Ever since it first appeared on the theological scene, evangelicals have taken a dim view of redaction criticism. The very name has a suspicious ring to it. In common usage, the word criticism implies a negative judgment. And the word redaction suggests a tampering with the truth hardly consistent with the divine inspiration of the Bible. Yet redaction criticism is usually defined as the study that seeks to determine an author’s viewpoint by how he edits his sources.

Sometimes, it is true, the term is used so loosely as to include the whole process by which an author composes his work, and in doing so, places his individual stamp upon it. Others occasionally define the term so strongly as to suggest that it refers to the creative work of a writer in which he concocts material de novo to support his point. Yet the root meaning of the phrase redaction criticism is substantiated by common usage. Redaction criticism usually refers to an editor’s reworking his sources and what this reveals about him as an author.

Primarily, however, it is not the definition of redaction criticism that has disturbed evangelicals but how it has been employed and the results to which leading redaction critics have come. The scholars who invented the term and who have been its most active proponents have supported views that are destructive of evangelical faith.

Their antievangelical conclusions are not surprising. Almost all of them adhere to presuppositions that simply will not allow them to accept the gospel writers as reliable reporters of what Jesus really said and did. In addition, they have misused the basic principles of redaction criticism to support their preconceived notions of how the Gospels were written. For example, they assume that in ...

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