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Form criticism

(Ger. Formgeschichte, “Form- history”). This is a method of literary study, applied both to secular and religious literature, which seeks to classify the forms which underlie written documents, and to reconstruct the process by which they reached their present shape. The pioneer in using this method for study of the Bible was [[Hermann Gunkel]],* who first applied it to the narratives of Genesis. Among the more significant forms which were found to be present in the OT were “legend” and “myth.” A “legend” was a story with a historical base which was recounted for an instructional or devotional purpose. A “myth” was a story to explain in pictorial form some supernatural truth. The presuppositions of some form-critics and the use of the words “myth” and “legend” (which were generally taken to indicate a lack of historical reliability) tended to give form-criticism of the OT a negative bias. But much useful work has been done, particularly in the classification of various kinds of poetic