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Narrative Criticism of the New Testament

An Introduction

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Narrative criticism, which involves the application of literary critical methods to the study of Scripture, is a promising hermeneutical approach. Surprisingly, however, little has been written that surveys the field for a broader audience. James Resseguie's primer admirably fills that gap.

Readers will discover here a particularly well-balanced introduction to the subject. For those concerned with theoretical issues, there is a thorough survey of methodology, critical concepts, and the significance of literary devices. Numerous examples illustrate the fruitfulness of literary approaches for interpreting particular texts.

Following an introduction that identifies the methods of narrative criticism and distinguishes them from other hermeneutical approaches, Resseguie devotes chapters to the principal elements of narrative: setting, point of view, character, rhetoric, plot, and reader. For each, he offers practical examples of how a "close reading" of the text can discover important nuances and insights.

Resseguie points out that narrative criticism has the advantage of dealing with the text as a self-contained unit, avoiding the fragmentation often produced by other methodologies. His accessible introduction is ideal for seminarians, M.A. students, upper-divisional undergraduates, and pastors who want to learn how narrative interpretation can open up the New Testament texts.


"Resseguie's Narrative Criticism of the New Testament introduces students to a time-honored but sometimes neglected approach to getting at the message of biblical texts. His design for 'close reading' is both intellectually respectable and aesthetically rewarding; it is also relatively easy to learn, since he presents it in a manner that is clear and concise, abounding with memorable illustrations. Those who are committed to his goal of 'engaging scripture on its own terms' will find he is a reliable guide to renewing and enhancing their appreciation of biblical stories and the art of storytelling."--Mark Allan Powell, professor of New Testament, Trinity Lutheran Seminary

"In this engaging book, James L. Resseguie offers a clear and compelling demonstration of how to do narrative criticism of the New Testament--and why it's worth doing."--James Phelan, Humanities Distinguished Professor, Ohio State University; editor, Narrative

"Biblical interpretation often becomes so analytic that it deters rather than enhances the actual reading of Scripture by disciples. What counts in the final analysis is what happens when the biblical text is handled by the pastoral interpreter and the lay reader. James Resseguie has given us a profoundly scholarly book that is eminently usable for pastors and lay persons as they live in and from the narratives of Scripture. For scholars and seminarians this will be a standard for narrative criticism."--M. Douglas Meeks, Cal Turner Chancellor Professor of Theology and Wesleyan Studies, The Divinity School, Vanderbilt University

"New Testament scholars have come to expect keen insight and clear prose from James Resseguie, and this volume will only add to that expectation. The book displays Resseguie's obvious grasp of the theories and concepts that inform the narrative critic's close readings of texts. Beyond that, though, Resseguie's work offers his considerable skill in the art of interpreting texts in general and New Testament texts in particular. Readers of every skill level will enjoy his clear explanation of narrative criticism. Those just discovering narrative criticism as a method of interpreting biblical texts will certainly benefit from the book's chapter on applying narrative criticism."--Steven M. Sheeley, assistant vice president for academic affairs, Shorter College

"I have been teaching the Bible as literature--out of an English department--for over twenty-five years. Resseguie's book is among the three best, and perhaps the very best, of all introductions to the Bible as literature. This text combines comprehensive overview of the literary-critical approach and the biblical text, while deliciously shrewd with detail relative to that theory and specific biblical texts. Highly engaging and informative, it is surely a good bet for students and educators at all levels of higher education."--Paul Borgman, professor of English, Gordon College

"This is an extremely readable, informative volume that will be most effective as an introduction to New Testament narrative criticism. It is a fine complement to Powell's What Is Narrative Criticism? in that it augments Powell's largely theoretical discussion by providing extensive examples of the various aspects of narrative criticism from the New Testament itself, and it relates these narrative features of the New Testament to similar features found in the arts. Resseguie's book will stir interest and excitement in the narrative study of the New Testament."--David R. Bauer, Ralph W. Beeson Professor of Inductive Biblical Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. James L. Resseguie

    James L. Resseguie

    James L. Resseguie (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is Distinguished Professor of New Testament Emeritus at Winebrenner Theological Seminary in Findlay, Ohio. He is the author of several books, including Narrative Criticism of the New Testament: An...

    Continue reading about James L. Resseguie


"Resseguie's book delivers on its claims to be a literary approach to the NT narrative. . . . The terms of discourse that Resseguie lays out in his preface and then pursues in the book are impeccable in being genuinely literary. . . . An obvious strength of the book is its thoroughness of coverage, both in regard to the full array of literary features that comprise a literary narrative and the survey of published scholarship. . . . If one wants to get up to speed on narrative analysis, Resseguie's book is unsurpassed. The methodology of narrative analysis is laid out with marvelous completeness. . . . An exhaustive guide to published scholarship on narrative analysis as a field in itself and as applied to the NT, and a thorough listing and description of the ingredients of narrative form found in the NT. As such, this book breaks new ground in the consistency with which it approaches NT narrative in genuinely literary terms. The book is also a triumph of research and scholarship."--Leland Ryken, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

"A competent and readable introduction to narrative criticism. . . . This volume succeeds in its basic purpose of introducing its audience to the categories and objectives that drive many narrative-critical approaches to biblical exegesis. . . . Resseguie writes with nonspecialists in mind, making his book clear and engaging. It is especially appropriate for students in undergraduate or entry-level seminary courses. Other readers . . . too, will appreciate a benefit of the book's breadth: by explaining and illustrating the importance of the numerous details that make a biblical text meaningful, the book can cultivate habits of careful reading. This makes it valuable for all interpreters, including preachers and any other Bible readers looking for guidance toward a deeper understanding of biblical narratives and how to read them."--Matthew L. Skinner, Word & World

"This book, primarily for NT students and scholars, will also be of interest to all those with pastoral or personal interests in scripture. It is clearly and engagingly written and seeks to explain the value of narrative criticism before presenting a detailed guide to how this might be applied to reading the NT. . . . Resseguie makes a good case that narrative criticism offers a creative and fresh way of examining biblical texts. . . . The author does an excellent job in promoting the possibilities of narrative criticism to a wider audience."--Gary Burnett, Journal for the Study of the New Testament Booklist

"A nuanced introduction to what narrative criticism is and to each of its major aspects. . . . Resseguie provides a balanced discussion of nonbiblical narrative critics with work that has been done in biblical studies. . . . This is a good introduction to modern narrative-critical concepts."--Fred. W. Burnett, Religious Studies Review

"A thorough and readable introduction to narrative critical reading. . . . This is a fine introduction that situates narrative criticism within the context of other literary-critical methods and explaining some fairly nuanced concepts clearly. Resseguie offers a clear exposition of the processes of a close reading of biblical texts using many illustrations drawn from the New Testament. The book is also scholarly enough to provide students new to literary studies with some helpful references for further study. . . . This book would be useful for an introductory class on biblical literature, or for anyone interested in making a first attempt at applying literary-critical methods to the Bible."--Bradley Pace, Anglican Theological Review

"Resseguie's work . . . goes beyond previous primers and serves as a good introduction to the discipline. His writing style is clear and technical vocabulary is kept to a minimum or clearly defined. Since the discipline is mature, Resseguie is able to correct some of the errors of early narrative critics. . . . Resseguie provides copious biblical examples of each concept introduced. . . . Resseguie's book could be used as a college text to introduce the discipline or as a refresher for someone working in the field. It would also be suitable as an adult Christian education text. Much of the exegesis is so complete that pastors could draw upon it for sermon preparation. While the book does not claim to be a commentary, Resseguie's elucidation of the text is often very insightful and 'preachable.'"--Keith H. Reeves, Interpretation

"Resseguie's book is an excellent introduction to the subject. . . . It provides worked examples from the gospels and Revelation, as well as illustrations from non-Biblical literature and art. The author avoids excessive theoretical detail and enables readers to understand and use Narrative Criticism. . . . Resseguie's work remains the most useful introduction to the subject yet published. And narrative criticism is probably the most attractive of the new methodologies that scholars are now using, rather than say, discourse analysis or rhetorical criticism. This makes Narrative Criticism of the New Testament an important publication."--David Ford, Recursos Teológicos

"As an introduction in the 'how to' of employing modern literary criticism to biblical narrative, Resseguie succeeds. . . . As a primer on the definition and practice of early twenty-first-century narrative criticism, the text offers meaningful assistance. The text, suitable for biblical scholars and seminarians interested in narrative analysis as related to the New Criticism, serves those seeking a clearer understanding of contemporary literary criticism as is now oft applied to biblical narrative. . . . Resseguie's work makes for an interesting read."--Billy Strother, Stone-Campbell Journal

"This is the kind of text that would have been helpful during my seminary formation. For those raised on individual Bible verses taken out of context . . . Resseguie's work is an eye-opener. He encourages us not only to read the Bible more closely, but also to see it more broadly. . . . This kind of exegesis opens up the New Testament and leads us further down the path of understanding."--Peter J. Scaer, Concordia Theological Quarterly