You may have heard of Narrative criticism and be wondering ‘what is it and how does it apply to a biblical text, especially a NT text?I applied a narrative critical approach to Mark’s Gospel in my master’s thesis to understand why Jesus seems to hide his messianic identity from others, at least verbally. Mark’s account of Jesus’ life and miracles ironically further his messianic identity while he sternly warns individuals to be quiet about who he was (e.g., Mk 3:12; 8:30; 9:9). Narrative criticism evaluates a biblical text as story, in that it has a beginning, middle, climax and end replete with irony, plot, themes and so forth. If one reads Mark as a story written to an particular audience (the implied reader) then certain themes arise in the text. At this point you might be thinking ‘how can he say story? Does he mean Mark’s Gospel is now a mere fable or fantasy?’ Quite the contrary as our understanding of story differs from a first century Greco-Roman understanding of story or oral transmission of an event, and so forth. In my next post I will outline the critiques scholars have leveled against the usefulness of narrative criticism and the responses to those critiques. For a great introduction to narrative criticism, I highly recommend the following articles and/or books:
Dewey, Joanna. “The Survival of Mark’s Gospel: A Good Story?” Journal of Biblical Literature 123, No. 3 (Fall 2004): 495-507.
Dwyer, Timothy. The Motif of Wonder in the Gospel of Mark. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996.
Struthers-Malbon, Elizabeth. “Narrative Criticism: How Does a Story Mean?” In Mark & Method: New Approaches in Biblical Studies, edited by Janice Capel Anderson and Stephen D. Moore, 23-49. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
Powell, Mark Allen. What is Narrative Criticism? Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1990.
Rhoads, David M., Joanna Dewey and Donald Michie. Mark as Story: An Introduction to the Narrative of a Gospel. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1999.
Rhoads, Davide M.“Narrative Criticism and the Gospel of Mark.” The Journal of the American Academy of Religion 50, No. 3 (S 1982): 411-434.