Scholarly Tools of Biblical Study
“An Example: Eccclesiastes.”
In Reading the Old Testament: Method in Biblical Study,
Philadelphia: Westminster, 1984.
Additions by later authors and editors to change/subvert/moderate uncomfortable meanings.
A “school” of like-minded but different authors who have different emphases, as we might see today in documents written by committees.
Refutations of the words of others or previous errors, as we might use quotation marks or inflection.
Juxtaposition of competing ideas, as we might use “On the one hand... on the other hand...”
Ideas that are mutually exclusive using our definitions and categories that may not have been contradictions to the original authors.
(The idea that a person should never contradict oneself or think contradictory thoughts is not universal.)
Methods discussed by Barton
Literary criticism – in the sense of restoring coherent literary structure (assuming “literature” has it)
- Developed into what is called source criticism in the sense of reconstructing original source or sources
- In the case of Ecclesiastes (unlike Genesis) no one claims more than one full-fledged literary source
- Reconstructs the original literary composition by deleting additions
- Attention to the method and intent of additions goes better under redaction criticism
Form criticism – oral compositions independent until collected by others
- Original context is a situation in life, not a document
- Consistency not expected in an anthology
- Ecclesiastes is not a random collection though, which brings us to the editors who, if they were working with a loose collection of oral observations, gave it more than a little structure
Redaction criticism – studies the work of editors in assembling existing material and adding only a little “glue” of their own
- Juxtapositions deliberately create new meanings in new contexts
- Small additions deliberately create new meanings by providing new context
- Can be blunt subversion or artful rendering
Canonical criticism – meaning in the context of other books with expectation of mutual illumination
- Meaning intended by persons who create the canon
- Barton describes as accidental or unintended (by composers of Ecclesiastes) but it could be intentional and artful by composers of canon (e.g. Malachi)
- In as much as it is reconstructing the intent of long-dead composers it is still modern
- Meaning experienced by reader of Ecclesiastes in context of a canon
- This is what I have been calling postmodern, although here it is not far from premodern
- Meanings experienced by readers of Ecclesiastes in their own contexts
- Fully postmodern
- Meant ≠ means
Gematria / Numerology,
Murphy p. 52