Defining Institutions with Christoph Markschies

I was extremely happy this week to submit my completed 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 TheologyThis translation has proven to be an especially challenging and rewarding project and I very much look forward to its publication in October 2015. Today’s key quotation from this book is related to one of its most important features, namely its sustained focus on institutions (see here for my other posts on this book).  

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

Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire (wmc): While they [Harnack and Mommsen] tied the concept of institutions to the legal norming of societal forms of order, I wish to take the definition—which stands in the tradition of Arnold Gehlen—of the Dresden special research area “Institutionalität und Geschichtlichkeit” (institutionality and historicality) as a basis for the following chapters of this monograph: institutions are defined there as “social arrangements that outwardly and inwardly effectively suggest and bring into force stability and duration” and in which especially “the action-guiding and communication-directing foundations of an order are always also symbolically brought to expression”. In my view, such a concept of institutions is shown, despite all its problems, to be considerably more practicable for the portrayal of an emerging religion than the legally colored definition from the beginning of the twentieth century.

Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen (pp. 33-34): Während diese [Harnack und Mommsen] den Institutionenbegriff an die rechtliche Normierung von gesellschaftlichen Ordnungsgestalten banden, möchte ich für die folgenden Kapitel dieser Monographie die in der Tradition von Arnold Gehlen stehende Definition des Dresdner Sonderforschungsbereichs “Institutionalität und Geschichtlichkeit” zugrundelegen: Dort definiert man Institutionen als “soziale Arrangements, die nach außen und innen Stabilität und Dauer erfolgreich suggerieren und zur Geltung bringen” und in denen insbesondere “die handlungsleitenden und kommunikationssteuernden Grundlagen einer Ordnung immer auch symbolisch zum Ausdrck gebracht werden”. Ein solcher offener Institutionenbegriff erweist sich ungeachtet aller seiner Probleme meines Erachtens für die Darstellung einer im Entstehen befindlichen Religion als wesentlich praktikabler als der juristisch gefärbte vom Anfang des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts.

* The quoted material comes from G. Mellville and P. von Moss, “Gleitwort.” Page V in Das Öffentliche und Private in der Vormoderne (1998)

Selective grammatical analysis: Let me limit my comments today to a single point, namely the challenge of translating the word Normierung, which Markschies frequently employs in this volume and elsewhere. Given the difficulty and importance of this term, I explain my translation of this word in the preface as follows: “One particularly difficult point of translation may be mentioned here, namely the translation of the terms Normierung(en), Normierungsprozesse, normieren, and normiert. With a view to English speech conventions, I considered using the language of ‘standardization(s), standardization processes, standardize, and standardized’ for this set of terms. Since, however, Markschies’s word choice places the emphasis on the setting of a norm in general, with the result that the language of ‘standardization’ is likely to convey an overly limited impression of what is in view, I decided instead to render these terms in a more wooden fashion as ‘norming(s) or norm-setting(s), norming processes, norm, and normed.’ I realize, of course, that not all will agree with this translation decision, but I hope that this note helps to clarify my reasons for proceeding in this manner.

Substantive analysis: in a similar manner as Jens Schröter’s volume From Jesus to the New Testament, Christoph Markschies’ work effectively combines methodological sophistication and penetrating interaction with primary sources and this combination is one of the features of their respective works that I find especially attractive. Accordingly, I hope that I will be able to show in future posts how Markschies’ open definition of institutions can illuminate our reading of early Christian texts and our conceptualizations of early Christianity. For now, I will simply note that his adoption of an open definition of institutions allows him to apply this term to more phenomena than is the case for definitions that focus on the legal norming of societal forms of order.

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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 Historicizing Approach to Johannine Interpretation

Looking 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. For all my posts on this book see here.

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.

I. Translation

The Glory of the Crucified One (wmc): A second approach stands in a complementary relation to the first. It has largely disappeared from the scholarly discussion in the German-language sphere but it still occurs in ‘naive’ readings and it finds defenders time and again in conservative-evangelical circles, above all in North America. It is the historicizing exposition, which in the episodes reported in John and also from the Johannine speeches wants to see, almost without exception, information about the time and history of Jesus and thus reads the Johannine work solely with reference to the time and history of Jesus. … A thoroughgoing reading of the Johannine text in the horizon of the time and history of Jesus strikes upon insurmountable limits, and it appears that with some – not all – evangelical commentators deference to the public interested in the historicity of the biblical texts, to sponsors or the statements of faith of a specific teaching institution impairs too much the view of the freedom of the Johannine manner of presentation and thus a reflection on its problems that is appropriate to the subject matter and honest. One must, however, hold fast to the particula veri of the historicizing interpretation: According to its own claim, the Gospel of John is not a timeless and placeless ‘mythological’ presentation, but rather the narrated witness of the history of Jesus of Nazareth that is concrete and anchored in space and time – irrespective of the clear traces of post Easter and addressee-oriented shaping.

Die Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten (pp. 8 … 12): Ein zweiter Ansatz steht dem ersten komplementär gegenüber. Er ist aus dem wissenschaftlichen Gespräch im deutschsprachigen Raum weithin verschwunden, begegnet aber nach wie vor in ‘naiven’ Lektüren und findet in konservativ-evangelikalen Kreisen, vor allem in Nordamerika immer wieder Verteidiger. Er ist die historisierende Auslegung, die in den bei Johannes berichteten Begebenheiten und auch aus den johanneischen Reden Jesu fast durchweg Informationen über die Zeit und Geschichte Jesu sehen will und somit das johanneische Werk allein mit Blick auf die Zeit und Geschichte Jesu liest. … Eine konsequente Lektüre des johanneischen Textes im Horizont der Zeit und Geschichte Jesu stößt an unüberwindliche Grenzen, und es scheint, daß bei manchen – nicht allen – evangelikalen Kommentatoren die Rücksichtnahme auf das an der Historizität der biblischen Texte interessierte Publikum, auf Sponsoren oder die Glaubenssätze einer spezifischen Lehrinstitution den Blick auf die Freiheit der johanneischen Darstellungsweise und damit eine sachgemäße und aufrichtige Reflexion ihrer Probleme allzusehr beeinträchtigen. Festzuhalten ist freilich die particula veri der historisierenden Auslegung: Das Johannesevangelium ist nach eigenem Anspruch keine zeit- und ortlose ‘mythologische’ Darstellung, sondern das erzählte Zeugnis der konkreten, in Raum und Zeit verankerten Geschichte Jesu von Nazareth – ungeachtet der deutlichen Spuren nachösterlicher und adressatenbezogener Ausgestaltung.

Select grammatical analysis: (2) although it is weaker, I often use “still” for nach wie vor. In order to identify the object of findet one needs to look ahead to Verteidiger, which is at the very end of the sentence. (3) For historisieren I often use “historize” rather than “historicize” since the latter is a somewhat loaded word, but it seems like “historicize” might be preferable here, with the meaning of “treat or represent as historical”. I considered using “events” to translate Begebenheiten, but went with “episodes” in order to distinguish this term from Ereignisse. I translated fast durchweg as “almost without exception”, but “almost always” might be just as good or better.  (4) I am not sure if “deference” is the best translation of Rücksichtnahme…auf or if “consideration of/for” or another alternative would be better. sachgemäß is difficult: appropriate would be preferable with a view to readability in the target language, but it seems to me that something important is lost with this translation, so I adopted “appropriate to the subject matter”. “honest” seemed to capture the force of aufrichtig here, i.e., instead of alternatives such as “sincere”, “genuine”, or “upright”.  For beeinträchtigen I debated between impairs, negatively impacts, and compromises – I’m not sure why it is plural, unless die Rücksichtnahme is plural; even if it is plural, I think the singluar translation is correct in English.  I am unsure whether the force of Reflexion ihrer Probleme is “reflection on its problems” or “reflection of its problems”, but I think the former is correct. (5) It seemed appropriate to translate sondern as “but rather” here. I am not sure if “addressee-oriented” is an adequate translation for addressatenbezogener, but it was the best I could come up with,

Substantial analysis: As with my last post in this series, I am basically on the same page as Frey in his assessment of the historicizing approach. Specifically, with Frey I would like to affirm both that the Gospel of John is concerned with the concrete history of Jesus in space and time and that (to a greater degree than the Synoptics) this Gospel reflects post-Easter shaping and the life setting of the author and the author’s community at many points. I am, however, less comfortable with Frey’s attribution of some evangelical scholars’ advocacy of the historicizing approach to deference to institutions, sponsors, or statements of faith, even with his important qualification some – not all. It is not that I doubt that this plays a role in at least some cases, but simply that I think there is more to be gained by assuming/presuming the best of the vast majority of (conservative) evangelical scholars. In particular, while I assume that the diverse contexts and atmospheres in which scholars work shape our perspectives to a great extent and recognize that this sometimes makes scholars of various persuasions toe various lines, I also assume that evangelical scholars who hold to a more maximalist assessment of the extent to which John’s narrative can be situated in the life of Jesus do so because they remain convinced of the viability of this reading rather than that their view is (primarily or exclusively) determined by deference to others, just as I hope that evangelical scholars will give me the benefit of the doubt and assume that I have come to a different judgment in this matter because my sustained engagement with the texts and critical issues has led me to believe that this is the best explanation and not simply because I am am eager to be accepted by others who teach in a public institution like I do, etc. In short, I am hesitant to frame my difference of viewpoint in this matter to a difference in the extent to which I am “honest” or the extent to which I am “toeing a given line”, but I am in agreement with Frey’s assessment that strong forms of the historicizing approach face insurmountable limits and with his conviction that this approach does not do justice to the freedom of the Johannine manner of presentation. In other words, I am critical of this approach because I think it  ultimately fails to “Let John be John” (James Dunn).

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Torsten Jantsch and God as Creator in Paul (German Scholars Post)

Before starting this blog post, let me begin by congratulating my wife Ingie Hovland for her now position as an editor in the new anthropology section at the Marginalia Review of Books (see here)!

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. Torsten Jantsch of the Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich. As his passage of choice, he has selected an excerpt from his book “Gott alles in allem” (1Kor 15,28). Studien zum Gottesverständnis des Paulus im 1. Thessalonicherbrief und in der korinthischen Korrespondenz. Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament 129. Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener Verlag, 2011.

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). A pass through the texts in which Paul thematizes God as creator or the world as God’s creation has shown how much his thinking is rooted in Old Testament and Early Jewish conceptions. Paul is especially stamped by Hellenistic-Jewish conceptions and patterns of interpretation, as is shown by the receding of the “hand-crafted” elements of the biblical creation story in favor of an act of creation through the word and by the theme of creatio ex nihilo. It has become evident that creation faith is in fact a fundamental theme of Pauline theology; to this extent “the apprehension of reality as God’s creation”, as Jürgen Becker has formulated, “determines Paul’s thinking in a constitutive manner” [Jürgen Becker, Paulus. Der Apostel der Völker [Uni Taschenbücher 2014], Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998, p. 402]. One can differentiate three aspects that stand in the foreground in Paul depending on the pragmatic of the textual context.

a) The conception of God as creator grounds especially the sovereignty of God, inter alia, to act in history and with humans and his right to veneration.

b) God’s action of creation corresponds to the power of God and continues in God’s redemptive action in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, in the effective power of the gospel and in the eschatological consummation of creation (resurrection of the dead).

c) The conception of the world as creation emphasizes its inferiority vis-à-vis God, its deficiency and need for redemption, but also grounds the perspective of hope, because God takes the side of his creation and does not abandon it to forsakenness.

“Gott alles in allem” (p. 197). Ein Gang durch die Texte, in denen Paulus Gott als Schöpfer oder die Welt als Gottes Schöpfung thematisiert, hat gezeigt, wie sehr sein Denken in alttestamentlichen und frühjüdischen Vorstellungen verwurzelt ist. Dabei ist Paulus besonders durch hellenistisch-jüdische Vorstellungen und Interpretationsmuster geprägt, wie das Zurücktreten des “handwerklichen” Elements der biblischen Schöpfungsgeschichten zugunsten eines Schöpfungshandelns durch das Wort sowie die Thematik der creatio ex nihilo zeigt. Es hat sich gezeigt, dass der Schöpfungsglaube in der Tat ein Grundthema der paulinischen Theologie ist; insofern “bedingt die Auffassung der Wirklichkeit als Schöpfung Gottes”, wie es Jürgen Becker formuliert hat, “in konstitutiver Weise das paulinische Denken” [Jürgen Becker, Paulus. Der Apostel der Völker [Uni Taschenbücher 2014], Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1998, p. 402]. Dabei kann man drei Aspekte differenzieren, die bei Paulus je nach Pragmatik des Textzusammenhangs im Vordergrund stehen:

a) Die Vorstellung von Gott als Schöpfer begründet besonders die Souveränität Gottes, u.a. zu seinem Handeln in Geschichte und an Menschen, und sein Recht auf Verehrung.

b) Gottes Schöpfungshandeln entspringt der Macht Gottes und setzt sich in Gottes erlösendem Handeln in der Auferweckung Jesu Christi, in der Wirkmacht des Evangeliums und in der endzeitlichen Vollendung der Schöpfung (Auferweckung der Toten) fort.

c) Die Vorstellung von der Welt als Schöpfung betont ihre Inferiorität gegenüber Gott, ihre Unzulänglichkeit und Erlösungsbedürftigkeit, begründet aber auch die Hoffnungsperspektive, weil Gott sich zu seiner Schöpfung stellt und sie nicht der Verlorenheit preisgibt.

Selective grammatical analysis: It is often best to leave dabei untranslated as I have done twice in this passage. Depending on the context, I usually translate geprägt as “shaped” or “characterized”, but I here I chose “stamped”, which is a solution that other translators often adopt. I am not sure how to best capture “handwerklichen”, but it seemed desirable to choose a solution that used “hand”, so I went with hand-crafted; I also considered workmanlike but it didn’t seem quite right. Es hat gezeigt could perhaps also be translated as “it has become clear” or “it turned out”; I think “it has been shown” might shift the emphasis a bit too much. je nach has the force of “depending on” or “according to”. Under a): I found the grammatical connection of zu difficult, but went with to act in history and with humans, after consulting Torsten Jantsch. Under b): Wirkmacht is a great word: hopefully “effective power” captures its sense. Under c: I found the translation of stellt sich zu very difficult, and went with takes the side of his creation after consultation with Torsten Jantsch. I was not able to find an elegant solution for Verlorenheit, but went with forsakenness instead of lostness or forlornness.

II. Biographical-Bibliographical Information

I was born 1976 in Zwickau, Germany.  I studied Protestant Theology in Leipzig (1996–2000) and Berlin (Humboldt University, 2000–2002). I wrote my PhD dissertation on Paul’s concept of God in 1 Thessalonians and his Corinthian Correspondence at Humboldt University, Berlin, under the supervision of Cilliers Breytenbach. It was published in 2011. I am Assistent and Akademischer Rat (corresponding Senior Lecturer) at Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich, since 2009 and 2011, respectively.

I learned from my academic teachers, Cilliers Breytenbach (Berlin) and David S. du Toit (Munich), that linguistic approaches like semantics, argumentative and narrative analysis are keys to an  understanding of Early Christian texts as elements of a historical communication. My research interests are the Theology of Paul and of Luke-Acts, concepts of God in the New Testament in the context of Early Jewish and Ancient philosophic discourses about God, socio-historic backgrounds of the New Testament, particularly man and woman, Early Christian prophecy in the context of Ancient concepts of prophecy and inspired speech. My current research (my habilitation) is on the concept of salvation of Luke-Acts in the context of Ancient religion and culture.

Selected Publications

ΙΗΣΟΥΣ ΣΩΤΗΡ: Studien zum Verhältnis von Christologie und Soteriologie im lukanischen Doppelwerk, in progress (habilitation).

Frauen, Männer, Engel: Perspektiven zu 1Kor 11,2–16. Mit Beiträgen von David S. du Toit, Torsten Jantsch und Loren T. Stuckenbruck und einer Bibliographie von Jacob Brouwer, ed. by Torsten Jantsch (Biblisch-Theologische Studien 152), Neukirchen-Vluyn, Neukirchener Verlag, 2014, forthcoming (November, 2014).

“Gott alles in allem” (1Kor 15,28). Studien zum Gottesverständnis des Paulus im 1. Thessalonicherbrief und in der korinthischen Korrespondenz (Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament 129), Neukirchen-Vluyn, Neukirchener Verlag, 2011.

For more information, see his website www.verbum-et-fides.de. An updated cv with publications can be found at http://www.verbum-et-fides.de/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Jantsch_cv_english_publish.pdf

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Hengel and Schwemer on Historiography and the Messianic Claim of Jesus: with special guests Jens Schröter and Dale Allison

Since my first published translations were of works by or about Martin Hengel, I am especially looking forward to collaborating with Brian Pounds on the translation of Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer‘s book Jesus und Judentum / Jesus and Judaism.Today’s key quotation is taken from the forward to this volume.

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the grammatical analysis directly follows the German text:

Jesus and Judaism (wmc): Since the historical quest for Jesus of Nazareth has been controversial since the 18th century and will also remain so in the future, we have placed before the actual historical portrayal extensive considerations on the course of scholarship and on the sources, which explain that in this it can be nothing more than “attempts to draw near”, which admittedly allow very clear contours of this singular figure to become visible. A special focal point is formed by the problem, which is widely misjudged up to the present day, of the messianic claim of Jesus, without which we cannot understand the accounts of the Gospels. The still ever so popular “unmessianic” Jesus never existed. This is shown by the comparison of Jesus with John the Baptist, his proclamation in “authority”, his “deeds of power”, the Passion story with its charge that he is allegedly “the King of the Jews”, and the emergence of the earliest Christology, which possesses its ultimate foundation in Jesus’ activity and way.

Jesus und das Judentum (p. V): Da die historische Rückfrage nach Jesus von Nazareth seit dem 18. Jahrhundert umstritten ist und auch in Zukunft bleiben wird, haben wir der eigentlichen geschichtlichen Darstellung ausführliche Überlegungen zum Gang der Forschung und zu den Quellen vorangestellt, die darlegen, daß es sich bei derselben um nicht mehr als “Annäherungsversuche” handeln kann, die freilich sehr deutliche Konturen dieser einzigartigen Gestalt sichtbar werden lassen. Ein besonderer Schwerpunkt bildet das bis heute weithin verkannte Problem des messianischen Anspruch Jesu, ohne den wir die Berichte der Evangelien nicht verstehen können. Den immer noch so beliebten “unmessianischen Jesus” hat es nie gegeben. Das zeigen der Vergleich Jesu mit Johannes dem Täufer, seine Verkündigung in “Vollmacht”, seine “Krafttaten”, die Leidensgeschichte mit ihrer Anklage, er sei “der König der Juden”, und die Entstehung der frühesten Christologie, die ihren letzten Grund in Jesu Wirken und Weg besitzt.

Selective Grammatical analysis: die historische Rückfrage nach Jesus von Nazareth is difficult. We would perhaps say “the quest for the historical Jesus”, but it would perhaps shift the meaning too strongly to shift “historical” from Rückfrage to Jesus. A wooden solution of the phrase might read: “the historical inquiry into Jesus” or “the historical question about Jesus”. But for now at least, it seemed preferable to split the difference and write “the historical quest for Jesus of Nazareth”: methodologically the translator is always forced to negotiate between the divided allegiances to the source and target languages. For Darstellung I sometimes adopt “presentation” and sometimes prefer “portrayal”. I think that “explain” probably captures best the force of “darlegen” here, though it sometimes simply has the force of set forth or present. I am a bit lost about how “bei derselben” is functioning and have therefore adopted the fuzzy translation “in this”: does it refer back to Darstellung? Ännäherungsversuche is difficult: possible options could be “attempts to draw near” or perhaps “attempts at approximation”. I have changed the active construction bildet das to the passive construction “is formed by” for the sake of readability and word order. I think “misjudged” captures the basic force of verkannte here. I have adopted the awkward solution of splitting up “the problem of the messianic claim of Jesus” and putting relative clause after “problem” (which is widely misjudged…) and the other after “the messianic claim of Jesus” (without which …). Other solutions would be to combine the relative clauses at the end (… which is widely misjudged … and without which …) or to retain the first as a participial modifier (by the still widely misjudged problem of the messianic claim of Jesus). On reflection, the latter solution might be preferable. Hard to say.

Substantive analysis: In reading this quotation I was reminded of several lines of thought that I have recently encountered in translating Jens Schröter’s book Jesus of Nazareth and in my reading of Dale Allison’s book Constructing Jesus. Like Hengel-Schwemer, Schröter begins his Jesus book with an extensive discussion of historiography and the sources (pages 1-42). Moreover, like Hengel-Schwemer, he stresses that pictures of the “historical Jesus” can “always only be approaches (Annäherungen) toward the world of Jesus and his activity and fate” (p. 246 in the English version; page 362 in the 4th edition of the German version). Finally, although he does not adopt the same position as Hengel-Schwemer with regard to the messianic claim of Jesus, he nevertheless makes the similar claim that “In contrast to what is sometimes assumed in scholarship the understanding of these two aspects cannot be divided into a “pre-Easter,” “non-messianic” activity of Jesus and a post-Easter emergence of faith in him. Rather, it becomes clear that impulses went forth from the activity and fate of Jesus that had a direct impact on the development of the early Christian faith.” (p. 176-177; p. 268 in the German version).  Though Hengel-Schwemer’s claim is stronger, their talk of “very clear contours of this singular figure” becoming visible reminded me, in turn, of the following line of thought in Allison’s Constructing Jesus: “I am not here contending for a naïve or robust confidence in the historicity of the Synoptics … What I do maintain is that the materials gathered into the Synoptics, however, stylized and otherwise distorted, descend from narratives and sayings that were in circulation and valued from early times, and that we may reasonably hope to find in those Gospels, above all in their repeating patterns, some real impressions or memories that, taken together, produce more than a faint image… Although barnacles cover the rock, we can still see the rock’s shape.” (p. 164)

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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.

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

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.