Posted by: chuckbumgardner | May 13, 2012

Interpreting the NT with Final-Form Literary Approaches

Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study (Studies in Theological Interpretation)In 2006, Marcus Bockmuehl addressed several newer approaches to the NT — “final-form literary approaches” including text-linguistics, discourse analysis, narrative and genre criticism, and certain types of rhetorical criticism — from the perspective of the NT’s “implied readership”: what sort of reader does the NT presuppose?  I thought his comment thought-provoking:

[A]fter a quarter century of reflection on often genuine gains, it may now be permissible to ask if the study of the New Testament primarily as literature, narrative, or rhetoric will not inevitably turn out to be a somewhat impoverished exercise on at least two fronts.  First, judged by any broad-based esthetic standard, the  New Testament documents never invite, and rarely reward, interpretation from a primarily literary point of view.  They represent second-rate literature in often third-rate linguistic forms.  For good ancient literature one would surely go to Vergil or Euripides; for deliberate rhetoric, to Dio or Demosthenes.   Second, and more important, the texts in any case do not present themselves as concerned with either literature or rhetoric.  To view them primarily (rather than en passant) in this fashion is rather like using a stethoscope to examine a lightbulb: it can be done and does produce unfamiliar results, but it offers an analysis that does justice neither to the object nor to the instrument.

Markus Bockmuehl, Seeing the Word: Refocusing New Testament Study, Studies in Theological Interpretation (Baker, 2006), 48-49.

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