Form-Criticism and the Resurrection Accounts -- By: Zane C. Hodges

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 124:496 (Oct 1967)
Article: Form-Criticism and the Resurrection Accounts
Author: Zane C. Hodges

Form-Criticism and the Resurrection Accounts

Zane C. Hodges

In a previous study, an effort was made to harmonize the four Gospel accounts relating to the women and the empty tomb.1 Such harmonizations, however, are quite unacceptable to that large segment of New Testament scholarship which is governed by form-critical assumptions. Indeed, within the framework of thought provided by Formgeschichte, the very attempt to harmonize would be widely regarded as irrelevant and beside the point.2 This means that, even if a harmonization were to seem moderately successful, its apologetic value would be largely cancelled by contemporary presuppositions. It would seem worthwhile, therefore, for the Christian apologist to be aware of the form-critical approach to the resurrection narratives and to be able to assess its value.

It is necessary, however, at the outset to distinguish Formgeschichte as such from its contemporary critical twin, Redaktionsgeschichte. Formgeschichte concerns itself with the development of the isolated segments of tradition which circulated in the early Christian community and formed the basic materials out of which our canonical Gospels were worked up. Redaktionsgeschichte, on the other hand, is occupied with the special theological and apologetic interests of the various evangelists which determined the way in which they used the traditions available to them in the composition of their books. It is evident, therefore, that Formgeschichte represents the

prior stage and it is with this alone that we shall be concerned here.

It need hardly be said that the form-critical concept of isolated segments of tradition, circulating over a period of time in the Christian community, leads readily to questions about the reliability and accuracy of these traditions. The concept of the Sitz im Leben, or situation in life, is the major contributor to such questions. For here it is assumed by the form-critics that the special needs and interests of the community—especially those arising in the proclamation of its message—helped decisively to shape the form in which the traditions circulated. Thus the community saw the historical events of Jesus’ life and ministry through the somewhat distorted lens of its own situation. As a result the facts concerning Him could easily become to a greater or less extent what the early church wanted (or, needed) them to be, rather than what they actually were in terms of strict historical accuracy. The fully-evolved kerygma, or message of the church, thus becomes closely intertwined with real histor...

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