Longman, Form Criticism Recent Developments in Genre Theory and the Evangelical

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<ul><li><p>5/26/2018 Longman, Form Criticism Recent Developments in Genre Theory and the Evangelical</p><p> 1/23</p><p>WTJ47 (1985)46-67</p><p>FORM CRITICISM, RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN</p><p>GENRE THEORY, AND THE EVANGELICAL*</p><p>TREMPER LONGMAN III</p><p>ATTITUDES toward form criticism are undergoing somesignificant changes in both liberal and evangelical circles.Critics are becoming increasingly wary of form criticism as</p><p>developed by Gunkel and others1 and are seeking change</p><p>either in an emphasis on other critical disciplines, particularly</p><p>rhetorical,2or by refining form criticism.3 In general, the feel-</p><p>* A shorter versionofthis article was deliveredas apaperat theannualmeetingofthe Evangelical Theological SocietyinDecember 1982.1While Gunkelis thebest knownofthe early form critics, M. Dibelius's,</p><p>H. Schmidt's,and H.Gressmann's studiesarealso fundamental; seeM.J.Buss, "The StudyofForms,"inOld Testament Form Criticism (ed.J.H.Mayes;San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1974) 39fF. Forahistoryofthe riseof modern form criticism,see G.Tucker,Form Criticism ofthe Old Testament(Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971).</p><p>2M.Weiss,TheBible FromWithin: The Method of TotalInterpretation(Jerusale</p><p>Magnes Press, 1984) represents the approach of rhetorical criticism (working</p><p>with categories developedbyNew Criticism) and places this approach overagainstaform critical approach.3For example,M.J. Buss, "Appropriate and Not-so-Appropriate Waysof</p><p>Relating Historical and Functional Methods: A Draft," SBLSP (1972) 2.413-48;W. G. Doty, "Fundamental Questions about Literary Critical Methodology:AReview Article,"JAAR40 (1972) 521-27;P.D.Hanson, "AResponsetoJ*J. Collins' 'Methodological Issuesin theStudyof IEnoch/ " SBLSP(1978); M. Kessler, "From DroughttoExile:aMorphological Study of Jer.14:1-15: 4," SBLSP (1972) 2.501-22;R.Knierem, "Old Testament FormCriticism Reconsidered,"Int27(1973) 435-68; J.O.Lewis, "Gen. 32: 23-</p><p>33:Seeing a Hidden God," SBLSP (1972) 2.449-57; F. Letzen-Deis, "Methodologische berlegungenzurBestimmung literarische Gattungen im NeuenTestament " Bib 62 (1981) 1 20; R F Melugin "The Typical Versus the</p></li><li><p>5/26/2018 Longman, Form Criticism Recent Developments in Genre Theory and the Evangelical</p><p> 2/23</p><p>Testament Bib 62 (1981) 1-20; R F Melugin The Typical Versus the</p><p>FORM CRITICISM 47</p><p>ing is growing that Gunkel's method too rigidly defines genres, identifies exemplars, and derives benefits. Evangelicals,on the other hand, are slowly coming to a cautious appreciation and more explicit use of form criticism.4There are stillsome evangelicals who on the basis of an identification ofform criticism with a critical, negative application of thismethod would say along with one scholar in the late sixties:</p><p>. . . it is obvious that a consistent, thorough-going form criticism will haveno appeal to those who desire to recognize the inspiration of the Scripturesand the historical continuity between the Lord Jesus and the early church.And let all "conservatives" who are inclined to adopt some form criticalterminology and viewpoints be apprised of the basic nature ofthat to whichthey are accommodating themselves.*</p><p>Nevertheless, many evangelicals believe that form criticismhas worth: "If form criticism is properly handled, the resultscan shed light on the Scriptures, although the values depend</p><p>on the kind of literature being considered."6</p><p>A real difference of viewpoint is represented in these twoquotations and the present opinions on the matter are likelyeven further apart than they illustrate.7The thesis of this paperis that the move toward a positive and constructive form criticism as a hermeneutical tool is a proper one and that evan-</p><p>Criticism," SBLSP (1971) 2.587-600; A. M. Vater, "Story Patterns for aSitz:A Form or Literary-Critical Concern?"JSOT 11 (1979) 47-56 which also</p><p>criticizes rhetorical criticism for ignoring the diachronic dimensions of a text.4Avery recent case in point is the penetrating and technical study by G.</p><p>Osborne, "Genre CriticismSensusLiteralis," TrinityJournal 4 (1983) 1-27.5S. N. Gundry, "A Critique of Form Criticism,"BibS 123 (1966) 148-49.6H. M.Wolf,"Implications of Form Criticism for OT Studies,"BibS 127</p><p>(1970) 302. It is interesting to note that Gundry's comments pertain directlyto Gospel research, whereas Wolf deals with the OT. Their respective attitudes may be at least partially influenced by the negative conclusions of formcriticism on the historicity of the Gospel accounts, on the one hand, and onthe other hand, the obvious benefits of applyingaform critical study on such</p><p>OT books as the Psalms.71 detect in the opposition aimed at R. H. Gundry,Matthew:A Commentaryon His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1982) an nder</p></li><li><p>5/26/2018 Longman, Form Criticism Recent Developments in Genre Theory and the Evangelical</p><p> 3/23</p><p>on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans 1982) an under</p><p>48 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL</p><p>gelicals should continue to formulate and apply suchamethodwhich is shorn ofthenegative presuppositions ofthemethodas applied by critics. This paper further contends that somerecent developments in genre theory will aid in such a constructive approach.</p><p>I. Traditional Form Criticism</p><p>The best place to begin is with a description of Gunkel'sapproach to form criticism. Needless to say, refinements andmodifications have been suggested over the past decades, andmany have been accepted. Indeed, I will incorporate many ofthese more recent insights into my own approach. Nevertheless,form criticism as generally practiced today does not substantially differ from that of the earlier periods. In any case,Gunkel's thought constitutes a convenient starting point inthat it contains many of the elements which have rankled the</p><p>sensibilities of evangelicals8 and also provides the foundations, at least, for modern critical practice of formal analysis.</p><p>Gunkel was concerned to isolate and define the variousforms(Formen)and genres(Gattungen)of Scripture (see terminological discussion below). In this he was reflecting concernswhich engaged other scholars in the field of literature, particularly folklorists like P. Wendland and E. Norden. Furthermore, his dependence on the brothers Grimm9 is well</p><p>known. Unfortunate, though, for Gunkel and his followersdown to the present day is the fact that he adopted a view ofgenre which was obsolete even while he was writing.10Thismay be noted in at least four areas.</p><p>8L. Coppes, "Hermann Gunkel: A Presentation and Evaluation of HisContributions to Biblical ResearchChiefly in the Area of Old Testament"(Unpublished Th.D. dissertation: Westminster Theological Seminary, 1968)and idem., "The Contribution of Hermann Gunkel to Old Testament His</p><p>torical Research/' inThe Law and the Prophets(ed. J. H. Skilton; Nutley, NJ:Presbyterian and Reformed, 1974) 174-94.9 Noted by G Tucker Form Criticism 4-5 and M J Buss "The Study of</p></li><li><p>5/26/2018 Longman, Form Criticism Recent Developments in Genre Theory and the Evangelical</p><p> 4/23</p><p>Noted by G. Tucker, Form Criticism, 4-5, and M. J. Buss, The Study of</p><p>FORM CRITICISM 49</p><p>First, Gunkel believed that genres are pure, that they areseparate categories of literature. This doctrine of the purityof genres, well known from his negative evaluation of mixedgenres in the Psalms,11was not current in his own day, butrather was the predominant opinion of neoclassical literaryscholars of the nineteenth century who were repeating anAristotelian view of genre.12</p><p>Second, Gunkel set up certain criteria for the identification</p><p>of the genre of texts. He examined three factors in order togenerically classify a text: (1) the mood and thought(s) of thetext; (2) the linguistic forms (grammar and vocabulary); (3)the social setting(Sitz im Leben).1S</p><p>Third, form criticism as developed by Gunkel and otherswas primarily applied to literature which was believed to beoral in origin. Indeed, Gunkel considered the inscripturationof an oral composition to result in the degeneration of the</p><p>text.Another tenet of Gunkel's approach to form criticism, onewhich has been a source of irritation to evangelicals, is hiscontention that each genre hasasocialsetting and furthermorethat each genre hasoneand only one social setting. His position must be set over against earlier opinion that the psalmsoriginated in a specific historical event, either in David's life(conservatives) or the Maccabean period (critics). Indeed,Gunkel's original position was to assert that all the earlypoems originated in the cult and that it was only the latepoetry which had managed to free itself from the shackles oforganized religion and find its roots in individual piety.</p><p>This is Gunkel's view in a nutshell, a view, furthermore,which is the norm for many recent form critical studies. Furthermore, it is this view of form criticism which has beenattacked by evangelicals. I believe that Gunkel and his fol-</p><p>11H. Gunkel, The Psalms (trans, by T. M. Horner; Philadelphia: FortressPress,1967) 36-39.</p><p>12 G N G O i i "G " i P i E l di f P d P i</p></li><li><p>5/26/2018 Longman, Form Criticism Recent Developments in Genre Theory and the Evangelical</p><p> 5/23</p><p>12 G N G O i i "G " i P i t E l di f P t d P ti</p><p>5 0 WESTMINSTER THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL</p><p>lowers perpetuated many misconceptions about genre analysis,and it is high tim to get back in touch with what peopleare doing in genre theory.</p><p>But first a terminological note. There is general confusionin the use of the two terms "genre" or Gattungand "form"orForm.Sometimes these two words refer to the same literaryunit; at other times they are used for different levels of abstraction from the literary text. Usually both terms are em</p><p>ployed to describe the literary category of a small portion ofa text which has been isolated from a larger work. The situation is confusing, however, since scholars use genre tocategorize the whole work as well. I tend to reserve "form"to refer to the smaller units and "genre" for larger units, butprinciples apply to both. For instance, "lament" may be usedas agenre category to describe whole psalms (like Psalms 69and 83) or as aformal category to describe cases like Job 3,where it is only part of the whole composition.</p><p>II. Modern Literary Theory</p><p>What can literary theory teach biblical scholars about genre?In the first place, we can benefit from a more flexible definitionof genre. What is a genre?</p><p>1. ACommunicative-Semiotic Approach to Genre</p><p>In the act of reading, a transaction takes place between theauthor and the reader, a transaction which is a form of communication.14 Now, there is an adage which instructs: "theindividual is ineffable."15 That is, something which is totallyunprecedented is incommunicable. In literary terms, a text</p><p>which bears no similarities of structure, content, or the like14 The following is a communicative-semiotic description of genre That</p></li><li><p>5/26/2018 Longman, Form Criticism Recent Developments in Genre Theory and the Evangelical</p><p> 6/23</p><p>The following is a communicative-semiotic description of genre. That</p><p>FORM CRITICISM 51</p><p>with anything previously written cannot be understood by areader.</p><p>The reader, in fact, approaches a text with certain "expectations" which arise at the beginning of the reading processand which are grounded in previous reading experience.When a reader begins reading, (s)he makes a conscious orunconscious genre identification, which brings along with itcertain expectations concerning the whole of the text.</p><p>Furthermore, not only is "genre" recognizable in the expectations of the reader, but it also directs the author as (s)hecomposes the text.16It shapes or coerces17the writer so thathis/her composition can be grasped and communicated tothe reader.</p><p>Genre theorists have offered a number of metaphors ormodels (though the theorists themselves do not consider themas such) to describe a communicative understanding of</p><p>genre.18</p><p>Chief among these theorists, R. WellekandA.Warrenspeak of genre as an "institution,", similar to the state, university or church.19An individual joins an institution, followsits rules and regulations in the main but may opt to fight forchange in either a subtle or radical manner. Genres, similarly,compel authors,20but can be changed subtly or radically by</p><p>16G. Dillon, Constructing Texts: Elements ofa Theory ofComposition and Sty(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1981).</p><p>17R. Wellek and A. Warren,TheoryofLiterature(NewYork:Harcourt BraceJovanovich, 1963) 226, and D. Kambouchner, "The Theory of Accidents,"Glyph 7 (1980) 149-75.</p><p>18It should be pointed out that the theorists described belowarenot agreedconcerning the ontological status of genres. Some are realists or concep-tualists; others are nominalists (see Osborne, "Genre Criticism," 9ff). Thereare also other significant differences between them concerning literary criticaltheory. There has been no attempt to adopt a "party line" approach in thisarticle.</p><p>19R. Wellek and A. Warren,TheoryofLiterature, 226.20This is not to deny that some authors consciously break literary con</p><p>ventions in an effort to compel rather than be compelled. J. Culler,The Pursuitf</p></li><li><p>5/26/2018 Longman, Form Criticism Recent Developments in Genre Theory and the Evangelical</p><p> 7/23</p><p>f Si (Ith NY C ll U i it P 1981) 37 dd thi i</p><p>52 WESTMINSTERTHEOLOGICALJOURNAL</p><p>them. Though R. Wellek and A.Warrenare realists in termsof thequestion of genre ontology, their "institution" analogydemonstrates that such a viewpoint is not necessarily regu-lative and prescriptive,</p><p>21 but can be descriptive. The former</p><p>approach was correctly discredited by the Romantics.22</p><p>A second metaphor compares genres with legal "con-tracts."</p><p>23 Genres are expectations commonly agreed on by</p><p>authors and readers. A similar conception is found in the</p><p>workof T. Todorov, the eminent structuralist, who refers togenresascodes.</p><p>24In bothcasesthe metaphors emphasize the</p><p>communicative nature ofgenre.Thatis,it is the literary phe-nomenon which allows the writer to communicate to thereader in an intelligible way.</p><p>Another metaphor enters genre theory via philosophy, spe-cifically language philosophy.E.D.Hirsch</p><p>25draws onL.Witt-</p><p>genstein'sanalogyofthesentenceasagame.Justasasentence</p><p>isa game, so too is genre. In games there are rules, and theserules shape the play of the game. His game analogy is apt.sincelanguage(syntax,diction,etc.)and genrealsohave ruleswhich govern their successful operation.</p><p>26</p><p>A further metaphor which illumines the nature of the rerlationship between a genre and its exemplarscomes,like theWittgensteinian gameanalogy, from thesentenceleveland issecondarily applied toclasses of texts.K. Hempfer,</p><p>27 P. Ri-</p><p>coeur,28</p><p>and others29</p><p>borrow the terminology from transfor</p><p>21</p><p>Aristotle and the neoclassical school of the nineteenth century regardedgenres as regulative and prescriptive, cf. G. . G. Orsini, "Genres," 307.</p><p>22</p><p>G.. G. Orsini, "Genres," 308.23</p><p>M. Billson, "The Memoir: New Perspectives on a Forgotten Genre,"Genre 1 (1977) 25982.</p><p>24</p><p>T. Todorov, TheFantastic:A StructuralApproach to aLiteraryGenre (transR. Howard and with Introduction by R.Scholes;Ithaca, NY: Cornell Uni-</p><p>versity...</p></li></ul>

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