Re: Off topic: Rise and persistence of Form criticism

From: Philip L. Graber (
Date: Mon Oct 16 1995 - 15:38:27 EDT

On Mon, 16 Oct 1995, Kenneth Litwak wrote:

> What I don't understand is why it became so popular in the first place, and

I assume by "it" you mean form criticism.

> am I missing something gained through
> hindsight?

I think the point is not to be gained by hindsight, but by trying to put
yourself in the place of those who first read Bultmann's work, and of
Bultmann himself. Look at the history of scholarship leading up to Barth
and Bultmann and what it was they were reacting and responding to, and
how they dealt with it differently. I don't think Bultmann's use of form
criticism can be adequately understood at all apart from his position
with regard to the Quest for the Historical Jesus that came before him.
Bultmann gave up on that quest, going so far that his students tried to
revive the quest. But from Bultmann's perspective, ask yourself, if the
quest for the historical Jesus has failed, what do we do now? Bultmann's
use of form criticism was part of his answer.

Philip Graber Graduate Division of Religion
Graduate Student in New Testament 211 Bishops Hall, Emory University Atlanta, GA 30322 USA

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