Michael Wolter on Luke’s Correct Placement of the Quirinius Census

As I press towards the completion of my translation of Christoph Markschies’ book Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire, I am already looking forward to starting my next translation project, namely Michael Wolter’s commentary The Gospel According to Luke. With this in mind, today’s key quotation will be excerpted from his comments on Luke 2:1-3.

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

Translation and German Original

English Translation (wmc):

1. ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις refers back not to 1.5 but takes up 1.80 and thereby dates the narrated event in the time of the growing up of the Baptist … Thus, the temporal distance between the events narrated in chapter 1 and the newly opened narrative collecting bowl remains unspecified…

2… This information  has the function of clearly distancing the following nexus of episodes chronologically from the time of the reign of Herod the Great. Between his death and the provincial census carried out under Quirinius lay a period of time of about 10 years in which Herod’s son Archelaus reigned as ethnarch over Judea, Samaria, and Idumea (cf. Josephus, Ant. 17.342; see also at 19.11-27). A contradiction to the relative chronology of the Lukan presentation does not thereby arise (see on v. 1). The longstanding debate over this problem … started, to this extent, from false presuppositions. There is admittedly an irreconcilable contradiction to the dating of the birth of Jesus in the time of the reign of Herod the Great by Matthew.

Das Lukasevangelium (pp. 121-122):

1. ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις bezieht sich nicht auf 1,5 zurück, sondern knüpft an 1,80 an und datiert damit das erzählte Geschehen in die Zeit des Heranwachsens des Täufers … Der zeitliche Abstand zwischen den in Kap. 1 erzählten Ereignissen und dem neu eröffneten erzählerischen Sammelbecken bleibt also unbestimmt…

2… Dieser Information kommt die Funktion zu, den folgenden Episodenzusammenhang von der Zeit der Herrschaft Herodes’ d.Gr. chronologisch eindeutig zu distanzieren: Zwischen dessen Tod und dem unter Quirinius durchgeführten Provinzialzensus lag ein Zeitraum von ca. 10 Jahren, in dem der Herodessohn Archelaus als Ethnarch über Judäa, Samaria und Idumäa herrschte (vgl. Josephus, Ant. 17,342; s. Auch bei 19,11-27). Ein Widerspruch zur relativen Chronologie der lk Darstellung entsteht dadurch nicht (s. Zu V. 1). Die langjährige Debatte über diese Problematik … ging insofern von falschen Voraussetzungen aus. Einen unausgleichbaren Widerspruch gibt es freilich zur Datierung der Geburt Jesu in die Regierungszeit Herodes’ d.Gr. durch Matthäus.

Selective Grammatical Analysis

1. knüpft an (anknüpfen) is often challenging: here I chose “takes up”, but “links to” or “picks up on”, or “follows on from” would also work. damit is often best left untranslated, but I sometimes translate it as “thereby”, “here”, or even “thus”, depending on the context. I usually translate both Ereignis and Geschehen as “event” instead of translating Geschehen as “happening” or the like (but cf. Translator’s Notes 1: Eugene Boring [378n2]). Sammelbecken could be translated as “collecting bowl”, “collecting basin”, “collecting tank”, “reservoir”, etc. I wanted to retain the word “collecting” and felt that “bowl” provided the most helpful image. I initially translated as “unbestimmt” as “undetermined”, but then decided that “unspecified” conveyed the sense more clearly.

2 Dieser Information kommt die Funktion zu [verb: zukommen] could be rendered more woodenly as “the function is given to this information of…” but I think “This information has the function” conveys the meaning more clearly.  Episodenzusammenhang: I often translate Zusammenhang with “context” or “connection”, but decided here to change my initial translation “connection of episodes” to “nexus of episodes”. zu distanzieren depends on Funktion (the function of distancing). I translated herrschte as “reigned”, though “ruled” would also have been possible. I chose to write Herod’s son Archelaus rather than the Herod son Archelaus, choosing readability over precision in this case. I often translate entstehen as “emerge” but “arise” seemed better here.  ging … aus [verb: ausgehen] can usually be rendered as started from. Insofern is often difficult: Depending on the context, I have adopted a range of solutions, such as “to this extent”, “in this respect”, “from this perspective”, “insofar”. I couldn’t find a way to capture the precise sense of unausgleichbaren/uncompensatable, so it seemed best to adopt the phrase “unreconciliable contradiction”, which seemed to capture the basic thrust. Gibt es [es gibt] can often be translated as “exist” but “there is” sometimes works better. The sense of “freilich” is sometimes best captured with “of course”, sometimes with “however” or “though”, and sometimes with “admittedly”.

Substantive Analysis:

For me at least, Wolter’s argument added a new option to a classic interpretative crux, so that I now see five possible options before me: 1) Luke dated the Quirinius census to the time of Herod the Great, which  stands in contradiction to the testimony of Josephus who correctly dates the Quirinius census to the time of Archelaus. 2) Luke correctly placed the Quirinius census at the time of Archelaus, while previously placing Jesus birth during the reign of Herod the Great, so that there is a chronological contradiction within his Gospel, 3) Luke correctly dated the Quirinius census to the time of Herod the Great in contrast to Josephus’ incorrect dating of the Quirinius census to the time of Archelaus. 4) This passage of Luke can be translated and interpreted in such a way that no contradiction emerges in relation to other ancient sources, including Josephus and Matthew, 5) Luke has correctly dated the Quirinius passage to the time of Archelaus (in agreement with Josephus), which does not result in a contradiction to Luke’s chronological statements elsewhere, though it does stand in contradiction to Matthew’s placement of Jesus’ birth in the time of Herod the Great. At present I think option 1 is the most convincing view, while regarding the arguments for 4) and 5) as worthy of continued study and debate. Perhaps options 2 and 3 should also be considered further, but from my present perspective they seem less likely.

Other Resources on the Quirinius Census

For Michael Wolter’s position, see further M. Wolter. “Erstmals unter Quirinius! Zum Verständnis von Lk 2,2.” Biblische Notizen 102 (2000), 35-41 and M. Wolter. “Wann wurde Maria schwanger?” Pages 405-422 in Von Jesus zum Christus. Christologische Studien. FS Paul Hoffman. BZNW 93. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1998 (also published in Theologie und Ethos in Frühem Christentum. Tübingen: Mohr, 2009. here).

For an overview of some of the key texts from Josephus and Luke and various translations of Luke 2:1-3, see Bruce Fisk PDF.

For some of the many other discussions of this topic on the web (listed in alphabetical order), see Paul Barnett, Darrell BockJohn Byron )cf. here), Robert R. Cargill, Stephen C. CarlsonRichard Carrier, Jared Compton (cf. here), N. F. GierMark Goodacre (cf. here), Bill HeromanBrian LePortJames McGrath, Ian Paul, Jason Staples, Daniel B. WallaceWikipedia.

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Peter Arzt-Grabner on the Interpretation of ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ in Rom 16.7 (Paulus Handbuch Series)

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

My second post in the Paulus Handbuch Series is taken from Peter Arzt-Grabner’s discussion of the text of the Corpus Paulinum. This valuable section includes a discussion of Greek as the Language of the Pauline Letters (1.1), Papyri (1.2), Parchment Manuscripts (1.3), Translations (1.4), Commentaries of the Church Fathers (1.5), and Textual Critical Questions and Examples (1.6).

In his final section Prof. Arzt-Grabner discusses a) the original end of Romans, b) the originality of 1 Cor 14.14-35, and c) the interpretation of the Accusative ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ in Rom 16.7. Today’s key quotation will be taken from this last interpretive crux.

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

English Translation and German Original

English Translation (wmc): In the meantime it has been recognized to the greatest possible extent that in Rom 16.7 the Greek accusative ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ must be interpreted with reference to a woman by the name of Junia (and not with reference to the man Junias as postulated since the time of Martin Luther). Greek manuscripts that already have/exhibit the placement of accents contradict the conjecture/hypothesis that the male name Junias, which is not attested in all of antiquity, could be an abbreviation for the well-attested Junianus. The Junia-interpretation is confirmed by Latin, Sahidic, and Syrian manuscripts, which clearly contain a feminine form, thus intending a woman by the name of Junia (Arzt 1993; Epp 2005). The Boharic translation speaks of a woman named Julia, a variant that is found, for example, also in P46.

Paulus Handbuch (p. 11; see PDF): Dass in Röm 16,7 der griechische Akkusativ ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ auf eine Frau namens Junia (und nicht auf den seit Martin Luther postulierten Mann Junias) zu deuten ist, ist mittlerweile weitestgehend anerkannt. Griechische Handschriften, die bereits Akzentsetzung aufweisen, widersprechen der Vermutung, der in der gesamten Antike nicht bezeugte männliche Name Junias könnte eine Abkürzung für den gut bezeugten Junianus sein. Die Junia-Deutung wird durch lateinische, sahidische und syrische Handschriften bestätigt, die eindeutig eine weibliche Form enthalten, also eine Frau namens Junia meinen (Arzt 1993; Epp 2005). Die bohairische Übersetzung spricht von einer Frau namens Julia, eine Variante, die z.B. auch in P46 begegnet.

Selective grammatical analysis

Since it is awkward to begin with “That…” in English, I have reversed the order of the first German sentence. Because the beginning of the sentence is a subordinate clause (Dass…), the verb moves to the end of the sentence and ist zu deuten becomes zu deuten ist. I usually translate the construction “ist zu + infinitive” as “must be x-ed” or “has to be x-ed”, though the wooden translation “is to be x-ed” is better in some cases. seit is problematic in English: “from” or “from x on” is often best, but it sometimes seems preferable to go with “since” or “since the time of”, despite the problems with this solution. Though it is awkward, I decided to adopt “to the greatest extent possible” for weitestgehend in order convey that a very strong claim is being made. It is unclear to me whether aufweisen would be best translated as “have” or whether a more precise word such as “exhibit” would be better. The force of Vermutung is probably somewhat critical, so that “conjecture” might best capture the intended sense, but it could be more neutral (hypothesis).

Substantive Commentary

What I like about this quotation from Arzt-Grabner is that it highlights well one of the strongest arguments in support of the Junia-interpretation of ΙΟΥΝΙΑΝ in Rom 16:7, namely the testimony of the ancient manuscripts in languages other than Greek that clearly understand Paul to be speaking of a woman rather than a man in this text.

While there are admittedly further debated points concerning the translation and interpretation of this verse, it also seems most likely to me that Paul refers to Junia as an apostle in this text and that Junia was, in turn, an influential person in early Christianity.

Readers of this post may be interested in the Junia Project, which is named after Junia from Rom 16:7.

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T. Michael Law, Jens Schröter, and Christoph Markschies on the Muratorian Fragment

In a previous Law-Markschies-Origen post, I mentioned how much I had profited from reading T Michael Law’s book When God Spoke Greek in conjunction with my work translating Jens Schröter’s book Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament From Jesus to the New Testament and Christoph Markschies’ book Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire, and I conveyed then my desire to devote a few more posts to a comparison of these works on select points. Continuing that discussion, this post will compare how these three works treat the question of the dating and character of the Muratorian Fragment. On the question of how to cite the Muratorian Fragment, see now SBL Handbook of Style Blog.

I. T. Michael Law

WGSG, p. 183n.9: “The Muratorian fragment should probably be dated later than the traditional second-century date.”

II. Jens Schröter

FJNT, p. 285n60: “I will not deal here with the question of the dating of the Muratorian Fragment, which has come under discussion since Sundberg 1968; 1973; as well as Hahnemann 1992. The attempt to date it late has not established itself, for which reason I continue to start from the traditional placement around 180-200. For fundamental criticism of the late dating, cf. Verheyden 2003. Cf. further Ferguson 1982; 1993; Stanton 2004, 68-71.”

VJNT, p. 310n60: “Auf die seit SUNDBERG, Revised History; Ders., Canon Muratori, sowie HAHNEMAN, Muratorian Fragment, in die Diskussion geratene Frage der Datierung des muratorischen Fragmens gehe ich hier nicht ein. Der Versuch der Spätdatierung hat sich nicht durchgesetzt, weshalb ich weiterhin von der traditionellen Ansetzung um 180-200 ausgehe. Zur grundsätzlichen Kritik der Spätdatierung vgl. VERHHEYDEN, The Canon Muratori. A Matter of Dispute, in: Auwers, Canons, 487-556. Vgl. Weiter FERGUSON, Canon Muratori; STANTON, Jesus and Gospel, 68-71, sowie die Rezension der Untersuchung Hahnemans von FERGUSON.”

Selective grammatical analysis: In translating “gehe ich hier nicht ein”, it seemed preferable to use the future with a view to English style. Likewise, “deal with” seemed to read better than “go into” in this case. Instead of “established itself” the verb “durchgesetzt” could alternatively be translated as “prevailed”.

III. Christoph Markschies

Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire (wmc, forthcoming): “The text, which is better designated as Fragmentum Muratorianum or Muratori, is, in reality, not a “list” with a mere listing of biblical books at all, but a fragment without its original beginning and conclusion, which—if one considers its literary form—can be linked only with great difficulty to an ancient literary genre. … Whatever option one settles on, the most recent debate over the dating of the highly fragmented text should at least urge caution both for those who—like Harnack—see in the Fragmentum Muratori an official list translated from the Greek with which the Roman church in the second century wished to impose its conception of a canonical New Testament on to the Christianity of the empire and for those who are completely convinced of the late dating of the text. The majority of the arguments still speak for a dating around 200 CE, although the exact historical background and the precise literary form of the text remain unclear.”

Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen (pp.  229 and 234; cf. 228-236): “Bei dem besser als Fragmentum Muratorianum bzw. Muratori bezeichneten Text handelt es sich in Wirklichkeit gar nicht um eine ‚Liste‘ mit der bloßen Aufzählung biblischer Bücher, sondern ein Fragment ohne seinen originalen Anfang und Schluß, das – betrachtet man seine literarische Form – nur sehr schwer mit einem antiken literarischen Genre zu verbinden ist. … Wie man auch immer optiert: Die jüngste Debatte über die Datierung des stark fragmentierten Textes sollte mindestens die zur Zurückhaltung mahnen, die – wie Harnack – im Fragmentum Muratori eine aus dem Griechischen übersetzte offizielle Liste sehen, mit der die römische Kirche im zweiten Jahrhundert ihre Vorstellung von eine kanonischen Neuen Testament in der Christenheit des Reiches imponieren wollte, oder von der Spätdatierung des Textes vollkommen überzeugt sind. Die Mehrzahl der Argumente spricht nach wie vor für eine Datierung um 200 n. Chr., obwohl der exakte historische Hintergrund und die präzise literarische Form des Textes unklar bleiben.”

Selective grammatical analysis: Instead of translating “Bei dem … Text … es geht um” as “In/With/In the case of … the text … it is a matter of/the concern is with/we are dealing with” I have adopted the simplifying translation “The text … is …” (for further discussion of the translation of Es geht um see here). The difficult phrase “nur schwer zu verbinden ist” has the force of “can be linked only with great difficulty”. I am uncertain how to translate “Wie man auch immer optiert”, but “Whatever option one settles on” is perhaps more precise than “whatever one decides”. Although the German version has “die zur Zurückhaltung mahnen, die … oder von …”, I have translated “oder” with “and” with a view to English style and repeated  “on those” in order to clarify the sense.

IV. Substantive Analysis:

For me, it seems that there are two points to draw from this post. First, while it seems to be the case that the majority of scholars continue to favor an early date for the Muratorian Fragment (ca. 180-200), it would probably go too far to speak of a “consensus” in relation to this point, since Sundberg, Hahnemann, T Michael Law, and other scholars have advocated a later date for this text. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the debate about the dating of the text should not be allowed to overshadow a second point of (perhaps greater and more significant) uncertainty, namely the uncertainty surrounding the classification of the genre or form of the text, which, due to its fragmentary character, arguably should not be classified too quickly as a “canon list”, which is not to say that this possibility should be ruled out too quickly either.

For other posts/links relating to the Muratorian canon, see e.g., Bart Ehrmann, C. E. HillLarry Hurtado, Michael Kruger.

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

Translator’s Notes 1: Eugene Boring on Udo Schnelle’s Theology of the New Testament

​This will be my first blog post in the category “translator’s notes”, which will involve compilations of relevant “translator’s notes” from existing translations, organized by translator and/or by volume. During my work as a translator, I have generally felt like I am figuring out things as I go, so I hope that the process of compiling these notes will prove beneficial to my own translation ability and that the result will also be a resource for future translators and other readers of German New Testament scholarship, who should be able to work through these notes as a unit or identify posts that discuss various terms by searching my blog, i.e., by using it as a dictionary of sorts. Today’s translator’s notes are taken from Eugene Boring’s excellent translation of Udo Schnelle’s Theology of the New Testament. Boring’s notes are conveniently set off in square brackets with his initials [… – MEB]. The material that is not in brackets is from Udo Schnelle.

Before turning to some of his most valuable notes on translation, let me begin by referencing some of Boring’s other valuable notes on content and literature: see 26n1 (meaning-formation), 28n6 (Jörn Rüsen on history), 30n16 (radical construction/constructivism), 746n223 (chronos and kairos).

Eugene Boring’s Notes on Translation

26n1 (Sinnbildung and Sinnwelt): [… I have generally rendered Sinnbildung by “meaning-formation,” but not its relation to Sinnwelt, usually translated “universe of meaning” or “symbolic universe.” – MEB]

27n5 (Geschichte/Historie: see here for my blog post on Schnelle’s use of these terms): Main text: How was history (Geschichte) made and how does research and writing about history (Historie) take place? Footnote 5: Regarding terminology: I use the German terms “Geschichte”/“geschichtlich” to refer to what happened, and “Historie”/“historisch” to indicate the ways in which historians attempt to determine what this was. “Historik” refers to the philosophical theory of history. Cf. H./W. Hedinger, “Historik”, in Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie (ed. Karfried Gründer et al.; Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1974). “Geschichte” is never directly available except as “Historie,” but nonetheless the two concepts and terms must be distinguished, because the questions posed from the point of view of philosophical theories of history are not simply identical with “what happened” as that was understood by people in the past. [The German language has two words for “history,” while English has but one. Many German authors, including some quoted by Schnelle, use the two words interchangeably. The nuances distinguished by Schnelle are sometimes difficult to preserve in English. Since the context usually makes clear which meaning is intended, I have generally rendered both words by history and its cognates, though sometimes using event or story for Geschichte to preserve the author’s nuance, or rendering geschichtlich by historic in contrast to historical. See note 2 in § 2.1 below. Here the original reads : “Wie entsteht Geschichte/Historie?” – MEB].

32n23 (Fiktion): “Fiction” is not here used in the popular sense of “unreal” or “untrue,” but is intended in the functional-communications sense, and thus approaches the original meaning of “fictio”: “construction,” “formation.” [Cf. the use of fabrication” in English. – MEB]

39n53 (Nachträglichkeit and Nachzeitigkeit): Eckart Reinmuth, “Neutestamentliche Historik,” TLZ 8 (2003): 47-55, uses the term Nachträglichkeit, “supplementary-character” that memory adds to the event in the process of remembering [Schnelle had used Nachzeitigkeit, translated posterity above. In grammar the term refers to the action of a subordinate clause that takes place later than the action of the main clause, e.g., “I know what you will do.” – MEB]

55n38 (Anschlussfähigkeit): [I have throughout translated Anschlussfähigkeit as “capacity for openness and integration” or “integrative capacity.” Schnelle uses this term to indicate early Christianity’s openness to ideas in its culture that had hermeneutical potential, and its capacity to integrate them into its developing theology without losing or compromising itself. – MEB]

99n106 (Gleichnis and Parabel): [German has two words for parable, usually not distinguished in English: Gleichnis, which might be rendered by “analogy,” and Parabel. Schnelle’s footnote here indicates that he uses Gleichnis in the nontechnical, comprehensive sense as the term for parabolic speech in general, but in the treatment of individual texts distinguishes the terms as follows: Gleichnis is used for familiar, usual experiences, everyday scenes, for the world as perceived and experienced by everyone, the world that follows the conventional order of things. Parabel is used for the particular, individual case; it does not focus on the usual, but the extraordinary, the unique. These nuances are usually clear from the context, so I have not attempted to maintain them in translation, and have generally translated both by parable/parabolic. – MEB]

150n274 (Gretchenfrage: see here for my blog post on this term): [To ask the “Gretchen question” is to ask about someone’s deepest religious or political convictions; from Goethe, Faust, I. – MEB]

162n314 (Pro-Existenz): [Pro-Existenz is a German theological term designating a life lived for others. Cf. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s portrayal of Jesus as the Man for Others. – MEB]

275n25 (grammatical gender and choosing English pronouns for the Spirit): [In German, as in Greek, the pronoun referring to the Spirit is determined by the grammatical gender of the word “Spirit” (neuter in Greek; masculine in German). English is not so structured, and so the choice of pronoun seems to communicate whether the Spirit is thought of in personal terms (he, she) or not (it) and thus cannot communicate the way the term is used in either Greek or German. English translations of the Bible and of theological works in German (and other languages) must make choices not necessary or meaningful in Greek or German. – MEB]

329n406: Main Text : Thus, terminologically, ἐκκλησία as the assembly of Christians in one location should be translated ‘congregation’ (Gemeinde), and when it means the worldwide group of Christians as a whole, it should be translated ‘church’ (Kirche). Note: Cf. Roloff, “ἐκκλησία,” 1:413. [This distinction is more important in Europe, where there is a long tradition of an establish church, than in North America and other English-speaking areas, where ‘church’ has always been used for the local congregation, for groups of congregations, for the denomination, and for the church as a whole. I have therefore not attempted to maintain this distinction consistently in the English translation. – MEB]

378n2 (Ereignis and Geschehen): Main Text: First, we must distinguish between the element of the act-event-story continuum (Ereignis, Geschehen, Geschichte). Note: [Schnelle makes a distinction between two German words that are both usually translated as event. I have used act for the smaller elements of which an event is composed. – MEB]

621n60 (Werke/Taten): The dual translation of ἔργαwith Werke/Taten (works/deeds) attempts to grasp the multilayered aspect of the term; recent commentaries on James 2:14-16 translate variously (Frankem;lle, Werke; Burchard and Popkes, Taten). [The translation generally renders Schnelle’s original “Werke/Taten as “works.” – MEB]

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

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

Oda Wischmeyer and the Lexikon der Bibelhermeneutik

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

Today’s “German scholar” is Prof. Dr. Oda Wischmeyer (em.) of the Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, an institution that holds a special place in my heart as my first university home during my studies in Germany. Insofar as this blog and the BMSEC series both aim to facilitate increased dialogue between English-language and German-language scholarship, I would like to underline here the extent to which Prof. Wischmeyer’s scholarship has contributed to this aim, for example through the English translation of her edited volume Paul: Life, Setting, Work, Letters, which I mentioned in my last post, and now through her 2014 co-edited volume Paul and Mark (cf. Jim West’s Review), which brings together the work of about twelve German-speaking scholars and twelve English-speaking scholars who deal with the question of the influence of Paul on Mark.

As her passage of choice for this post, Prof. Wischmeyer has submitted an excerpt from the Lexikon der Bibelhermeneutik. Edited by Oda Wischmeyer. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2013, p. VI.

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

I) Translation

English Translation (wmc): “The text-oriented hermeneutic of the Bible represents a new hermeneutic paradigm in which the canonical version of the Bible is not primarily understood in a theologically internal manner as ‘gospel’ and ‘Holy Scripture’ and thereby largely hermeneutically and methodologically withdrawn from the non-theological text-oriented disciplines. Rather, the hermeneutical approach [of the Lexikon] is already in its basic approach heuristic and multiperspectival and does not follow an already existing conception. The leading theological-hermeneutical terms ‘gospel’, ‘word of God’, ‘Holy Scripture’, and ‘revelation’ stand alongside terms that belong to the humanities and the study of culture   [or: to the human sciences and cultural sciences] in the broadest sense such as ‘canon’, ‘holy book’, ‘text’, ‘supertext’, and ‘reception’. The term/concept of text is chosen as an integrating guiding term/concept to which both the theological disciplines and the humanities and cultural disciplines have genuine methodological and hermeneutical points of access and to which they can make their own contribution. The Bible is understood as a collection of different texts that together form a supertext. All present-day text-elucidating scholarly [or scientific] disciplines with their theories, methods, conceptions, and terms/concepts are drawn upon for the understanding of this text or these texts. The field of linguistic, literary, historical, theological, philosophical, and religious studies understanding yields together the basis of a ‘Bible hermeneutic’ that opens up the biblical texts in all their aspects to understanding.”

Lexikon der Bibelhermeneutik (p. VI): “Die textbezogene Hermeneutik der Bibel stellt ein neues hermeneutisches Paradigma dar, in dem die kanonische Fassung der Bibel nicht primär binnentheologisch als ‘Evangelium’ und ‘Heilige Schrift’ verstanden wird und damit den nicht-theologischen textbezogenen Disziplinen hermeneutisch und methodisch weitgehend entzogen ist. Der hermeneutische Zugang [des Lexikons] ist vielmehr bereits im Ansatz heuristisch, multiperspektivisch und schließt sich nicht einer bereits bestehenden Konzeption an. Die führenden theologisch-hermeneutischen Begriffe ‘Evangelium’, ‘Wort Gottes’, ‘Heilige Schrift’, ‘Offenbarung’ stehen neben den im weitesten Sinne geistes- und kulturwissenschaftlichen Begriffen wie ‘Kanon’, ‘heiliges Buch’, ‘Text’, ‘Supertext’, ‘Rezeption’. Als integrierender Leitbegriff ist der Textbegriff gewählt, zu dem die theologischen Disziplinen ebenso wie die geistes- und kulturwissenschaftlichen Fächer genuine methodische und hermeneutische Zugänge besitzen und eigene Beiträge leisten können. Die Bibel wird als eine Sammlung unterschiedlicher Texte verstanden, die gemeinsam einen Supertext bilden. Zum Verstehen dieser Texte bzw. dieses Textes werden alle gegenwärtig texterklärenden wissenschaftlichen Disziplinen mit ihren Theorien, Methoden, Konzeptionen und Begriffen herangezogen. Das Feld von sprachlichem, literarischem, historischem, theologischem, philosophischem und religionswissenschaftlichem Verstehen ergibt gemeinsam die Basis einer ‘Bibelhermeneutik’, die die biblischen Texte in allen ihren Aspekten dem Verstehen erschließt.”

Selective grammatical analysis: Let me restrict myself to a few difficult points. textbezogene could be translated text-related, but it is perhaps a bit weak, and I think that text-oriented might capture the intended sense better. binnentheologisch is hard to render: I chose to adopt the paraphrasing translation “in a theologically internal manner”. It would have read better to translate entzogen as “removed” but I thought “withdrawn” better conveyed the intended sense. “approach” is often the best translation for Zugang and Ansatz, but in order to lessen the awkward repetition I translated Ansatz as “basic approach”. I considered translating Ansatz as “conception” here, but this solution also fell flat since this term follows shortly thereafter! As I have indicated elsewhere (see here and From Jesus to the New Testament, p. viii), the translation of the German term Wissenschaft/wissenschaftlich causes problems (for me), since there are advantages and disadvantages of using the language of “science/scientific” in English. With respect to the phrase neben den im weitesten Sinne geistes- und kulturwissenschaftlichen Begriffen, the problem is felt with particular severity for three reasons. First, it is necessary for stylistic reasons to change the German adjectival construction to a relative clause, which also requires one to change the adjectives into nouns here. Secondly, the translation of Begriff (my least favorite German word) is often problematic since it tends to hover between word and concept (see further here). Thirdly and most importantly, it is extremely difficult (for me) to translate geistes- und kulturwissenschaftlichen. In English, I suspect we might just say “the humanities” or “the liberal arts”, which in our sentence would result in “alongside terms that belong to the humanities in the broadest sense”. But I think it is probably necessary to retain at least something of the German nuance, so I have suggested “alongside terms that belong to the humanities and studies of culture in the broadest sense”. In the end, however, it might be better to employ the language of “science” here and write “that belong to the human sciences and cultural sciences in the broadest sense”, despite the fact using the language of “science” for anything other than the “natural sciences” (Naturwissenschaften) will probably meet with criticism from at least some readers (see e.g., here), which is notable in view of the different linguistic conventions of French, German, and presumably other languages. Finally, there would be several options for translating dem Verstehen erschließt. Given the overall tenor of the quotation, it seemed preferable to me to adopt the less theologically-loaded translation “open up” rather than “disclose” or “reveal” for erschließt. It is not clear to me whether it would be better to say “to the understanding” or “to understanding” in this case.

II) Biographical-Bibliographical Information

For Prof. Wischmeyer’s academic profile, see here. For a chronological list of her publications, see here.

Prof. Wischmeyer describes her current research focus as follows:

My field of research is the collection of writings of the New Testament in their religious, literary and historical contexts. At the foreground of my work stand, on the one hand, the writings of ancient Judaism (esp. Ben Sira), and, on the other hand, texts, themes and theology of Paul’s letters and the letter of James as well as the Gospel of Mark. The canonical and noncanonical writings of ancient Judaism and early Christianity are foundational texts both in religious and cultural respects. Like the great texts of the Graeco-Roman culture – above all the Homeric epics and the Aeneid but also the texts of Plato – they have brought forth a hermeneutic of their own. Rudolf Bultmann showed for the European and North American exegesis of the twentieth century that New Testament scholarship always goes together with hermeneutical questions. In the last generation it came, in the wake of the globalization of biblical scholarship, to something like an explosion of new hermeneutical approaches that must be exegetically and hermeneutically sifted and processed. It is to this task that my own works on New Testament hermeneutic are devoted, namely the Lexikon der Bibelhermeneutik (ed. Oda Wischmeyer 2009 and 2013) and the Handbuch der Bibelhermeneutiken (ed. Oda Wischmeyer, Walter de Gruyter, forthcoming 2015).

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

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

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