Sep 12, 2009

Form Criticism and Preaching

Duane A. Garrett, “Preaching from the Psalms and Proverbs,” in
Preaching the Old Testament, ed. Scott M. Gibson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006), 113, writes:

“Every seminary student has some familiarity with form criticism and the psalms. Some psalms are described as ‘hymns’ (community songs of praise), others as ‘communal laments’ (community prayers for help), and others as ‘individual songs of thanksgiving’ (sung by one person rather than a whole community), or ‘individual laments,’ ‘royal songs,’ ‘Torah psalms,’ and so forth. It is important to know these categories insofar as they force us to ask ourselves, ‘Was this psalm for one person or a whole congregation?’ ‘Is this psalm a prayer to God, or is it addressed to the reader?’ ‘Is this reflecting a celebration or a calamity?’ Although form criticism has its value, and in some instances is extremely helpful, on the whole I am not persuaded that it is of great use to the preacher. It is a tool, but no more.”

I tend to think that Garrett is right. What do you think? If you disagree, I would be interested to hear how you incorporate this material into your preaching.

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