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Sitz im Leben

Source:
A Dictionary of the Bible What is This? Contains accessibly written entries for topics covering the religious, historical, and social aspects of the Bible.

    Sitz im Leben

    A term employed by German Form Critics and one difficult to translate exactly into English. It denotes the social context or ‘life setting’ in which a narrative emerged. The point being made is that particular items in the OT can only be understood when they are related to the culture and social life of ancient Israel. Before the sources which comprise the Pentateuch were written, they were transmitted orally, probably within the context of worship (their ‘Sitz im Leben’). The character of the social situation determines the style of the communication. In NT scholarship critics try to relate sayings of Jesus both to the Sitz im Leben of the Church in which they were transmitted and to the Sitz im Leben of Jesus' ministry in which they may have originated. It has been suggested that sayings of Jesus can only be regarded as authentically his when they can be slotted into neither the experience of the early Church, nor to that of 1st-cent. CE Judaism. Others regard this criterion as excessively sceptical, on the ground that the teaching of Jesus, as a Jew of the 1st cent., must have reflected that of contemporary Judaism.

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