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What is the Sitz im Leben approach to Biblical hermeneutics? How is it used in form-critical exegesis?

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This... seems like a homework question. –  Richard Oct 11 '11 at 18:33
    
@Richard: Nope, just an attempt to get some slightly more technical hermeneutics questions up here. Feel free to edit. –  jrdioko Oct 11 '11 at 18:41
    
Well... it took research to find the answer, so it felt like homework to me! :p LOL –  Richard Oct 11 '11 at 20:29
    
Nonetheless, its an excellent question. +1 –  Richard Oct 11 '11 at 20:30
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1 Answer 1

Sitz Im Leben is German for "situation in life". This is a sociology concept that tries to place certain events or items in their situations in the life of the user.

For example, if we found the lyrics to Rock-a-bye Baby and had no knowledge of the music or situation in life where it was used, it would seem pretty harsh:

when the bough breaks, the crady will fall
and down will come baby, cradle and all

However, the Sitz Im Leben of this song is that of a lullaby, attempting to get a child to go to sleep. Therefore we could use that knowledge to assume that the song was sung quietly and delicately.


In form criticism, this concept is used to attempt to understand sociological setting of the genre of a particular passage in order to determine how these passages contribute to the text as a whole.

So, form criticism follows these general steps:

  • Identify the form or genre (parables, proverbs, hyperbole, epistle, love poem, song, etc)

  • Determine the "situation in life" in which this form or genre is used (Sitz Im Leben)

  • Find out how passages with similar genres contribute to their text and attempt to apply those concepts to the passage in question

So, Sitz Im Leben is the essential key that ties together the different passages found throughout the Bible: songs, poems, epistles, etc.

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