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.

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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.

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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).


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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.

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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 and the History of (German) Biblical Scholarship

During my recent trip to England and Norway, I had the pleasure of reading Hans W. Frei‘s 1974 book The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative. I had of course often heard of this book, but actually reading it was quite an experience. What learning!!! And what a lively and stimulating presentation of so many elements of the history of (German) New Testament scholarship! For anyone who just wants to dip into the book, it might be best to start with the introduction on pp. 1-16, the summary of some key lines of his argument on pp. 217-224, and his final words on pp. 323-324. Alternatively, one may simply wish to use the index to consult his learned treatments of key topics such as prophecy and fulfillment or miracles or the quest for the historical Jesus and especially his sympathetic and sparkling discussions of key figures such as Calvin, Herder, Strauss, and Schleiermacher. Indeed, after reading this book, I may well end up chasing down some of his other works, such as his chapter on David Strauss in Nineteenth Century Religious Thought in the West (see here) or some of his other essays (e.g. here; cf. here). But enough of my pointers for further reading!

Today’s post will consist of a short quotation from Frei regarding an interesting difference between developments in England and Germany in the eighteenth century.

Frei (Eclipse p. 113; cf. also 118-119): “When it came to the meaningfulness of the Bible there were few pure skeptics or scoffers in the German Enlightenment, no matter what these same men did in historical or other explicative exegesis. One of the great differences between the English Deists and the German scholars of the later eighteenth century was that the Germans almost to a man took the Bible, especially the New Testament, to be a rich embodiment of religious truth. It did not matter that they had grave reservations over large parts of it or even that some of them (Semler, for instance) thought that all of it was subject to explanation as a product of its time. The meaning of the biblical texts was accessible and clear, and it was easy enough in principle to know the parts of the Bible that were still meaningful or worthy of application from those that were not. And the results of the harmony between explication and application were customarily favorable to the Bible.”

What I found interesting in this quotation is the extent to which far-reaching criticism and a continued appreciation for the religious value of the Bible were held together in Germany in a different way than how things were being argued out in England in the same general time period (with Reimarus being somewhat of an outlier in Germany; see Frei 114-116, 119 ). What I find to be potentially illuminating about this observation is not that it settles the important question of whether or not (a given form of) biblical criticism, consistently worked out, is, in fact, compatible with the conviction that the Bible is a rich embodiment of religious truth, but merely that it signals a difference in the history of biblical interpretation in England and Germany that might be relevant for understanding the subsequent ways in which these two traditions have grappled and continue to grapple with issues involving the relationship between criticism and religious truth or criticism and faith.

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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

 

 

Bockmuehl, Baur, and the Presence of Paul in the Pseudo-Clementines

Alongside my BMSEC translations, I am currently co-translating—with Christoph Heilig, Luke Ogden, and David Lincicum—F. C. Baur’s classic work “The Christ-Party in the Corinthian Community, the Opposition of Pauline and Petrine Christianity in the Most Ancient Church, the Apostle Peter in Rome.” This is proving to be a rewarding project, even if I must admit that I was soundly shellacked yesterday by a rather brutal sentence that extended to more than 20 lines! Today, however, I do not want to expose you to that horrible Leviathan but rather to juxtapose several passages from Baur with a passage from Markus Bockmuehl‘s book Simon Peter in Scripture and Memory, which I am reading with great profit alongside my translation of Baur. And with both of these works in mind, I am obviously also excited about Michael J. Kok’s New Series on Peter in Rome.

What I found interesting about today’s key quotations is the extent to which Baur already attempts to respond to the line of criticism that Bockmuehl advances. Therefore, I will first quote Bockmuehl’s criticism of Baur’s paradigm and then provide two quotes from Baur that provide at least a partial response to Bockmuehl’s argument.

Bockmuehl (Simon Peter in Scripture and Memory, pp. 56-57; cf. further The Remembered Peter, pp. 94-113): However, while an anti-Pauline bias is possible, there are a number of impediments to the Simon–Paul equation. First, the texts themselves nowhere make this connection. The one place where there is a clear reference to Paul (Ps.-Clem. Rec. 1.70-71) presents him as the pre-Christian Saul, who primarily opposes James, and Peter only secondarily. Indeed, in this scene, which to be sure does not portray Saul in a positive light (he is introduced as “a certain hostile man”), Simon Magus and Saul are explicitly differentiated; Saul himself condemns Simon as a sorcerer (Ps.-Clem. Rec. 1.70.2). This explicit differentiation between Saul and Simon has implications for attempts to find Paul behind the phrase “the man who is the enemy” in Ps.-Clem. EP 2.3, especially if one takes seriously the integrity of the epistle’s placement alongside the Pseudo-Clementine romances that feature Simon Magus as the clear antagonist. Second, Simon’s preaching, opposed by Peter, contains little that could be construed as Pauline. Most of it seems generally Gnostic rather than Pauline and lacks any Jewish apocalyptic framework, so important for Paul, or consistent references to Scripture. Simon rejects basic Pauline positions such as the resurrection from the dead (e.g. Ps.-Clem. Rec. 1.54), the goodness of the creator (e.g., Ps.-Clem. Rec. 2.37,53), and the divine sonship of Christ (Ps.-Clem. Rec. 2.49), and he even sets himself up as the Messiah (e.g. Ps.-Clem. Rec. 1.72; cf. 2.49; 3.47). These positions are difficult to square with any known picture of Paul, “orthodox” or “heretical.”

Baur (126-128): Specifically, it can be demonstrated that [127] in the teachings that he attributes to the magician Simon the author of the Clementines has especially the Marcionite system in mind and that he regarded this system as the outermost point of the path that the magician Simon had set out upon and that had then been traversed by the heretics that followed.

Namentlich läßt sich nachweisen, daß der Verfasser der Clementinen in den Lehren, die er dem Magier Simon beilegte, vorzüglich das Marcionitische System vor Augen hatte, und dieses als den äußersten Punkt des schon von dem Magier Simon eingeschlagenen und sodann von den folgenden häretikern betretenen Wegs betrachtete.

In view of the exact relationship that the Clementines have to the teaching of the Ebionites and the well-known hate for the apostle Paul with which this sect was filled, no other conclusion is possible except that the teaching of the Clementines is especially meant to oppose the principles that Paul had put forth about the relationship of the Mosaic law to Christianity.

Bei dem genauen Zusammenhange, in welchem die Clementinen mit der Lehre der Ebioniten stehen, und bei dem bekannten Hasse, mit welchem diese Secte gegen den Apostel Paulus erfüllt war, läßt sich nichts anders annehmen, als daß die Lehre der Clementinen insbesondere auch den Grundsätze entgegengesetzt werden sollte, welche Paulus über das Verhältnis des Mosaischen Gesetzes zum Christentum aufgestellt hatte.

Just as in the presentation of the Clementines, Marcion collapses with Simon the magician into a single person, so the magician, through the mediation of Marcion, could also be thought together with the apostle Paul. After all, the Gnosis of Marcion did indeed have a Pauline–anti-Jewish foundation, and for Marcion Paul was regarded especially as Ἀπόστολος.

Wie nun Marcion in der Darstellung der Clementinen mit dem Magier Simon in eine Person zusammenfällt, so konnte durch Marcions Vermittlung der Magier auch mit dem Apostel Paulus zusammengedacht werden, da ja die Gnosis Marcions durchaus eine paulinische-antijudaische Grundlage hatte und Paulus dem Marcion vorzugsweise als Ἀπόστολος galt.

Therefore, I do not shy away at all from claiming that the ἄνθρωπος ἐχθρός who appears with the διδαχη ἄνομος και φλυαρώδης διδασκαλία is nominally the magician Simon in the first instance, but is really Paul as well as Marcion who follows the Pauline direction to the [128] extreme.

Deßwegen nehme ich nun keinen Anstand zu behaupten, jener ἄνθρωπος ἐχθρός, der mit der κδιδαχη ἄνομος και φλυαρώδης διδασκαλία auftritt, ist zwar nominell zunächst der Magier Simon, reel aber ebenso gut Paulus als der die paulinische Richtung bis zum Extrem verfolgende Marcion.

It is the same with the πλάνος in Hom. 2:17. While this false teacher is the magician for the author of the Clementines according to the most natural sense of his words, here the magician nevertheless also represents especially the apostle Paul, whose destructive principles concerning the defunct validity of the Mosaic law or whose false gospel is to be counteracted by the true gospel proclaimed by Peter.

Ebenso verhält es sich mit dem πλάνος Hom II.17. Dieser Irrlehrer ist dem Verfasser der Clementinen allerdings nach dem nächsten Sinn seiner Worte der Magier, aber der Magier repräsentiert hier zugleich ganz besonders der Apostel Paulus, dessen verderblichen Grundsätzen über die erloschene Gültigkeit des mosaischen Gesetzes oder dessen falschem Evangelium durch das von Petrus verkündigte wahre Evangelium entgegengewirkt werden sollte.

Baur (129-130): An objection against accepting a polemical tendency in the Clementines against the apostle Paul cannot be derived from Hom. 3:59, the passage cited on p. 123. In this passage (which can be compared with 3:3) the teaching of the magician is referred to as paganism that has been revived in Gnosticism and also further refined. How, one could say, can the magician Simon, as an apostle of paganism, simultaneously represent the apostle to the pagans/Gentiles, Paul? However, as soon as we see the magician as the bearer of a whole series of phenomena, then the one antithesis does not exclude the other one.

Baur (129-130): Gegen die Annahme einer polemischen Tendenz der Clementinen gegen den Apostel Paulus kann man nicht wohl eine Einwendung aus der S. 123 angeführten Stelle Hom. III. 59. entnehmen, sofern nämlich in dieser Stelle (mit welcher III. 3. zu vergleichen ist) die Lehre des Magiers als das im Gnosticismus wieder auflebende und zugleich verfeinerte Heidentum bezeichnet wird. Wie sollte, könnte man sagen, der Magier Simon als ein Apostel des Heidentums zugleich den Heidenapostel Paulus in sich repräsentieren können? Allein sobald wir in dem Magier den Träger einen ganzen Reihe von Erscheinungen sehen, schließt die eine Antithese die andere nicht aus.

For other posts on F.C. Baur, 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