|Born||May 23, 1862
Springe, Kingdom of Hanover
|Died||March 11, 1932
Halle, Weimar Republic
|Education||University of Göttingen|
|Occupation||Biblical historical criticism|
|Known for||Founding form criticism|
Hermann Gunkel (1862–1932), a German Old Testament scholar, founded form criticism. He also became a leading representative of the history of religions school. His major works cover Genesis and the Psalms, and his major interests centered on the oral tradition behind written sources and in folklore.
Gunkel was born in Springe, Kingdom of Hanover, where his father and grandfather were Lutheran pastors. He studied at the University of Göttingen and taught there and at the universities in Berlin, Giessen, and Halle.
Gunkel started his career in New Testament studies at Göttingen in 1888. However, he was soon transferred to Halle (1889-1894) and told to concentrate on the Hebrew Bible by the Prussian academic appointments authority. He went on to teach in Berlin (1894-1907), where he made many inter-disciplinary contacts. His 1895 book, Creation and Chaos in the Primeval Era and the Eschaton, compared the symbolism in Genesis and Revelation 12. In 1901, he produced the first of three editions of commentary on Genesis, Genesis Translated and Explained.
In 1907, Gunkel finally obtained a full professorship at the University of Giessen. There he produced the third and final edition of Genesis in 1910 and The Prophets in 1917. He moved to the University of Halle-Wittenberg in 1920. He published another standard work, his commentary on the book of Psalms, The Psalms: Translated and Explained in 1926. Introduction to the Psalms was his last major project, brought to completion by his student Joachim Begrich in 1933.
Gunkel founded the series Research into the Religion and Literature of the Old and New Testaments (1903-) with Wilhelm Bousset. He also co-edited with Leopold Zscharnack the second edition of the German religious encyclopedia Religion in History and the Present (1927-1931), in which he authored over one hundred articles.
Gunkel became a leading representative of the "History of Religions school" (Religionsgeschichtliche Schule), which addressed the history of traditions behind the biblical text. In addition to Gunkel, the original group also included Albert Eichhorn, William Wrede, Heinrich Hackmann, Alfred Rahlfs, Johannes Weiss, Wilhelm Bousset, Ernst Troeltsch, and Wilhelm Heitmüller. They initially concentrated on the origins of Christianity, but this interest eventually broadened to include the historical backgrounds of ancient Israelite and other Near Eastern religions.
Gunkel arguably produced his most important work in his commentary on Genesis, published in three editions from 1901 to 1910. In these works he created the new critical methodology of form criticism (Formgeschichte). Form criticism examined the genres used in the biblical text to identify the Sitz im Leben (setting in life) that produced the text. This approach was based on the assumption that each genre is organically associated with a particular social and historical situation. Gunkel and his circle believed that this approach offered an improvement upon source criticism. Nineteenth-century source criticism had examined the biblical text, especially the Pentateuch, on the basis of style, vocabulary, theology, and other criteria to identify the basic literary sources used to create the text. Form criticism allowed scholars to go behind these larger literary sources by identifying the smaller and older sources used by their authors. Because of its utility, form criticism became immensely influential in Germany and Europe during the 20th century, with important scholars like Gerhard von Rad and Martin Noth applying and developing it. By the end of the 20th century, however, scholars[which?] commonly identified flaws in the approach and called for adjustments to it (such as one finds in rhetorical criticism) or total replacements of it (such as postmodern genre criticism).
- The Influence of the Holy Spirit. Translated by Roy A. Harrisville and Phillips A. Quanbeck. Philadelphia: Fortress Press (published 1979). 1888.
- Creation and Chaos in the Primeval Era and the Eschaton. Translated by K. William Whitney Jr. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans (published 2006). 1895.
- Genesis: Translated and Explained (1st ed.). Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht. 1901. (Introduction translated by William Herbert Carruth and published as The Legends of Genesis in 1901.)
- Israel and Babylon. Translated by E. S. B. and K. C. Hanson. Eugene, OR: Cascade (published 2009). 1903.
- Genesis: Translated and Explained. Translated by Mark E. Biddle (3rd ed.). Macon, GA: Mercer University Press (published 1997). 1910. (Introduction available as The Stories of Genesis)
- The Folktale in the Old Testament. Translated by M. D. Rutter. Sheffield: Almond Press (published 1987). 1917.
- The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction. Translated by T. M. Horner. Philadelphia: Fortress Press (published 1967). 1926.
- An Introduction to the Psalms. Completed by Joachim Begrich and translated by James D. Nogalski. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press (published 1998). 1933.
- Sparks, Kenton L. (2007). "Form Criticism". In Porter, Stanley E. Dictionary of Biblical Criticism and Interpretation. New York: Routledge. pp. 111–114.
- "Hermann Gunkel (German biblical scholar)". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
- Gignilliat, Mark S. (2012). "Hermann Gunkel". A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. p. 108.
- Buss, M. J. (2007). "Gunkel, Hermann". In McKim, Donald K. Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters. InterVarsity Press. pp. 499–503.
- Muilenburg, James (1967). "Introduction". The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction (PDF). Philadelphia: Fortress Press. p. vii.
- Lüdemann, Gerd (2008). "The Relationship of Biblical Studies to the History of Religions School, with Reference to the Scientific Study of Religion" (PDF). Toronto Journal of Theology 24 (2): 173. doi:10.3138/tjt.24.2.171.
- Mihelic, Joseph (1951). "The Influence of Form Criticism on the Study of the Old Testament". Journal of the American Academy of Religion XIX (3): 120–129. doi:10.1093/jaarel/XIX.3.120.
- Muilenburg, James (March 1969). "Form Criticism and beyond". Journal of Biblical Literature 88 (1): 1–18. doi:10.2307/3262829.
- Buss, Martin J. (1999). "Gunkel in his context". Biblical Form Criticism in its Context. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press.
- Enns, Peter (September 10, 2012). "Reading Genesis: Let’s be Adult about this, Shall We". patheos.com. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- Pfeiffer, Robert H; Cadbury, Henry J. (July 1924). "The 'Festschrift für Hermann Gunkel'". Harvard Theological Review 17 (03): 297–306. doi:10.1017/s0017816000014048.
- Godfrey, Neil (October 21, 2012). "Oral Tradition Behind Gospels and OT: Unfounded, Unworkable and Unnecessary". Vridar. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- Hendel, Ronald (March 2011). "After Gunkel: Roads Not Taken". The Bible and Interpretation. Retrieved January 3, 2013.
- McCarthy, John F. (November 2003). "Rationalism in the historical-criticism of Hermann Gunkel". Living Tradition. Roman Theological Forum. Retrieved January 2, 2013.
- Williams, Tyler F. (May 23, 2010). "A Form-Critical Classification of the Psalms according to Hermann Gunkel". biblical-studies.ca. Retrieved January 11, 2013.