- Form criticism
Form criticism is a method of biblical criticism that classifies units of scripture by literary pattern (such as parables or legends) and that attempts to trace each type to its period of oral transmission. ["form criticism." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2 Dec. 2007 [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9125589 read online] ] Form criticism seeks to determine a unit's original form and the historical context of the literary tradition. ["form criticism." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2 Dec. 2007 [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9125589 read online] ]
Hermann Gunkeloriginally developed form criticism to analyze the Hebrew Bible. It has since been used to supplement the documentary hypothesisexplaining the origin of the Pentateuch(the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) and to study the Christian New Testament.
Form criticism operates on the premise that biblical text is derived from an
oral tradition. It claims that the creative process has produced a number of layers, each with a particular meaning. First, there is the original 'historical material', a saying or an event that no doubt occurred in some manner and was witnessed. In telling and retelling, a number of details were added. These inevitably reflect the purpose of the narrator; the original material was used to reinforce a particular message. Of course, each retelling might bring further accretions, until there are several meanings attached. Finally, the tradition is incorporated into a written account. However, the author will inevitably have his own agenda, and the assembly of traditional material will be crafted into a narrative that seeks to underline a particular theological point of view.
As developed by
Rudolf Bultmannand others, form criticism might be seen as a form of literary deconstructionin an attempt to rediscover the original kernel of meaning. This process has been described as 'demythologising', although the word must be used with caution. 'Myth' is not intended to convey a sense of 'untrue', but the significance of an event in the narrator's agenda. What, ultimately, does the writer mean by it?
In the case of the Gospels, this deconstruction or demythologising is intended to reveal the underlying
kerygmaor 'message' that is to be conveyed. What does the Gospel say about the nature and significance of Christ and his teaching? Form criticism is thus an attempt to reconstruct the theological opinions of the primitive churchand pre- talmudic Judaism.
Literary forms and sociological contexts
Form criticism begins by identifying a text's genre or conventional literary form, such as
parables, proverbs, epistles, or love poems. It goes on to seek the sociological setting for each text's genre, its "situation in life" (German: " Sitz im Leben"). For example, the sociological setting of a law is a court, or the sociological setting of a psalm of praise (hymn) is a worship context, or that of a proverb might be a father-to-son admonition. Having identified and analyzed the text's genre- pericopes, form criticism goes on to ask how these smaller genre-pericopes contribute to the purpose of the text as a whole.
cholars of form criticism
Form criticism was originally developed for
Old Testamentstudies by Hermann Gunkel. Martin Noth, Gerhard von Rad, and other scholars used it to supplement the documentary hypothesiswith reference to its oral foundations.Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005] It later came to be applied to the Gospels by Karl Ludwig Schmidt, Martin Dibelius and Rudolf Bultmann, among others.
*Armerding, Carl E. "The Old Testament and Criticism". Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983, pp. 43-66.
*Hayes, John H. "An Introduction to Old Testament Study". Nashville: Abingdon, 1979, pp. 121-154.
*Hayes, John H., ed. "Old Testament Form Criticism". San Antonio: Trinity University, 1974.
*McKnight, E.V., "What is Form Criticism?" Guide to Biblical Scholarship, New Testament; Philadelphia, 1967.
*Tucker, Gene M. "Form Criticism of the Old Testament". Guides to Biblical Scholarship. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1971.
*Tucker, Gene M."Form Criticism, OT," pp. 342-345 in "Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, Supplementary Volume". Keith Crim, gen. ed. Nashville: Abingdon, 1976.;Further reading
* cite book
title=The Growth of the Biblical Tradition: The Form-Critical Method
publisher= Charles Scribner's Sons
location = New York
* cite book
title=The Bible: Now I Get It! A Form-Critical Handbook
location = New York
* cite book
author=Tucker, Gene M.
title=Form Criticism of the Old Testament
publisher= Fortress Press
location = Philadelphia
Gerhard von Rad
* [http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/form%20criticism Form criticism] , Dictionary.com
* [http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9125589/form-criticism Form criticism] , Encyclopedia Britannica Online
* [http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_hcri.htm Biblical criticism] , at Religious Tolerance web site.
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