One facet of a larger movement in modern literary criticism, associated particularly with Claude Lévi-Strauss, a philosophical anthropologist, and now applied to biblical studies. It suggests that critical attention be focused less on evidence about authors or editors of the text but more on the text as it stands, and what it conveys to the readers. For texts have only a relational, not an essential, meaning. Every word fits into a complex pattern of binary oppositions, and it is this structure which gives it meaning. Structuralism is indifferent to historical investigation but, assuming the integrity of the text, analyses the structure of the human mind and group which have produced it. For basic human patterns form themselves into structures and are expressed in texts. A biblical text is therefore to be read and grasped as a whole and is more than a compilation of parts or sources. By it the basic convictions and conditions of the author are transmitted to the reader.

Critics of the movement argue that some knowledge of the authors of the biblical books is always helpful; and because most of the books are composite, a knowledge of the history of their composition remains indispensable.