Pseudo-Philo: Rewriting the Bible

By Frederick J. Murphy | Go to book overview

2
Pseudo-Philo as Narrative

Literary Criticism, the Bible, and Pseudo-Philo

Most students of the Pseudepigrapha have been trained as biblical scholars, so developments in the study of the Pseudepigrapha should be viewed in light of similar developments in biblical studies. Although the Bible has long been the object of "literary criticism," that criticism has been fairly narrow until recently. It has concentrated on such matters as isolation of sources, investigation of smaller units within the text, use of tradition, biblical quotations and allusions, and genre. Concerns of literary critics from other fields were not prominent.1. Recent years have witnessed growing interest in a wide range of approaches to the Bible, including many varieties of literary criticism. New studies are constantly appearing, even in the most traditional journals and presses, applying to Scripture methods of criticism developed for nonbiblical literature.

Current scholarship on Pseudo-Philo Biblical Antiquities resembles scholarship on the synoptic Gospels during the advent of redaction criticism in the 1950s. At that time the Gospels had been scrutinized in terms of sources, interrelationships, constituent units, dating, and incorporation of traditional material. Under the influence of form criticism, the Gospels were often treated as depositories of small units. The small units were the principal objects of study and interest.2. There were exceptions to this, but the exceptions tended to prove the rule. With the arrival of redaction criticism, the synoptic evangelists began to receive their due as authors and theologians.3. No longer were they seen as mere collectors and arrangers of tradition. Scholars started to appreciate the evangelists' originality and the extent to which they produced new creations. But both the strength and the weakness of redaction criticism lay in its attention to the ways in which the Gospels modified their sources. The strength of the method was close analysis of the detailed rewriting of the

____________________
1.
For literary criticism in New Testament studies, see Moore, Literary Criticism; Beardslee, "Recent Literary Criticism"; Peterson, Literary Criticism. For the Hebrew Bible, see Knierim, "Criticism of Literary Features"; Culley, "Exploring"; Sternberg, Poetics.
2.
McKnight, Form Criticism.
3.
See Perrin, Redaction Criticism; Rohde, Rediscovering.

-9-

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