The Hymnic Elements Of The Prophecy Of Amos: A Study Of Form-Critical Methodology -- By: Thomas Edward McComiskey

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 30:2 (Jun 1987)
Article: The Hymnic Elements Of The Prophecy Of Amos: A Study Of Form-Critical Methodology
Author: Thomas Edward McComiskey

The Hymnic Elements Of The Prophecy Of Amos:
A Study Of Form-Critical Methodology*

Thomas Edward McComiskey**

The methodology of form criticism has provided the Biblical scholar with one more tool to use in the study of the literary history of the OT books. Its most important contribution has been in its isolation of certain literary types and in its insistence on a careful delineation of the life settings of those types. Like most schools of Biblical criticism it has had its staunch supporters and its vehement detractors, but it continues to dominate the field of OT studies as it has for decades.

Conservative scholars have generally tended to use form criticism, if at all, in a very limited way, choosing those aspects of the methodology that do not conflict with the constructs of their critical presuppositions and rejecting those that do. We find few conservative scholars who allow form-critical approaches to bring them to the point where they see complex accretive levels in many OT books. In spite of the serious reservations that most conservatives have about some aspects of form-critical methodology, serious critiques of it from a conservative viewpoint have not kept pace with the vast amount of material being produced from a form-critical perspective.1 But the methodology of form criticism has not escaped the searching questions of those who are not conservative. The observation of J. Muilenburg in his presidential address to the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in 1968 is still applicable, if largely unheeded. In his address Muilenburg critiqued form-critical methodology in this way:

Form criticism by its very nature is bound to generalize because it is concerned with what is common to all the representatives of a genre, and therefore applies an external measure to the individual pericopes. It does not focus sufficient attention upon what is unique and unrepeatable, upon the particularity of the formulation … Exclusive attention to the Gattung may actually obscure the thought and intention of the writer or speaker … It is the creative synthesis of the particular formulation of the pericope with its content that makes it the distinctive composition that it is.2

*From chap. 5 of A Tribute to Gleason Archer: Essays on the Old Testament, ed. W. C. Kaiser, Jr., and R. F. Youngblood. Copyright 1986 by the Moody Bible Institute. Used by permission of Moody Press.

**Thomas McComiskey is professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois.


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