purposes.
1.2.2. It is important to stress that the redaction critic looks for patterns of changes in a particular gospel. A single change to a source can prove little, but if it can be shown that there is a pattern in the handling of the sources, that the changes reveal a prevailing theological intention, then it is probable that there change is redactional as opposed to stylistic or some other reason; in other words, one can rightly suspect that a theological motivation is behind changes.
1.2.3. Redaction Critics have usually insisted on the need to take into account the social history of the community in which the author of a gospel was writing in determining his redactional aims, especially the history of conflict between the community and other groups and conflict within the group. Many redactional aims are not only theological but also sociological in the sense that the author attempts to oppose one social construction with another. In its extreme forms, the practitioners of Redaction Criticism become reductionistic, so that all theological formulations are assumed to be tendentious, mere cloaks for social apologetic (expressions of "the will to power"). Thus what Redaction Critics attempt to do is reconstruct the social context in which a particular gospel was written (Marxen’s third "setting in life"), in order to understand more clearly the author’s purposes in writing; knowledge of the former helps in identifying the latter as they occur in the gospels.
1.2.4. The application of the methodology of Redaction
Criticism will vary depending upon one’s view of the historical reliability
of the traditions in the synoptic gospels and the Gospel of John. The conservative
application of the redaction-critical method takes as its point of departure
the assumption that the gospel tradition is historically reliable; on this
assumption, the researcher will search for the redactional aims of a gospel
writer while holding to the historically reliability of the gospel tradition.
In such cases, never will it be suggested that the author falsifies history
in the expression of his redactional aims. Those who do not adopt the assumption
of the historical reliability of the gospel tradition, however, are free
to conclude that in any given case the author may have created gospel traditions
or historically falsified existing tradition to suit his redactional purposes.
(In some cases, such researchers may also conclude that the gospel writer
adopts already unhistorical traditions for redactional purposes.)
In extreme cases, a Redaction Critic may conclude that little of what a
evangelist wrote reflects historical reality, but rather primarily provides
insight into the social history of the author’s community.
2. Redaction Criticism of the Gospels
2.1. Redaction Criticism of Matthew and Luke
The least problematic application of Redaction Criticism is to Matthew and Luke; this is because, on the assumption of Markan priority (adopted by the two-source hypothesis), a major source for both Matthew and Luke is Mark. Thus, it is easy to differentiate tradition and redaction in the triple tradition. (It is not so easy to differentiate tradition and redaction, however, in the double tradition). Having differentiated tradition (or at least what Mark has done with the tradition) from Matthean and Lukan redaction, the Redaction Critic is in a position to uncover the authors’ respective Tendenz or redactional purpose. (We have already drawn some Redaction-critical conclusions, insofar as we sought the unique interests and purposes of the authors of Matthew and Luke.)
2.1.1. Examples of Redaction Criticism of Matthew
A. Bornkamm, "The Stilling of the Storm in Matthew"
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them,
"Let us go across to the other side."
23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him.
24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.
25 And they went and woke him, saying, "Save, Lord; we
In his short, but programmatic essay, G. Bornkamm examines the Matthean redaction of the pericope of the Stilling of the Storm (8:23-27). He argues that the author of Matthew has not simply taken over the pericope from Mark (4:35-41), as in Luke (8:22-25). Rather, by his placement of the pericope and modifications to its wording, he has infused it with theological significance not found in Mark and Luke. Matthew places the pericope of the Stilling of the Storm in a section consisting of the presentation of the "Messiah of word" (5-7) followed by the "Messiah of deed) (8:1-9:35). The meaning of the pericope is not exhausted as a nature miracle demonstrating the power of the Messiah. By placing the pericope after two other pericopes concerning discipleship (8:19-22), the author of Matthew is able to use the Stilling of the Storm to make a further point about discipleship. In the two previous perciopes the verb "to follow" (avkolouqe,w) occurs (8;19, 22). The same verb occurs at the beginning of the pericope of the Stilling of the Storm: "And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him" (Matt 8:23) Although its use in Matt 8:23 is literal, because of the association of "follow" with the previous two uses used to mean "to be disciples," the account of the Stilling of the Storm can take on symbolic meaning. Matthew’s point is that to "follow" Christ is to have faith in him, unlike the disciples who feared for their lives. The transposition of the actual miracle of the stilling of the storm and the rebuke of the disciples is also significant: Jesus expects his disciples to exercise faith in the face demonic powers, symbolized by the threatening elements of the storm. (In Mark, Jesus rebukes the storm before he addresses the disciples in their unbelief.)
Bornkamm claims that changes made by the author of Matthew to the wording of his Markan source confirms his redactional reconstruction. In Matthew the disciples cry out, "Save (us), Lord; we are perishing" different from Mark "Teacher, do you not care that we are about to perish" (4:38). Bornkamm sees the disciple’s exclamation in Matthew, unlike Mark, as a prayer and their addressing Jesus as "Lord" is a confession of discipleship.
B. Bornkamm undertook another longer redactional study of Matthew (ET "End Expectation and Church in Matthew"). This work and his "The Stilling of the Storm in Matthew" were published along with two larger Matthean redactional studies by two of Bornkamm’s students, G. Barth and H. J. Held (ET Tradition and Interpretation in Matthew).
2.1.2. An Example of Redaction Criticism of Luke
The first and still best-known redaction-critical study
of the Gospel of Luke was undertaken by H. Conzelmann. His 1952 article
"Zur Lukasanalyse" was later expanded into a book (ET The Theology of
St. Luke). Conzelmann rejects the traditional view that Luke was a
historian; he argues rather that Luke is more of a theologian. Using Mark
as his source, Luke introduces the theological idea that salvation history
has three phases: The time of Israel ending with John the Baptist; the
time of Jesus, which is "the center of time," which is the German title
of the book (Die Mitte der Zeit); the time of the church. The church
looks back to time of salvation in the appearance of Jesus and forward
to the parousia. Conzelmann places much significance on Luke 16:16,
formulated by Luke as an expression of his salvation-historical understanding:
"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the
gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing
his way into it." Similarly, Luke 13:31-35 gives voice to the same salvation-historical
perspective, for the three phases of salvation history are contained in
this passage: prophets; Jesus’ death and resurrection; Jesus’ parousia.
31 At that very hour some Pharisees came, and said to
him, "Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you."
The reason that Luke formulates this
tripartite salvation-historical scheme was the delay of the parousia and
its deleterious effect upon the worldview of the early church. The Gospel
of Mark presents the earlier position that there would be a short, theologically
irrelevant interval between the resurrection and parousia; when the parousia
does not occur, according to Bornkamm, Luke modifies the theology of the
early church, so that the period of the church, equivalent to the Kingdom
of God, becomes an on-going and undefined interval of time.
2.2. Redaction Criticism of Mark
Redaction Criticism on Mark is considerably more difficult than Redaction Criticism on Matthew and Luke. This is because it is (nearly) impossible to differentiate between tradition and redaction in Mark, since Mark’s sources (oral or written) are no longer available in their pre-Markan form. Redaction Critics generally accept the form-critical assumption that "Mark" is responsible for all the connections between pericopes, including generalizing statements, what K. Schmidt calls "summary statements" (Sammelberichte) (see 1:14-15; 1:21, 28, 39, 45; 2:1-2, 13; 3:6, 7-12; 4:1-2; 6:1, 6b, 7, 12-13, 30, 53, 56; 7:1-2, 24, 31; 8:1, 10, 22a, 27; 9:2, 30, 33; 10:1, 32, 52b; 15:1). From an analysis of these redactional Redaction Critics attempt to establish the typical stylistic features and the preferred vocabulary of the Markan redactor. This catalogue of typical Markan stylistic features and vocabulary is intended to provide the scholar with the means of detecting Markan redaction within pericopes, the units of tradition that Mark has used in the composition of his gospel. If he redacted his sources, Mark may have done so for theological reasons.
Often it happens that a scholar assumes (for whatever reason and sometimes without acknowledgement) a knowledge of the form of the pre-Markan tradition, and then determines how Mark has made alterations to it. In such cases, invariably, the author works with a pre-understanding of Jesus and the early church, which allows him or her to trace the history of the tradition from its origins to its redaction by Mark. The circularity of this approach is obvious.
2.2.1. A Precursor to the Redaction Critical Approach to Mark: W. Wrede, The Messianic Secret
Prior to Wrede’s work (Das Messiasgeheimnis, 1901; ET The Messianic Secret), most scholars looked upon the Gospel of Mark as the most reliable access to the historical Jesus, unencumbered by later ecclesiastical dogma. Methodologically, it was assumed that the Gospel of Mark was more or less historically reliable. Wrede disputed this assumption, anticipating the development of Redaction Criticism that "Mark" wrote his gospel with a theological agenda.
Wrede points out that there were instances in the Gospel of Mark in which Jesus is portrayed as guarding his true identity: 1. He commands demons not to disclose his identity, but to be silent (1:25, 34; 3:12); 2. He commands witnesses of his miracles to be silent about what they saw (1:43-44; 5:43; 7:36; 8:26); 3. He also enjoins silence on his disciples concerning the necessity of his suffering and death as the son of man (8:30; 9:9); 4. Sometimes, he tries to keep his whereabouts secret, so that the crowds cannot find him (7:24; 9:30-31); 5. He speaks in "parables" to the crowds and gives private instruction to his disciples, to which are given the "mystery of the Kingdom of God" (4:1-12, 33-34). Before Wrede, scholars sought to explain these instances in which Jesus guards his true identity as Jesus’ deliberate attempt at not being misunderstood as the political Messiah of popular conception. Related to this theme of secrecy is the consistent portrayal of the disciples as misunderstanding Jesus, in spite of all of Jesus’ attempts to the contrary (6:52; 8:17-21). Again, it was assumed that the disciples’ traditional Messianic views prevented their understanding Jesus’ teaching about himself.
W. Wrede proposes a different view of the origin and nature of the Gospel of Mark, one that would undermine the assumption of historical reliability. He hypothesizes that the theme of secrecy was introduced into the traditions about Jesus as an expedient for the purpose of reconciling two conflicting christologies. The older christology interpreted Jesus as becoming the Messiah only at his resurrection (see Acts 2:36; Rom 1:3-4). The newer christology, however, held that Jesus had thought of himself as the Messiah before his resurrection and had acted as such. "Mark" was an advocate of the latter christology. The problem, however, was to explain why no one knew Jesus to be the Messiah until after his resurrection. Thus Wrede proposes that the reconciling view evolved that, although he was the Messiah, Jesus did not want to be known as the Messiah until after his resurrection, except perhaps by his disciples, who never understood his true identity until after the resurrection along with everyone else. This he terms "the messianic secret." Wrede finds the key to his hypothesis in 9:9: After his transfiguration, Jesus warns Peter, James and John not to tell anyone of what they witnesses until after the resurrection.
According to Wrede, evidence of the secondary nature of the secrecy motifs in the traditions about Jesus is the contradictions that resulted with its introduction. He argues, for example, that it makes little sense for Jesus to teach the crowds at all, if his goal is to keep his identity a secret. Thus arose the paradoxical assertion that Jesus taught in parables, in order that the crowds not understand. In Wrede’s view, the purpose of Jesus’ use of parables is to be more easily understood. Also, Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter but absurdly tries to keep it a secret and Jesus enters Jerusalem royally all the while wishing to conceal his identity.
2.2.2. Examples of Redaction Criticism of Mark
A. W. Marxen, Mark the Evangelist
The inventor of the term "Redaktionsgeschichte," in 1956 Marxen collected together four redaction-critical articles on the Gospel of Mark, publishing them as a book; the first two articles will be discussed.
1. "John the Baptist"
In his first study "John the Baptist," Marxen argues that "Mark" appended the John the Baptist narrative before Jesus’ ministry to make the theological point that John the Baptist is the pre-history of Jesus; John, in other words, was the forerunner of Jesus, preparing his way. It is not surprising, therefore, that in Mark there are parallels between John and Jesus. As Marxen explains, "For both the wilderness plays a decisive role (1:4; cf. 1:12). The baptism of John is already a baptism for the forgiveness of sins (1:4). Both preach. Both in corresponding fashion are 'delivered up'" (42-43). "Mark" has Jesus begin his public ministry only after John is "delivered up," i.e., imprisoned. Whether chronologically this is true is irrelevant; what is important for "Mark" is that theologically John precedes Jesus as the forerunner.
According to Marxen, Mark makes his redactional point by how he organizes the units of tradition available to him. These are Jesus’ Temptation (1:12-13); Jesus’ baptism (1:9-11); John the Baptist (1:4-8). These units he places before the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in 1:14. The point is that John the Baptist derives his theological significance from Jesus: "What precedes (the Baptist) takes its shape from what follows (Jesus). This means that the Baptist has no significance in himself….Rather the statements concerning the Baptist are christological" (33). According to Marxen, "Mark" also holds that the pre-history of John the Baptist is the Old Testament; to express this theological point, he appends to the tradition of John the Baptist a composite quotation from Mal 3:1 and Isa 40:3 that, in his view, predicts the appearance of John the Baptist. What "Mark" means by his opening line of the gospel, "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ" (1:1), is that the Old Testament and John the Baptist are the presupposition of Jesus’ ministry (Marxen explains that arche means "the starting point to which a given datum [in this case, Jesus’ ministry] can be traced" .) In order to connect John the Baptist more intimately to the Old Testament (i.e., the composite quotation from Isaiah and Malachi) and to Jesus (Temptation in the wilderness), "Mark" inserts the phrase "in the wilderness" into the unit of tradition about John the Baptist. According to the Old Testament quotation, the way of the Lord will be prepared in the wilderness, where both John began his ministry and where Jesus was tempted before immediately embarking on his.
2. "The Geographical Outline"
In the second, longer article, Marxen argues that Galilee has a special significance for the author of the Gospel of Mark. The purpose of "Mark" was, in light of the destruction of the Temple, to convince his readers to gather in Galilee in preparation for the parousia of Christ; of all the places where there were churches (see 3:7-8), "Mark" believed that it was the Galilee where Jesus was believed to return, so that of all the early Christian communities Galilee had primacy of place. "Mark" inherits traditions with geographical references already in the tradition, and does not alter these. Nevertheless, he also frequently places many geographically unidentified traditions in Galilee, even to the point of limiting Jesus’ ministry and fame to Galilee. He does this, in order to stress the centrality and theologial significance of Galilee.
According to Marxen, "Mark" interpolated 14:28 and 16:7 into the Passion Narrative. In 14:28 Jesus tells his disciples that after his resurrection, he will precede his disciples into Galilee; in 16:7, the risen Christ instructs the women at the empty tomb to tell the disciples that he will precede them into Galilee and there they will see him. According to Marxen, 16:7 does not refer to a resurrection appearance to the disciples, but to seeing Jesus at his parousia.
From the special place that Galilee has in the Gospel of Mark, Marxen concludes that, despite the early tradition of a Roman provenance, the gospel was composed in Galilee, in the community that viewed itself as privileged to be in the place where Jesus would return.
B. T. Weeden, Mark: Traditions in Conflict
T. Weeden argues that the Gospel of Mark, contrary to traditional interpretation is a polemical doctrine written to oppose a theios-aner (divine man) christology in his church. Mark, who is actually an unknown author, seeks to express his views primarily through the portrayal of the characters in the gospel (Introduction). His method is to use Jesus’ disciples to represent his opponents’ christological views, whereas Jesus represents his own views. Since his opponents claimed continuity with the disciples (162-63), the author could undermine their views by discrediting the disciples. (This is the only method left to him since he could not oppose his opponents on his own authority.) Thus, consistently, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ disciples are portrayed in unflattering terms.
There are three stages of Jesus’ relationship with the disciples in the Gospel of Mark (Mark, 26-51). The first stage sees the disciples as unperceptive (1:16-8:26). They are unaware of Jesus’ true identity in spite of all that they witness (see 1:37; 4:10, 13, 38-41; 5:31; 6:37, 51-52; 7:17; 8:4, 14-21). The second stage is characterized by the disciples’ misconception of the nature of Jesus’ identify (8:27-14:10). Beginning with Peter’s confession (8:27-33), the disciples conceive of Jesus’ messiahship in theios-aner terms, resisting Jesus’ teaching that he must suffer and die (see 8:30-33; 9:31-32; see 10:32-34; thus they also have a similar misconception of the true nature of discipleship (see 10:35-45). The third stage of Jesus’ relationship with the disciples is rejection: The disciples reject Jesus and his conception of messiahship (14:11-16:8). Judas betrays Jesus, and when he is arrested, the rest of the disciples abandon him. Weeden argues that the author ended his gospel at Mark 16:8 (Thus the longer ending is unoriginal); as Schenke proposes, Mark took a pre-Markan empty tomb narrative consisting of Mark 16:2, 5, 6, 8a and edits it, inserting his own comments at Mark 16:1, 3-4, 7, 8b. His redactional the purpose is to portray the disciples as not receiving "the angel’s message, thus never meeting the resurrected Lord, and, consequently they never were commissioned with apostolic rank after their apostasy" (50) (see 16:8b). This negative portrayal of Jesus’ disciples in the three stages of their relationship with Jesus would have the effect, if accepted, of undermining the authority of anyone who held their views and claimed to trace their authority back to the disciples.
Weeden interprets Mark 13 in light of the conflict between the author and his theios-aner opponents. Mark has Jesus himself addresses contemporary problems through this redaction of an apocalyptic source consisting of 13:7-8, 14-20, 24-27. Thus references to the messianic imposters and false prophets in Mark 13:5-6, 9-13, 21-23 and 28-37 are actually references to Mark’s opponents. Weeden sees 13:22 as key to understanding Mark’s redactional purpose. Those whom he opposes perform have a theios-aner conception of Christian existence, which includes the performing of signs and wonders. Another revealing passage is 13:6 in which Jesus warns against those who appear and claim that "I am he [i.e., the Christ]. Those who make such are claim are the theioi andres of Mark’s community who in religious ecstasy profess to be identified with Christ. These are moreover the false christs of 13:22. Contrary to his opponents, Mark’s position is that Christ will be absent from the world until his parousia; only the Holy Spirit will be present in the world before the end (13:9-13). Another indicator of Mark’s redactional aim is found in 13:28-37. Weeden interprets this passage as Mark’s attempt to re-assure his community that Jesus will indeed come before the end of the generation of Jesus’ contemporaries
Weeden argues that Mark’s empty tomb narrative is intended to verify the resurrection without giving his opponents support for their claims to have Christ epiphanies by the inclusion of Jesus’ resurrection appearances. (As already indicated, Mark believes that Jesus will be absent until his parousia.) Following Schenke again, Weeden claims that a pre-Markan narrative of the empty tomb (16:2, 5, 6, 8a) was attached to burial story (15:42-47) by means of 16:1: The women must return to the tomb in order to finish anointing Jesus’ body, a fact not indicated by the previous narrative. (Further evidence of the redactional connection is the awkward repetition of the time reference in 16:1 and 16:2.) Mark also added 16:3-4--the discussion of how to remove the stone--to the pre-Markan narrative of the empty tomb; this was necessitated by his joining the two narratives together chronologically (see 15:46). As already indicated, Mark also adds 16:7, 8b to the original narrative. In effect, Mark chooses to verify the resurrection by means of a translation story: Jesus is translated to heaven, so that post-resurrection appearances are impossible. This undercuts his opponents’ claims to Christ-epiphanies. Moreover, the angel’s statement in 16:7 that Jesus would appear in Galilee is Mark’s attempt to encourage his community, which is distressed by the delay of the parousia (see also the Markan insertion 14:28)
According to Weeden, Mark transformed a resurrection appearance narrative into the Transfiguration narrative. This was again for the purpose of undermining his opponents’ claim to ecstatic experiences of the risen Christ. The pre-Markan narrative consisted of 9:2-5, 7-8. Mark adds 9:6 "For they did not know what to answer; for they became afraid" to discredit the disciples, for reasons already explained.
Weeden also claims that Mark 4:11-12, 14-20, 34 (and 4:3-9, 30-32, 33) are pre-Markan traditions reflecting the theios-aner theology of Mark’s opponents. Esoteric knowledge is granted to the narrow circle of the elect. Mark includes this material in his gospel actually to undermine this theological perspective. He does so first by showing in other parts of his gospel that the opposite result ensued: The disciples did not understand, but those on the outside did. Second, he eviscerates theios-aner theology by using its terminology to express his own "suffering-christology apologetic" (150). For example, the term "word" (logos) (Mark’s opponents’ term for their secret gospel) (4:14-20) means for Mark the public proclamation of a suffering Christology (8:32) (see also 8:38; 13:31; 14:39). Third, Mark uses the secrecy motif of his opponents against them. The Markan Jesus silences all christological confessions but the suffering son of man.
C. B. Mack, A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins
B. Mack assumes that little of the gospel tradition is historically reliable; only those traditions in which Jesus appears as a Cynic sage who offered table fellowship to the social outcasts may be admitted as historical data, since this is what Jesus actually was and did, according to Mack. The Gospel of Mark came into existence in a hitherto unsuspected way, which Mack claims to have uncovered in his research. (Thus, for centuries, Christians have been deceived about the true circumstances of the origin of the Gospel of Mark.) The anonymous author of the gospel was a member of a "Jesus movement," the synagogue reform movement that attempted but failed to reform synagogal social structure along more egalitarian lines. During the crisis resulting from exclusion from the synagogue, the author wrote an apology for the existence of the reform movement to which he belonged; he did this by weaving together traditions taken from numerous other Jesus movements (Sayings from "Q," Pronouncment Stories, Miracle Stories) and the Christ cult (Christ as a divine being whose death was a martyrdom characteristic of Paul and his Hellenistic churches) to produce the Gospel of Mark. It is not surprising that the gospel contains some spiteful elements directed to the synagogues that rejected the author’s reform movement. Using "the logic of martyrdom" derived from the "myth of origin" of the Christ cult, the author blamed the Jews for the death of the innocent Jesus, which was really a rather thin veil for the accusation of the rejection of the reform movement, and interpreted Jesus’ death a vicarious and effective event. Connected to this martyrological interpretation ("wisdom tale"), is the author’s apocalyptic framework, whereby Jesus would return to rescue the righteous (i.e., the reform movement) and to destroy the wicked (i.e., the membership of the Jewish synagogues). Mack claims the author Mark, a consummate theologian (albeit a resentful and vengeful one), not a mere compiler of traditions, wrote his gospel in southern Syria, contrary to all early church tradition of a Roman provenance.
2.3. Redaction Criticism of John
The Gospel of John has been the object of redaction-critical investigation, as the synoptic gospels have. As will be seen, redactional critical work on John suffers from an insufficient knowledge of the sources used by the author of the Gospel of John and an insufficient knowledge of the sociological context in which the author wrote (although there are some hints in the Johannine letters). Neverthless, there has not been any lack of redaction-critical studies on the fourth gospel.
2.3.1. M. Shepherd, "The Jews in the Gospel of John: Another Level of Meaning" and E. Graesser, "Die antijuedische Polemik im Johannesevangelium"
Both Shepherd and Graesser suggest that the designation of Jesus’ opponents in the Gospel of John as "the Jews" reflects more the attitude of the Johannine community to "Jews" than it does to historical reality, for not all "Jews" opposed Jesus. At the time of writing, the Johannine community had been excommunicated from the synagogue, resulting in much indignation and resentment on the part of the community. This led the author of the fourth gospel to designate Jesus’ opponents as "Jews," which says more about the situation of the community than it does about historical reality.
2.3.2. R. Brown, The Community of the Beloved
Brown’s book, The Community of the Beloved, is
a full-length, redaction-critical treatment of the Gospel of John. Brown
reads John as an autobiography of the Johannine community; the events in
the ministry of Jesus really reflect events and phases in the development
of the Johannine community. For example, Brown sees in John 1 a polemic
against John the Baptist, which marks a conflict between the Johannine
community and adherents of John the Baptist who refuse to accept Jesus
as the Messiah. Similarly, the anti-Temple polemic in John 2 is a literary
residue of a stage of the growth of the community when a large a large
influx of Hellenistic Jews with an anti-Temple biased entered the community.
Likewise, the positive portrayal of the Samaritan woman in John 4 reflects
the fact that a point in its history the Johannine community adopted a
universalism, seeking to evangelize non-Jews.
3. Evaluation of Redaction Criticism
Scholars have been doing Redaction Criticism long before it was identified as such. When, for example, they have taken note of the Jewishness of the Gospel of Matthew or Luke’s stress on prayer or the Holy Spirit, scholars have been practitioners of Redaction Criticism. In general, however, Redaction Criticism as it has been practiced since its inception as a distinct methodology for studying the gospels has not been content with such simple and obvious conclusions. Rather they have sought more elaborate conclusions about the redaction aims of the gospel writers. In my opinion, Redaction Criticism as it is practiced since its inception is minimally valid; most redaction-critical studies are without intellectual profit. Reasons for the rejection of this methodology are as follows:
3.1. Redaction Critics are wrongly optimistic about being able distinguish tradition from redaction. The separation of these two is only unproblematic (and even then not fully) in the case of Matthew and Luke’s use of Mark (the triple tradition). Generally, however, there is insufficient knowledge of the history of the gospel tradition to be able to distinguish tradition from redaction. The attempt to identify from the "summary statements" (Sammelberichte) the Markan style and preferred vocabulary founders on the fact that one cannot be sure that these portions of Mark are from the redactor and on the fact that the sample is too small anyway to compile such statistics.
3.2. Redaction Critics wrongly assume the assumptions and results of Form Criticism, some of which, as already indicated, are questionable. Again such scholars claim to know more than they ought about the early history of the gospel tradition.
3.3. Redaction Critics wrongly assume that many or even most changes that the gospel writers made to the tradition are significant, and are not stylistic or even accidental. Without sufficient evidence, however, one cannot assume that such changes must be theologically motivated, and most of the time there is insufficient evidence.
3.4. Redaction Critics wrongly assume that the early church would be able to recognize the redactional point(s) of the author. In many cases, the reconstructed redactional point(s) is so obscure, recondite and even convoluted that it would be lost on the average hearer or reader of any era. (It is usually left to the scholar to explain what the gospel writer had in mind.) It is hard to believe that a gospel writer would believe that such indirect theological assertion would be effective.
3.5. Redaction Critics often wrongly adopt a very skeptical view of the historical Jesus that allows them to suppose that the redactors were free and loose with the tradition, molding it to serve their interests. As already indicated, it is better to assume a conservative handling of the tradition, so that the gospel writers did not feel free to adapt at will the tradition to the needs arising from their setting in life (Sitz-im-Leben).
3.6. Redaction Critics wrongly assume a detailed knowledge of the setting in life of the writer and his community. Not enough is known of this early period of the church to draw such conclusions. In many cases, the reconstructed setting in life is without evidence, so that it is common to find contradictory reconstructions proposed.
3.7. Redaction Critics wrongly dismiss information about
the conditions of the production of the gospel provided by the early church
fathers in favor of highly speculative theories that hang by a thread.