The Root of Wrede and Schweitzer’s Error: Hengel/Schwemer on the Messianic Claim of Jesus

For my one hundredth blog post, I have selected two excerpts from the most recent volume in the BMSEC series, Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer‘s book Jesus and Judaism (Waco, Tex.: Baylor University Press, 2019; cf. here and here). As usual, I will alternate between the English Translation and German Version for the benefit of readers who are using this blog to develop their German language skills:

Excerpt 1 (ET = p. xix; GV = p. v):

ET: A special emphasis is placed on the still largely misjudged problem of the messianic claim of Jesus, without which the accounts of the Gospels cannot be understood. The 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 accusation that he is “king of the Jews,” and the emergence of the earliest Christology, which has its ultimate foundation in Jesus’ activity and way.

GV: Ein besonderer Schwerpunkt bildet das bis heute weithin verkannte Problem des messianischen Anspruchs 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 sein “der König der Juden”, und die Entstehung der frühesten Christologie, die ihren letzten Grund in Jesu Wirken und Weg besitzt.

Excerpt 2 (ET = pp. 547-48; GV = pp. 517-18):

ET: The Theories of Wrede and Schweitzer are diametrically different, and yet their error has the same root. Both believed that they could solve the controversial question of the messianic consciousness of Jesus through one comprehensive theory drawn from the Gospel of Mark. One thought that he had justified it, the other that he had refuted it. In reality neither the one nor the other is possible.

GV: Die Theorien von Wrede und Schweitzer sind diametral verschieden, und doch hat ihr Irrtum dieselbe Wurzel. Beide glaubten, die umstrittene Frage nach dem Messiasbewußtsein Jesu durch eine umfassende, aus dem Markusevangelium geschöpfte Theorie. Der eine meinte, dasselbe begründet, der andere, es widerlegt zu haben. In Wirklichkeit ist weder das eine noch das andere möglich.

ET: The only possible approach to the historical reality lies in the interplay of numerous, rather different texts, from Mark and the sayings tradition, with the inclusion of four complexes: (a) the witnesses to the variety of Jewish messianic expectations, which have been significantly expanded by the Qumran texts; (b) the relationship of Jesus, presented above, to his “forerunner,” the Baptist; (c) the accusation against Jesus and its Jerusalem prehistory since his entrance into the city; and (d) the question of the emergence of the earliest Christology and its development in the post-Easter circle of disciples, in which Jesus’ word and deed were still directly vivid.

GV: Die einzig mögliche Annäherungsweise liegt im Zusammenspiel zahlreicher, recht verschiedener Texte, aus Markus und der Logientradition, unter Einbeziehung von vier Komplexen: (a) die durch die Qumrantexte wesentlich erweiterten Zeugnisse für die Vielfalt der jüdischen Messiaserwartung, (b) das oben dargestellte Verhältnis Jesu zu seinem “Vorläufer,” dem Täufer, (c) die Angklage gegen Jesus und ihre Jerusalemer Vorgeschichte seit dem Einzug und (d) die Frage nach der Entstehung der frühesten Christologie und ihrer Ausbildung im nachösterlichen Jüngerkreis, in dem Jesu Wort und Tat noch unmittelbar lebendig waren.

ET: All four points were neglected by Wrede, and this is all the more true for his successors, i.e., for Rudolf Bultmann and the majority of his students. We must give great credit to Wrede that he himself, in contrast, to his epigones, placed only a powerful question mark here and did not—as happened later in a historically less conscientious way—deny it with a categorical quod non but rather continued to reflect upon it, and, at the end, cautiously called his opinion into question again, as shown by his letter to Harnack.

GV: Alle vier Punkte hat Wrede vernachlässigt, und dasselbe gilt erst recht von seinen Nachfolgern, das heißt Rudolf Bultmann und der Mehrzahl seiner Schüler. Man muß es Wrede hoch anrechnen, daß er selbst, im Gegensatz zu seinen Epigonen, hier nur ein kräftiges Fragezeichen gesetzt, die Frage aber nicht – wie es dann später, historisch weniger gewissenhaft, geschah – mit einem kategorischen quod non abgelehnt hat, sondern weiter darüber nachgedacht hat, um am Ende, wie der Brief an Harnack zeigt, seine Meinung vorsichtig wieder in Frage zu stellen.

In addition to the enjoyable Zusammenarbeit with Anna Maria Schwemer, working on this project brought back good memories of working with Martin Hengel in the context of my first published translation and even better memories of my many friends and teachers in Tübingen (and Nürnberg), without whom I would never have become a translator or New Testament scholar at all. Against this background, I am especially glad that this volume is appearing only a year after Daniel P. Bailey’s excellent translation of my teacher Peter Stuhlmacher’s Biblical Theology of the New Testament. And I am also moved to remember my teacher and first academic employer Friedrich Avemarie, to whom I owe so much.

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Review of Jan Rüggemeier’s Poetik der markinischen Christologie: Eine kognitiv-narratologische Exegese

I am happy to see that my review of Jan Rüggemeier’s book Poetik der markinischen Christologie: Eine kognitiv-narratologische Exegese has been published by RBL (see here).

For those who do not have access to the full review, let me include several short excerpts from the review here:

As a recipient of the Armin Schmitt Preis für biblische Textforschung (2017) and the Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise (2019), Jan Rüggemeier’s Poetik der markinischen Christologie is an outstanding monograph that demonstrates the value of a cognitive-narratological exegesis and advances the study of Markan Christology.

His goal is to integrate historical and philological methods of exegesis and more recent approaches, especially from the realm of literary criticism and narratology, into a common system of viewing the text and, at the same time, to demonstrate the possibilities of such an approach with reference to the Markan image of Jesus, with the ultimate aim of providing a new and maximally nuanced answer to the question of the Christology of Mark (3; also 517).

Because Rüggemeier has already provided a robust presentation of his own integrative model of textual interpretation in chapter 2, he is able to conclude each section with an evaluation and methodological comparison that concisely weighs in on material issues and sheds especially valuable light on the contours of his own approach. Due to the placement, organization, and analytical rigor of this chapter, Rüggemeier achieves the rare and commendable feat of providing a history of research that advances the overall argument with insight and verve.

This section includes a compact summary of Rüggemeier’s interpretation of the disciples’ incomprehension (500–505), the messianic secret (505–7; see 363–73), and the ending of Mark (507–13). According to Rüggemeier, the messianic secret is an expression of Jesus’s subordination to the Father: prior to Easter, Jesus does not speak of himself as the Son or let others speak of him as the Son because the full revelation of Jesus as Son and Lord is reserved for the Father alone (506; see also 372).

Rüggemeier argues that, rather than representing a “sporadic Kyrios Christology” (406, 488, 490, 496), Mark has a “coherent Kyrios Christology” (412) and suggests that “this high christological conception represents the key to understanding the Markan Christology” (490). While I remain hesitant to adopt this thesis in toto, Rüggemeier has persuaded me that my understanding of Mark and Markan Christology must be shaped much more strongly by the Markan Kyrios texts in their relationship to the wider narrative and perhaps also by the possibility that “Mark thematically takes up the early Christian confession to the one God of Israel and the one Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor 8:6) and joins it narratively with the episodic narratives of the primitive community” (531; see also 406–8).

For my main criticism of the book, please see the published review!

For a translation of key excerpts from this book, see my “German Scholars” post on Rüggemeier here.

For Rüggemeier’s development of his perspective in critical dialogue with Elizabeth Struthers Malbon, see J. Rüggemeier, “Mark’s Jesus Reviewed: Towards a Cognitive-Narratological Reading of Character Perspectives and Markan Christology,” in Reading the Gospel of Mark in the Twenty-First Century: Method and Meaning, ed. Geert van Oyen, BETL 301 (Leuven: Peeters, 2019), 717-736.

For a German review of Rüggemeier’s work, see Paul-Gerhard Klumbies’ 2019 ThLZ review.

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New Journal of Ethics in Antiquity and Christianity & Raphaela J. Meyer zu Hörste-Bühre on the Biblical Texts as an Element of the Relation between God and Humans

For some time now I have been wanting to announce the good news of the launching of a new open access journal on ethics, especially as readers of this blog can take advantage of the opportunity to practice their language skills by comparing the German and English versions of the opening editorial! For another recent open access gem, see here.

In this post, I will first pass on a brief description of the new journal and then provide a translation of a German excerpt with a brief grammatical analysis. Since one of the things that I like about the journal is the inclusion of theses for discussion, I have selected an excerpt from Raphaela J. Meyer zu Hörste-Bührer‘s theses on the significance of the biblical texts for ethical work.

I. JEAC

The newly founded international open access journal “Journal of Ethics in Antiquity and Christianity (JEAC)” (available at www.jeac.de) provides a platform for specialized research in ancient ethics with a particular focus on its impact and interdependence with the development of Christian ethics. It attempts to establish a dialogue between biblical, classical, Judaistic and patristic research on the one hand, and philosophical and theological approaches on the other. Thus, the journal opens up opportunities for interaction between the ethical traditions of antiquity – including the origins of Christian ethics – and current ethical discourses. The journal is edited and published by the research center “Ethics in Antiquity and Christianity“ (www.ethikmainz.de) at Mainz university.

The first issue, out now, is dedicated to the reflection on the hermeneutical challenges of the venture itself, and features essays and articles by Jan Assmann, William Schweiker, John J. Collins, Adela Yarbro Collins, Robert Brawley, Wolfram Kinzig, and Christoph Jedan. The second issue will look at the role of emotion in ancient and contemporary ethics. Further open issues are planned, and contributions are welcome. In addition to peer reviewed essays and articles, the journal has a „dialogue-„section, one for reviews and miscellae, and encourages contributions on ethical theories and issues in antiquity and the present.

II. Raphaela J. Meyer zu Hörste-Bühre on the Biblical Texts as an Element of the Relation between God and Humans (cf. here)

German text: Sofern man eine Geistwirkung in der Entstehung, Redaktion, Tradierung, Kanonisierung, weiteren Überlieferung und Rezeption der Texte nicht ausschließt, lassen sich die biblischen Texte in zweifacher Hinsicht als Element der Relation zwischen Gott und Menschen verstehen: Einerseits haben sie die Relation zum Inhalt, andererseits sind sie selbst Produkt der Relation.
ET: As long as we do not rule out an activity of the Spirit in the emergence, redaction, traditioning, canonization, further handing down and reception of the texts, the biblical texts can be understood in two respects as an element of the relation between God and humans: On the one hand, they have this relation as their content; on the other hand, they are themselves a product of this relation.
Grammatical analysis: Although this is a clearly written sentence, it presents several difficulties for the translator. 1) I sometimes struggle to determine the precise force of “Sofern” – here I think “as long as” might capture the sense better than “insofar as”; 2) Geisteswirkung presents several problems; first, the translator must determine the meaning of Geist – here I think it means Spirit rather than spirit or something like mind; second, one must capture the force of Wirkung – here I am not sure if it is something like “impact” or “influence” or more durative such as “activity,” but I think the latter is probably best; 3) while I have translated “man … nicht ausschließt” with “we do not exclude”, I often render this construction by making it passive, i.e. “an activity … is not excluded in …” – but it seemed best to keep the active voice here; 4) Tradierung is challenging – I went with “traditioning”, partly because I used handing down later in the sentence and because it seemed desire to keep the term tradition in play, though something like “passing on” might have worked; 5) Unfortunately, I am not sure if weiteren goes with Überlieferung only or with both Überlieferung and Rezeption – depending on how it works, it should probably rendered either with a) and further handing down and reception” or with b) “further handing down, and reception”; 6) German authors have the option of not using an article, i.e. of writing als Element rather than als das Element or als ein Element, whereas it sounds a rather awkward in English to write “as element of the” – here “as an element of” seems best to me; the same issue arises with “Produkt”. 7) lassen sich … verb can usually be rendered with “can be x-ed”; 8) although the German text just uses the article – die Relation / der Relation – it seemed to me that it has anaphoric force, and I have therefore rendered it with “this relation”.
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Torsten Jantsch on Cynic Argumentation in Romans 1-2 and Ps.-Diogenes, Epistula 28

In today’s post, I will provide a translation of four excerpts from Torsten Jantsch‘s article “Kynische Argumentation im Römerbrief: Römer 1–2 und Ps.-Diogenes, Epistula 28 im Vergleich,” NTS 64 (2018), 44–63. As usual, I will alternate between the English translation and the German original:

1) We have seen that, despite all differences between Romans 1–2 and Ps. Diog. Ep. 28 there are quite astonishing parallels, which involve details such as the accusations of envy and of unrighteousness, of unreasonableness and of an immanent wickedness as the cause of the inappropriate behavior, which includes in both texts, among other things, sexual misdeeds, especially homosexual actions.

p. 62: Wir haben gesehen, dass es trotz aller Unterschiede zwischen Röm 1–2 und Ps.-Diog. Ep. 28 ganz erstaunliche Parallelen gibt, die Einzelheiten betreffen, wie z.B. die Vorwürfe des Neides und der Ungerechtigkeit, der Unvernunft und einer immanenten Bosheit als Ursache des verfehlten Verhaltens, zu dem in beiden Texten u.a. sexuelle Verfehlungen, insbesondere homosexuelle Handlungen, gezählt werden.

2) A quite astonishing argumentative parallel is, beyond this, the fact that in both writings two groups of people are in view who represent basic oppositions in the respective cultural matrixes – in Ps. Diog. Ep 28 it is Greeks and Barbarians, in Rom 1-2 it is Jews and Greeks (Ἕλληνες) or the nations (τὰ ἔθνη). Beyond this, it is noteworthy that these two groups exchange their places: In Ps.-Diog. Ep 28.8 (and inscriptio) there is talk of the “so-called” Greeks (οἱ μὲν καλούμενοι Ἕλληνες). In Rom 2.17 the fictive dialogue partner is addressed: “If you call yourself a Jew” (εἰ δὲ σὺ Ἰουδαῖος ἐπονομάζῃ).

p. 54-55:) Eine ganz erstaunliche argumentative Parallele ist darüber hinaus, dass in beiden Schreiben zwei Personengruppen im Blick sind, die in der jeweiligen kulturellen Matrix Grundoppositionen darstellen – in Ps.-Diog. Ep. 28 sind dies Griechen und Barbaren, in Röm 1–2 Juden und Griechen (Ἕλληνες) bzw. die Völker (τὰ ἔθνη). Darüber hinaus ist bemerkenswert, dass diese beiden Gruppen ihre Plätze tauschen: In Ps.-Diog. Ep. 28.8 (und Inscriptio) ist die Rede von den „sogenannten“ Griechen (οἱ μὲν καλούμενοι Ἕλληνες). In Röm 2.17 wird der fiktive Gesprächspartner angesprochen: „Wenn du dich Jude nennst“ (εἰ δὲ σὺ Ἰουδαῖος ἐπονομάζῃ).

3) Thus, the motif that the only so-called Jew and the Greek exchange their positions so that the gentile is the “actual Jew” and the so-called Jew is the “actual Gentile” occurs neither in the Old Testament tradition nor can it be derived from the discourse on hypocrisy and on an existence/identity that is only simulated (e.g. by Philosophers). This motif occurs, however, in Ps.-Diogenes Ep 28. It therefore seems reasonable to regard this as a typical cynic motif.

p. 59: Das Motiv, dass der nur sogenannte Jude und der Heide ihre Positionen tauschen, so dass der Heide der „eigentliche Jude“ ist und der sogenannte Jude der „eigentliche Heide“, findet sich also weder in der alttestamentlichfrühjüdischen Tradition, noch kann dies aus dem Diskurs über Heuchelei und ein nur vorgespieltes Sein (z.B. von Philosophen) abgeleitet werden. Dieses Motiv findet sich allerdings in Ps.-Diogenes Ep 28. Es liegt daher nahe, dies als ein typisch kynisches Motiv anzusehen.

* as always, the translation of “es liegt daher nahe” is difficult – other potential options would include: “it therefore lies close at hand …”, “it is therefore natural…”, “it therefore stands to reason…”; it might also work to write “it is therefore a small step to” but I think this shifts the sense a bit too much)

4) Especially the (as we have shown) typically cynic motif that an ingroup (Greeks, Athenians) exchange places with an outgroup (Barbarians, Scythians) – the Barbarians are regarded as true Greeks, the Greeks as the actual Barbarians – has an astonishing parallel in Romans 1–2. Here Jews and Gentiles (“Greeks,” “the nations”) exchange places. While the basis oppositions differ (Ps.-Diog. Ep. 28: Greeks/Barbarians; Ps.-Anacharis Ep. 1; 9: Athenians, Greeks/Scythians; Paul: Jew/Greeks or the nations), the structure of argumentation is comparable. It is ultimately based on a reinterpretation of what constitutes the identity of the ingroup: nothing external but their inner orientation and an action that conforms to the criteria that constitute a true Greek or a true Jew.

p. 62: Insbesondere das (wie gezeigt) typisch kynische Motiv, dass eine Ingroup (Griechen, Athener) mit einer Outgroup (Barbaren, Skythen) den Platz tauscht – die Barbaren werden als wahre Griechen angesehen, die Griechen als die eigentlichen Barbaren – hat eine erstaunliche Parallele in Röm 1–2. Hier tauschen Juden und Heiden („Griechen“, „die Völker“) ihre Plätze. Zwar unterscheiden sich die Basisoppositionen (Ps.-Diog. Ep. 28: Griechen/Barbaren; Ps.-Anacharsis Ep. 19: Athener, Griechen/Skythen; Paulus: Jude/Griechen bzw. die Völker), aber die Struktur der Argumentation ist vergleichbar. Sie basiert letztlich auf einer Uminterpretation dessen, was die Identität der Ingroup ausmacht: nichts Äußerliches, sondern ihre innere Ausrichtung und ein Handeln gemäß den Kriterien, die einen wahren Griechen bzw. einen wahren Juden ausmachen.

For my previous posts on Jantsch’s work, see here. See also his academia.edu page.

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R. Zimmermann, the Aorist Imperative, and the Greek Gurus of the Facebook- and Blogosphere

In my recent blog review of Ruben Zimmermann‘s newly translated book The Logic of Love: Discovering Paul’s “Implicit Ethics” Through 1 Corinthians (trans. Dieter T. Roth; Fortress Academic, 2019; cf. German Version), I focused on tracing some key lines of thought in this work and engaging critically with his treatment of the topic of freedom.

In this post, my goal is to flag up his treatment of present and aorist imperatives, with the goal of learning from others. For my part, while I found Zimmermann’s discussion of the wide range of imperatival forms in 1 Corinthians and his inclusion of them in the appendix to be both helpful and illuminating (111-119, 267-275), I remain uncertain with regard to the validity of his treatment of the present and aorist imperatives. Here are the two key quotations:

“The present imperative is progressive or durative and refers to an action that is ongoing whereas the aorist imperative is definitive or ingressive and usually refers to a single act. A few examples can help illustrate the difference. In 1 Cor 14:1, Διώκετε τὴν ἀγάπην (“Pursue love!”) thus means “keep pursuing love!” or, in a paraphrase, “keep love in view as the goal!” Similarly, the present imperative in 1 Cor 7:2 (ἐχέτω) means that each man or wife should have an ongoing, durative sexual relationship with his own wife or her own husband, respectively. The injunction to clean out the old yeast in 1 Cor 5:7, expressed with an aorist imperative (ἐκκαθάρατε), highlights the ingressive aspect of the command” (35).

“That Paul is aware of the usual Greek distinction between imperatival forms (present imperatives are durative and aorist imperatives are ingressive) is particularly evident in the occurrences of the aorist imperative. For instance, cleaning out the old leaven (1 Cor 5:7) or marrying (1 Cor 7:9) are formulated with an aorist in order to express the desired entrance into an action. The change of aspect in 1 Cor 7:11 is also significant in the application of the divorce prohibition: ἐὰν δὲ καὶ χωρισθῇμενέτω (present imperative) ἄγαμος  τῷ ἀνδρὶ καταλλαγήτω (aorist imperative) but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried (progressive/durative) or else be reconciled to her husband (ingressive). (1 Cor 7:11).” (111)

In short, it is unclear to me whether one can assume that the aorist imperative has an ingressive force commonly or in these specific cases, though Zimmermann’s reading does seem possible to me, at least for the texts that he cites. Hence, I would be very interested to know whether the Greek Grammar Gurus of the facebook- and blogosphere would affirm or criticize Zimmermann with respect to this point, i.e. with a view to general usage or to the specific texts that he references. For example, Mike Aubrey’s recent post on aspect and imperatives, which was posted after I had completed this post, seems to frame the issues in a rather different way from Zimmermann, which leads me to believe that he might not be satisfied with Zimmermann’s presentation of the matter. Am I understanding Aubrey correctly here? And whether or not I am getting him right, what do others think about Zimmermann’s (and Aubrey’s) presentation of this issue?

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Review of R. Zimmermann’s The Logic of Love (trans. D. T. Roth)

In this post I will provide a review of Ruben Zimmermann‘s newly translated book The Logic of Love: Discovering Paul’s “Implicit Ethics” Through 1 Corinthians (trans. Dieter T. Roth; Fortress Academic, 2019; cf. German Version).

Let me begin with a reading suggestion. For scholars of 1 Corinthians or New Testament ethics, I think that this will be a book that they happily read from cover to cover, profiting throughout from the precision, depth, and sophistication of Zimmermann’s argument. However, for a broader range of readers (including philosophers, pastors, students, and anyone who is interested in the potential relevance of Paul for thinking about ethics), I would suggest starting with Zimmermann’s short “Introduction” (xvii-xix) and his concluding chapter “Pauline Ethics in Current Ethical Debate,” with the rational that this path will give readers a clear sense of the fruit and relevance of Zimmermann’s approach at the outset, which will, in turn, provide the necessary motivation to work through the more difficult previous chapters.

In his introduction, Zimmerman clearly sets out his purpose:

“It is the express purpose of the book to uncover and trace the pluralistic and contextually bound ethics in the Pauline texts. We want to descend with Paul into the valley of practical ethics in which we do not encounter dogmatic judgments in the sense of absolute, metaphysical statements (God says …) nor simple alternatives (good/evil) nor radical principleism (you should …). Instead we discover a multiplicity of norms, deliberative judgments, and nuanced claims to validity. Such an ethics is not a priori impossible within the context of a modern, pluralistic society” (xix).

The last part of this quotation signals another important feature of Zimmermann’s work, namely, his “aim of making biblical ethics once again compatible and relevant as a conversation partner in interdisciplinary debates concerning ethics” for which reason he chooses “to examine and describe the context and grounds of justification in Pauline ethics using the language and forms of description utilized in modern ethical theory” (xii; cf. 30). In this respect, Zimmermann’s work is comparable to David Horrell’s important book Solidarity and Difference (cf. also here).

Zimmermann’s first chapter “Ethics: Basic Considerations and Terminology” (1-28) is especially rewarding for two reasons. First, as elsewhere (e.g. here), Zimmermann excels here in his ability to clarify his use of key terms such as morals, ethos, ethics, and metaethics and in the care in which he presents his reasons for using the term “implicit ethics.” In his view, “ethics is the reflective consideration of a way of living with a view toward its guiding norms and having as its goal an evaluation” (4). Second, Zimmermann provides a very helpful discussion of recent debates—esp. in German scholarship—over the validity and sufficiency of the “indicative-imperative model.” Indeed, this section (13-21) would be an excellent gateway for Anglophone readers into this significant and lively area of debate in the German-language sphere (cf. also here). Whatever one thinks about the validity or usefulness of the formula “indicative and imperative” with respect to illuminating certain features of Paul’s thought, I think Zimmermann persuasively argues that taking one’s orientation from this formula runs the risk of hindering conversation with other disciplines and, perhaps more importantly, of focusing too narrowly on a small part of the material that needs to be considered with regard to the scope of the study of the grounds for Pauline ethics (20).

The weighty second chapter: “On Methodology: How to Read Biblical Texts Ethically” (29-110) develops Zimmermann’s model of implicit ethics. Without going into detail, let me point out two features of this chapter that I appreciated. First, Zimmermann develops an analytical grid that brings more of the Pauline material into view than is usually the case by incorporating seven different perspectives or points of view, namely 1. The Medium of Ethics: Moral Language, 2. Ethical Points of Contact: Norms as Indicators of Ethical Significance, 3. Ethics in Context: Convention and Tradition-History of Individual Norms, 4. Ethics as a System of Values: Developing a Hierarchy of Norms, 5. Forms of Ethical Reflection: Generating Moral Significance, 6. The Ethical Subject: Questions concerning the Moral Agent, 7. Ethics and Social Reality: Lived Ethos, 8. The Purview of Ethics: The Realm of Validity-Application. In terms of specifics, I particularly enjoyed his inclusion of sections on Mimetic Ethics (70-72) and Doxological Ethics (72-73). Second, in addition to entering into dialogue with relevant discussions in New Testament scholarship (e.g. “The use of the term “Ethos” in NT Studies, pp. 83-85), this chapter frequently provides one with a window into wider ethical discourses (e.g. Further Foundational Questions concerning a “Value Ethics”, pp. 54-58).

Chapter 3: “A Test Study: ‘Implicit Ethics’ in 1 Corinthians (111-229) shows Zimmermann’s model in action, working through the seven “points of view” set out in chapter 2 with reference to 1 Corinthians. What struck me most about this chapter is how Zimmermann’s different perspectives and ethical tool kit often gave me new insights into some of the texts that I am most familiar with. For example, his discussion of “Weighing Goods in the Discourse on Marriage in 1 Cor 7” (154-158) helped me to see how and why Paul can argue in the first section of this chapter that it is good not to marry (vv. 1, 8), but it is better to marry (v. 9) and in the second section that it is good to marry (v. 38; cf. v. 36), but it is better (v. 38b) not to marry!

In terms of constructive criticism, I would like to focus on Zimmermann’s discussion of the topic of freedom, with special reference to his treatment of “freedom” in 1 Cor 9. On the one hand, I think that there is much to commend in his discussion. In particular, his valuable “Attempt at an Overarching Hierarchy of Values in 1 Corinthians” correctly places freedom under the category “Second Order: Values of Relative Validity” and perceptively explains how “the same norm can be super- or subordinated, depending on the ethical problem or concrete conflict at hand” (147). Moreover, while I think it is necessary to go further than Zimmermann in actively defending a concessive interpretation of the participle ὤν in 1 Cor 9:19 (see Coppins 2009; 2011; 2014a), I think that he rightly grasps the most important points for the interpretation of this verse when he states:

“One should treat a too narrow conception of the participle as causative with caution, however, especially in the light of the ensuing verses (cf. the concessive μὴν in 20-21). The norm of freedom itself is not that from which making oneself a slave is derived. … Individual freedom, however, can be subordinated to other norms in a process of teleological reflection. This is precisely the case when, stated negatively, there is a danger that the congregation would suffer (as in 1 Cor 10:29) or, stated positively, when the congregation can be encouraged (as in 1 Cor 9:19-23). In such cases one is dealing with ‘forgoing the exercise of one’s own ἐξουσία, but not the application or implementation of freedom. Freedom is no longer the highest norm guiding conduct.” (133)

In short, in this quotation Zimmermann rightly recognizes that freedom is assigned a relative validity, while correctly clarifying that it is not functioning as the highest norm guiding conduct and that neither the action of making oneself a slave nor the action of forgoing the exercise of one’s own ἐξουσία is explicitly presented as the application or implementation of freedom.

On the other hand, it seems to me that there are other places in Zimmermann’s argument where his statements on freedom are more problematic. For example, on the previous page, he states that “In the ensuing discussion Paul explains that his individual relinquishing of this claim should actually be understood as an expression of his understanding of freedom” (132). Moreover, he later states that “From an ethical point of view this means that ‘freedom’ is directed toward the goal of the preaching of the gospel and the gospel mission, i.e. teleologically and along the lines of a consequentialist perspective. As already hinted at in the clauses of 1 Cor 6:12 and 10:23, freedom is determined by and limited through certain consequences of behavior. In the passage in 1 Cor 9:19-23 presently under consideration the goal of the norm of freedom is: ‘so that I … might win and by all means save’ … These aims are summarized in 1 Cor 9:23 in the goals of the proclamation of the gospel” (154). Finally, taking a rather different tack, Zimmermann also states that “A climax of sorts can be seen in 1 Cor 9:19-22 for here Paul relinquishes the right to recognized norms such as the Torah, strength, and even freedom (1 Cor 9:19)” (244).

In criticism of this second set of quotations, I think it is advisable to refrain from claiming that Paul presents his relinquishing of certain rights as “an expression of his understanding of freedom.” Moreover, I would want to clarify that Paul’s making himself a slave to all is directed toward the goal of the preaching of the gospel and the gospel mission in 1 Cor 9:19-23, but it is not clear to me that the same can be said of “freedom.” Likewise, the goal of Paul’s making himself is a slave to all is “so that I … might win and by all means save”, but it is not obvious that the same can be said of “freedom.” Finally, moving in the other direction, I think that it is insufficiently precise or at least potentially misleading to say that Paul relinquishes the right to the norm of freedom in 1 Cor 9. In 1 Cor 9:1 Paul affirms that he is free, and he never takes claim this back. On the contrary, he appears to think that he remains free. Likewise, Paul affirms that he has certain rights and never retracts this claim. Rather, what he does say is that he has not made use of any of these rights (9:15). How exactly this latter point relates to what can be said about freedom is less clear, at least to me. Here, however, I continue to think that it is important to stress that Paul himself does not explicitly clarify the important question of “whether his self-imposed slavery should be understood as a/the manifestation of ‘freedom’ or rather as the renunciation or limitation of the use of ‘freedom'” (Coppins 2009, 76).

As I suggested at the outset of my review, I think that many readers of Zimmermann’s book would do well to begin with his fourth chapter “Pauline Ethics in Current Ethical Debate” (231-266). An initial feel for this final chapter can already be gained from the section headings: Introduction (231-233), “Trapeze Ethics”—Beyond Principial and Situational Ethics (233-235), Pluralistic Ethics—Beyond Rationalistic Logic and an Ethics of Norms (235-239), Practical Ethics—Beyond Utilitarianism and Universalism (239-242), Ethics of Relinquishing—Beyond Rights-Based and Contractual Ethics (242-246), Bodily Ethics—Beyond Hedonism and Communitarianism (246-251), Ethics of Love—Beyond Eudaimonian and Virtue Ethics (251-257).

The volume concludes with Three Appendices—Appendix I: Imperatives in 1 Corinthians (267-275), Appendix II: Overview of Select Norms of Conduct in 1 Corinthians (277-279), and Appendix III: Select Metaphorical Ethics in 1 Corinthians (281)—a Bibliography (283-327), an Index of Subjects and Names (329-332), and an Index of Passages (333-340).

In summary, this is an excellent book by a leading New Testament scholar that fruitfully contributes to broader interdisciplinary debates concerning ethics. For me personally, the most important contribution of the book involves the way that it helped me to expand my vision with regard to the range of material that should be considered in relation to Paul’s ethics and, more specifically, sharpened my sense of what to look for through Zimmermann’s valuable analytical grid or organon. With this in mind, I hope that Zimmermann presents further “test cases” for his approach in the future or that other scholars take up his analytical grid in their own work.

As a final note, I would like to express my great admiration for Dieter T. Roth’s translation. As Zimmermann notes, the high quality of the translation reflects not only Roth’s “bilingual background and exegetical expertise,” but also his evident care “to engage and accurately render the many technical terms and discussions in philosophical moral theory and Pauline ethics” (xiv). For my part, I suspect it is precisely Roth’s exceptionally fine grasp of the nuances of the German language and of the relevant academic discourses that has enabled him to produce such a fluid translation in English.

As one example of the quality of Roth’s translation, let me highlight his treatment of the technical terminology that German authors often use in speaking about metaphors. Having struggled to render this language on several occasions, I appreciated the precise and elegant solution that Roth adopted as well as his decision to include the German terms in this case:

69: “Consonant with its etymology (Greek μετα-φέρειν = carry over), a metaphor characterizes itself through a transfer from a known semantic field (the realm offering the image, i.e., the bildspendender Bereich) to another, usually unknown or unclear, field (the realm receiving the image, i.e. the bildempfangender Bereich).”

What I like about Roth’s treatment of this particular sentence is that it proceeds in a way that helps the English reader to see and understand how exactly Zimmermann and other German authors speak about this issue, which sheds light, in turn, upon the subject matter itself. In my own attempts to render this terminology, I have often translated the technical terms with “source domain” and “target domain,” which I think is a solid solution in many cases. Here, however, I think Roth’s solution is better, precisely because it gives greater insight into the way in which this topic is discussed in the German language sphere.

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Angelika Reichert on the Positive Statements about the “I” in Romans 7

In my preparations for my Paul class this semester, I have enjoyed reading through many of the fine essays in The Letter to the Romans (ed. U. Schnelle). In my judgment, Angelika Reichert‘s essay “Literarische Analyse von Römer 7,7-25A” in this volume presents a perceptive reading of Romans 7 as a whole and an especially insightful analysis of the positive statements about the “I” in this chapter. Thus, today’s post will look at an excerpt from her discussion of this topic. As usual, I will alternate between my English translation and the German text (pp. 321-322):

Consequently, it appears sensible to modify how the question is posed, i.e. instead of the question of the meaning of the positive statements about the “I”, to place the question of their function in the flow of vv. 14-23 in the foreground.

Daraufhin erscheint es sinnvoll, die Fragestellung zu modifizieren, d.h. statt der Frage nach der Bedeutung der positiven Aussagen über das Ich diejenige nach ihrer Funktion im Duktus von V. 14-23 in den Vordergrund zu rücken.

With regard to the flow of the text, we have already shown [or: it had already become clear] that it stands under the leading thesis of v. 14b, “sold under sin,” and all three subsections (vv. 15-17, 18-20, 21-23) lead to a statement about the “I” being occupied by sin.

Zum Duktus des Textes hatte sich schon gezeigt: Er steht unter der Leitthese von V. 14b, “unter die Sünde verkauft”, und alle drei Unterabschnitte (V. 15-17.18-20.21-23) münden in eine Aussage über das Besetztsein des Ich durch die Sünde.

If, consequently, the positive references cannot have the function of modifications or reservations in relation to the leading thesis, then they can be understood only as its intensification.

Wenn folglich die positiven Hinweise im Verhältnis zur Leitthese nicht die Funktion von Modifikationen oder Vorbehalten haben können, dann lassen sie sich nur als deren Verstärkung auffassen.

This means, first, that the references to the willing (of the good), the agreement with or joy in the law, and the mention of the tendency of the ἔσω ἄνθρωπος and of the νοῦς underline the strength of the power of sin.

Das heißt: Zum einen unterstreichen die Hinweise auf das Wollen (des Guten), die Zustimmung zum bzw. Freude am Gesetz, die Erwähnung der Tendenz des ἔσω ἄνθρωπος und des νοῦς die Stärke der Sündenmacht.

This has not brought a “no man’s land” under its rule when it took possession of the “I” and determined its reality in such a way that in it the actual willing of the “I” and its positive state of being addressed by God’s announcement of his will do not come to fruition.

Dies hat kein “Niemandsland” unter ihre Herrschaft gebracht, als sie vom Ich Besitz ergriff und seine Wirklichkeit so prägte, dass darin das eigentliche Wollen des Ich und dessen positives Angesprochensein durch Gottes Willenskundgabe grundsätzlich nicht zum Zuge kommen.

Secondly, it is precisely the positive references that bar conceivable escapes from the situation of the “I” sold under sin. There is no sense in showing this “I” what it actually wants, what is actually in its interest; it wants, after all, the good in the comprehensive sense, but it cannot translate this into its reality.

Zum anderen versperren gerade die positiven Hinweise denkbare Auswege aus der Situation des unter die Sünde verkauften Ich: Es hat keinen Sinn, diesem Ich zu zeigen, was es eigentlich will, was eigentlich in seinem Interesse liegt; es will ja das Gute im umfassenden Sinn, kann dies aber nicht in seine Wirklichkeit übersetzen.

There is also no sense in confronting this “I” with the will of God; it has, after all, its joy in it, but this has no effect de facto.

Es hat auch keinen Sinn, dieses Ich mit dem Gotteswillen zu konfrontieren; es hat ja seine Freude daran, aber diese wirkt sich faktisch nicht aus.

Finally, there is certainly no sense in expecting something from an inner instance (ἔσω ἄνθρωπος, νοῦς) of the “I”; the “law of my mind” has no chance against the “law of sin”, i.e. no possibility of determining the reality of the “I”.

Schließlich hat es erst recht keinen Sinn von einer inneren Instanz (ἔσω ἄνθρωπος, νοῦς) des Ich irgendetwas zu erwarten; das “Gesetz meiner Vernunft” hat gegen das “Gesetz der Sünde” keine Chance, also keine Möglichkeit, die Wirklichkeit des Ich zu bestimmen.

** After completing this blog post, I was pleased to (re)discover that Reichert’s excellent essay has been published in an English translation (see here)! I have not yet had a chance to consult the English version, but I look forward to re-reading this fine essay in English and no doubt discovering ways in which I could have improved my own rendering of this key passage.

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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