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Redaction Criticism: 

Identifying the author's fingerprints on the text


Redaction Criticism analyses the influence of the author upon the text; the way it has been adapted, altered and presented.

Your Fingerprint Kit - Redaction Criticism

How can we detect an author's influence on a story?

1. Seams - if Form Criticism views the Gospel as a string of beads, the author's main contribution is the 'string' which ties all the beads together.   

2. Sometimes the writer may feel the need to break into their story and explain or clarify something. 

3. Every author has their own style or 'voice'. These include characteristic words and phrases that are often repeated.

4. Changes to the text when compared with other instances. 

Click here to look at the evidence


Have a go. Click the evidence bag and see if you can begin to detect the fingerprints of Mark on the text.


Redaction Criticism can be seen as the natural off-spring of Form Criticism. Like Form Criticism, it sees most of the Bible as being composed of previously existing oral units (pericopes). However, it does not view the authors as simply threading a bead necklace (see Form Criticism section), but as editors who carefully selected and presented the material into a coherent and purposeful account. 

Consequently, it seeks to answer those questions raised by Form Criticism; why did the author choose this unit, place it in this position, in what ways did he alter/adapt it and what is he trying to say to his readers/hearers?

Redaction Criticism really comes into its own when comparing different versions of the same text. It is therefore extremely useful when examining the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) where each author has presented the same or similar material. Because it is generally accepted that Mark wrote his Gospel first, this approach is rather limited. Nevertheless, it can be helpful in highlighting those elements which later authors subsequently changed or toned down. 

Matthew and Luke also present Mark's healing of the leper. The three accounts can be easily compared in the synopsis below. Although not Greek, the translation has attempted to be a literal translation. However, it cannot show all instances of changes in word order or word forms. 

Note where the accounts follow the wording exactly (verbatim), highlighted in bold, and those places where the wording is different.  

                  Mark's Portrait of Jesus

Why do you think Matthew and Luke seem to omit Mark's verse 43 ("and he was indignant - literally 'snorted with anger' - and immediately cast him out")? - Have a look at your modern translation to see how they translate v43

Look at how the leper addresses Jesus in Matthew (v2) and Luke's (v12) version ('Lord') and then in Mark (v40).  Investigate further evidence

Have a look at some witness statementsHow can Mark's presentation of Jesus be seen as different to that of Matthew and Luke?


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