“Economical Criteria” in Redaction Criticism
The 2017 workshop applies Umberto Eco’s concept of “economical criteria” to redaction criticism, thus seeking to foster reflection on methodological problems in this approach. “Economical criteria” as suggested by Eco help evaluating competing textual interpretations of varying complexity (U. Eco, Grenzen der Interpretation, Wien 1992, 139–168; cf. U. Eco’s lectures in: S. Collini [ed.]: Interpretation and Overinterpretation, Cambridge et al. 1992). In application to redaction criticism, the concept affords the possibility to compare and evaluate competing results of redaction-critical analysis.
At least five general problems call for critical attention:
First, certain presuppositions of redaction-critical analysis tend to remain implicit and/or unconscious although they predetermine the results in a considerable manner. Having been brought to explicit attention, these presuppositions and the results arrived at by employing them can and should be compared. The evaluation likely will indicate that some analyses and respective models of the redaction history of a given text are more economical than others. This issue will also be addressed in a joint session with the Workshop “Analyzing the Metatextuality of the Biblical Tradition Literature” (R. Heckl, L. Maskow).
Second, there are cases in which textual development is perceptible due to a plurality of indicators of different type, like e.g. a change in style and a change in quoted texts. Such diverse indicators can either support or neutralise each other (cf. O. H. Steck: Exegese des Alten Testaments, Neukirchen-Vluyn, 14th edition, 1999, 55–57). In the current methodological discussion, this problem tends to pass unheeded.
Third, there are cases in which indicators of textual development allow for rather diverse models of the genesis of a given text, for example a variety of small-scale additions as opposed to a few wide-range insertions. Judging from the chances to be met with significant consent, the latter model seems generally preferable. The question remains, though, whether it should be preferred on these grounds, and if so, how to balance the degree of complexity of competing models in cases less clear-cut.
Fourth, in this context it shall be evaluated in which cases synchronic interpretations of tensions in form, content and pragmatics of biblical texts result in overall simpler models of textual interpretation or rather in more difficult ones.
Fifth, as often pointed out but not quite as often observed, building hypotheses on each other results in hypotheses of lower probability (cf. T. Krüger: Anmerkungen zur Frage nach den Redaktionen der großen Erzählwerke im Alten Testament, in: T. Römer/K. Schmid [eds.]: Les Dernières Rédactions du Pentateuque, de l’Hexateuque et de l’Ennéateuque [BEThL 203], Leuven et al. 2007, 47–66, 66 note 47). Guided by “economical criteria”, that explanation of a given text which employs the least complex combination of hypotheses is to be preferred.
We welcome contributions dealing with these problems or adjacent ones.