Jens Schröter and the Publication of Jesus of Nazareth – Jew from Galilee, Savior of the World

As a way of celebrating the imminent publication of Jesus of Nazareth – Jew from Galilee, Savior of the World, today’s “German scholars” post is devoted to Jens Schröter, Professor of Exegesis and Theology of the New Testament and Ancient Christian Apocrypha at the Humboldt University of Berlin.

The category “German scholars” seeks to introduce German scholars and their research to the English-speaking world. Each post consists of (I) my translation of a short passage from a publication submitted by the German author her/himself and (II) some biographical-bibliographical information about the scholar in question. For further information on this category, see here. For my other “German scholars” posts, see here.

Prof. Schröter’s passage of choice comes from the original German version of Jesus of Nazareth, namely Jesus von Nazareth: Jude aus Galiläa – Retter der Welt, which Evangelische Verlagsanstalt has published in the attractive series Biblische Gestalten. It is now in its fourth edition.

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the selective grammatical commentary can directly follow the German version.

I. Translation

Jesus of Nazareth (trans. W. Coppins and S. B. Pounds: p. 17): Jesus research since the second half of the eighteenth century has created important methodological and thematic presuppositions for an engagement with Jesus under the conditions of the modern historical-critical consciousness. It moves in the tension between historical reconstruction, which wants to know how it “really” was, and post-Easter construction, which regards this aim as unreachable and orients itself instead to the post-Easter faith witnesses. In both options we are dealing with radical solutions that are inadequate if taken on their own. Together, however, they give modern Jesus research a dynamic that shows itself to be extremely fruitful: the engagement with the sources presents a picture of the past that as a product of the present always remains, however, changeable, fallible, and incomplete. Therefore, historical research can never ground the Christian faith let alone prove its correctness. It can, however, show that this faith is founded on the activity and fate of a person, who can still be portrayed today, if not in every detail, then at least in important facets. In this way it makes a substantial contribution to the task of taking intellectual and ethical responsibility for the Christian faith in the modern world.

Jesus von Nazareth (p. 36): Die Jesusforschung seit der zweiten Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts hat wichtige methodische und inhaltliche Voraussetzungen für eine Beschäftigung mit Jesus unter den Bedingungen des neuzeitlichen historisch-kritischen Bewusstseins geschaffen. Sie bewegt sich dabei in der Spannung von historischer Rekonstruktion, die wissen will, wie es „wirklich“ war, und nachösterlicher Konstruktion, die dies für unerreichbar hält und sich stattdessen an den nachösterlichen Glaubenszeugnissen orientiert. Bei beiden Optionen handelt es sich um Radikallösungen, die für sich genommen unzureichend sind. Gemeinsam verleihen sie der neuzeitlichen Jesusforschung jedoch eine Dynamik, die sich als äußerst fruchtbar erweist: Die Beschäftigung mit den Quellen stellt ein Bild der Vergangenheit vor Augen, das als Produkt der Gegenwart jedoch immer veränderlich, fehlbar und unvollständig bleibt. Historische Jesusforschung kann deshalb den christlichen Glauben niemals begründen oder gar seine Richtigkeit beweisen. Sie kann jedoch zeigen, dass dieser Glaube auf dem Wirken und Geschick einer Person gründet, das sich, wenn auch nicht in jedem Detail, so jedoch in wichtigen Facetten auch heute noch nachzeichnen lässt. Damit leistet sie für die Verantwortung des christlichen Glaubens in der modernen Welt einen substantiellen Beitrag.

Selective grammatical analysis: seit is always difficult. “since” is a bit awkward but “from” is not always clear; instead of using “since”, I sometimes use “from … on” or “starting in”. I often translate Beschäftigung with “engagement”, though sometimes with occupation or the like. In sentence 4, we left dabei untranslated, but I sometimes attempt to convey it with “thereby”, “here”, “in the process” or “in doing so”, depending on the context. oder gar (sentence 4) has the force of “let alone” in English. nachzeichen has the force of “trace after” but “portray” is probably preferable for the sake of readability. We seem to have translated Verantwortung rather freely as “the task of taking intellectual and ethical responsibility”, presumably in correspondence with Prof. Schröter.

Bibliographical-Biographical Information

For more on Prof. Schröter’s research interests, projects, and publications, see his university webpage here.

For an up-to-date list of his English publications, see here.

From the very beginning of my studies on early Christianity and the New Testament I have been intrigued by the question of how the movement that started with Jesus and Paul quickly became an influential religion within the Roman Empire. My research began with an investigation of Paul’s self-understanding as a messenger of God and Jesus Christ who established lively relationships between “his” communities and God by bringing to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In a next step I turned to the earliest layers of the Jesus tradition. In this context the problem of “re-construction” of history came into my focus. For many years now I have been engaged with the methodological and epistemological questions of the relationship of the life and message of Jesus to its reception in earliest Christianity and with an approach to the past under the circumstances of the historical-critical consciousness.

Another area of my research is devoted to the Acts of the Apostles and the history of early Christianity. Here the problem of the relationship of the events of the past and their interpretation by the historians occurs again. My approach can be characterized as an attempt to understand Luke as “the first Christian historian” within the context of ancient Jewish and Hellenistic-Roman historiography and to elaborate the meaning of his historical narrative for a history of Christianity today.

Finally, I am also interested in the relationship of so-called “canonical” and “apocryphal” Christian writings and the emergence of the New Testament canon. Together with my colleague Christoph Markschies I am editing the “Ancient Christian Apocrypha” in fresh German translations and with new introductions. My specific viewpoint is directed towards the development of Christianity in the first two centuries as a multifaceted phenomenon, documented in a wide range of writings. I am convinced that it is important for Christianity to reflect on these beginnings even today.

For my other blog posts on Jens Schröter, see here .

For Schröter posts focused specifically on historiography, see here.

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For a complete list of my blog posts, please see here.

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For two interviews with me about the BMSEC series, see Clifford Kvidahl and Michael Hölscher.

German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! In an effort to provide a sense of regularity and predictability for this blog’s readership, I plan on writing a new post each Monday. So hopefully I will ‘see’ you again in a week’s time. Best, Wayne.

Bultmann, Käsemann and the Righteousness of God in Paul (Paulus Handbuch Series)

Paulus Handbuch (ed. Friedrich W. Horn; Mohr Siebeck, 2013; see here and PDF).

In my last two Paulus Handbuch Series posts I looked at Peter Arzt-Grabner‘s valuable discussion of the Corpus Paulinum in Section II of the book.

Today’s post will come from Section III: Research on Paul, which contains subsections on 1. Ferdinand Christian Bauer (C. Landmesser), 2. The History of Religions School (R. von Bendemann), 3. Rudolf Bultmann and his students (R. von Bendemann),  4. “The New Perspective on Paul” and “The New View of Paul” (M. Bachmann), and 5. Impulses from Social History and History of Religions (M. Lang).

Inasmuch as many have set their hand to write about Bultmann of late—with his title of “greatest of all time” being staunchly defended by West, despite demurrals from Bird (here and here) and Käsemann (here; cf. here), with a flurry of publications from David Congdon (here), with an old recording on freedom surfacing to my delight (here; regrettably in English), and with an impressive lineup of scholars seeking to move beyond Bultmann (here)—I too have decided, having followed all things carefully, to devote a post to the giant of Marburg, complemented, of course, with the great Ernst Käsemann and my beloved teacher Peter Stuhlmacher. It is a quotation that reminds me of Tübingen, where I first heard of die heilschaffende Gerechtigkeit Gottes, which somehow loses something of its punch when it becomes “the righteousness of God that creates salvation”.

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

Translation

English Translation (wmc): The presentation of the human being under faith too is developed by Bultmann as a working out of central terms. Prior to the thematization of “grace as event” it begins—in continuation of Luther and in clear demarcation from the thesis of a “subsidiary crater” (Schweitzer 21952) or “polemical doctrine”  (Wrede 21907)—with the theme of Romans, the righteousness of/from God (Bultmann 1984, 271-282). The righteousness of/from God appears as the central expression of the gift of life or its condition of possibility. Righteousness, here too Bultmann takes up Luther, is a forensic concept that is not directed to the quality of a person but to their relationality. It does obtain its profile in Paul against the background of Jewish-eschatological statements, but according to Bultmann, it is categorically distinguished from these in its present orientation (274-280). In the understanding of righteousness as the righteousness of faith Bultmann identifies an “antithesis to the Jewish view” (281). The righteousness of/from God discloses itself more precisely to Bultmann not from passages such as Rom 3.5, 25 as God’s own righteousness (in the sense of his punishing righteousness); rather he finds—following Luther—the key for the notion in Rom 1.17; 3.21-22, 26; 10.3; Phil 3.9; and 2 Cor 5.21, where the concern is with the righteousness that is gifted or spoken to one by God (285). … Käsemann and his students called the on-Luther-oriented interpretation of the righteousness of God in the sense of a gentivus obiectivus in question and emphasized those passages in which Paul also presupposed the subjective Genitive, in the sense of God’s own covenant righteousness that is directed not only to the individual but to the world as a whole (Stuhlmacher 21966).

Paulus Handbuch (p. 26 …28, von Bendemann): Auch die Darstellung des Menschen unter dem Glauben wird von Bultmann als Ausarbeitung von zentralen Termini entwickelt. Sie setzt vor der Thematisierung der “Gnade als Geschehen”—in Anknüpfung an Luther und in klarer Abgrenzung zur These von “Nebenkrater” (Schweitzer 21952) oder der “Kampfeslehre” (Wrede 21907)—mit dem Thema des Römerbriefs, der Gottesgerechtigkeit, ein (Bultmann 1984, 271-287). Die Gottesgerechtigkeit erscheint als der zentrale Ausdruck der Lebensgabe bzw. ihrer Möglichkeitsbedingung. Gerechtigkeit, auch hierin schließt Bultmann an Luther an, ist ein forensischer Begriff, der nicht auf die Qualität einer Person zielt, sondern auf ihre Relationalität. Er gewinnt zwar bei Paulus sein Profil vor dem Hintergrund jüdisch-eschatologischer Aussagen, ist nach Bultmann in seiner präsentischen Orientierung jedoch zugleich von diesen kategorisch unterschieden (274-280). Im Verständnis der Gottesgerechtigkeit als Glaubensgerechtigkeit konstatiert Bultmann eine “Antithese zur jüdischen Anschauung” (281). Die Gottesgerechtigkeit erschließt sich Bultmann näherhin nicht von Stellen wie Röm 3,5.25 her als Gottes eigene Gerechtigkeit (im Sinne seiner Strafgerechtigkeit), vielmehr findet er—im Anschluss an Luther—den Schlüssel zur Vorstellung in Röm 1,17; 3,21f.26; 10,3; Phil 3,9 and 2 Kor 5,21, wo es um die von Gott geschenkte, zugesprochene Gerechtigkeit geht (285). … Käsemann und seine Schüler zogen die an Luther orientierte Interpretation der Gottesgerechtigkeit im Sinne eines genetivus obiectivus infrage und betonten diejenigen Stellen, an denen Paulus auch den subjektiven Genetiv voraussetzte, im Sinne von Gottes eigener Bundesgerechtigkeit, die sich nicht nur auf das Individuum, sondern auf die Welt insgesamt richtete (Stuhlmacher 21966).

Select grammatical commentary

in Anknüpfung is always tricky: options in include: in continuation of, taking up, in connection with, etc. anschliessen/schliesst an presents similar problems. I went with “takes up” here. The traditional “polemical doctrine” is a bit weak for Kampfeslehre, but it may be preferable to alternatives such as “fighting doctrine”. I think that the sense is something like “doctrine that has emerged from the struggle/battle/fight with opponents”. I am not sure if gift of life captures the force of LebensgabeBegriff is a horrible German word because it hovers between word and concept (if it were up to me, Germans would abandon the term Begriff and use Wort and Konzept so the distinction remains clear). I translated it with “concept” here. zielt auf means aims at: I have rendered it here as “is directed to”. zwar is tricky: I sometimes translate it as “admittedly”, sometimes adopt a “while … ” construction and sometimes use “does … but”. I had a tough time with Die Gottesgerechtigkeit erschließt sich Bultmann näherhin: I think Bultmann is dative and Die Gottesgerechtkeit is the subject, with erschliesst sich having the force of “opens itself to” or “discloses itself to” and näherhin having the force of more precisely. I rendered geschenkte quite woodenly as gifted. As far as I can see, zugesprochene is impossible to render. It is often translated as “promise” but it seems to me that this doesn’t fully capture the force, at least in some cases: here I rendered it with “spoken to one”, which hopefully comes closer to capturing something of the sense?

Substantive analysis

I continue to struggle with what can be said about the righteousness (or justice) of God in the Pauline texts. But even if many more things have to be said, I remain convinced that for Paul God’s own salvation-creating righteousness/justice is in play in at least some of the relevant texts. At the same time, it is clear from Phil 3.9 that the notion of “righteousness from God” is also a Pauline concept, which make this issue comparable to the pistis Christou controversy insofar as there is justified debate over the interpretation of key texts alongside a general recognition that the notion of “faith in Christ” and the notion of “Christ’s faithfulness” are both Pauline concepts. For an alternative to Bultmann’s suggestion that the Pauline view of righteousness is an “antithesis to the Jewish view”, see here.

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For a complete list of my blog posts, please see here.

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For two interviews with me about the Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Series, see Clifford Kvidahl and Michael Hölscher.

German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! In an effort to provide a sense of regularity and predictability for this blog’s readership, I plan on writing a new post each Monday. So hopefully I will ‘see’ you again in a week’s time. Best, Wayne.

Jens Schröter on the Areopagus Speech and Not Reducing Historicity to Facticity

Before turning to things German, let me begin this post by saying happy anniversary to my wife Ingie!

Whereas my posts from January 13, February 17, and March 17 dealt with Jens Schröter’s theoretical reflections on historiography, this post, like my posts from May 19 and July 7th, will focus more specifically on Jens Schröter’s perspectives on the historical value of Acts in From Jesus to the New Testament, which will presumably inform his forthcoming HNT commentary on Acts. Needless to say, I would be delighted if these posts would initiate/provoke a more substantive response to Schröter’s treatment of this topic by one (or several) of the many Acts specialists in the blogging community!

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

Translation

From Jesus to the New Testament ( p. 46): “This is not, of course, to claim that Paul actually delivered or would have delivered a speech such as that in Acts 17. In the sense of the aforementioned Thucydidean principle, the Areopagus speech can, however, be viewed as a composition that reproduces the ξύμπασα γνώμη of how Paul, according to the view of Luke, could have spoken in such a situation. Its programmatic character is emphasized thereby not only through the location, but also through its position at the center of the independent mission of Paul within the book of Acts. The Areopagus speech thus shows itself to be a configuration of the historian Luke, who links the activity of Paul with its historical consequences – the hardening of Judaism and the emergence of the Gentile-Christian church. Only on this foundation can the Lukan Paul and the Paul of the Letters be placed in relation to each other in a meaningful manner. The assessment that Paul, if he gave the speeches [correction: speech] reported by Luke at all, did not, in any case, give them [correction: it] in this way, would, by contrast, be a truncated understanding of historical reference – as would the opposite attempt, which is undoubtedly more difficult to carry out, to prove the actuality of the speech. Both models reduce historicity to facticity and thereby remain behind the aforementioned methodology-of-history insights.”

Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament (pp. 51-52): “Damit ist selbstverständlich nicht behauptet, dass Paulus eine Rede wie diejenige aus Apg 17 tatsächlich gehalten hat oder gehalten haben würde. Die Areopagrede kann jedoch im Sinne des oben genannten thukydideischen Prinzips als eine Komposition angesehen werden, die die ξύμπασα γνώμη dessen wiedergibt, wie Paulus nach Auffassung des Lukas in einer derartigen Situation geredet haben könnte. Ihr programatischer Charakter wird dabei nicht nur durch den Ort, sondern auch durch ihre Stellung im Zentrum der selbständigen Mission des Paulus innerhalb der Apostelgeschichte hervorgehoben. Die Areopagrede erweisst sich somit als eine Gestaltung des Historikers Lukas, der das Wirken des Paulus mit seinen geschichtlichen Konsequenzen – der Verstocken des Judentums und der Entstehung der heiden-christlichen Kirche – verknüpft. Erst auf dieser Grundlage können der lukanische Paulus und derjenige der Briefe sinnvoll miteinander in Beziehung gesetzt werden. Die Feststellung, Paulus habe die von Lukas berichtete Rede wenn überhaupt, dann jedenfalls nicht so gehalten, wäre dagegen ein verkürztes Verständnis von historischer Referenz – genauso wie der entgegengesetzte, zweifellos schwieriger durchzuführende Versuch, die Tatsächlichkeit der Rede zu erweisen. Beide Modele reduzieren Historizität auf Faktizität und bleiben damit hinter den oben genannten geschichtsmethodologischen Einsichten zurück.”

Grammatical Analysis

Rather than offering a selective grammatical analysis of the entire passage, I will skip over the first part and comment on the last part of the passage as a model sentence.

Die Feststellung (the assessment) is the subject. habe is subjunctive, which signals that Paulus habe … gehalten conveys what someone might say as their assessment or claim. Die … Rede is the direct object of “habe … gehalten”. It is singular and therefore should have been translated as “speech” rather than “speeches”(mea culpa). It is modified by the past participle (berichtete/reported), which is modified by von Lukas/“by Luke”. Wenn überhaupt [gehalten] = if at all, i.e., if [he delivered/gave the speech reported by Luke] at all. dann = then. jedenfalls = “in any case” or “at any rate”. “habe … nicht so gehalten” = delivered/gave [the speech/it] not in this way, which becomes “he did not give it [not: them!] in this way”. Die Feststellung + Paulus habe … gehalten (i.e., the content/expression of the assessment voiced by another) is the subject of wäre = “would be”. dagegen = by contrast. einVerständnis … is the predicate. The past participle verkürztes is easy enough to understand but difficult to translate: I opted for “truncated”. The adjective + noun historischer Referenz is dependent on von/“of” and is dative since von takes the dative. genauso wie = just as. der … Versuch/”the attempt” is the subject, which is complemented by the infinitive zu erweisen (the attempt to show/prove/demonstrate). erweisen takes the direct object die Tatsächlichkeit, which is modified by the genitive der Rede (“the actuality of the speech”). der Versuch is modified by“entgegengesetzte” and “zweifellos schwieriger durchzuführende”. As often, I retained the first modifier with the noun (the opposite attempt) and transformed the second into a clause (which is undoubtedly more difficult to carry out). I think that entgegengesetzte is the past participle of entgegensetzen, but I forget how to describe the grammar of durchzuführende. Beide Modelle is the subject of reduzieren (which picks up verkürzte in terms of content) and Historizität is the direct object. One reduces something to (zu) something else (here: Faktizität), which is dative because it is governed by “zu”. Beide Modelle is also the subject of zurückbleiben/“remain behind or fall behind”, which becomes bleiben … zurück. damit has the force of “with this”, but I often translate it with “thus”. Hinter/”behind” takes the dative object den … Einsichten/”the insights”, which is modified by the participle oben genannten (above mentioned = aforementioned) and the adjective geschichtsmethodisch, which I rendered as “methodology-of-history” rather than “historical methodological” (or the like) in order to make clear that these models are being criticized from the perspective of a certain approach to doing history.

Substantive Analysis

What I like about this point is that it shows how Schröter attempts to relate his theoretical reflections to the interpretation and evaluation of a classic issue, namely the relevance of the areopagus speech for thinking about Luke as an ancient historian. I think Schröter is probably right to argue against reducing historicity to facticity, which is not to say that questions about the facticity of a given event are unimportant.

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For a complete list of my blog posts, please see here.

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For two interviews with me about the Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Series, see Clifford Kvidahl and Michael Hölscher.

German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! In an effort to provide a sense of regularity and predictability for this blog’s readership, I plan on writing a new post each Monday. So hopefully I will ‘see’ you again in a week’s time. Best, Wayne.

 

Benjamin Schliesser on the Cosmic Interpretation of pistis in Gal 3.23, 25

This post falls under one of my favorite categories on this blog, namely “German scholars”. The purpose of this category is to introduce German scholars and their research to the English-speaking world. Each post will consist of (I) my translation of a short passage from a publication submitted by the German author her/himself and (II) some biographical-bibliographical information about the scholar in question. For further information on this category, see here. For my other “German scholars” posts, see here.

Today’s “German scholar” is Dr. Benjamin Schliesser of the University of Zürich. His chosen excerpt, which comes from his 2011 book Was ist Glaube? Paulinische Perspektiven, suggests, in the context of debates about the interpretation of pistis Christou, that pistis should be understood in a comprehensive “cosmic” sense in Gal 3.23, 25, a viewpoint that has been developed previously by Ernst Lohmeyer and one that is discussed as a “third” view in the second edition of Udo Schnelle’s book on Paul (Paulus. Leben und Denken. 2nd Edition. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2014, p. 572).

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the selective grammatical commentary can directly follow the German version.

I. Translation

English Translation (wmc): Paul evidently understands pistis here [in Gal 3.23, 25] as a powerful eschatological event that marks a turn of the times and opposes the supremacy of the law that was  previously in force in order to supplant this once and for all. Faith and Law come upon the stage as personified entities at a certain point in time of the salvation-historical drama. They possess a cosmic dimension that determines the reality as a whole and yet simultaneously a personal dimension that determines the entire person. Through the revelation of faith God has radically transformed the reality of the world and placed it under a new light. From this results the designations with which pistis has been understood [in scholarship]: “eschatological event of salvation” (F. Neugebauer), “divine event-reality”, “transubjective entity” (H. Binder), or “transindividual overall phenomenon” (P. Stuhlmacher).

Was ist Glaube (p. 36): Offensichtlich versteht Paulus die pistis hier [in Gal 3,23.25] als machtvolles eschatologisches Geschehen, das eine Zeitenwende markiert und der bis dato geltenden Vormachtstellung des Gesetzes entgegentritt, um dieses ein für alle Mal abzulösen. Glaube und Gesetz treten als personifizierte Größen zu einem bestimmten Zeitpunkt des heilsgeschichtlichen Dramas auf die Bühne. Ihnen ist eine kosmische Dimension eigen, die die Wirklichkeit als Ganze bestimmt, zugleich aber eine personale Dimension, die den ganzen Menschen bestimmt. Durch die Offenbarung des Glaubens hat Gott die Weltwirklichkeit radikal verwandelt und unter ein neues Licht gestellt. Daraus ergeben sich die Bezeichnungen, mit denen die pistis [in der Forschung] versehen wurde: «eschatologisches Heilsereignis» (F. Neugebauer), «göttliche Geschehenswirklichkeit», «transsubjektive Größe» (H. Binder) oder «überindividuelles Gesamtphänomen» (P. Stuhlmacher).

Selective grammatical analysis: For me it is often difficult to decide whether to translate offensichtlich as “apparently” or as “evidently”. I have chosen the latter, which implies a somewhat stronger claim. Previously I had never encountered the phrase bis dato, which appears to have the force of “hitherto”, “previously” or “to date”. The translation of gelten is often tricky; solutions I have adopted include “in force”, “in effect”, and “valid”. For the translation of ablösen I opted for “supplant” rather than “replace” or “supersede”. Rather that using the phrase “come onto the scene” I decided to retain the literal force of treten … auf der Bühne and translate the phrase as “come upon the stage”. Ihnen … eigen is not easy, but I think that “they possess (or they have)” captures the general sense. I often translate bestimmen as “specifies” but “determines” seemed better here. The strong verb “transformed” seemed to better capture the sense of verwandelt than “changed”. Daraus ergeben sich could be translated as “from this arises/results” or perhaps more freely as “This gives rise to…”. For eschatologisches Heilsereignis I waffled between “eschatological salvation event”, “eschatological event of salvation” and “eschatological salvific event”. It is hard to capture Geschehenswirklichkeit, and there is presumably a better solution than “event reality”.

II. Biographical-Bibliographical Information

Before coming to the University of Zürich, Benjamin Schliesser studied Protestant theology in Tübingen (Germany), Glasgow (Scotland), and Pasadena (USA). He completed his PhD in 2006 with a dissertation on the Pauline understanding of faith (see here). He has been Oberassistent (Senior Research Assistant) for Prof. Jörg Frey since 2010 and, in addition, for Prof. Samuel Vollenweider since 2011. He is currently working toward the completion of his habilitation on the “phenomenon of doubt in early Christianity”.
A selection of his most important publications can be found at his University of Zürich homepage (see here).

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

For a complete list of my blog posts, please see here.

For tips on how to use this blog, please see here.

For two interviews with me about the Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Series, see Clifford Kvidahl and Michael Hölscher.

German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! In an effort to provide a sense of regularity and predictability for this blog’s readership, I plan on writing a new post each Monday. So hopefully I will ‘see’ you again in a week’s time. Best, Wayne.

Jörg Frey on the Theological Approach to Johannine Interpretation

Looking far into the future, this week’s post comes from my übernächsten translation project, namely Jörg Frey‘s book Die Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten: Studien zu den Johanneischen Schriften I / The Glory of the Crucified One: Studies on the Johannine Writings I.

Today’s key quotation is taken from Frey’s introductory chapter “Ways and Perspectives of the Interpretation of the Gospel of John. Reflections on the Way to a Commentary”. More specifically,  it comes from section 1: Five Classic Model of Interpretation, which provides an analysis of The Theological Approach (1.1.), The Historicizing Approach (1.2),The zeitgeschichtlicher approach (1.3), The literarkritische and Redaction-critical Approach (1.4), and the literaturwissenschaftliche or Narratological Approach (1.5). [Still need to think about the translation of some of these terms]

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

Translation and German Original

English Translation (wmc): This approach rightly recognizes the theological intention of the Gospel’s message without classifying its message simply as ‘time-conditioned’ or ‘historical’ or ‘cultural’ and thus relativizing it. The material claim of the Gospel of John to mediate theological truth is explicitly taken up in this reading. Therein resides its validity, for the Fourth Gospel undoubtedly calls for such a theologically sensitive reading. A danger may, however, reside in the fact that in an overly close identification of the interpreter with his [or her] author or the work and its proclamation the possibility of adopting a position of critical distance  is easily lost. John then becomes the standard of what is actually Christian and the problematic aspects of Johannine theology, for example the polemical statements about ‘the Jews’, can be relativized only with difficulty.

Die Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten (7): Dieser Ansatz erkennt mit Recht den theologischen Aussagewillen des Evangeliums, ohne dessen Aussagen einfach als ‘zeitbedingt’ einzuordnen oder ‘historisch’ oder ‘kulturell’ zu erklären und damit zu relativieren. Der sachlich Anspruch des Johannesevangeliums, theologische Wahrheit zu vermitteln, wird in dieser Lektüre eindrücklich aufgenommen und vertreten. Darin besteht ihr Recht, denn zweifellos verlangt das vierte Evangelium nach einer solchen theologisch sensiblen Lektüre. Eine Gefahr mag allerdings darin liegen, daß in einer zu engen Identifikation des Interpreten mit seinem Autor bzw. dem Werk und seiner Verkündigung die Möglichkeit einer kritischen Distanznahme leicht verloren geht. Johannes wird dann zum Maßstab des eigentlich Christlichen, und die problematische Aspekte der johanneischen Theologie, etwa die polemischen Äußerungen über ‘die Juden’, lassen sich nur schwer relativieren.

Selective grammatical analysis

Although the German sentence reads very smoothly and is not especially difficult to understand, I found it quite difficult to translate. Aussagewillen presented a difficulty for me, and I am not sure if I am getting it right. I considered various options such as statement/declaration/testimony of purpose/intention, stated intention/purpose, and intended testimony. Sache/sachlich can’t be captured well in English. It is often translated as “content”, but I usually prefer “subject matter” for Sache and “material”, “materially” or “in terms of the subject matter” for sachlich. vermitteln is often best translated with “mediate” but “convey” is sometimes better. bestehen is often best translated as “consist” but “resides” seemed to read better here. I struggled with ihr Recht, but ultimately settled on “its validity” rather than “its right/legitimacy/justification/due/authorization” . verlangen nach has the force of “calls for”, “requires”, “demands”, “desires”, “longs for”: here, “calls for” seemed best. sensiblen means “sensitive”
(NOT “sensible”, which is a false friend: see here). I first translated kritische Distanzhame as “critical distancing” but then changed my mind and translated it as “a critical taking of distance”, which also didn’t seem quite right. And so I decided, against my usual inclinations, to translate more freely and write “the possibility of adopting a position of critical distance”. I recognize that “is easily lost” hardly does justice to leicht verloren geht but “easily goes lost”, “easily gets lost” or “easily gets lost in the shuffle” didn’t seem to work too well. But perhaps “easily slips away” would be better. eigentlich could also be translated as “real” or even with the term “authentic”, especially as this quotation occurs in relation to Bultmann. lassen sich + infinitive is usually best translated as “can be x-ed”, but the wooden “allows itself to be [or lets itself be] relativized only with difficulty” might be better here.

Substantive analysis

one of the things that I like about this section of Frey’s chapter is that he attempts to identify both the elements of truth of the approaches that he traces and the weaknesses and (potential) problems that burden them. Here, I think his assessment of the strengths and potential dangers of a theological approach are basically on target.

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For two interviews with me about the Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Series, see Clifford Kvidahl and Michael Hölscher.

German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! In an effort to provide a sense of regularity and predictability for this blog’s readership, I plan on writing a new post each Monday. So hopefully I will ‘see’ you again in a week’s time. Best, Wayne.

 

 

 

Christoph Markschies on Portraying the History of Theology as a One-Way Street

Since I am now pressing toward the submission of my translation of Christoph Markschies’ book Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen: Prolegomena zu einer Geschichte der antiken christlichen Theologie / Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire: Prolegomena to a History of Early Christian Theology, it seemed fitting to include an excerpt from this work as today’s key quotation.

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

I. Translation and German Original

Christian Theology and Its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire: Many classical and present-day portrayals of the history of Christian theology describe the path of Christian theology as a kind of one-way street … I wish to designate this hermeneutical model as a “one-way street” because it basically starts implicitly from the present organizational form of scholarly theological reflection at universities and reconstructs the development of the history of theology from this endpoint as teleology. … Such a teleology, which—as indicated—starts implicitly from the present form of theological reflection, which is oriented to philosophical standards of rationality as its norm, must almost inevitably marginalize other forms of theological reflection as unimportant byways or even as unfruitful dead ends—and it is then left to general ecclesial or even societal trends to discover the relevance of these alleged byways and dead ends.

Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen: (pp. 11-12): Viele klassische und aktuelle Darstellungen der christlichen Theologiegeschichte beschreiben den Weg der christlichen Theologie als eine Art von Einbahnstraße … Als „Einbahnstraße“ möchte ich dieses hermeneutische Modell bezeichnen, weil es im Grunde implizit von der gegenwärtigen Organisationsgestalt wissenschaftlicher theologischer Reflexion an Universitäten ausgeht und von diesem Endpunkt her die Entwicklung der Theologiegesichchte als Teleologie rekonstruiert. … Eine solche Teleologie, die – wie gesagt – implizit von der heutigen, an philosophischen Rationalitätsstandards orientierten Form von theologischer Reflexion als Norm ausgeht, muß nahezu zwangsläufig andere Formen von theologischer Reflexion als unwichtigere Seitenwege oder gar als unfruchtbare Sackgassen marginalisieren – und es bleibt dann allgemeinen kirchlichen oder gar gesellschaftlichen Modeströmungen vorbehalten, die Relevanz dieser angeblichen Seitenwege und Sackgassen zu entdecken.

II. Select grammatical analysis

One of the first lessons learned in German is that the verb occupies the second position in a sentence, which requires some clarification. It does not mean that the verb is always the second word but that it occurs as the second element in a sentence. Here, the first element is the rather lengthy phrase Viele … Darstellungen … der … Theologiegeschichte, which forms the subject of the verb beschreiben. I considered translating wissenschaftlicher as “academic” in this context, but stuck with “scholarly” in view of its broader associations (for further discussion of the translation of Wissenschaft/wissenschaftliche, see here).  As usual, the participial modifier an … orientierten in the phrase von der heutigen, an philosophischen Rationalitätsstandards orientierten Form von theologischer Reflexion has to be transformed into a relative clause: from the present form of theological reflection, which is oriented to philosophical standards of rationality

III. Substantive analysis

At first glance, it may seem surprising that Markschies structures the argument of the second major section of his book around three rather different institutional contexts, namely The Free Teachers and Christian Schools (2.1), The Montanist Prophets and their Circle (2.2), and The Christian Worship Service and its Prayers (2.3). Against the background of this programmatic key statement, however, his logic becomes much clearer. In short, once one has become conscious of the extent to which the “one-way street model” has influenced one’s approach to the material, it becomes evident that greater attention must be given to a diverse range of institutional contexts if one wishes to grasp something of the full range of the dynamics and forms that characterized the history of theology in the first centuries of Christianity.

For my other posts on Christoph Markschies, see here.

For a few audio recordings and videos of Christoph Markschies, see here.

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For two interviews with me about the Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Series, see Clifford Kvidahl and Michael Hölscher.

German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! In an effort to provide a sense of regularity and predictability for this blog’s readership, I plan on writing a new post each Monday. So hopefully I will ‘see’ you again in a week’s time. Best, Wayne.

 

Teilungshypothesen and Cicerobriefe according to Peter Arzt-Grabner, Hans-Joseph Klauck, and Thomas Schmeller (Paulus Handbuch Series)

Paulus Handbuch (ed. Friedrich W. Horn; Mohr Siebeck, 2013; see here and PDF).

In my second Paulus Handbuch Series post, I looked at Peter Arzt-Grabner‘s section on the text of the Corpus Paulinum, focusing on his interpretation of ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ in Rom 16:7. In today’s post, I turn to Arzt-Grabner’s discussion of the collection of the Corpus Paulinum, a subsection that is divided into three parts: Beginning of the Collection and Redactional Reworking (2.1), First Editions of the Letters of Paul (2.2), and The Oldest Preserved Witnesses (2.3). Today’s key quotation on Teilungshypothesen is taken from section 2.1.

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

English Translation and German Original

English translation (wmc): But the question of a possible fitting together of originally multiple letters into larger unities has experienced an especially extensive discussion – or put otherwise – the question of whether the canonical form of individual letters of Paul is to be divided into multiple original letters (partition theories) … Hans-Joseph Klauck (Klauck 2003 c [here or here]) and Thomas Schmeller (Schmeller 2004) have lifted the discussion to a new level insofar as they have drawn on the extensive collection of Cicero’s letters for comparison with Paul’s letters and thus attempted for the first time to study the nature and scope of the compilation processes that can be shown with reference to this letter collection. The investigations show that no efforts were made to smooth over inner-textual contradictions that may have arisen during the compilation, but that these were evidently not experienced as overly disturbing. Stringing together of original letters arose, whereas interpolations in the framework of a redactional compilation process cannot be shown.

Paulus Handbuch (p. 12 and p. 13): Eine besonders ausführliche Diskussion hat aber die Frage einer möglichen Zusammenfügung von ursprünglich mehreren Briefen zu größeren Einheiten erfahren oder – anders gesagt – die Frage, ob die kanonische Form einzelner Paulusbriefe auf mehrere ursprüngliche Briefe aufzuteilen ist (Telungshypothesen). … Hans-Joseph Klauck (Klauck 2003c) and Thomas Schmeller (Schmeller 2004) haben die Diskussion insofern auf eine neue Ebene gehoben, als sie die umfangreiche Sammlung der Cicerobriefe zu einem Vergleich mit den Paulusbriefen herangezogen und somit erstmals versucht haben, Art und Umfang der an dieser Briefsammlung nachweisbaren Kompilationsprozesse zu studieren. Die Untersuchungen zeigen, dass es keinerlei Bemühungen gegeben hat, die bei der Kompilation eventuell entstandenen innertextlichen Widersprüche zu glätten, sondern dass diese offenbar nicht als übermäßig störend empfunden wurden. Aneinanderreihung der ursprunglichen Briefe entstanden, wohingegen Interpolationen im Rahmen eines redaktionellen Kompilationsprozesses nicht nachweisbar sind.

Select grammatical analysis

ausführliche hard to capture well: I usually go with “detailed”, “extensive”, or “in-depth”. aber often comes relatively late in a German sentence: I often translate it as “but” and move it to the beginning of the sentence, though it sometimes works better to retain its placement and translate it with “however”. The main verb is hat … erfahren (as usual hat is in the second position and the rest of the verb moves toward the end of the sentence). The direct object Eine … Diskussion has been placed at the beginning of the sentence. Die Frage + gen phrase + von-zu phrase forms the subject of the verb. aufzuteilen ist = “is to be divided into” or “must be divided into”. als sie introduces a subordinate clause, so haben moves to the end of the sentence: it goes with herangezogen and verucht. I wasn’t sure how to render Art und Umfang, but I opted for “nature” rather than “type” or “kind” as a rendering of Art and for “scope” rather than “extent” for Umfang. zu studieren complements the meaning of versuchen: attempted to study. The genitive der … Kompilationsprozesse modifies the direct object Art und Umfang. The concern is with compilation processes that are nachweisbaren (provable/demonstrable/can be demonstrated-shown-verified) an dieser Briefsammlung (on this letter collection, in relation to this letter collection, with reference to this letter collection, using this letter collection as an example). As elsewhere, the translation of “an” is difficult to capture. Bemühungen … zu glätten (= efforts to smooth over). die … Wiedersprüche is the object of glätten. bei der Kompilation eventuell entstanden, is difficult to render but hopefully “that may have arisen during the compilation” captures the intended sense. As usual, it needs to be transformed into a definite clause rather than kept as a participial modifier. nicht nachweisbar sind = cannot be shown/demonstrated/documented.

Substantive analysis

Like many scholars, I am often at a loss with regard to how to assess the numerous partition theories that have been advocated in the history of scholarship. At times, I find that exegetical observations call such hypotheses into question (e.g., in relation to the unity of 1 Cor 8-10), but at other times, I certainly feel the weight of the phenomena that move others to propose them (e.g., with respect to 2 Corinthians). What I like about this key quotation is that it shows how this discussion has indeed been lifted to a new level by looking at Cicero’s letters with an eye to determining what they can teach us about how ancient editors worked, since this has the potential of bringing us much further than our own assumptions about how an ancient editor would supposedly have had to work. Beyond this, I also found this quotation meaningful at a more personal level, because it reminded me of one of the last emails I received from my friend and teacher, the late Friedrich Avemarie (see herehere, and here), who wrote to me with great enthusiasm about this precise area of research in August 2011. For me at least, this is a great testimony to the importance and promise of this line of questioning.

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For two interviews with me about the Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Series, see Clifford Kvidahl and Michael Hölscher.

German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! In an effort to provide a sense of regularity and predictability for this blog’s readership, I plan on writing a new post each Monday. So hopefully I will ‘see’ you again in a week’s time. Best, Wayne.