Literary criticism

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Literary criticism is a tool of the historical-critical method of biblical exegesis . Literary criticism examines the biblical text with regard to its written preforms, templates and sources.

Standard view

References to written preforms and the use of earlier sources are, for example:

  • Linguistic inconsistencies
  • Factual discrepancies
  • Double lore
  • Breaks in the style of the text

An example of a still controversial theory of literary criticism is the two-source theory of the Synoptic Gospels . It says that Matthew and Luke used both independently the same two sources, the Gospel of Mark and a hypothetical written source of sayings of Jesus, the Q Source .

New approach

With his essay "Literarkritik" in Theologische Viertelschrift 168 23-43, H. Schweizer introduced a more precise understanding of the method:

Further developing what W. Richter had presented in 1971 in “Exegesis as literary studies” - at that time already in contrast to the “standard view”. The qualification "new" is therefore increasingly relative. But even in current articles it is still - at a loss - z. B. operated with the terms "duplication / repetition". At least that could be considered overcome since 1971. Progress is a snail.
  • 1st level: Comprehensive collection of reading difficulties (according to different categories) in one text; important: one carefully walks along the text in the direction of reading ! A text claims a vector to be a 'directed force', sequentially developing what is important to it ; a text is not a 'quarry' that can be arbitrarily exploited in different places at the same time;
    • "Factual" inconsistencies are of no interest, rather information that is not linguistically coordinated . Reasons:
    • We cannot deal with the opposition “language vs. Thing "operate. The supposed 'thing' is also conveyed in language .
    • An author is free to give information that contradicts that in other texts. Such a deviation will have its stylistic reason - which must therefore be recognized.
    • First of all, the coherence of the information given in the individual text is of interest . Namely: the conclusiveness of the respective reading point measured against the text. Anticipating the passages that have not yet been read, especially other texts, are not permitted.
    • Detached content- related criteria from a completely different source than from the current individual text remain prohibited. The author is allowed to develop what is important to him - he should only do it in such a way that the reader can follow. The trains of thought may also be intertwined. The communication relationship should not just break off due to excessive grammatical and stylistic disorders . Literary criticism is the first to dedicate itself to uncovering such problem areas.
      • Approved criteria:
      • Repetition / duplication: A piece of information is mentioned twice. B. narrative does not (immediately) understand why the new naming is carried out. Please note: The two terms mentioned - still undecided - are not interchangeable ! It remains to be clarified whether the finding is stylistically legitimate and acceptable - then one speaks of repetition . Or whether the irritation persists, so that the repeated mention is classified as a duplication of relevance to literary criticism .
      • Terminological indifference: - is related to the previous point of view: something is told again with the same vocabulary that is already known.
      • Terminological difference: an actor, an object is named, but with two different terms. Classic in the Joseph story: Is the father now called "Israel" or "Jacob"?
      • Content tension: The initial information is followed by further information that seems uncoordinated, 'like a fist on the eye', at least narrative irritating.
      • Unclear pronominal reference: a pronoun is used, but there are several candidates - mostly in the textual area - to resolve it.
      • Unclear reference: - without the topic of text deixis (previous point): a statement requires further information for understanding. The text offers something completely different in the direct environment. This can include the fact that there is an unmarked change of subject : the introduced subject of the preceding sentences seems to be continued - but a change should be assumed.
      • Questionable connection: A scene had been described, now a completely different one is added hard and without an acceptable transition (e.g. at chapter transitions Gen 37/38; or Gen 47/48 - there with - literarily - awkward and ridiculous attempt at connection: the one just now (nearly?) deceased father regains his strength so that he can perform an additional performance)
  • 2nd stage: After the collection of comprehension difficulties , the passages are marked that did not show any problems and can thus be regarded as coherent : Minimum reading units (MLE). Mind you: No literary-critical conclusion has yet been drawn from the observations in Section 1! Hypotheses are not used any more.
  • 3rd level: between neighboring MLEs, what happens between them - cf. 1st level - of reading difficulties listed. If only one such observation has occurred, it is assumed that it is stylistically legitimate and can be interpreted. From two or more observations, the probability is high that there is a literary-critical break between the two MLEs . From one such literary-critical break to the next, a part of the text has now been obtained (possibly including several MLEs).
  • 4th level: Up to now it has been recognized which neighboring partial texts are mutually exclusive. Now the question: Are there any incompatibilities between more distant partial texts? So are more far-reaching observations (from level 1) still not taken into account?
  • 5th level: Now it is possible - if the text status allows it - to put together a coherent layer from the partial texts. The subsequent editorial work is removed from this.

Web links

  • Short version 6 - Illustration of the method at the beginning of the Joseph story, (Gen 37), (for easier understanding on the German version)

Extensive tests of this method are available in the investigation of the Old Testament story of Joseph (Gen 37-50) by Swiss people and in that of the scouting stories from the book Numbers (author: Norbert Rabe ). For further hermeneutical reflections, information, reference to illustrations, including literature references, refer to:

  • The “Introduction” in full version: Joseph story - Joseph story: reading, enjoying, reflecting. - follow the other links mentioned therein . - Also note the references in it .
  • More specifically in the “Introduction” : Note Sections 3b-5a. In the latter, 5a, "REMINISZENZ (5)" reports the essay
    • Wahl, Heribert , empathy and text. The self-psychological model of interactive text hermeneutics: ThQ 169 (1989) 201-222.
    • The point is that - of course - literary criticism also has hermeneutical implications. They are qualitatively different than when one goes to the description and interpretation of the exposed text after a literary criticism has been completed - the relationship “text: exegete” turns. - Self-psychology helps to clarify the role of the exegete in both stages.
  • In short version 3 of the Joseph story , the biblical final text of the Joseph story is presented according to the above-mentioned level 3 of literary criticism : Which neighboring partial texts are mutually exclusive? No conclusions have yet been drawn as to which partial texts can possibly be used to put together a coherent narrative thread. (However, graphical means are used to indicate which partial texts will later represent the original layer, which, however, are editorial contributions.)
  • Raven, Norbert , from rumor to judgment. Revised text and literary criticism of the scouting narrative Num. 13.14 as a new application in Pentateuch research. THLI 8. Tuebingen 1993.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ H. Schweizer: Further impulses for literary criticism Biblical Notes 80 (1995) 73-99