From Tradition to Gospel

By Martin Dibelius and Bertram Lee Woolf (translator)

The classic introduction to Form Criticism in the study of the New Testament.

ISBN: 9780227176795


First published in 1919, From Tradition to Gospel introduced and established Form Criticism in New Testament scholarship, and it remains the classic description of the field. Dibelius outlines the twofold object of Form Criticism, firstly to explain the origin of the tradition about Jesus, and secondly to uncover with what objective the earliest Churches learnt, recounted and passed on the stories and sayings of Jesus, which gradually developed into the Gospel narratives. In doing so, he begins to answer questions as to the nature and trustworthiness of our knowledge of Jesus. As new sources come to light and new critical techniques are developed, the original investigation into the Gospels along Form-Critical lines is as relevant as ever.

Additional information

Dimensions 216 × 138 mm
Pages 327

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About the Author

After originally specialising in Semitic philology, Martin Dibelius (1883-1947) was appointed Professor of New Testament Exegesis and Criticism at the University of Heidelberg in 1915. He combined this with practical concerns within the Church; he was a member of the 1927 World Conference on Faith and Order at Lausanne, and served as Vice-Chairman of the Theological Committee of the Universal Christian Council for Life and Work. His scholarship was dominated by a focus on the ethical statements found in the New Testament and other early Christian writings.


Author’s Preface to the English Edition
Biographical Note
Translator’s Note
Glossary of Principal Technical Terms

I. Formgeschichte, or the Criticism of Literary Form
II. Sermons
III. Paradigms
IV. Tales
V. Legends
VI. Analogies
(i) Rabinnic
(ii) Greek
(a) Chriae
(b) Tales
(iii) Patristic Apothegms
VII. The Passion Story
VIII. Synthesis
IX. Exhortations
X. Mythology
XI. Form, History, Theology

General Index
Index of Scriptural Passages
(a) Old Testament
(b) New Testament
(i) Subjects
(ii) Verses


Endorsements and Reviews

Grasping the rich history of New Testament scholarship is crucial for rightly understanding contemporary debates. James Clarke & Co’s Foundations in New Testament Criticism makes available once more a rich corpus of influential books. These are classics in the best sense of the term: works of arresting originality and lasting impact. Whoever takes up these volumes will encounter the rewarding erudition of our predecessors and glean fresh insight by grappling with the shapers of biblical scholarship.
David Lincicum, Associate Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame