Critiques against Narrative Criticism: A quick summary

Months ago I listed the advantages of narrative criticism in biblical studies, especially in the Gospels. Here are a few arguments against NC for your reading enjoyment. NB: all critical methods have their advantages and disadvantages and I am not assuming that NC is the ‘correct’ method for interpreting/exegeting the Gospels. Rather, it is a method that offers a different approach than previously used by NT scholars). Three main arguments emerge in current discussions in NT studies;

1. First, the Gospels are historical documents and must be read as such.

2. Second, it is anachronistic to apply modern literary methods, like those applied to works such as “The Lord of the Rings,” to ancient literature. Ben Witherington III asserts, “Mark is not a work of ancient or modern fiction, and this means that some things which apply especially to modern fiction do not apply to Mark” (The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, Grand Rapids:William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001, 56).

3. The Gospels, particularly Mark’s Gospel, are redacted theological documents not intended to be read as an organic or unified whole.

Well, there are some thoughts to consider. Each one has merit, yet they do not engage in the whole discussion of NC, i.e., NC uses literary techniques developed by Aristotle in his Poetics (e.g., three act structure) and not modern literary techniques. Although, some Narrative critics might erroneously use modern techniques, this does not negate the usefulness of NC. Like any critical method, it is beneficial, and necessary to be aware of the shortfalls of your chosen method and the benefits of using other methods when interpreting a given text. Some methods provide insights into a passage or pericope that might have been missed just using one method.

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2 thoughts on “Critiques against Narrative Criticism: A quick summary

  1. Actually, I would say Mark was mostly written as a well-organized and unified whole, but also had a bit of redaction done to it as well.

  2. I would agree with you. I like how NC looks at the gospel as a whole narrative without necessarily worrying about issues of redaction, and so forth.

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