05 Review: Herman Gunkel, Water for a Thirsty Land.

Jacqui Grey, , Southern Cross College

Book Review:

Hermann Gunkel, Water for a Thirsty Land: Israelite Literature and Religion (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2001). Pp. 182. Paperback.


This publication is a celebration of the life and work of Gunkel, the ‘father’ of form criticism. As these re-published essays remind us, Gunkel was a pioneer for new avenues of exploration within biblical studies in the era of higher criticism. The importance of this collection lies not so much in the content of his research, which now after almost one hundred years of consideration has been seriously challenged, but in the historical contribution of Gunkel’s thought to Old Testament studies.

The collection, significant for Old Testament students and teachers, takes us through a maze of oral traditions and studies of religious literature. Most of these essays emerge from Gunkel’s study of folklore and the development of his method of form criticism. For example, his study of the Jacob traditions examines the national ancestor as a compilation of various folklore heroes rather than a historical figure. While some Pentecostal scholars may struggle with Gunkel’s conclusions, his essays offers both a demonstration of Gunkel’s application of form criticism that is a valuable resource for those surveying the development of biblical studies and methodologies and reveal in Gunkel an enthusiastic advocate for the value of the Old Testament. Together with Gunkel, Pentecostals can voice: "We have a great treasure, a very great treasure, in the Old Testament."

Jacqueline Grey