Prominent OT scholar; b. Springe (Hanover), Germany, May 23, 1862; d. Halle, March 11, 1932. After teaching NT exegesis for a year at Göttingen (1888), he taught OT exegesis and the history of Israelite literature in Halle (1889–93), Berlin (1894–1907), Giessen (1907–20), and again Halle (1920–27). He was a popular teacher and scholar and had as students Protestant scholars from all over the world. With A. Eichhorn, W. Wrede, and W. bousset, he founded the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule (comparative religion school) of interpretation as a reaction and complement to the literary-critical school. He began by freeing the entire Bible from all dogmatic principles; it should be inserted into its proper place in universal human history as an integrating part. In so doing, he concluded that the Bible was the end product of a long preliterary process. He thereby initiated research into the numerous infraliterary stages [Gattungsforschung (study of Biblical literary genres) for the OT, Formenforschung (form criticism) for the NT]. He categorized various sayings, legends, and myths, but considered the Sitz im Leben (situation in life) as the most important object of research. This method was applied particularly in his Genesis (Göttingen 1961), Schöpfung und Chaos in Urzeit und Endzeit (Göttingen 1885), and Die Psalmen (Göttingen 1926). He did pioneering work also in the determination of Jewish Apocalyptic literature. His research caused a lively discussion and opposition, particularly among theologians, and resulted in much further work by his students and followers. He was the founder, editor, and substantial contributor to the first edition of Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart. With Bousset he initiated the collection of Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des A.T. und N.T. His suggestions for further research in OT worship, prophecy, and law were carried out in the important works of A. Alt, J. Begrich, M. Noth, and G. von Rad.
Bibliography: h. j. kraus, Geschichte der historischkritischen Erforschung des Alten Testaments (Neukirchen 1956) 300–334. l. hennequin, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928–) 3:1374–77. k. galling, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (3rd ed. Tübingen 1957–65) 2:1908–09. j. scharbert, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v. (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 4:1274–75.
[l. a. bushinski]