Michael Wolter, Luke 2:13, and “the multitude of the heavenly host”

In this year’s Christmas post, I will look at Michael Wolter’s striking interpretation of the significance of Luke’s mention of “the multitude of the heavenly host” in Luke 2:13. As usual I will alternate between the English and the German version for those (re)learning German. For my other Christmas posts, see here

ET (vol. 1, p. 128): Something happens that never occured before in the history of Israel. Not only a single angel but the whole heavenly host, which surrounds the throne of God (cf. 1 Kings 22.19: στρατιὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ; Joseph and Aseneth 14.8 speaks of the στρατιὰ τοῦ ὑψίστου [“army of the Most High”], Greek Apocalypse of Ezra 6.16, 17 of the στρατιὰ ἀγγέλων [“army of angels”]), arrives on earth in order to perform its incumbent task of praising God (the plural αἰνούντων . . . καὶ λεγόντων is constructio ad sensum). …

GV (p. 130): Es ereignet sich etwas, was in der Geschichte Israels noch nie gab: Nicht nur ein einzelner Engel, sondern der gesamte himmlische Hofstaat, der Gottes Thron umgibt (vgl. 1 Kön 22,19: στρατιὰ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ; JosAs 14,8 spricht von der στρατιὰ τοῦ ὑψίστου “Heer des Höchsten”, griechApkEsr 6,16.17 von der στρατιὰ ἀγγέλων “Heer der Engel”), findet sich auf der Erde ein, um der ihm obliegenden Aufgabe des Gotteslobs nachzukommen (der Plural αἰνούντων . . . καὶ λεγόντων ist constructio ad sensum). …

ET (vol. 1, p. 128): Luke describes what has never happened before and in this way expresses the significance of the birth of Jesus. The distance that separates heaven and earth from each other is removed for a moment; the earth becomes the place of the heavenly praise of God and humans become its earwitnesses.

GV (p. 130): – Lukas beschreibt noch nie Dagewesenes und bringt dadruch die Bedeutung der Geburt Jesu zum Ausdruck: Die Distanz, die Himmel und Erde voneinander trennt, ist für einen Moment aufgehoben; die Erde wird zum Ort, und Menschen werden zu Ohrenzeugen des himmlischen Gotteslobs.

Analysis: What I find striking about Wolter’s analysis is the fact that he interprets πλῆθος στρατιᾶς οὐρανίου as a reference to the whole heavenly host rather than simply to a big group of angels, which functions on his reading as a way for Luke to highlight the great significance of the birth of Jesus.

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Jan Rüggemeier on Markan Christology in Cognitive-Narratological Perspective

Today’s offering 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) an excerpt (or series of excerpts) from a publication submitted by the German author him/herself and (II) some biographical-bibliographical information about the scholar in question.

Today’s German scholar is Dr. Jan Rüggemeier (Acad) of the University of Bern. In part 1 of this post I will provide an English translation and the German text of five key quotations from his 2017 book Poetik der markinischen Christologie. Eine kognitiv-narratologische Exegese. As usual I will alternate between English translation and German text for those who are using these excerpts to (re)learn German.

Quote 1 (pp. 3-4)

The goal of this work is therefore to transfer the historical and philological methods of exegesis, which are already always subject to the influence of other scholarly insights, and newer approaches, especially from the sphere of literary criticism and narrative studies, into a common system of viewing the text.

Das Ziel der vorliegenden Arbeit ist es deshalb, die historischen und philologischen Methoden der Exegese, die ihrerseits immer schon dem Einfluss anderer Wissenschaftserkenntnisse und -strömungen unterlagen, und neuere Ansätze, insbesondere aus dem Bereich der Literatur- und Erzählwissenschaften, in ein gemeinsames System der Textbetrachtung zu überführen.

At the same time, the possibilities of such a viewing of the text are to be demonstrated with reference to the example of the Markan picture of Jesus in order ultimately to answer the material question of the Christology of the earliest Gospel anew and with as much nuance as possible.

Zugleich sollen die Möglichkeiten einer solchen Textbetrachtung am Beispiel des markinischen Jesusbildes demonstriert werden, um letztlich die inhaltliche Frage nach der Christologie des ersten Evangeliums neu und möglichst differenziert zu beantworten.

Here it is precisely the recent developments within narrative studies today, which are usually summarized under the keyword of the cognitive turn (cf. chapter 2.1) that contain within themselves a high potential for integration and can lead to an overcoming of the differentiation—which has been unsatisfactory up to now and anything but precise or unified—between so-called synchronic and diachronic methodological steps.

Gerade die neueren Entwicklungen innerhalb der heutigen Erzählwissenschaften, die zumeist unter dem Stichwort der Kognitiven Wende bzw. des cognitive turn zusammengefasst werden (vgl. Kap. 2.1), bergen dabei ein hohes Integrationspotenzial in sich und können zu einer Überwindung der bisher unbefriedigenden und alles andere als präzisen bzw. einheitlichen Differenzierung zwischen sogenannten synchronen und diachronen Methodenschritten führen.

Because it is above all through the narrative-critical “re-discovery” of the recipient that the understanding of the text as an interactive process is grasped, in which there is always an alternating alignment between text-external pre-existing knowledge and text-internal guiding mechanisms, historical source work and narrative-critical interpretation are interdependent.

Weil v.a. durch die erzählwissenschaftliche „Wiederentdeckung“ des Rezipienten das Textverstehen als ein interaktiver Prozess begriffen wird, bei dem es immer zu einem wechselseitigen Abgleich zwischen textextern vorgegebenen Wissensbeständen und textintern angelegten Steuerungsmechanismen kommt, sind historische Quellenarbeit und erzählwissenschaftliche Interpretation aufeinander angewiesen.

Thus, in the case of ancient narratives the text-external knowledge of an intended recipient cannot be drawn out in any other way than with the methods and possibilities of historical source work.

So können bei antiken Erzählungen die textexternen Wissensbestände eines intendierten Rezipienten gar nicht anders als mit den Mitteln und Möglichkeiten einer historischen Quellenarbeit erhoben werden.

And, conversely, a purely historical study of the sources in the context of an explanation of the text would remain deficient, for only by taking into account the specific inferential processes as well as the cognitive-psychological propositions of the recipient can one adequately trace how, conditioned by a selection of individual possibilties of understanding, an actual or intended understanding of the text arises when it is read.

Und umgekehrt bliebe ein rein historisches Quellenstudium im Zusammenhang der Texterklärung defizitär, weil erst unter Berücksichtigung der spezifischen Inferenzprozesse sowie der kognitionspsychologischen Propositionen des Rezipienten hinreichend nachgezeichnet werden kann, wie es bedingt durch eine Auswahl einzelner Verstehensmöglichkeiten bei der Lektüre zu einem tatsächlichen bzw. intendierten Textverstehen kommt.

Quotation 2: Character Traits (pp. 529-30)

Through Jesus’s supernatural knowledge (4.3.1g), his non-limited perception (4.3.1b), and his behavior (4.3.1d), but also on the basis of his repeatedly articulated claim of authority (4.3.1a) or through the overcoming of evident spatial limits (4.3.1-2) and the sudden change of his appearance (4.3.1e), Jesus can be contrasted with other awaited figures of the endtime or paralleled with the Old Testament Kyrios (cf. 4.3.2b).

Durch Jesu übernatürliches Wissen (4.3.1g), seine entgrenzte Wahrnehmung (4.3.1b) und sein Verhalten (4.3.1d), aber auch aufgrund seines wie- derholt artikulierten Vollmachtsanspruchs (4.3.1a) oder durch die Über- windung offensichtlicher Raumgrenzen (4.3.1f) und den plötzlichen Wandel seines Äußeren (4.3.1e) kann Jesus mit anderen erwarteten Gestalten der Endzeit kontrastiert oder mit dem alttestamentlichen Kyrios parallelisiert werden (vgl. 4.3.2b).

A significant function of the character traits consists in setting Jesus into relation with text-external conceptions of characters and precisely in this way to portray his uniqueness and unity with God.

Eine wesentliche Funktion der Figurenmerkmale be- steht darin, Jesus mit textexternen Figurenvorstellungen in Beziehung zu setzen und gerade so seine Einzigkeit und Einheit mit Gott zu inszenieren.

This explains the occasional incoherence, which can be recognized in the characterization of Jesus.

Dies erklärt die gelegentliche Inkohärenz, die sich in der Charakterisierung Jesu erkennen lässt.

Thus, the narrator pursues not the goal of producing a unified conception of Jesus’s [outer] appearance but the appearance has primarily a functional relevance, because it serves the purpose of making a contrast in individual episodes (9.15 after 9.2-6) or gives the recipient a spatial orientation (6.56).

So verfolgt der Erzähler nicht das Ziel eine einheitliche Vorstellung vom Figurenäußeren zu erzielen, sondern das Äußere hat primär eine funktionale Bedeutung, weil es in einzelnen Episoden der Kontrastierung dient (9,15 nach 9,2–6) oder dem Rezipienten eine räumliche Orientierung bietet (6,56).

Quote 3: The Narrator’s Point of View (523):

The actual standpoint of the narrator (cf. chapter 4.2.1) is characterized by a surprisingly small degree of explicitness.

Der eigentliche Erzählerstandpunkt (vgl. Kap. 4.2.1) zeichnet sich durch eine überraschend geringe Explizität aus.

This is probably a co-cause of the large differences in interpretation within the history of scholarship up to now.

Dies dürfte mitursächlich für die großen Interpretationsunterschiede innerhalb der bisherigen Forschungsge- schichte sein.

The Markan Christology shows itself in its core to be emergent, i.e. the standpoint of the narrator cannot be reduced to individual pieces of textual information or be completely aligned with the standpoints of individual characters but can only be deduced from the interplay of all individual perspectives.

Die markinische Christologie erweist sich im Kern als emergent, d.h. der Standpunkt des Erzählers lässt sich nicht auf einzelne Textinformationen reduzieren oder mit einzelnen Figurenstandpunkten voll- ständig in Deckung bringen, sondern kann erst aus dem Wechselspiel aller Einzelperspektiven abgeleitet werden.

Through explicit narrative asides, the perspectival means of the reduplication of information, the presented (un)reliability of individual bearers of perspectives or other means of hierarchization, the narrator positions himself in an indirect—but nevertheless unmistakable—way.

Durch explizite Erzählerkommentare, das perspektivische Mittel der Informationsverdoppelung, die vor Augen gestellte (Un)Zuverlässigkeit einzelner Perspektiventräger oder andere Mittel der Hierarchisierung positioniert sich der Erzähler auf eine indirekte – aber nichtsdestotrotz unmissverständliche – Weise.

Quote 4: Kyrios-Christology (p. 531):

Through the contrast character of John-Elijah and the opening prophet quotation in 1.2-3 it is suggested from the start (= primacy effect) that Jesus is to be identified with the Kyrios and his Sonship is to be understood in the sense of a unique relationship of belonging between God and Jesus (cf. 4.3.2b).

Durch die Kontrastfigur des Johannes-Elia und das einleitende Prophetenzitat 1,2f.) wird von Anfang an nahegelegt (= Primäreffekt), dass Jesus mit dem Kyrios zu identifizieren ist und seine Sohnschaft im Sinne eines einzigartigen Zugehörigkeitsverhältnisses zwischen Gott und Jesus zu verstehen ist (vgl. 4.3.2b).

This parallelization is taken up in the further course of the narrative so that one can by no means speak only of a ‘sporadic Kyrios-Christolgy’ in the Gospel of Mark.

An diese Parallelisierung wird im weiteren Erzählverlauf angeknüpft, so dass keineswegs nur von einer ‚sporadischen Kyrios-Christologie’ im Markusevangelium zu sprechen ist.

Rather, Mark materially takes up the early Christian confession of the one God of Israel and of the one Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor 8.6) and joins it narratively with the episodic narratives of the primitive community, with a far-reaching continuity between the pre- and post-Easter nature of Jesus being postulated.

Vielmehr greift Markus das frühchristliche Bekenntnis zu dem einen Gott Israels und dem einen Herrn Jesus Christus (vgl. 1Kor 8,6) inhaltlich auf und verknüpft es erzählerisch mit den episodenhaften Erzählungen der Urgemeinde, wobei eine weitgehende Kontinuität zwischen dem vor- und nachösterlichen Wesen Jesu postuliert wird.

The frequency of the explicit and implicit Kyrios-allusions, the high relevance for action that can be ascribed to Jesus self-claim and the opposing accusation of blasphemy by the authorities, and the explicit questions about Jesus’s identity as well as the disciples’ obvious lack of understanding (e.g. 1.27; 4.41; 6.52; 8.17-20), which increase the attention of the recipient along the lines of the suspense of a mystery, reveal the great significance of this character parallel.

Die Häufigkeit der expliziten und impliziten Kyrios-Anspielungen, die hohe Handlungsrelevanz, die sich dem Selbstanspruch Jesu und dem entgegengesetzten Blasphemievorwurf der Autoritäten zuschreiben lässt, und die expliziten Fragen nach Jesu Identität sowie das offensichtliche Unverständnis der Jünger (z.B. 1,27; 4,41; 6,52; 8,17–20), die im Sinne einer Rätselspannung die Aufmerksamkeit des Rezipienten erhöhen, lassen die große Bedeutung dieser Figurenparallele erkennen.

Quote 5: Main Function (p. 532)

The main function of the Markan narrative can be designated as the epistemological function.

Die Hauptfunktion der markinischen Erzählung kann als epistemologische Funktion bezeichnet werden.

In distinction from today’s narrative, this is not meant to suggest that the Gospel of Mark disputes every human possibility of knowing in principle or that the question of what identity to ascribe to Jesus can be answered in an exclusively subjective manner.

Im Unterschied zu heutigen Erzählung ist hiermit nicht gemeint, dass das Markusevangelium jede menschliche Er- kenntnismöglichkeit prinzipiell bestreitet oder dass sich die Frage, welche Identität Jesus zuzuschreiben ist, ausschließlich subjektiv beantworten lässt.

Rather, it is demonstrated through the narrative that humans have de facto not recognized Jesus in his actual identity—and this means, according to Markan understanding, as preexistent Son and Kyrios.

Es wird durch die Erzählung vielmehr aufgezeigt, dass die Menschen Jesus in seiner eigentlichen Identität – und d.h. nach markinischem Verständnis als präexistenten Sohn und Kyrios – faktisch nicht erkannt haben.

II. Biographical-Bibliographical Information

Born in 1981, Dr. Jan Rüggemeier (Acad) studied Protestant Theology in Heidelberg, Oxford (Regent’s Park College) and Tübingen. Between 2011 and 2016 he has worked with Prof. Hans-Joachim Eckstein (Tübingen). In 2017 he joined the Institute of New Testament Studies at the University of Bern, where he is preparing a research project on urban christianity with Prof. Benjamin Schliesser. So far his research is focused on the gospels, on biblical narratology and on methodology of the New Testament in general. His handbook Methoden der neutestamentlichen Exegese. Ein Lehr- und Arbeitsbuch, published 2016 together with Sönke Finnern, gives an overview of important exegetical “tools” and introduces new trends in Biblical Studies

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Eve-Marie Becker, Ancient History Writing, and the Genre of Mark

Not too long ago, I finished reading through Eve-Marie Becker‘s new collection of essays Der früheste Evangelist. Studien zum Markusevangelium, which contains  nine English essays and eleven German essays on the Gospel of Mark. As with other works of hers that I have blogged about, I enjoyed Becker’s multidisciplinary approach, her impressive grasp of the history of scholarship, and her independence of thought, all of which will undoubtedly also be showcased in her most recent book The Birth of Christian History: Memory and Time from Mark to Luke-Acts. For my full range of posts on the topic of historiography, see here.

If one is looking for an avenue into Eve-Marie Becker’s work, I recommend beginning with her autobiographical English essay “Mark in the Frame of Ancient History Writing: The Quest for Heuristics” (pp. 279-291, esp. pp. 284-291 in Der früheste Evangelist), which conveys central elements of her approach, provides insight into how she got there, and relates her research to her teaching. Here is a quotation from that essay:

289: So, where have we come? The contextualization of the Markan Gospel in the frame of ancient history writing has huge implications for textual interpretation. It leads us to a comprehensive view of Mark’s literary concept as well as its theological outline. Seen against the broader frame of ancient history writing, the Markan Gospel appears to be a piece of literature in which past time is depicted as a narrative construct of “history,” while the display of “time” becomes a matter of temporal orientation. By transforming the memory of the past into a cohesive narrative account for contemporary readers as well as for posterity, the Markan Gospel largely contributes to the shape of a narrative identity in early Christian times. To be sure, it hardly claims to be historiography stricto sensu, but it does certainly prepare the way for historiographical access (Luke-Acts; Eusebius) to the beginnings of the gospel proclamation and its memorization among Christ-believing groups.”

The reader, of course, will also profit greatly from Becker’s new introductory chapter “Der früheste Evangelist im Lichte der aktuellen Markusforschung. Eine Standortsbestimmung” (pp. 1-13), which introduces her own approach and helpfully situates her work in relation to recent scholarship on Mark. Here is a quotation and translation from that chapter:

1 (cf. p. 8): Der vorliegende Aufsatzsammlung liegt ein gemeinsamer Ansatz zugrunde: die Sicht auf Markus als den frühesten Evangelisten, der mit seiner Evangelienerzählung eine neue literarische Form, eine Gattung sui generis, schafft, die sich in den weiteren Rahmen der frühkaiserzeitlichen Historiographie einzeichnen lässt. / A shared conception underlies the present collection of essays: the perspective on Mark as the earliest evangelist, who, with his Gospel narration, creates a new literary form, a genre sui generis, which can be placed in the broader framework of the historiography of the early imperial period.

As indicated by the previous two quotes, Eve-Marie Becker returns at multiple points to the question of the genre of Mark’s Gospel. Here are two more quotations on that topic (and references to some others):

31 (cf. 188, 274): Wir haben es, so meine ich, hier nicht mit einer Biographie oder einer biographischen Darstellungsform, sondern mit einer personzentrierten vorhistoriographischen Erzählung zu tun, wie sie besonders aus dem Bereich der frühjüdischen Historiographie bekannt ist / Here we are dealing, so I believe, not with biographical form of presentation but with a person-centered pre-historiographical narrative, as it is known especially from the sphere of early Jewish historiography. [this claim is then given further justification in what follows]

126 (cf. 230, 244): Mark shapes a proto-type of a writing, which does have immediate (Matthew and Luke) and later (apocryphal gospels) successors. Because the Markan Gospel deals with a sequence of a ‘history of events’ that is related to the activity of a specific person (Jesus of Nazareth) and his mission, it might in terms of its macro-genre best be placed in the broader frame of ancient historiographical writings in which it appears more precisely as a ‘person-centered pre-historiographical account.”

Whether or not one is convinced by Becker’s argument that Mark should be classified as a ‘person-centered pre-historiographical account’ and not as a biographical form of presentation, I think that there is much to be learned from Becker’s extensive comparison of the ways that Paul, Mark, and Luke work with history – for example in “Patterns of Early Christian Thinking and Writing of History: Paul – Mark – Acts” (219-239), which includes an interesting discussion of 1 Cor 15:3b-5 and 11:23-25 (pp. 231-237), and “The Konstruktion von ‘Geschichte’. Paulus und Markus im Vergleich” (253-278), which I have discussed here.

From among the essays focused on key issues or texts in Mark, I profited especially from Becker’s discussion of the Markan summaries, i.e. “Die markinischen Summarien – ein literarischer und theologischer Schlüssel zu Mk 1-6” (pp. 327-349).

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Michael Wolter on Jesus’s ἀγωνία in Luke 22.44

After two years of very hard and very rewarding labor, I am particularly pleased that both volumes of my co-translation (with Christoph Heilig) of Michael Wolter’s commentary on the Gospel of Luke are now complete and published as volumes 4 and 5 of the BMSEC series. I have, of course, produced multiple blog posts on these volumes already, but with this post I want to start a new series titled “Wolter Words” (the apparent alliteration is of course illusory), which will focus on one of my favorite aspects of his commentary, namely his tendency to challenge conventional assumptions about the meaning of many words and phrases in the Gospel.

In today’s post, we will look at Wolter’s interpretation of γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ in Luke 22:44.

Before turning to this issue, however, let me briefly comment on two others:

First, it is worth noting that Wolter (II: 483), based on a detailed analysis of the evidence, thinks the arguments for and against the originality of Luke 22:43-44 are quite evenly balanced, so that “we must remain for the time being with a non liquet.

Second, in response to a common misinterpretation of this text, Wolter (II: 479, 485) rightly stresses that when Luke says that Jesus’s “sweat became like drops of blood falling to the earth,” he does NOT intend to communicate that “Jesus sweats blood or that his sweat changed into blood” but rather that “Jesus sweats so profusely that his sweat drops to the ground,” i.e. “The tertium comparationis is … not the ‘consistency of his sweat’ (thus Klostermann 217) but its quantity. There is so much of it that—like when a person bleeds profusely—drops form that fall to the ground. Thus, the thrust of the statement wants to illustrate the intensity of the praying of Jesus and—at least indirectly—the greatness of his ἀγωνίᾳ.”

What then is meant by the phrase γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ? In what follows I will give Wolter’s answer in abbreviated form, alternating between the English translation (II: 483-484) and the German Version (723-724):

ET: That the appearances “strengthen” the recipient of the appearance is also known from many other texts … Elsewhere God also always “strengthens” the mediators sent by him so that they can fulfill their task … Therefore, the fact that Jesus nevertheless  falls into ἀγωνίᾳ, i.e., into inner agitation, need not stand in contradiction to the strengthening by the angel.

GV: Auch dass Erscheinungen den Erscheinungsempfänger “stärken”, ist aus vielen anderen Texten bekannt … Gott “stärkt” auch sonst immer die von ihm gesandten Mittler, damit sie ihren Auftrag erfüllen können … Dass Jesus trotzdem in ἀγωνίᾳ gerät, d.h. in innere Erregung, muss darum nicht in Widerspruch zur Stärkung durch den Engel stehen.

ET: Many interpreters have not been able to reconcile the two with each other. In the wake of Paton 1913 they therefore do not think that ἀγωνίᾳ designates the inner agitation of Jesus but equate it with ἀγών. In this view, the concern is with a “contest” or “struggle” (cf. e.g. Neyrey 1980, 159ff [“victorious struggle”]; 1985, 58ff. [“combat”]; Nolland III: 1084 [“the battle in prayer”]; Brown 1994, I: 189-90; Tuckett 2002, 138-39), which takes place in the “fervent” prayer of Jesus.

GV: Viele Interpreten haben beides nicht miteinander vereinbaren können. Sie sehen darum in Gefolge von. W.R. Paton, Ἀγωνία (Agony), CIR 27 (1913) 194 mit ἀγωνίᾳ nicht die innere Erregung Jesu bezeichnet, sondern setzen es mit ἀγών gleich: Es handele sich um einen “Kampf” (engl. “contest” or “struggle”; cf. z.B. Neyrey*, Absence, 159ff [“victorious struggle”]; Passion, 58ff [“combat”]; Nolland III, 1084 [“the battle in prayer”]; Brown* I, 189f; Tuckett* 138f.), der in dem “inständigeren” Beten Jesu stattfindet.

ET: In doing so, however, they make the error of arguing only with the lexical sense and not paying attention to the syntagmatic connection with γενόμενος; cf. e.g. Vita Aesopi 81 (“They fell into agitation [εἰς ἀγωνίαν γενάμενοι] … and regarded this great misfortune as an important sign”). Elsewhere, too ἀγωνίᾳ designates inner agitation in the face of coming unsalvation … [additional texts are adduced] … Furthermore the talk of Jesus as γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ must be placed in the nexus of all the texts in which there is talk of “coming” or “falling” ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ or εἰς ἀγωνίᾳ (e.g. Diodorus Siculus 14.35.2; 16.42.9; 20.51.1; Josephus, Antiquitates judaicae 6.107; 8.373; 11.326; 13.87 and especially P. Tebt II 423.13-14: “I have commissioned you …; you have not yet given me information about it, so that I have fallen at present into agitation [ὡς εἰς ἀγωνίαν με γενέσθαι ἐν τῷ παρόντι]”).

GV: Dabei machen sie jedoch den Fehler, nur mit der Wortbedeutung zu argumentieren und nicht die syntagmatische Verknüpfung mit γενόμενος zu beachten; vgl. z.B. Vita Aesopi 81 (“sie gerieten in Erregung [εἰς ἀγωνίαν γενάμενοι] … und hielten dieses große missgeschick für ein wichtiges Zeichen”). Auch anderswo bezeichnet die innere Erregung angesichts eines kommenden Unheils … [zusätzliche Texte sind angeführt] … Darüber hinaus ist die Rede von Jesus als γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ in den Zusammenhang all jener Texte zu stellen, in denen von ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ oder  εἰς ἀγωνίᾳ “geraten” oder “kommen” oder “fallen” die Rede ist (z. B. Diodorus Siculus 14,35,2; 16,42,9; 20,51,1; Josephus, Ant. 6,107; 8.373; 11,326; 13,87 und vor allem P. Tebt. II, 423,13f: “Ich habe dir aufgetragen …; du hast mir darüber noch nicht Auskunft gegeben, so dass ich zur Zeit in Erregung geraten bin [ὡς εἰς ἀγωνίαν με γενέσθαι ἐν τῷ παρόντι]”).

ET: It would therefore be a truncation if one wanted to reduce Jesus’s ‘strengthening’ to the empowerment to “fervent” prayer. The aforementioned linguistic contexts do not make the  ἐκτενέστερον προσεύχεσθαι of Jesus an expression of his ἀγωνία but rather let it become the reaction to it (cf. Philo, Legatio ad Gaium 366: “We had the souls no longer in us but they had gone forth ὑπ’ ἀγωνίας in order to implore the true God…”).

GV: Es wäre darum eine Verkürzung, wenn man Jesu ‘Stärkung’ auf die Befähigung zum “inständigeren” Beten reduzieren wollte. Die vorgenannten sprachlichen Zusammenhänge machen das ἐκτενέστερον προσεύχεσθαι Jesu nicht zum Ausdruck seiner ἀγωνία, sondern sie lassen es zur Reaktion auf sie werden (vgl. Philo, Leg. Gai. 366: “Wir hatten die Seelen nicht mehr in uns, sondern sie waren ὑπ’ ἀγωνίας herausgetreten, um den wahren Gott anzuflehen, …”).

In short, for Wolter attention to the syntagmatic connection of ἀγωνία with γενόμενος shows that the phrase means “als er in inneren Aufruhr geriet” (GV: 720) or “when he fell into inner turmoil” (ET: II: 479) rather than signaling that he is engaged in “victorious struggle,” “combat,” or “battle in prayer”.

Addendum: Luke 22:44 in the 2016 ESV Translation:

Not too long ago, there was a minor eruption in the blosphere when Crossway announced that “Beginning in the Summer of 2016, the text of the ESV Bible will remain unchanged in all future editions printed and published by Crossway—in much the same way that the King James Version (KJV) has remained unchanged ever since the final KJV text was established almost 250 years ago (in 1769)” (quoted from Scot McKnight; cf. Christianity Today).

While I did not follow this controversy in detail at the time, my work on Wolter’s commentary did make me sensitive to the change made in Luke 22:44:

2011: And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

2016: “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

While it is not exactly clear to me how the translators are interpreting this verse in the two cases, it seems to me that the 2016 translation might move a bit closer to Wolter’s understanding. However, if Wolter’s analysis is correct, it would probably be preferable to revise the 2016 ESV translation further and to translate γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ with “having fallen into inner turmoil” or “having come into inner turmoil” or “when he fell into inner turmoil” (Wolter II: 479) or “when he fell into inner agitation.” Moreover, since Crossway wisely ended up reversing its initial decision (see here), it is at least conceivable that they could reconsider their translation of this verse if the ESV translation is revised again in the future.

For a more complete list of changes that have been made to the ESV, see here and here.

For a small sample of the many blog posts on the controversy over the ESV’s initial statement about the finality of the 2016 ESV translation, see e.g. Anderson/Alsup, Kevin Antlitz, Denny BurkJoe CarterAmy GannettSusanna KrizoClaude Mariottini, Scot McKnightRachel MillerCarolyn MoorePorter/Yoon.

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

For interviews with me on my work, see here.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne

 

Jörg Frey on the Source-Critical and Redaction-Critical Approach to the Gospel of John

I am happy to announce that I have just submitted my co-translation (with Christoph Heilig) of a selection of essays on John by Jörg Frey (Eng), which will be published in the BMSEC series in 2018 with the title The Glory of the Crucified One. Thus, it seemed fitting to celebrate this occasion by continuing my series of posts on Frey’s chapter “Wege und Perspektiven der Interpretation des Johannesevangelium,” which will be titled “Approaches to the Interpretation of John” in our volume. For my full range of posts on The Glory of the Crucified One, see here.

Today’s key quotation comes from section 1.4 of this chapter : “The Source-Critical and Redaction-Critical Approach: The Search for ‘Original’ Sources and the Question of the Theological Development of the Johannine Community.”

After presenting specific criticisms of several recent source-critical works, Frey has this to say about the lasting value of this approach (page 20 in Die Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten):

Such works are well suited to discredit the method of source criticism as a whole. At the same time, here too a particula veri should be upheld. For the Gospel of John can scarcely be regarded as a text ‘made from a single mold,’ as a completely homogeneous literary unity.

Solche Arbeiten sind geeignet, die Methde der Literarkritik gänzlich zu diskredieren. Gleichwohl sollte auch hier eine particula veri festgehalten werden: Das Johannesevangelium kann eben doch kaum als ein Text ‘aus einem Guß’, als eine völlig homogene, literarische Einheit gelten.

It probably grew over a rather extended period of time, and strongly synchronic interpretations are justified text-theoretically rather than in a way that is actually historical.

Es ist wahrscheinlich über einen längeren Zeitraum gewachsen, und dezidiert synchrone Interpretationen sind eher texttheoretisch als tatsächlich historisch begründet.

At least for chapter 21 the question of a secondary expansion or edition of an existing text arises, and the question of what else was possibly added in this context can only be approached with cautious deliberations, since we have no parallel texts for comparison.

Zumindest für Kapitel 21 stellt sich die Frage einer sekundären Ergänzung bzw. Edition eines vorliegendes Textes, und die Frage, was in diesem Zusammenhang eventuell noch ergänzt wurde, läßt sich, da keine Paralleltexte zum Vergleich bereitliegen, nur mit vorsichtigen Erwägungen angehen.

The same applies to the by no means irrelevant question of the presupposed sources and traditions. For it seems clear that the evangelist presupposes sources and traditions.

Das gleich gilt für die keineswegs irrelevante Frage nach den vorausgesetzten Quellen and Traditionen: Daß der Evangelist Quellen und Traditionen voraussetzt, scheint klar zu sein.

As long as one regarded the Johannine line of development as completely independent and not dependent on other early Christian traditions (especially the Synoptics), one had to reckon with sources that consisted of larger narrative pieces (semeia source and passion narrative or Grundschrift). If one assumes knowledge of the Synoptic tradition, such continuous sources can scarcely be reconstructed any longer, but even then the taking up of individual special traditions from the Johannine community or other circles must be assumed.

Solange man die johanneische Entwicklungslinie für völlig eigenständig und von anderen frühchristlichen Überlieferungen (insbesondere den Synoptikern) unabhängig ansah, mußte man dann mit größeren erzählerischen Quellenstücken (Semeiaquelle und Passionsbericht oder Grundschrift) rechnen, wenn man mit Kenntnissen der synoptischen Überlieferung rechnet, können solche durchlaufenden Quellen kaum mehr rekonstruiert werden, aber auch dann ist die Aufnahme einzelner Sonderüberlieferungen aus dem johanneischen Gemeindekreis oder anderen Kreisen anzunehmen.

Now the source situation for a resolution of the associated problems are anything but great, so that one can scarcely expect source criticism to provide the key for the interpretation of the Fourth Gospel.

Freilich ist die Quellenanlage für eine Lösung der damit gegebenen Probleme alles andere als günstig, so daß von der Literarkritik der Schlüssel zur Interpretation des vierten Evangeliums kaum zu erwarten ist.

***

As a single comment on the translation of this passage, let me simply flag up the difficulty of translating the German terms Literarkritik and literarkritisch. Since it is now used to refer to a very different approach, “literary criticism” is not a viable solution in my judgment. Accordingly, the translator must find another term for the subject matter in question. This, however, is difficult. In fact, since Literarkritik is a more far-reaching term than “source criticism” (see e.g. here), I considered retaining the noun Literarkritik (see e.g. here) and even gave considerable thought to whether it would be possible to coin a new word for the adjective. However, in the end, while recognizing the shortcomings of using “source criticism” and “source-critical” (see e.g. here), I decided to adopt this common translation, albeit with reservations.

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

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne

 

Torsten Jantsch on Jesus, the Savior: The Soteriology of the Lukan Doppelwerk

Since I have featured the work of Torsten Jantsch (Eng; Acad; Blog) on several occasions in the past (see here and here), I am especially pleased to include a post on his new book Jesus, der Retter: Die Soteriologie des lukanischen Doppelwerks (WUNT 381), Tübingen: Mohr, 2017, which is based on his LMU Munich habilitation thesis.

1. Translation and German Text (p. 351)

Even though this is not a “German Scholars Post” in the strict sense, I will include both a key excerpt from his book and a brief biographical note. As usual I will alternate between the English translation and the German text (p. 351):

Luke sketches a remarkably coherent picture of Jesus and his way from the prophet to the heavenly Christ, Lord, Ruler, and Savior.

Lukas zeichnet ein bemerkenswert kohärentes Bild von Jesus und seinem Weg vom Propheten zum himmlischen Christus, Herrn, Herrscher und Retter.

Jesus was active as Spirit-filled prophet and suffered the fate of the prophets of Israel, rejection and murder.

Jesus hat als geisterfüllter Prophet gewirkt und das Schicksal der Propheten Israels, Ablehnung und Tötung, erlitten.
* note: murder is not quite right for Tötung here, but it is perhaps better than “killing” or simply “death”

God, whose characteristic trait it is to exalt the lowly (Luke 1.51-53), restored the righteous and anointed servant of God Jesus, who had been lowered and killed, and exalted him to the Christ, Lord, Ruler, and Savior, who in and from heaven bestows his benefactions of the forgiveness of sins and following from this eternal life.
Gott, dessen Wesenszug es ist, die Niedrigen zu erhöhen (Lk 1,51–53), hat den erniedrigten und getöteten Gerechten und gesalbten Gottesknecht Jesus restituiert und zum Christus, Herrn, Herrscher und Retter erhöht, der im und aus dem Himmel seine Wohltaten der Sündenvergebung und daraus folgend ewiges Leben schenkt.

This will be visibly fulfilled at his parousia; in the time in between this Lord is accessible for believers in prayer.

Dies wird sich bei seiner Parusie sichtbar erfüllen; in der Zwischenzeit ist dieser Herr für die Gläubigen im Gebet zugänglich.

A fundamental statement of Lukan soteriology is: “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2.21/Joel 3.5).

Eine Grundaussage der lukanischen Soteriologie lautet: „Jeder, der den Namen des Herrn anruft, wird gerettet werden“ (Apg 2,21/Joël 3,5).

With this Luke sets forth the picture of a salvation that is consistently grounded in the person of Jesus.

Lukas entwirft damit das Bild eines konsequent in der Person Jesu begründeten Heils.

He does not, it is true, place the death of Jesus at the center of his soteriology – but the person of the exalted Savior.

Er stellt zwar nicht den Tod Jesu in das Zentrum seiner Soteriologie – aber die Person des erhöhten Retters.

Luke is the theology of salvation, which for him is to be obtained solely through Jesus as the Christ and Savior: He is the theologian of a consistently applied solus Christus.

Lukas ist der Theologe des Heils, das für ihn allein durch Jesus als den Christus und Retter zu gewinnen ist: Er ist der Theologe eines konsequent gedachten solus Christus.
* Not sure how to best capture the force of konsequent gedachten: consistently applied, consistently considered, consistently contemplated, consistently thought out, consistently applied, something else.

2. Biographical-Bibliographical Information

Torsten Jantsch, Dr. theol. from Humboldt University, Berlin, in 2009 with a dissertation on the concept of God in 1 Thess and 1/2 Cor, published as “Gott alles in allem” (1Kor 15,28): Studien zum Gottesverständnis des Paulus im 1. Thessalonicherbrief und in der korinthischen Korrespondenz (WMANT 129), Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener 2011. Habilitation in Munich (Ludwig Maximilian University) in 2015 on the concept of salvation in Luke-Acts, published as Jesus, der Retter: Die Soteriologie des lukanischen Doppelwerks (WUNT 381), Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2017. Hellenistic philosophies, particularly Cynicism, and the reception of Socrates from the beginnings (Xenophon, the early Platonic dialogues) until the time of the Roman Empire, the ancient ruler cult and prophecy in the Greco-Roman world were, among others, issues of his research so far. Several future research projects concern the perspective of collective memory in early Christianity, e.g. concerning the question of strategies of identity construction in Luke-Acts. Currently, he holds the position of Visiting Professor for New Testament II at the University of Munich (LMU).


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

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne

Hans W. Frei on Historicism, Realism, and Political Conditions in Eighteenth Century Germany

In my last post, I offered some general comments on Hans W. Frei’s influential book The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative and presented a short quotation on an interesting difference between developments in England and Germany in the eighteenth century. As a follow up, this post will present Frei’s suggestive attempt to relate shortcomings that he perceives in  historicism as a movement in German thought to the political conditions in 18th century Germany. While I lack the expertise to evaluate the cogency of his argument, I certainly found it to be a fascinating line of thought! Indeed, in my judgment, the section (pages 212-217) is worth reading in its entirety.

[212] “Realistic writing and its appreciation in late eighteenth-century Germany did not develop beyond the level attained by Lessing and the early Schiller. Romantic writing and criticism obviously tended in the very opposite direction. … [213] It is a curious fact, noted by Auerbach, that the rise of historicism in Germany in the same era, which might have been expected to aid the development of both realistic fiction and history writing, did not in fact do so. … Historicism is the rendering of mankind’s unfinished story in which man, in his encounter with determinate historical situations and developments, actually encounters himself writ large. But the universal self or man he meets is never met—as a Rationalist might claim—in direct universal trans-historical form. The universal historical being of man is met only as the specific spirit of a specific age and group. …

Linking the historically specific with universal history by means of the notion of historical-spiritual development was one expression of a puzzling situation which Auerbach in particular noted. On the one hand, historicism was an apprehension of the specificity and irreducibly historical particularity of cultural change. But on the other hand, as a movement in German thought it led to the very opposite of this apprehension, to a vast universalization in defining the content of historical change. … [214] … The tendency toward universalization and spiritualization was due to the fact that finally the subject matter and bond of historical development was a universal subject, whose characterizing quality was taken to be that of culturally embodied or diffused consciousness. The historical subject matter in historicist perspective is finally the one universal human spirit, even though always in specific cultural form.

The cultural setting for this intellectual development was a thoroughly fragmented political situation and a backward economy, each tending to paralyze the other. The imposing figure of Frederick the Great of Prussia, bestriding the German scene of the latter eighteenth century, only accentuated the small ambience of his own and every other German realm. … Moreover, his enlightened indulgence of intellectual and religious freedom stood in broad contrast to his political despotism, typical of the period and much more characteristic of the conditions prevailing in the rest of Germany. …

In all of this, German nationalism flourished and was the object of grave suspicion. In concept and fact political nationhood, a firm cultural setting for the development of the realistic novel in England, lagged far behind in Germany. The French Revolution and Napoleon’s conquest of Germany were to change the situation drastically, especially in Prussia, but in the latter part of the eighteenth century, when German intellectual and literary thought began to rise to its greatest height, the general [215] cultural context for this movement was extraordinary provincial. By the eighteenth century England had had its political, economic, and religious revolutions and had emerged as a national entity. In Germany … revolution had so far been confined to religion and philosophy…

In short, seldom has a major intellectual and literary movement, such as that which took place in Germany in the late eighteenth century, begun from so fragmented, narrow, and provincial a political base, and in so stagnant a social and political climate. Given that background, it is not surprising that even younger intellectuals like Goethe and Schiller, some of whom had at first sympathized with the French Revolution, rapidly came to find it a spiritually alien, profoundly threatening and incomprehensible force of frightening power. For them, too, sociopolitical conditions were either eternally fixed or deeply and unintelligibly disturbing. They drew back from depicting human nature and destiny through the interaction of human beings with the upheaval of the large-scale and historical forces generally characteristic of their own era. It is not surprising that both German literature and German historical writing and reflection eschewed realism in favor of more ethicizing or spiritualistic depictions and foci for continuity. Rather, it is surprising that the historicist view, with its strong emphasis on ceaseless cultural change due more to specifically historical than natural factors, developed at all. [216]

Erich Auerbach has commented with great perspicacity on the results of the entanglement of a sweeping intellectual movement such as early historicism in such a narrow political, economic, and cultural circumstances. Historicism oscillated between the depiction of richly concrete but completely localized historical phenomena on the one hand, and vast, universalizing, and spiritualizing commentary on the other. The serious treatment of a human arena of manageable scope in a broad but still specific historical context such as that of a national life was precisely what was missing.”

For my other posts on historiography, see here.

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

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne