Narrative Analysis -- Explanation and Study Guide
Introduction to the New Testament
A central premise of this course is that reading the New Testament is like reading any
Thus as we enter upon the work of the course it will be profitable to think
a bit about what’s involved in reading.
So what’s involved in reading a text?
According to the RANDOM HOUSE DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
readers do not sit passively before a text soaking it up.
Reading involves more than
merely scanning your eyes over a page of text.
Merely decoding the words is not yet
Reading involves work!
The dictionary definition is emphatic about it.
involves the work of trying to understand by apprehending, interpreting, making out the
significance, anticipating, foreseeing, foretelling, and drawing inferences.
In the final
analysis, according to the dictionary, reading is summed up as an act in which readers, to
serve a wide variety of interests, occupy themselves seriously with the study of the text
Part of the reason that reading involves work is because the text is just words on the
They have no voice unless we give them voice.
Furthermore the text has no one
to stand up and guard the integrity of what has been written but readers.
Readers, however, do not come to the text with a blank slate.
Our ideas of what a text is
about come, actually, from two sources: 1) the text, of course, but also 2) from the
knowledge—namely, the hunches, convictions, presuppositions, sense of reality, and so
forth—that is rattling around in our minds as we read.
Thus as we read the NT we continually seek to maintain clarity about where our ideas
come from. As well, we seek to discover the extent to which the background knowledge
which we bring to reading a text represents a vested interest, and the extent to which our
vested interests inform and shape our reading of the NT materials.
In addition to the letters of the NT the second major division of materials is narratives—
Matthew, Mark, John, and Luke-Acts.
It is to this material that we now turn our attention,
seeking to cultivate respectful and fruitful ways of engaging the material.
I. What is Narrative Analysis?
Narrative Analysis is a critical technique designed to foster reader familiarity with a