Francis Watson, Jens Schröter, and the Sayings Collection Genre of the Gospel of Thomas

I recently completed Francis Watson‘s impressive book Gospel Writing, which is rightly receiving much attention (see here). I profited much from this stimulating work, and I especially enjoyed seeing the many ways in which it converged with and diverged from Jens Schröter‘s perspectives in From Jesus to the New Testament and Christoph Markschies‘s perspectives in Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire.

Against this background, I hope to devote two (or more?) blog posts to comparing Watson’s book with the aforementioned works, namely as examples of the “I’d like to see someone else write about this” genre. In other words, these posts will flag up areas of inquiry that I will probably not write on but that I hope someone else might be motivated to investigate in greater detail, i.e. in the form of a blog post, conference paper, or article.

This week’s post will focus on the the different ways that Jens Schröter and Francis Watson deal with the sayings tradition and its development with special reference to the place they assign to the Gospel of Thomas. I’ll begin with a quotation by Watson, follow it with a quotation by Schröter, and then add a few words of analysis.

Francis Watson (Gospel Writing, pp. 249-250): “A closely related issue has been less intensively discussed, and it concerns the format of GTh. This text consists of a series of sayings, whether shorter or longer, single or composite, normally introduced by the formula “Jesus said…” While Thomas is apparently dependent on Matthew and Luke for parts of its content, it is independent of them as regards its format. Nor does this format conform to the (now discredited) Q Gospel. … There is no basis for the common assumption that Thomas closely resembles Q, and that it thereby strengthens the case for Q. … In terms of format, Thomas is unique, the single surviving instance of a sayings collection to set alongside the narrative gospels. The question is whether GTh was always unique or whether it attests the existence of a Sayings Collection genre, a class of writing whose existence ran parallel to that of the narrative gospels and that might conceivably have predated them. That is not to say that GTh itself may be earlier than the narrative gospels. If it contains early elements at all, predating the canonical evangelists, these can be identified only tentatively; they cannot be assembled into an ‘original core’ to which a mid-first-century date may be assigned. Even within the more self-consciously literary genre of the narrative gospels, there is considerable fluidity as stories pass from unknown sources into Mark and from Mark into Matthew and Luke. Within an initially preliterary Sayings Collection genre, that fluidity is likely to have been greater still. It is therefore impossible to recover from GTh the text of a primitive sayings collection along the lines of reconstructions of Q. What may still be possible is to recover from GTh a primitive genre, one in which sayings of Jesus were simply listed one after the other with an introductory formula attached to each. This genre would be at least as old as the oldest written sayings in GTh. If Thomas preserves even a single saying or parable in a form that predates the synoptic versions, it most probably owes its preservation to an unbroken chain of written transmission. The links in the chain are beyond recovery—although, as we have seen, Clement of Alexandria’s Gospel according to the Hebrews may have been one of them. Yet, if the Sayings Collection genre can be traced back behind GTh into the presynoptic era, it is plausible to suppose that texts of this kind may have been available to the synoptic evangelists. Before as well as after the composition of their gospels, Jesus’ sayings were transmitted by way of Sayings Collections (SCs). To the L/M hypothesis, which replaces Q, a Thomas-based SC hypothesis may be added. the two hypotheses are independent yet mutually reinforcing. If there is a Sayings Collection genre that predates the narrative gospels, then there is no need to envisage an extended period of purely oral transmission of Jesus’ sayings. The writing of a saying would be an original rather than a secondary feature of the traditioning process.”

Jens Schröter (From Jesus to the New Testament, p. 110-111 + note 49): “The one-sided preference for Q and the Gospel of Thomas—which in the process are also incorrectly assigned to the same genre—in Jesus presentations such as that of John Dominic Crossan or the methodologically completely untenable plea for the historical preference for a supposedly oldest layer of Q by James M. Robinson are indebted to a perspective that disregards the historical concretion and is not adequate to the sources. By contrast, every historical presentation of the person of Jesus has to take its orientation from the fact that his sayings were spoken in concrete situations to concrete human beings, that they only present one aspect of his activity and stand alongside the others—such as the constitution of a circle of followers, his healings and meal-fellowships, and the controversy [123] with opponents, to name only a few—and that in the sources that are available, whole pictures of his activity and fate are provided and not collections of sayings.” Note 49: “This is not altered at all by the fact that with the Gospel of Thomas we have a writing concentrated on the presentation of isolated sayings and parables. Such a collection is an artificial product that already presupposes the narrative presentation of the activity of Jesus and takes this path in contrast to another path in order to explicate the significance of Jesus. The thesis of the ancient character of such a collection is refuted by observations pertaining to the secondary character of the Gospel of Thomas over against the Synoptic Gospels, as well as by the fact with the philosophical biographies of Diogenes Laertius and the Apophthegmata Patrum we have parallel works from about the same time or even later in which the collection character of the material has just as little to do with antiquity. On this cf. also Hezser 1996, 393.”

Analysis: As mentioned at the outset, this post belongs to what I am calling the “I’d like to see someone else write about this” form/genre. In other words, although (or because!) I don’t plan on researching this topic further myself, I would be delighted if my presentation of these two quotations would provoke some bright, industrious scholar to compare and contrast the ways in which Jens Schröter (e.g. in From Jesus to the New Testament, chapters 5-6, and 12) and Francis Watson (in Gospel Writing, perhaps esp. in chapters 5 and 7) discuss the character and development of the sayings tradition, which would obviously not be limited to their treatment of the Gospel of Thomas.

My impression is that both scholars have developed extremely impressive models for how to understand the overall development of the sayings tradition, which makes it all the more interesting to observe areas of sharp disagreement (e.g. placing the sayings collection genre reflected in the Gospel of Thomas at an earlier or later point in the development) alongside many notable agreements (e.g. their shared view that Q and the Gospel of Thomas do not belong to the same genre and that the Gospel of Thomas is familiar with the Synoptic Gospels). While this post obviously does not go very far in showing how such an investigation might prove fruitful, perhaps it will prove sufficient to motivate someone else to pursue the matter further. If so, Schröter’s multiple exchanges with James Dunn could also prove relevant for this task (see here and here), since it seems to me that there are some points in which Watson and Dunn stand over against Schröter (e.g. in placing the sayings tradition in the context of recollection about Jesus from the beginning rather than seeing it initially located in a paraenetic context that was not focused on biographical recollection) and others in which Dunn and Schröter stand over against Watson (e.g. in the fact that they are inclined to appeal to oral tradition to explain much of the material that Watson explains with reference to the Sayings Collection Genre).

If anyone does wish to develop this topic, I recommend beginning with chapter 5 of From Jesus to the New Testament and pages 249-285 and 347-355 of Gospel Writing.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! Unfortunately, I have found it increasingly difficult to write a new post each Monday, but I hope to be able to write at least one or two Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.


Petra von Gemünden on Affekte in the Synoptic Gospels

Today’s post will look at a model sentence from Petra von Gemünden‘s essay “Affekte in den synoptischen Evangelien. Die Bedeutung der literarischen Gattung für die Darstellung von Zorn, Begierde, Furcht/Angst und Neid” [Affects in the Synoptic Gospels: The Significance of the Literary Genre for the Presentation of Anger, Lust, Fear/Angst and Envy]. Pages 255-284 in Jesus – Gestalt und Gestaltungen: Rezeptionen des Galiläers in Wissenschaft, Kirche und Gesellschaft. Festschrift für Gerd Theißen zum 70. Geburtstag. Edited by Petra von Gemünden, David Horrell and Max Küchler. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013.

For some of Petra von Gemünden’s other relevant publications in this area of study see her 2009 book Affekt und Glaube: Studien zur Historischen Psychologie des Frühjudentums und Urchristentums (UGAhere).

Translation and German Text

English Translation (wmc): Here an important role is assigned to the affects of the (male and female) disciples and their failure. In the figures of the (male and female) disciples problems are addressed and moved into the light anew in a correcting manner. Jesus functions as an overcoming model: he is afraid but overcomes his angst. In this way the figure of Jesus makes possible a learning in relation to a model. As psychology has shown, learning in relation to an overcoming model is more effective than the example of a “perfect” (here: an absolutely fearless) person.

“Affekte in den synoptischen Evangelien” (p. 278): Den Affekten der JüngerInnen und ihrem Versagen kommt hier eine wichtige Rolle zu. In den Figuren der JüngerInnen werden Probleme angesprochen und korrigierend neu ins Licht gerückt. Als überwindendes Modell fungiert Jesus: Er fürchtet sich, überwindet aber in Getsemane seine Angst. Damit ermöglicht die Figur Jesu ein Lernen am Modell. Wie die Psychologie gezeigt hat, ist das Lernen am überwindenden Modell effektiver, als das Exempel eines “vollkommenen” (hier: eines absolut furchtlosen) Menschen.

Grammatical analysis

(1) Den Affekten der JüngerInnen und ihrem Versagen kommt hier eine wichtige Rolle zu.

(1) the subject is eine wichtige Rolle, the verb is zukommen (it separates and zu moves to the end), the datives den Affekten and ihrem Versagen indicate what a role is assigned to, the genitive plural der JüngerInnen elegantly deals with the difficulty that German writers must choose between Jünger (which does not specifically signal that women are also in view and could be understood to mean that only men are in view) and the feminine Jüngerinnen (which includes only women): In other words, assuming my understanding is correct, the term JüngerInnen conveys something like Jünger and/or Jüngerinnen, like our “s/he” [Jünger/innen is also used]. I have translated zukommen somewhat freely as “is assigned to” rather than “belongs” or “is due to”.

(2) In den Figuren der JüngerInnen werden Probleme angesprochen und korrigierend neu ins Licht gerückt. 

(2) In + dative den Figuren + genitive plural der JüngerInnen, plural subject = Probleme, verbs = werden … angesprochen and werden gerückt, korrigierend and neu are adverbs. ins Licht = in + das Licht (accusative since it is with a verb of motion, i.e., into).

(3) Als überwindendes Modell fungiert Jesus: Er fürchtet sich, überwindet aber in Getsemane seine Angst.

(3) Jesus is the subject, fungiert is the verb, als = as, I think Modell is a predicate nominative, überwindendes is a nominative, singular, neuter, present participle that modifies Modell.  Er is the subject, fürchtet sich and überwindet are the verbs, aber is postpositive, in Getsamene indicates the location, seine = his, Angst is the direct object of überwindet; since P. v. Gemünden uses Furcht/Angst it seemed preferable to translate Angst with “angst” rather than “fear”, with the hope that the semantic range of the German “Angst” and the English “angst” are close enough that angst is not a false friend; it could be, however, and it might be better to translate it as “fear”.

(4) Damit ermöglicht die Figur Jesu ein Lernen am Modell. 

(4) Damit is hard to translate: sometimes it is best to turn it into a “this”, but I often translate it with “in this way” or sometimes with “thus”, “thereby”, or “with this”. die Figur is the subject, Jesu is genitive (the figure of Jesus), ein Lernen [the verb lernen is made into a noun by being capitalized, which makes it “a learning”] is the object of ermöglicht, an [am = an dem] is often difficult: I sometimes use “toward” or “in relation to”, though neither is quite right; Modell is dative.

(5) Wie die Psychologie gezeigt hat, ist das Lernen am überwindenden Modell effektiver, als das Exempel eines “vollkommenen” (hier: eines absolut furchtlosen) Menschen.

(5) Wie = as (introduces a subordinate clause here, verb moves to end), subject = die Psychologie, past-tense-verb of the clause introduced by Wie = hat gezeigt, verb of main sentence = ist, subject = das Lernen, am = an dem (dative neuter) + überwindenden Modell, effektiver = comparative form of effektiv, als with a comparative = than (more effective than), das Exempel is also nominative, eines Menschen is genitive and is modified by the adjective vollkommenen, (hier: eines absolut furchtlosen) provides a gloss for what is meant by ein vollommenen in this case, for which reason it is also put in the genitive.

Substantive Analysis

There are many things that I appreciate about this excerpt and P. v. Gemünden’s essay as a whole. Perhaps most of all, I like how this quotation rightly and powerfully underscores the way in which Jesus functions as an overcoming model in Gethsemane, i.e, against the tendency to undercut or minimize this function by stressing the extent to which Jesus’s particular way of suffering and death was unique and unrepeatable.


My own interest in the topic of historical psychology and New Testament interpretation was first ignited by my RBL review of Gerd Theissen’s 2007 book Erleben und Verhalten der Ersten Christen: Eine Psychologie des Urchristentum, and it received new life through my supervision of Amanda Atkinson‘s MA research on Pauline Conversion and Resurrection.

For my other posts on psychology and New Testament interpretation see here.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! Unfortunately, I have found it increasingly difficult to write a new post each Monday, but I hope to be able to write at least one or two  Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.

3 PhD Positions, 1 Postdoc Position, and a German Summer School in Mainz

I recently learned from Ruben Zimmermann about two great opportunities at the Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz that may be of interest to readers of this blog.

First, the International Summer School German (and) Theology will be taking place in July 2015. This would be a great way for graduate students (or advanced undergraduates) to learn the German language and delve into the wonderful world of German theology at the same time. For half the day the Center for “Deutsch als Fremdsprache” will offer a German course on different levels (beginners are welcome), and for half the day there will be courses (probably in English) on German Theology throughout the centuries, reading texts from German authors and becoming conversant with influential German figures like Luther, Schleiermacher and Bultmann.

Secondly, Three PhD Positions and One Postdoc Position in Mainz are being funded for the research project “Die Zeitdimension in der Begründung der Ethik” (The time dimension in the grounding/justification of the ethic/ethics). International applicants are encouraged to apply, and it is my understanding that the PhD dissertations and Habilitation associated with this project can be written in English. Applicants for the PhD positions are not required to know German already, but they should be willing to learn German to participate in faculty activities. While knowledge of German is especially desirable for the Postdoc position, all highly qualified candidates are encouraged to apply for this position, i.e., regardless of their level of competency in German.

In other news, I stumbled upon a wonderful list of bibliographies of German New Testament scholars here.

Finally, thanks to Kim Fabricius for the very fitting addition to my Bob Dylan Career Path:

On learning theological German

It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) (for full lyrics see here)

So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing

Apologies for the lack of properly German posts this month!

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! Unfortunately, I have found it increasingly difficult to write a new post each Monday, but I hope to be able to write at least two or three Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.


Bob Dylan Career Path

It’s Spring Break for me, so I figured it would be appropriate to depart from the regularly scheduled program.

This my attempt to sketch out a/my career in biblical studies via 14 Bob Dylan Songs (cf. The New Testament in Bob Dylan song titles)

The selection may seem a bit cynical at times, but for me some of these songs really have been a source of strength along the way.

Still, you may want to balance this sketch with my more constructive Roadmap for Aspiring New Testament scholars!

For ease of reference all songs are taken from “The Essential Bob Dylan” (see here)

1. On not losing the best of one’s beginnings

Forever Young (for full lyrics, see here)

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

2. On (re)reading the primary sources

Mr. Tambourine Man (for full lyrics, see here)

Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you

3. On trying to find your niche

Subterranean Homesick Blues (for full lyrics, see here)

Ah get born, keep warm
Short pants, romance, learn to dance
Get dressed, get blessed
Try to be a success
Please her, please him, buy gifts
Don’t steal, don’t lift
Twenty years of schoolin’
And they put you on the day shift
Look out kid
They keep it all hid
Better jump down a manhole
Light yourself a candle
Don’t wear sandals
Try to avoid the scandals
Don’t wanna be a bum
You better chew gum
The pump don’t work
’Cause the vandals took the handles

4. On trying to get into a PhD program

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue (for full lyrics, see here)

The highway is for gamblers, better use your sense
Take what you have gathered from coincidence
The empty-handed painter from your streets
Is drawing crazy patterns on your sheets
This sky, too, is folding under you
And it’s all over now, Baby Blue

5. On being ignored (or ignoring people) at conferences

Positively 4th Street (for full lyrics, see here)

You got a lotta nerve
To say you are my friend
When I was down
You just stood there grinning

You got a lotta nerve
To say you got a helping hand to lend
You just want to be on
The side that’s winning

6. On trying to publish one’s research

Rainy Day Woman # 12 & 35 (for full lyrics, see here)

They’ll stone ya when you’re at the breakfast table
They’ll stone ya when you are young and able
They’ll stone ya when you’re tryin’ to make a buck
They’ll stone ya and then they’ll say, “good luck”
Tell ya what, I would not feel so all alone
Everybody must get stoned

7. On (trying to finish) the PhD

Maggie’s Farm (for full Lyrics, see here)

I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more
No, I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more
Well, he hands you a nickel
He hands you a dime
He asks you with a grin
If you’re havin’ a good time
Then he fines you every time you slam the door
I ain’t gonna work for Maggie’s brother no more

8. On realizing your PhD might not land you a job

Like a Rolling Stone (for complete lyrics, see here)

Ain’t it hard when you discover that
He really wasn’t where it’s at
After he took from you everything he could steal

How does it feel
How does it feel
To be on your own
With no direction home
Like a complete unknown
Like a rolling stone?

9. On the unrelenting pressure to publish (what others say is important)

It Ain’t Me, Babe (for complete lyrics, see here).

Go melt back into the night, babe
Everything inside is made of stone
There’s nothing in here moving
An’ anyway I’m not alone
You say you’re lookin’ for someone
Who’ll pick you up each time you fall
To gather flowers constantly
An’ to come each time you call
A lover for your life an’ nothing more
But it ain’t me, babe
No, no, no, it ain’t me, babe
It ain’t me you’re lookin’ for, babe

10. On (contemplating the possibility of) not making tenure

Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright (for full lyrics, see here)

I’m walkin’ down that long, lonesome road, babe
Where I’m bound, I can’t tell
But goodbye’s too good a word, gal
So I’ll just say fare thee well
I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don’t mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time
But don’t think twice, it’s all right

11. On (contemplating the possibility of) making tenure

Quin the Eskimo  (The Mighty Quinn) (for full lyrics, see here)

Ev’rybody’s building the big ships and the boats
Some are building monuments
Others, jotting down notes
Ev’rybody’s in despair
Ev’ry girl and boy
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
Ev’rybody’s gonna jump for joy
Come all without, come all within
You’ll not see nothing like the mighty Quinn

12. On trying to interpret the Bible for one’s time

The Times they Are a Changin’ (for full lyrics, see here)

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

13. On realizing that “every decent theology was, is, and will be a theology of liberation” (E. Käsemann).

Blowin’ in The Wind (for full lyrics, see here)

How many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea?
Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free?
Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see?
The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

14. On remembering one’s teachers and mentors

If Not For You (for full lyrics, see here)

If not for you
Winter would have no spring
Couldn’t hear the robin sing
I just wouldn’t have a clue
Anyway it wouldn’t ring true
If not for you

Jörg Frey zum Geburtstag: Present and Future Eschatology in the Johannine Farewell Discourses

I had not planned to write a blog post today, but having discovered that it was Jörg Frey’s birthday, I was inspired to create a new blog category, namely zum Geburtstag, which I hope will become a bright spot in Facebook’s multifaceted Wirkungsgeschichte. And rather than continuing my series of Frey posts on Johannine Interpretation, it seemed fitting to select an excerpt from his Habilitationsschrift, namely Die johanneische Eschatologie (cf. Google Books).

As indicated by my title, the selected excerpt is focused on one of the major contributions of this book, namely its nuanced discussion of the relationship between present and future eschatology in the Johannine Writings (cf. also J. Frey, “Eschatology in the Johannine Circle”, pp. 47-82 in Theology and Christology in the Fourth Gospel).

Due to time constraints I will not include a grammatical analysis for this category.

Translation (wmc):

(b) The accent set by the Johannine author lies, however, clearly on the present certainty of salvation. The temptation/trial of the addressees should not be met through a mere strengthening of the traditional expectation, but precisely by giving the community assurance in the salvation grounded in Jesus’s death and mediated through the Spirit-Paraclete…

(c) On the other hand, the thus-opened perception of the Christ and God fellowship inaugurated in the present and of the fullness of salvation bestowed through the Spirit-Paraclete does not make obsolete the promise of the coming consummation of salvation handed down in Jesus’s words. One can sooner assume that the reference to the present reality of salvation also newly strengthened and stimulated the expectation of the addressees. The promise of the ‘coming’ of Jesus to ‘bring home’ his disciples is never explicitly contested, and in the concluding petition of the farewell prayer in 17.24 the expectation of the definitive consummation of the fellowship with the exalted in the unveiled beholding of his glory is explicitly confirmed. In the whole of the Johannine farewell discourses there can therefore be no talk of Easter, Pentecost, and parousia being somehow identified with one another, neither in the sense of a fusion of the Easter Christophanies into the post-Easter reality determined by the Spirit-Paraclete nor in the polemical thesis that the true parousia has already happened and every other expectation is therefore superfluous. The intention of the author is—much more concretely and less dogmatic-polemically—to comfort and assure his addressee community in their λύπη and ταραχή.

Die johanneische Eschatologie III, p. 238:

(b) Der vom johanneischen Autor gesetzte Akzent liegt jedoch deutlich auf der gegenwärtigen Gewißheit des Heils. Der Anfechtung der Adressaten soll nicht etwa durch eine bloße Bekräftigung der überkommenen Erwartung begegnet werden, sondern gerade dadurch, daß die Gemeinde in dem in Jesu Tod begründeten und durch den Geist-Parakleten vermittelten Heil vergewissert wird…

(c) Andererseits macht die so erschlossene Wahrnehmung der in der Gegenwart eröffneten Christus- und Gottesgemeinschaft und der durch den Geist-Parakleten geschenkten Heilsfülle die in Jesu worten überlieferte Zusage der kommenden Heilsvollendung nicht obsolet. Man kann eher annehmen, daß der Hinweis auf die gegenwärtige Wirklichkeit des Heils auch die Erwartung der Adressaten aufs neue bekräftigt und stimuliert hat. Nirgendwo wird die Verheißung des ‘Kommens’ Jesu zur ‘Heimholung’ seiner Jünger ausdrücklich bestritten, und in der abschließenden Bitte des Abschiedsgebets in 17.24 wird die Erwartung der definitiven Vollendung der Gemeinschaft mit dem Erhöhten in der unverhüllten Schau seiner Herrlichkeit ausdrücklich bestärkt. Im Ganzen der johanneischen Abschiedsreden kann daher keine Rede davon sein, daß Ostern, Pfingsten und Parusie in irgendeiner Weise miteinander identifiziert werden sollten, weder im Sinne einer Einschmelzung der österlichen Christophanien in die nachösterliche, vom Geist-Parakleten bestimmte Wirklichkeit noch gar im Sinne der polemischen These, daß die wahre Parusie schon geschehen sei und jede weitere Erwartung sich deshalb erübrige. Die Intention des Autors ist – viel konkreter und weniger dogmatisch-polemisch -, seine Addressatengemeinde in ihrer λύπη und ταραχή zu trösten und zu vergewissern.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! Unfortunately, I have found it increasingly difficult to write a new post each Monday, but I hope to be able to write at least two or three Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.

Jörg Frey on the zeitgeschichtliche Approach to Johannine Interpretation

This week’s post comes from my 2016/2017 translation project, namely Jörg Frey‘s collection of essays titled Die Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten: Studien zu den Johanneischen Schriften I / The Glory of the Crucified One: Studies on the Johannine Writings I. For all my posts on this book see here.

More specifically, it continues my series of posts on Frey’s introductory chapter “Ways and Perspectives of the Interpretation of the Gospel of John. Reflections on the Way to a Commentary”. Today’s key quotation comes from section 1.3: Der zeitgeschichtliche Zugang: Der historische Ort des Evangeliums als Schlüssel der Lektüre, which I am currently translating as “The Time-of-Composition Approach: The Historical Position of the Gospel as the Key to Reading”.

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the (selective) grammatical commentary directly follows the German text.

I. Translation and German Text

The Glory of the Crucified One (trans. wmc): Decisive, however, is the hermeneutical insight that results from the two-level model: The Gospel of John is evidently consciously configured—not only in chapter 9—in such a way that the horizon of the time and history of Jesus is interwoven with the horizon of the author and his addressees. In this way the narrated (hi)story of Jesus becomes transparent in relation to the experiences of the addressees; conversely these experiences are interpreted in the light of the earthly history of the eternal Logos. This hermeneutical insight brings at the same time a fundamental qualification in relation to every pure carrying out of the time-of-composition reading approach. If in the Johannine text the narrative of circumstances from the spatial, temporal, and material horizon of the earthly Jesus connects itself with problems, theological insights, and language forms from the Johannine author and his addressees or is overlayed by them, then the Johannine text can be understood neither solely as a ‘historical’ account of the activity of Jesus nor exclusively as a mirror of events in the horizon of the addressee community or their history, but the two horizons are instead fused with each other in a complex and usually no longer clearly separable manner. Thus neither the historicizing nor the time of composition approach is hermeneutically sufficient, although both highlight in their own way the Johannine text’s connection to history.

Die Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten (p. 15-16): Entscheidend ist jedoch die hermeneutische Einsicht, die sich aus dem Zwei-Ebenen-Modell ergibt: Das Johannesevangelium ist offenbar bewußt – nicht nur in Kapitel 9 – so gestaltet , daß sich der Horizont der Zeit und Geschichte Jesu mit dem Horizont des Autors und seiner Addressaten verschränkt. Damit wird die erzählte Geschichte Jesu für die Erfahrungen des Adressaten transparent; umgekehrt werden diese Erfahrungen im Lichte der irdischen Geschichte des ewigen Logos gedeutet. Diese hermeneutische Einsicht bringt zugleich eine wesentliche Einschränkung gegenüber jeder reinen Durchführung des zeitgeschichtlichen Lektüreansatzes. Wenn sich im johanneischen Text die Erzählung von Begebenheiten aus dem räumlichen, zeitlichen und sachlichen Horizont des irdischen Jesus mit Problemen, theologischen Einsichten und Sprachformen aus dem Horizont des johanneischen Autors und seiner Adressaten verbinden oder von diesen überlagert wird, dann läßt sich der johanneische Text weder allein als ‘historischer’ Bericht über das Wirken Jesu noch ausschließlich als Spiegel von Vorgängen im Horizont der Adressatengemeinde oder ihrer Geschichte verstehen, vielmehr sind beide Horizonte in komplexer und meist nicht mehr klar auflösbarer Weise miteinander verschmolzen. Damit sind weder der historisierende Zugang noch der zeitgeschichtliche hermeneutisch suffizient, obgleich beide auf ihre Weise den Geschichtsbezug des johanneischen Text zur Geltung bringen.

II. (Selective) grammatical analysis

While it reads smoothly in German, this quotation presents many challenges for the translator or at least for this one. The first problem is presented by the name of the approach. How should one translate Der zeitgeschichtliche Zugang? It usually works to translate zeitgeschichtliche with “contemporary”, but unfortunately I don’t think the meaning of “The Contemporary Approach” is very clear. But perhaps it would work to translate it as “The Contemporary-Historical Approach”? For now I am favoring “The Time-of- Composition Approach” since this seems to bring out the intended meaning, but I am certainly open to a better solution should one be presented! Other tricky points include the translation of Ort in the heading (is “position” the best solution? Or would “place” or “location” be better? The problem with the latter solutions is that they could make the reader think of a geographical location when something broader is in view); sich … verschränkt, which I have rendered with “is interwoven with”; für die Erfahrung des Adressaten transparent, which I have rendered with “transparent in relation to the experience of the addressees” since the point seems to be that the experience of the addressees is able to find its way into the narrated history of Jesus; sachlichen Horizont (I am unsure what exactly is in view here and therefore uncertain whether “material horizon”, “thematic horizon”, “substantial horizon” or some other solution would work best); wesentliche (is “fundamental” the best solution here [I think it probably is] or would “essential” or “substantial” be better?), verbinden (it seems to me that the subject of this verb is die Erzählung, so I am confused as to why it is not verbindet; but perhaps sich verbinden is dependent on wird?); überlagert wird (is “overlayed” acceptable? Or would it be preferable to rework the sentence and write something like: “or if the latter is superimposed on the former”?); Vorgängen (is event the best solution here or would another option such as “processes”, “occurrences” or “affairs” be better?); zur Geltung bringen (would it be preferable to translate more woodenly and write “bring to bear” or is “highlight” preferable with a view to readability and clarity?).

III. Substantive analysis

While some aspects of Martyn’s two-level reading of John 9 have rightly been criticized (see e.g., herehere, and Frey’s discussion of Martyn in this same section), I do not think that weaknesses in Martyn’s particular version of the two level reading as such (cf. Andrew Lincoln, The Gospel According to Saint John, p. 47). Instead, I remain convinced of the validity and fruitfulness of a two-level reading of John 9 in particular and of the Gospel of John as a whole, and I find Frey’s nuanced articulation of this perspective to be especially helpful, both in its description of the interweaving or fusion of the two historical horizons and in its acknowledgment that it is often not possible to disentangle them clearly from each other.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! Unfortunately, I have found it increasingly difficult to write a new post each Monday, but I hope to be able to write at least two or three Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.



Michael Wolter, Martin Hengel, and the Titles of the Gospels

Happy New Year! With reference to an article by Simon Gathercole and Michael Kok’s new bookJames McGrath and Michael Barber have recently written substantial posts on the titles of the Gospels. As a contribution to this discussion, today’s key quotation will look at the way in which Michael Wolter differs from the influential viewpoint of Martin Hengel (cf. here and here) in his treatment of the probable date of these titles. I found this to be an especially fascinating quotation and am curious to learn what others think of the way that Wolter attempts to reverse Hengel’s logic at a key point. But before turning to Wolter, let me first provide a link to my freshly updated German Resource Tab!

Translation and German Text

The Gospel According to LukeThe formulations εὐαγγέλιον κατά + name or κατά + name are the same in all the gospels. It can be inferred from this that they arose and were attached to the respective works at the earliest (not “at the latest” as Hengel 1984, 47 thinks) at the point in time when at least two different gospels existed alongside one another. The superscripts had the task of distinguishing the gospels from one another and avoiding mix-ups. This procedure took place not earlier than the first half of the second century (see also Petersen 2006, 273), for in the superscripts the word εὐαγγέλιον is used as a designation for a literary work and elsewhere this meaning is relatively certain first in the middle of the second century in Justin (Apologia i 66.3) and at best perhaps already attested in the 120s in the Didache (cf. Kelhoffer 2004; see also section 6.1 below).

Das Lukasevangelium (p. 4): Die Formulierungen εὐαγγέλιον κατά + Name or κατά + Name sind in allen Evangelien gleich. Daraus lässt sich schließen, dass sie frühestens (nicht “spätestens”, wie Hengel* 47 meint) zu dem Zeitpunkt entstanden sind und den jeweiligen Werken beigegeben wurden, als mindestens zwei verschiedene Evangelienschriften nebeneinander existierten. Die Überschriften hatten die Aufgabe, die Evangelien voneinander zu unterscheiden und Verwechslungen zu vemeiden. Dieser Vorgang wird nicht früher als in der ersten Hälfte des 2. Jahrhunderts stattgefunden haben (s. auch Petersen* 273), denn in den Überschriften wird das Wort εὐαγγέλιον als Bezeichnung für ein literarisches Werk gebraucht, und einigermaßen sicher ist diese Bedeutung ansonsten erst in der Mitte des 2. Jahrhunderts bei Justin (1. Apol. 66,3) und höchstens vielleicht schon in den 120er Jahren in der Didache belegt (cf. dazu Kellhoffer, “How Soon…”; see auch u. Abschn. 6.1).

Grammatical Analysis: I will provide a detailed analysis of the crucial first two sentences as a model sentence. The plural subject is Die FormulierungenName. The verb is sind/are. Here in takes the dative allen Evangelien/all the Gospels. The predicate is gleich/the same. I usually render lassen + infinitive as “can be x-ed”: here lässt sich schliessen = it can be inferred + daraus/from this. dass/that indicates what can be inferred. sie = they (= Die Formulierungen … Name). The verbs entstanden sind/arose (or emerged) and beigegeben wurden/were attached (or added) move, as usual, to the end of the subordinate clause. frühestens = at the earliest. nicht “spätestens” = not “at the latest”. wie Hengel meint = “as Hengel thinks/says, believes/holds/reckons/fancies(not sure what is the best translation of meinen here; “fancies” seems to strong and “believes” has its drawbacks; but “says” or “reckons” might be better than “thinks”).  zu dem Zeitpunkt … als = “at the point in time … when“. The dative plural den jeweiligen Werken/”the respective works indicates” what they are attached to. mindestens zwei verschiedene/at least two different modifies the plural noun Evangelienschriften = gospels (gospels seemed better than gospel writings or gospels writings), which is the subject of existieren/existed. nebeneinander = alongside one another (or next to one another). As a rule I use “one another” when more than two things are in view and “each other” when only two things are in view (since two or more are in view I used “one another” here).

Substantive analysis: As I noted above, I am curious what others think about Wolter’s argument that the uniform character of the formulations indicates that they were attached “at the earliest” (Wolter) rather than “at the latest” (Hengel) when at least two different gospels existed alongside one another.

For other posts (in alphabetical order by last name) on the titles of the Gospels, see e.g. Michael Barber (cf. here), Nicholas Covington, Simon GathercoleBart Ehrmann (cf herehere, here), Matthew Ferguson, James McGrath, Michael Kok (here; cf. here), Michael Kruger (cf. here).

For my Roundup of “Top Posts Posts” from 2014, see here.

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Facebook Page: To receive notifications of future blog posts, please subscribe to this blog and/or like my facebook page here.

German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! Unfortunately, I have found it increasingly difficult to write a new post each Monday, but I hope to be able to write at least two or three Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.