Introducing Literary Criticism
The Old Testament is a literary masterpiece. As such it invites us to appreciate its literary features as we interpret its unique content. The student today has numerous tools at his disposal for accomplishing this task. In one respect, however, he may be at a disadvantage. Many writers who provide guidelines for Old Testament study base their work on the “assured results of literary criticism.” Others imply that the discipline of literary criticism has been superseded by more recent disciplines such as form criticism and redaction criticism. Thus Old Testament literary criticism in the traditional sense is either assumed or ignored. It is rarely defined, demonstrated, or pursued as a vital discipline. Faced with this dilemma the critical student is driven to reexamine the validity of Old Testament literary criticism for himself. He needs to ask again the questions posed by former Old Testament literary critics. He needs to observe anew the literary critical process at work on specific Old Testament texts. He needs to follow this critical procedure afresh, step-by-step from the beginning. But he needs to undertake this task fully aware of how more recent disciplines modify and complement the work of the literary critic. This brief volume is designed to assist the student in answering these needs.
What then is Old Testament literary criticism in the traditional sense? How have past literary critics approached the biblical text? We could answer these questions with a comprehensive survey of the history of Old Testament literary criticism.1 Or we could compare the principles of Old Testament literary criticism with those of disciplines bearing the
1. Adequate surveys of the history of biblical criticism can be found in
many Ola Testament Introductions and Bible Dictionaries. See especially, K.
Grobel, “Biblical Criticism” and S. J. De Vries, “History of Biblical Criti-
cism” in Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, ed. G. A. Buttrick (Nashville:
Abingdon Press, 1962); H. E. Hahn, The Old Testament in Modern Research
(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966); Hans-Joachim Kraus, Geschichte der
historisch-kritischen Erforschung des Alten Testaments, 2nd ed. (Neu-
kirchen, 1969); E. Kraeling, The Old Testament since the Reformation (New
York: Harper, 1955).