Religion Wiki

Canonical criticism, sometimes called the canonical approach, is a way of interpreting the Bible that focuses on the text of the biblical canon itself as a finished product. It has been made popular by Brevard Childs, though he personally dislikes the term. Whereas other types of biblical criticism focus on the origins, structure and history of the text, canonical criticism looks at the meaning the text in its final form has for the community which uses it.


Canonical criticism involves "paying attention to the present form of the text in determining its meaning for the believing community."[1] Or looking at the text with a view point from today rather than it would be view back then.


Canonical criticism is a relatively new approach to biblical studies. As recently as 1983, James Barr could state that canon had no hermeneutical significance for biblical interpretation.[2]

Part of a series on
The Bible
Biblical canon and books
Tanakh: Torah · Nevi'im · Ketuvim
Old Testament · New Testament ·
Hebrew Bible
Deuterocanon · Antilegomena
Chapters & verses
Apocrypha: Jewish · OT · NT
Development and authorship
Jewish Canon
Old Testament canon
New Testament canon
Mosaic authorship
Pauline epistles
Johannine works
Petrine epistles
Translations and manuscripts
Septuagint · Samaritan Pentateuch
Dead Sea scrolls  · Masoretic text
Targums · Peshitta
Vetus Latina · Vulgate
Gothic Bible · Luther Bible
English Bibles
Biblical studies
Dating the Bible
Biblical criticism
Higher criticism
Textual criticism
Canonical criticism
Novum Testamentum Graece
Documentary hypothesis
Synoptic problem
NT textual categories
Historicity (People)
Internal Consistency
Archeology · Artifacts
Science and the Bible
Hermeneutics · Pesher
Midrash · Pardes
Allegorical · Literalism
Inerrancy · Infallibility · Criticism
Islamic · Qur'anic · Gnostic
Judaism and Christianity
Biblical law in Judaism
Biblical law in Christianity


The canonical approach has been criticised by scholars from both liberal and evangelical perspectives.


  1. John N. Oswalt, "Canonical Criticism: A Review From A Conservative Viewpoint," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 30.3 [1987] 318.
  2. James Barr, Holy Scripture: Canon, Authority, Criticism (Westminster John Knox, 1983), 67.

See also

External links

Norman Gottwald, Social Matrix and Canonical Shape, Theology Today 42 [1985]