Criticism (biblical, canonical, form, redaction): A term used in reference to any method of interpreting texts that uses modern scientific insights into the nature of history, language, culture and literature. More specifically, biblical criticism is the attempt to interpret the Scriptures by uncovering the original meaning of the text, looking to the original historical setting in which it was written without reference to later theological traditions. In contrast, canonical criticism is the attempt to interpret the Bible in light of the final form of Scripture as a theologically unified collection of books rather than seeking to understand the books in their precanonical form and function. Form criticism is the attempt to go back to the original sources lying behind the text prior to its written form, such as by uncovering oral traditions and layers of material added to the scriptural say-ings in the process of oral tradition. Redaction criticism is the attempt to identify the ways in which the writer or editor (e.g. Gospel writer) utilized sources in composing a biblical book in order to understand the author’s theology and setting.1
1. Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), p. 34.