An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Narrative Criticism

A new method of interpretation of scripture. “Narrative” refers to a story which has a plot and moves from a beginning to an end. It is applicable to the gospels of the NT and many stories in the OT. Its primary focus is the attempt to recognize the “world of the narrative” instead of pursuing a historical search for the world of the author at the time when the story was written. The terms “narrative” and “literary” have been used in a number of different ways, and a general agreement is not yet available. A narrative-critical study does not raise historical questions but seeks to understand the specific meaning of words or characters based on the way they are used or presented in the story under consideration. The major difference between narrative critics is their use of the term “implied reader.” Some narrative critics use the term to refer to those readers the author or editor had in mind in composing the story, making narrative criticism basically the same as redaction criticism. Other narrative critics use the term “implied reader” to refer to a hypothetically constructed reader based on the specific information in the story itself, not on the possible thoughts of the presumed author or editor. This style of narrative criticism focuses primarily on the narrative world of the story. There is no basic agreement about the specifics of the method of narrative analysis.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.