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The goal of the second phase of biblical interpretation, Critical
Interpretation, is to critically examine the biblical text using various
critical methodologies designed to get at what the text means. Four
major areas of concern are involved in this phase of interpretation:
Text and Translation Issues, Historical Issues, New Literary Issues, and
Post Modern Issues.
Historical Issues
1. Socio-Historical context
a. Source-critical concerns
Who was the author?
What is the historical origin and setting
(when/where/why) of text?
What is the social location of the text (social
Whom is the writer addressing? What is the social,
political and cultural context to which the passage is
addressed? Does the passage suggest anything about
the kind of people that might have been present in the
authors community? How might this passage have
addressed concerns that were significant to the people
of that community?
2. Literary-historical Issues
a. What is the literary context? Where does the passage come
in relation to the whole work? What comes before and after
the passage? How does the passage relate, if at all, to the
immediate context?
b. Form-critical concerns
What is the genre of the text?
What is the structure of the text?
How did the text function in its original setting?
c. Redaction-critical concerns
Can the approximate shape of text before it reached the
hand of the redactor(s) be determined?
How has the redactor reshaped the tradition?
Does the literary context cast light on the interpretation
of the text by the redactor?

What situation in the redactors community might have

called forth this address?
Has the writer used any sources? Can you tell if the
sources have been modified or changed? Have the final
editors own perspectives influenced the recording of
the passage? What words and themes are of special
significance for this editor?
d. Rhetoric-critical concerns
Are there any noticeable motifs/patterns/structures in
the text?
Are there any obvious rhetorical devices employed in
the text? (e.g. images, parallelism, repetition, word
play, irony, humor, etc.)? Who are the main characters
and what are their roles? What is the progression of
thought in the passage? Does the literary form help to
express the writers meaning?
New Literary Issues
1. Structural issues
Can a binary structuring/tension (honor/shame,
good/evil, light/darkness, etc.) be identified in the text?
Is the structure of this text similar to other related
biblical texts?
2. Narrative issues
What event is described in the text?
Who are the characters in the text?
What are the settings in the text (time/space)?
How is the story presented/told (narrative discourse)?
What is the conflict(s) and resolutions(s)
Post Modern Issues
1. Deconstruction Issues
What makes the meaning of the text inherently
How can traditional interpretations of this text be
destabilized and restructured?
Does your interpretation differ significantly from popular
interpretations? If so, why?
2. Ideological issues
Are conflicting ideas/voices/witnesses/views evident in
the text?
Does the text represent a dissenting voice/view from
that of other biblical texts?

Does your interpretation represent a particular ideology

(political, racial, socio-economic, gender, etc.)?
3. Reader-Response issues
From what perspective do you interpret the text?
Does your perspective conflict with traditional
Key Points:
This phase of interpretation is crucial for determining the various ways
in which biblical texts mean.
The questions provided above are in no way exhaustive; they are a
starting point.
Please, dont rely on commentaries during this stage. Too many people
make the mistake of cutting and pasting from commentaries; this
involves no critical thought.
Give yourself permission to question the text, and then engage the
textdigging and lifting out a hermeneutic. This is critical thought!
This is biblical exegesis!