Monday, January 15, 2007

Blomberg's Criticism of Form Criticism

It seems like it's becoming increasingly en vogue to bash form criticism by passing it off with barely an academic nod. And that's not a bad thing...especially from my perspective, in case my post-graduate pursuits end up taking me in the direction of the synoptics. I've begun working through Contagious Holiness (see the teaser below) recently and early on Blomberg lays out the parameters of the discussion. In doing so, he disses the Harvard PhD diss. by Dennis Smith which deals with the Graeco-Roman banquet (known as a symposium) as a communal meal 'model' that Smith argues was pervasive and influential in the first century. Debunking, the proposal, Blomberg observes:

"In both instances, Smith is fairly quickly rebutted. The form-critical analyses assume a fallacious and now outmoded kind of historical research. The very literary-critical approach to which Smith subsequently appeals has demonstrated that one cannot strip unhistorical layers from a historical core of Gospel pericopae, as once was thought..." (p. 22, italics added)

Sweet. Bultmann is likely turning over in his grave (or perhaps twitching in the flames?).


MOsborne20 said...

I get my "criticisms" confused. What is NT Form Criticism? Secondly, what is the target behind this statement: "one cannot strip unhistorical layers from a historical core of Gospel pericopae"? thanks

Nate Mihelis said...

The second question sort of answers the first. Form Criticism was the "tool" that Bultmann and others used to do just that -- strip the "unhistorical layers" to get to the kerygma, by demythologizing one "myth" at a time. The basic method involves giving consideration to the original (likely prewritten)forms in which certain aphorisms or sayings would have appeared so that we can sift through the junk added by the early church and find out who the REAL Jesus was and what he REALLY said. I'm no pro myself (hence my thrill that it's being casually dismissed today) but that's my grasp (maybe slight caricature) of form criticism--at least as it applies to the gospels.