An Introduction to the Hermeneutic of Hermann Gunkel -- By: Leonard J. Coppes

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 32:2 (May 1970)
Article: An Introduction to the Hermeneutic of Hermann Gunkel
Author: Leonard J. Coppes


An Introduction to the Hermeneutic of Hermann Gunkel

Leonard J. Coppes

Es wird in der Gegenwart von Jahr zu Jahr deutlicher, wie wichtig die epochemachenden Leistungen Hermann Gunkels für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft sind.1

A survey of the course of biblical studies since 1900 leaves little doubt that the importance of Hermann Gunkel (1862–1932) can hardly be overemphasized.2 Nearly all contemporary literature dealing with Old or New Testament subjects is directly or indirectly indebted to Gunkel; and his name, therefore, appears often in footnotes,3 etc. A most impressive indication of his importance is obtained by surveying a list of his students, among whom were Hans Schmidt (1877–1953), Emil Balla (1885–1924), Joachim Begrich (1900–1945), Sigmund Mowinckel (1884–1965), Rudolf Bultmann (1884-), Martin Dibelius (1883–1947), Walter Baumgartner (1887-), and a host of other prominent scholars. Just how deeply contemporary biblical science is indebted and related to Gunkel is further indicated by two facts. First, in the book, EUCHARISTERION: Studien zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments4

(a Festschrift dedicated to Gunkel in honor of his sixtieth birthday), seventeen prominent biblical scholars (both Old and New Testament scholars) pay homage to Gunkel as either their teacher or friend, or both. Thus, Gunkel is publicly acknowledged to be the intellectual father of a major segment of modern biblical scholarship. Also, largely because of his teaching, such words and concepts as “Gattungen,” “Sitz-im-Leben,” “Formgeschichte,” “Religionsgeschichte,” and “sympathetic imagination” have become bywords in biblical science.5 Yet, despite Gunkel’s great influence on recent biblical studies, one searches with little success to find treatments of his contributions to this field. Of the evaluations that do exist few are of sufficient scope to offer the reader more than a minimal understanding of his work.6 A further evaluation of his influence on recent biblical scholarship needs to be made available. It is especially important that his work be critically evaluated from a conservative point of view.7

This article will serve, therefore, as an introduction to Gunkel’s work and to the critical evaluation of that work. Central t...

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