The Study Of Isaiah Since The Time Of Joseph Addison Alexander -- By: Edward J. Young

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 10:2 (May 1948)
Article: The Study Of Isaiah Since The Time Of Joseph Addison Alexander
Author: Edward J. Young


The Study Of Isaiah Since The Time Of Joseph Addison Alexander

Edward J. Young

Third Article

VII. The School of Form-Criticism

SCHOOLS of Biblical Criticism come upon the scene, have their day and then pass away. The commentary of Bernhard Duhm had introduced a new viewpoint in the interpretation of Isaiah, a viewpoint which was destined to supplant the reigning interpretations of his day. Yet Duhm’s work was in itself not an isolated phenomenon. For he occupies his place in that school of Biblical criticism and interpretation which is generally regarded, even at the present, as in the position of dominance. And this school of criticism and interpretation, commonly associated with the names of Graf, Kuenen and Julius Wellhausen, whether it be considered from the standpoint of the religious or of the secular history of Israel, is itself but a manifestation of a particular movement in the history of thought, represented also by the theology of Ritschl and the philosophy of Hegel.

That there have already been strong reactions to the reconstruction of Israel’s history proposed by this school is well known. In what respect, however, we may ask, did these reactions make themselves known in the study of Isaiah? This question is of particular interest because the basis for these reactions and indeed their very roots are to be found (so the present writer believes), at least to an extent, in the work of Duhm itself.

The leading development in the field of the literary criticism of Isaiah was the appearance of the school of Gattungsforschung or form-criticism. As far as it applies to the Old Testament,

this school of interpretation will always be connected with the names of the brilliant scholars Hermann Gunkel and Hugo Gressmann,1 men who have been successful in producing a coterie of capable students that have applied their principles to the study of the entire Old Testament.2

Basic to this school of thought is the assumption that the literature of the Hebrews fell into types and that these are clearly distinguished by certain characteristics.3 Each Gattung, to employ Gunkel’s terminology, exhibited certain introductory and concluding formulae, characteristic thoughts, and also some function in the life of the people.

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