In contrast to diachronic approaches, synchronic approaches focus on the final form of the text:

  1. Rhetorical criticism: focus on how something is said.
  2. Canonical criticism (associated with Brevard Childs): What is the theological significance of a text? What was the role of the text within the community of God’s people?
  3. Structural criticism (aka “structuralism”)
  4. Ideological criticism (aka “reader-response): there are three actors that bring a text to life (the author, the text itself, and the reader); the reader is responsible for the final interpretation of a text; there is not just one meaning to a text.

Biblical history is selective. It is intended to support the purpose of the text. It is factual but not necessarily chronological. and it is always theological, with God its central character.

Redemptive-historical (aka “biblical-theological”) hermeneutics: How does a concept develop through time? All roads lead to Christ, but you can trace any concept this way (e.g., land). This shouldn’t be confused with biblical theology, which asks what a book says about a particular topic, in contrast to systematic theology, which asks what the Bible says about a particular topic.


The Enlightenment’s effect on Scripture interpretation (aka “modernism”):

  1. Scripture is subject to human reason.
  2. The universe is a closed system (“deism”). There are natural explanations for Jesus’ “miracles.”
  3. The Bible is not God’s divine Word, but a book like any other.

As a result:

  1. Theology (what is transcendent) should not be confused with historical investigation (what is immanent).
  2. The goal of science is to interpret objectively (without presuppositions). This was later rejected by postmodernism, which accepts that everyone has presuppositions.
  3. The Bible is not a source document in a historical investigation given its ideology.

How did the Pentateuch come together? Diachronic approaches emphasize the historical development of a text.

  1. Form criticism (aka the “fragmentary model”): many smaller units contributed to the whole.
  2. Traditions criticism (aka the “supplementary model”): one original base text that was subsequently expanded.
  3. Source criticism (aka the “documentary model”):
  • Four independent documents (J, E, D, & P) are woven into one. You can see this is the case since the Pentateuch isn’t seamless. The redactor was sloppy.