The elucidation of the theological outlook of the editors (redactors) of OT and NT books. After the Pentateuch had been analysed into its several sources (J, E, D, P), it was some time before scholars took an interest in the scribes or archivists who must have combined the material. But if the history of Israelite religion could to some extent be discovered by Source and Form Criticism, it was eventually asked whether the later stages of Israelite institutions could be explored through the apparent intentions of the editors who stitched the raw materials together. Increasingly the editors were seen as creative writers with convictions and discernible concerns. The work of Redaction Critics was aided by the existence of 1 and 2 Chronicles, which are patently a revision by redactors of the books of Samuel and Kings; so having the first draft as it were of the history and comparing it with the Chronicler's work, critics could recognize his distinctive theological standpoints, which emphasized God's promises to the line of David, and the central place in the nation of the Jerusalem Temple.
Another example: Redaction Critics have found a pattern in the book of Judges which has been imposed on the material by a theologically informed redactor. It is a pattern of people's rebellion, followed in turn by oppression, penitence, and then deliverance by a judge, a military hero who brought some sort of cohesion into the scattered people, and gave them ‘rest’ for twenty, forty, or eighty years. The redactor has woven together a miscellany of stories into a unity to illustrate the providence and patience of God.
Redaction Criticism of the NT was developed in Germany after the Second World War and in Britain and North America during and after the 1950s. As with OT work, it accepts the principles and necessity of Source Criticism and recognizes the importance stressed by Form Critics of the oral period in which traditions about Jesus were passed on in the Church. But it rejects the description of the synoptic gospels as mere collections of fragments. The gospels, in Redaction Critics' view, are sophisticated works with plans, presuppositions, and motifs; although the gospels may sing in harmony, they do not sing in unison. Mark is a creative author in his careful selection of the available material—e.g. there are twelve healing miracles of Jews, and one (the Syro-Phoenician woman's daughter, 7: 24–30) of a Gentile. Matthew, in the infancy narratives, using the Jewish method of commentary called midrash, regards it as important to show for his community how Jesus fulfils Messianic expectations in the OT; he enlarges the gospel of Mark and arranges his material in blocks against an OT background. Luke shows that in his day Christianity was now at home in the Roman Empire, where tiled houses (Luke 5: 19) have replaced the miserable dwellings in Palestine with roofs of straw (Mark 2: 4), and the Church is conscious of living the Christian life ‘daily’ (Luke 9: 23) in the Spirit-filled community (Acts). The evangelists' distinctive theological outlooks can be discerned by the changes they have made in vocabulary, style, and structure to the sources being used. For example, Matt. 4: 12–11:1 has made variations to the order of Mark, which he was using, to suit his careful design. Many Redaction Critics have insisted that the evangelists' stances are also revealed by what they have retained from their sources.