Off the Beaten Track: An Evangelical Reading of the Psalms without Gunkel -- By: Martin G. Klingbeil

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 16:1 (NA 2006)
Article: Off the Beaten Track: An Evangelical Reading of the Psalms without Gunkel
Author: Martin G. Klingbeil


Off the Beaten Track:
An Evangelical Reading of the Psalms
without Gunkel

Martin G. Klingbeil

Helderberg College Somerset West, South Africa

Since the inception of form criticism, evangelical theology has tried to define its relationship with its main proponent, Hermann Gunkel. This article tries to analyze this ambiguous relationship by means of reviewing interpretive tendencies of major Psalms commentaries from 1935 to 2003 while trying to locate evangelical scholarship within this panorama. One of the conclusions of this brief review is that evangelical scholarship has tagged behind when it could have been in the lead.

Key Words: Psalms, form criticism, Hermann Gunkel, Sigmund Mowinckel, Psalms commentaries, evangelical scholarship, literary criticism, comparative method, iconography, intertextuality

Introduction

Since the latter half of the last century, evangelical theology has tried to define its relationship to form criticism as proposed and developed by Gunkel and Mowinckel.1 While in the beginning there were strong voices indicating that form criticism and evangelical theology were incompatible,2 more recently, scholars have been looking for a moderate approach,

Author’s note: The present article has grown out of a paper with the same title, presented at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, held in Colorado Springs, 15 November 2001.

trying to incorporate valuable aspects of Gunkel’s method into evangelical interpretation.3 Although there are a number of scholars who speak out against the overly rigid categorization of the Gunkel School (and by no means only from within evangelical circles),4 for most of the interpretive work done on the Psalms, form-critical analysis has become the point of departure.5 Tremper Longman III, in a paper originally presented at the 1982 ETS meetings, stated that “the move toward a positive and constructive form criticism as a hermeneutical tool is a proper one and that evangelicals should continue to formulate and apply such a method which is shorn of the negative presuppositions of the method as applied by critics.”6 Although Longman then moves away from the issue and discusses genre analysis from a mainly linguistic perspective, the basic assumption

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