Discuss The Contribution Of Hermann Gunkel And Sigmund Mowinckel To The Study Of The Psalms.

1077 words - 4 pages

Q: Discuss the contribution of Hermann Gunkel and Sigmund Mowinckel to the study of the Psalms.The Psalms are a unique collection of writings which emerge from times in the Old Testament. The insightful analysis of Hermann Gunkel and the controversial theory of Sigmund Mowinckel have sparked much discussion in a previously stagnant area of theology. It is their contributions which we will look at in the coming paragraphs.PRIOR TO GUNKELTo understand the impact Gunkel and Mowinckel had on the study of the Psalms, we need to be aware of the factors leading up to their contribution.Concerted understanding of the Psalms was sparked during the enlightenment period of the 18th Century. Prior to this, the Psalms were considered primarily a collection of poems/prayers born from the emotions of holy individuals.In 1811, De Wette formalised and gave a framework to the understanding of the Psalms. He grouped the Psalms by literary types, for example thanksgiving or petitionary. More significantly he set fellow scholars down the path of understanding Psalms through historical criticism. Muilenberg defines this as 'a critical anaylsis of there composition, authorship, date, provenience, purpose and sources.' (La Sor, 1987:512)Buttenweiser followed this method of analysis closely and worked on the assumption that the Psalms were an invaluable source of historical data. As a result of this study, the Psalms were popularly dated as a post-exilic work.The challenge facing those using historical criticism as a tool, is that many Psalms proved difficult to date and understand historically due to their generality. Enemies, whilst vividly portrayed, are not fleshed out in enough detail to reliably define when and who they were. A new approach was needed.ENTER GUNKELGunkel (1862-1932) made his impact on the theological community in his book The Psalms: A Form-Critical Introduction in 1904. With the introduction of form criticism, he provided the necessary paradigm shift required to progress the understanding of the Psalms.Form criticism takes the focus from time, setting and author and focuses on how the Psalms were used in the public and private arena. His motive was to 'understand the internal religious feeling of the Psalms.' (Kaiser, 1925:343). Gunkel builds his analysis around three main points as La Sor explains.1. Since religious literature tends to resist change and keeps its pattern over time, literary sources can then be categorised according to formal similarities.2. Similarity in form (setting) indicates similarity of use - sitz im leben3. Similarity in worship and liturgy among other cultures can provide clues in understanding Israel's worship and liturgy (Psalms). (1987:512)'Gunkel combed through the texts and sorted out the cults, the legal aspects, the prophetic pronouncements, the tribal narratives, the experiences of everyday life, etc.' (Metanexus, 2004). As a result of this investigation, Gunkel solidly linked the Psalms to cultic worship and...

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