“I also decided … to write”—Michael Wolter on Luke’s Relationship to his Predecessors

Listening to James Crossley and and Chris Keith discuss Chris’s new book The Gospel as Manuscript fruitfully stimulated my thinking on the question of the specific ways in which the Gospels reflect what Chris calls “competitive textualization.” With respect to his use of this key phrase, Chris helpful explains that “What I am primarily getting at with the term term competitive textualization is when one written tradition tries to position itself and its authority in relation to a previous … written tradition” (see -45.00ff.; cf. here). For me, this discussion also called to mind a notable line of argument in Michael Wolter’s commentary on Luke, which finds more continuity between Luke and his predecessors than many others have found. On the one hand, I personally think that there is certainly a sense in which Luke seeks to outbid his predecessors, and I regard it as very likely that he thought he was producing the best version of the story. On the other hand, I think Wolter effectively argues that Luke’s language suggests more continuity with his predecessors than is often assumed. Needless to say, I look forward to reading Chris’s book in due course and seeing how it will shape or reshape my thinking around this question. For now, here are two of the most relevant quotations from Wolter’s commentary, in English and in German:

ET (44-45): In Josephus, Bellum judaicum 1.17 ἐπειδήπερ is connected in a comparable way with the reference to “many” predecessors (πολλοὶ πρὸ πρὸ ἐμοῦ). It is not possible to infer the number of works that Luke alludes to, for the use of πολύς and derivatives is a rhetorical stereotype in prefaces and in general at the beginning of speeches and writings (cf. in detail section [b] above as well as Josephus, Bellum judaicum 4.238; Acts 24.10; Hebrews 1.1). The same also applies to the characterization of the predecessors’ works as ἐπιχείρησις (see section [c] above), so that it is not possible to hear a critical subtext in the Lukan ἐπεχείρησαν (pace G. Klein 1964, 239; Bovon). This already seems doubtful on the basis of the parallelizing ἔδοξε κἀμοί in v. 3 with which Luke does not distance himself from the πολλοί but rather connects to them (see also van Unnik 1973–1983, I: 13). This interpretation is confirmed by the fact that in what follows Luke does not devalue his predecessors’ works with a single word. He thus forgoes the use of a form-historical option that was certainly available to him.

* Translation note: in the last sentence it would have been better to translate “durchaus” with “indeed” rather than certainly.

GV (61): Bei Josephus, Bell. 1,17 verbindet sich ἐπειδήπερ in vergleichbarer Weise mit dem Bezug auf “viele” Vorgänger (πολλοὶ πρὸ πρὸ ἐμοῦ). Ein Rückschluss auf die Zahl der Werke, auf die Lukas hier anspielt, ist nicht möglich, denn der Gebrauch von πολύς und Ableitungen ist ein rhetorisches Stereotyp in Vorworten oder überhaupt am Beginn von Reden und Schriften (vgl. im Einzelnen o. Abschn. [b] sowie Josephus, Bell. 4,238; Apg 24,10; Hebr 1,1). Dasselbe gilt auch für die Charakterisierung der Vorgängerwerke als ἐπιχείρησις (s.o. Abschn. [c]), so dass es nicht möglich ist, aus dem lk ἐπεχείρησαν kritisierende Nebentöne herauszuhören (gegen Klein* 239; Bovon). Dagegen spricht allein schon das paralleliserende ἔδοξε κἀμοί in V. 3, mit dem Lukas sich nicht von den πολλοί distanziert, sondern sich an sie anschließt (s. auch van Unnik*, Remarks, 13). Bestätigt wird diese Interpretation dadurch, dass Lukas die Vorgängerwerke im Folgenden mit keinem Wort abwertet. Er verzichtet also darauf, eine ihm durchaus zur Verfügung stehende formgeschichtliche Option zu realisieren.

ET (48): The phrasing (ἔδοξε) κἀμοί reveals that Luke wanted to emphasize the continuity with the efforts of the πολλοί, which were mentioned in v. 1, for he does not distance himself from them—for example with the help of the adversative phrasing (ἔδοξε) δέ μοι (e.g., DanielLXX 4.37c; Lysias, Orationes 1.14; Galen, De methodo medendi, ed. Kühn 1964, X: 910.11; Vettius Valens, ed. Kroll 1973, 142.30; 241.16; Diogenes Laertius 7.9). ἔδοξέ μοι . . . γράψαι is a widespread Greek idiom (cf. Hippocrates, Prorrhetica 2.2; [Ps.-]Speusippus, Epistulae, ed. M.I. Parente 1980, 158; 159.1; Galen, De placitis Hippocratis et Platonis 8.2.11 [de Lacy 1978–1984, 492.16]; De curandi ratione per venae sectionem, ed. Kühn 1964, XI: 312.11).

GV (64): Die Formulierung (ἔδοξε) κἀμοί lässt erkennen, dass Lukas die Kontinuität mit den in V. 1 erwähnten Bemühungen der πολλοί betonen möchte, denn er distanziert sich nicht von ihnen – etwa mit Hilfe der adversativen Formulierung (ἔδοξε) δέ μοι (z.B. DanLXX 4,37c; Lysias, Or. 1,14; Galen, Meth. Med. ed. Kühn X, 910,11; Vettius Valens, ed. Kroll, 142,30; 241,16; Diogenes Laertius 7,9). ἔδοξέ μοι . . . γράψαι ist verbreitetes griechischen Idiom (vgl. Hippocrates, Prorrhet. 2,2; [Ps.-]Speusippus, Ep., ed. M. I. Parente, 158; 159,1; Galen, Plac. Hipp. Plat. 8,2,11 [492,16 de Lacy]; Cur. Rat. Ven. Sect., ed. Kühn XI, 312,11).

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Paul’s Dasmascus Road Experience and the Message of Easter (Peter von der Osten-Sacken)

Having learned much in the process of writing my review of Peter von der Osten-Sacken‘s new Galatians commentary, I have begun working through his collected essays on Paul, titled Der Gott der Hoffnung (Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2014). Today’s post, which I thought would be especially appropriate for the Monday after Easter, comes from his essay “Von Saulus zum Paulus” (24-49, here: 27-29). As usual, for the benefit of readers who are using this blog for the purposes of interacting with German texts, I will alternate between my English translation and the German original.

2. The Turnabout/Die Kehre (p. 27)

ET: Let us begin as it is familiar to us from Acts: A persecutor and his group are on their way, in scorching heat, in burning desert sand, driven by the wish of tracking down, leading away, and handing over deviants. Then suddenly, at the height of the day and brighter than the midday sun, gleaming light shines around those going there. [Not sure how best to translate “auf der Höhe des Tages.” I suspect that it means something like “when the sun was highest in the sky” or simply “at noon.” Cf. Acts 22:6 and 26:13.]

GV (p. 27): Beginnen wir, wie es aus der Apostelgeschichte vertraut ist: Ein Verfolger und sein Gefolge sind unterwegs, bei brütender Hitze, in brennendem Wüstensand, getrieben von dem Wünsch, Abweichler aufzuspüren, abzuführen und auszuliefern. Da plötzlich, auf der Höhe des Tages und heller als die Mittagsonne, umleuchtet gleißendes Licht die Dahinziehenden.

ET: They were thrown down by its radiance and a voice sounding from the light surrounded the restless ringleader of the caravan: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” This episode appears three times in Acts. To be sure, as has long been recognized, all three versions, for the sake of variation, go their own ways in details and also exhibit clearly legendary features; however, one thing they have accurately preserved. Something happened here that cannot be so easily explained psychologically as, for example, Martin Luther’s turnabout (Kehre): Long suffering from his church, fear before the judging God, whom the human being is not able to satisfy, despairing efforts to escape the threatening judgment, and, finally, the liberating insight wrested from the Bible—he wants not to judge but to save you.

GV (p. 27-28): Sie werden niedergeworfen von dessen Glanz und eine aus dem Licht ertönende Stimme umfangt den ruhelosen Anführer der Karawane: “Saul, Saul, was verfolgst du mich?” Dreimal findet sich diese Episode in der Apostelgeschichte  “Saul, Saul, was verfolgst due mich?” Dreimal findet sich dies Episode in der Apostelgeschichte. Zwar gehen, wie seit langen erkannt, alle drei Versionen um der erzählerischen Abwechselung willen in Details ihre eigene Wege und tragen auch deutlich legendarische Züge; aber eins haben sie trefflich aufbewahrt: Hier ist etwas geschehen, was sich nicht so leicht psychologisch erklären lässt wie etwa Martin Luthers Kehre: Langes Leiden an seiner Kirche, Angst vor dem richtenden Gott, dem der Mensch nicht zu genügen vermag, verzweifelte Anstrengungen, dem drohenden Gericht zu entgehen, und schließlich die befreiende, der Bibel abgerungene Erkenntnis: Er will dich nicht richten, sondern retten.

ET: With Paul, the messenger/ambassador of the gospel among the nations, no comparable way can be detected. As in an instant, as with power, he appears, in the shortest period of time, to be thrown from the previous course. And in everything that the apostle thinks, says, and does, he henceforth appears to be more or less determined by this one upending experience. In some places in his letters he speaks of it with a few sentences.

GV (28-29): Bei Paulus, dem Botschafter des Evangeliums unter den Völkern, lässt sich kein vergleichbarer Weg ausmachen. Wie im Nu, wie mit Macht scheint er in kürzester Frist aus der bisherigen Bahn geworfen. Und in allem, was der Apostel denkt, sagt und tut, scheint er fortan mehr oder weniger von dieser einen umwerfenden Erfahrung bestimmt zu sein. An einigen Stellen seiner Briefe kommt er mit wenigen Sätzen auf sie zu sprechen.

ET: Its basic tenor runs as follows: God has revealed his son on/in/to me, Christ has appeared to me, I have seen—in a vision—the Lord, and through this, from the persecutor of the community I have become the apostle [hard to translate this last part into English, though it is easy enough to understand in German].

GV (29): Ihr Grundtenor lautet: Gott hat seinen Sohn an mir offenbart, Christus ist mir erschienen, ich habe – in einer Vision – den Herrn gesehen, und dadurch bin ich vom Verfolger der Gemeinde zum Apostel geworden.

ET: The core of what happened to Paul [or: what Paul experienced] and what hides behind these statements is identical with the message of Easter: There, in this figure, which/who according to human standards has foundered on the cross, is life, namely indestructible life. In this figure it already shines in the present, in this earthly time and history, which is determined/characterized by sin, suffering, and death.

GV (29): Der Kern dessen, was Paulus widerfahren ist und was sich hinter diesen Aussagen verbirgt, ist identisch mit der Botschaft des Osterfest: Dort, in dieser Gestalt, die nach menschlichen Maßstäben am Kreuz gescheitert ist, ist das Leben, und zwar unzerstörbares Leben. In dieser Gestalt leuchtet es bereits gegenwärtig, in dieser irdischen Zeit und Geschichte auf, die von Sünde, Leid und Tod bestimmt ist.

ET: In 2 Corinthians, Paul can summarize his thus defined certainty/assurance with the statement that Christ “was crucified out of weakness but lives out of the power of God,” and, correspondingly, says that the weaknesses that is visible on/in him as apostle also stands under the banner of promised life out of this power (2 Cor 13.4).

GV (29): Im 2 Korintherbrief kann Paulus seine so bestimmte Gewissheit mit den Worten zusammenfassen, Christus sei “aus Schwachheit gekreuzigt worden, doch er lebt aus der Kraft Gottes” und entsprechend stehe auch die an ihm als Apostel ablesbare Schwäche im Zeichen zugesagten Lebens aus dieser Kraft (2 Kor 13,4).

ET: In this certainty/assurance two things are contained: first, the fascination that the message of the resurrection of the crucified one has exerted on the apostle. It reflects back what has moved him in his innermost being—the question of the overcoming of sin, suffering, and death and not, as was the case with Luther, the burdened conscience of the sinner, even though for Paul the gracious liberation from the power of sin in the fellowship with Christ is the presupposition for sharing in life. Second, it is evident that when life, indestructible life, is here and when it, in the attachment to this figure, can already be experienced here through faith, hope, and love, all of reality, everything previously encountered, must be thought through anew from the standpoint of this experience and this reality. Upon what was before there falls again a new light from what now—determining everything—has happened and been experienced.

GV (29): In dieser Gewissheit ist zweierlei enthalten: zum einen die Faszination, die die Botschaft von der Auferweckung des Gekreuzigten auf den Apostel ausgeübt hat. Sie spiegelt das wider, was ihn im Innersten bewegt hat – die Frage nach der Überwindung von Sünde, Leiden und Tod und nicht wie bei Luther das beschwerte Gewissen des Sünders, auch wenn für Paulus die gnädige Befreiung von der Macht der Sünde in der Gemeinschaft mit Christus die Voraussetzung für die Teihabe am Leben ist. Zum anderen liegt auf der Hand: Wenn das Leben, unzerstörbares Leben, hier ist und wenn es in der Bindung an diese Gestalt bereits hier erfahrbar wird durch Glaube, Hoffnung und Liebe, dann ist von dieser Erfahrung und von dieser Realität her die gesamte Wirklichkeit, alles Bisherige, neu zu durchdenken. Auf das, was vorher war, fällt noch einmal neues Licht von dem her, was jetzt – alles bestimmend – geschehen und erfahren ist.

Translation Note: While the content of this passage stimulated my thinking in fruitful ways, I found the German syntax to be quite hard going at certain points. Thus, it would not surprise me if I may have lost my way at various places, for example in the last part of the last sentence.

Analysis of Content: While I suspect that many readers may be especially interested in the comparison that von der Osten-Sacken makes between Martin Luther and Paul and the extent to which it advances our understanding of the two figures, what I found most striking about this quotation is the way that von der Osten-Sacken relates Paul’s Damascus Road experience to the message of Easter (p. 29). In other words, it was this comparison, above all, that captured my attention and made me reflect anew upon the message of Easter.

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English Bibliographies of Martin Hengel, Anna Maria Schwemer, and other BMSEC Authors

As part of the BMSEC series, I have attempted to compile and maintain bibliographies of the English publications of the authors whose books have been featured in the series. For the most recent versions of these bibliographies, see:

Jens Schröter,

Matthias Konradt

Christoph Markschies

Michael Wolter

Jörg Frey

Martin Hengel

Anna Maria Schwemer

Eve-Marie Becker

Though they are not up-to-date, readers may also wish to consult the English bibliographies of other German scholars at my BNGLS page.

German authors who would like to update the information provided on my BNGLS page are welcome to send me an updated list of their English publications and/or other relevant changes pertaining to their title, university, webpage, etc.

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Review of Peter von der Osten-Sacken’s New Commentary on Galatians

In this blog post, I will provide a review of Peter von der Osten-Sacken‘s 2019 commentary Der Brief an die Gemeinden in Galatien (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer). Together with Klaus Haacker’s commentary on Acts, Osten-Sacken’s commentary represents the most recent addition to the respected series Theologischer Kommentar zum Neuen Testament. This series stands in the tradition of classical historical-critical New Testament scholarship, while giving special attention to themes relevant to Jewish-Christian dialogue, feminist-theological discourse, and social-historical lines of questioning. While Osten-Sacken’s commentary reflects all of these emphases, it is especially distinguished by its sustained focus on issues relevant to Christian-Jewish dialogue.

I. Let me begin by commending the commentary to a wide range of readers. Due to its combination of accessible form and substantive content, I think it can and will be read with profit by New Testament scholars, theologians, pastors, participants in Jewish-Christian dialogue, and other interested readers within and outside the Christian tradition. It is marked by historical-critical expertise and robust material-theological reflection. It is a commentary to which I will gladly return and a work that motivates me to read Osten-Sacken’s collected essays on Paul, i.e. Der Gott der Hoffnung (For Osten-Sacken’s English publications, see here).

What I like most about the commentary is the fact that one is guided from start to finish by Osten-Sacken’s clear and distinct voice. This is not to say that other voices are absent. On the contrary, Osten-Sacken consistently develops his interpretation in dialogue with others and can be counted on to weigh in on exegetical debates. Such issues, however, do not take on a life of their own, but are skillfully situated in relation to Osten-Sacken’s interpretation of the primary text in question within the framework of his overall reading of the letter.

II. The headings of the introduction and conclusion already give the reader a sense of the impressive intellectual breadth of the author and commentary:

A. Introduction (11-47). 1. The Author: Apostle of the Messiah for the Nations (11-18). 2. The Addressees (18-22). 3. Situation and Problem of the Letter (22-24). 4. The Document: An Apostolic Community Letter (24-28). 5. Galatians in the History of Theology and Church History (28-34). 6. Hermeneutical Questions (34-45). 7. Structure of the Commentary and Reception of Literature (45-46). 8. Reading Aids (46-47).

C. Summary and Reflections (320-350). 1. The Inheritance Promised to Abraham and Inherited by Christ and Those Who Belong to Him: Contours of the Letter (320-322). 2. Global Orientation and Lived Location of the Pauline Gospel (323-324). 3. First Comes the Human Being and Then the Confession: The Turn Since the Enlightenment (324-326). 4. Human Dignity and Human Rights in Theological-Ecclesial Perspective (326-331). 5. Characteristics and Perspectives of the Pauline Gospel (331-350).

From this material, let me highlight a few notable points. a) Due to the close connections between Galatians and Romans, Osten-Sacken thinks it is likely that Galatians should be placed in temporal proximity to Romans (20). While he is somewhat noncommital with respect to the location of the addresses, he seems to favor the region/territorial hypothesis over the province hypothesis (20-21, 61, 132, 210). Due to the northward extension of the province, he regards the terminology of North Galatia/South Galatia to be potentially misleading and suggests that it should therefore be abandoned (19n28). b) In the valuable section on hermeneutical questions, Osten-Sacken challenges the tendency to disclose the meaning of Galatians through the antithesis “law and/or gospel” and suggests that it is similarly problematic to characterize the core issue with the juxtaposition “faith and/or law” (35). In support of the latter point, he writes: “The exact antithetical term to ‘faith’ or ‘tidings (hearing) of faith’ is – in the common, though at another point to be questioned rendering – ‘works of the law,’ and, correspondingly, the opposition to the verb ‘believe’ is the verb ‘do.’ The implications are far-reaching. If one juxtaposes faith and works of the law (instead of faith and law), then it is clear from the outset that the problem lies in the realm of action and this means with the human being and not with the law taken by itself” (35; see also III.f and IV.c below). c) In this same section (p. 40), Osten-Sacken includes a notable critical exchange with Ulrich Luz with regard to the latter’s talk of the Bible’s “claim to truth” (Wahrheitsanspruch). d) Osten-Sacken relates his earlier research and his present commentary to what F. Tolmie characterizes as an “evaluative approach” … “according to which Paul’s strategy is not merely described, but also scrutinized critically” (28). This feature of his work is directly related to the form of his commentary, which comments on the text of Galatians under three rubrics, namely “Überblick” (overview), “Einzelexegese” (detailed exegesis), and “Vertiefungen” (deepenings). The first rubric enables Osten-Sacken to present his overall assessment of the meaning and function of a unit, the second allows him to take up specific questions pertaining to individual verses, and the Vertiefungen give him space to grapple with material-theological questions and to engage with Paul’s argument in Galatians critically, especially with a view to the coherence of Paul’s thought and to issues relevant to Jewish-Christian dialogue (28, 42-43). To give the reader a feel for these different sections, I will translate an excerpt from each of these rubrics at the end of my review.

III. Osten-Sacken structures his interpretation of Galatians as follows: pp. 48-68: The Beginning of the Letter (1.1-5). 59-72: Curse Instead of Thanksgiving: The Proem (1.6-9). 73-129: I. The Origin of the Gospel for the Nations and the Struggle of the Apostle for its Preservation (1.10-2.21). 130-240: II. The Gospel and Scripture: The Son and Those Who Belong to Him as Heirs of Abraham (3.1-4.31). 241-304: III. Gospel and Law: The Gift of Freedom as Inheritance (5.1-6.10). 305-319: Without Greetings to Galatia: The Conclusion of the Letter (6.1-18).

Once again, let me highlight just a few notable points: a) Osten-Sacken interacts throughout with major commentaries on Galatians in both German and English. Among others, he frequently engages the commentaries of Eckert, Lietzmann, Schlier, Klaiber, Betz, Bruce, and Dunn. Given the particular influence of J. L. Martyn’s commentary in the English-speaking world, it may be helpful to list out the references to his commentary here: 186, 188, 208, 214-216, 272, 275, 293, 297, 310. Special mention should also be made of his interaction with Martin Luther at many points (see the subject index, p. 382). b) In terms of structure, I think that Osten-Sacken convincingly argues that 5.1-12 should be taken more strongly with what follows than with what precedes (241-242). c) In terms of specific verses, I found Osten-Sacken’s interpretation of the phrase “born of a woman” in Gal 4.4 to be especially noteworthy (see IV.b. below). Special mention may also be made of his discussion of the designation for and content of the “Pneuma- and Sarx- catalogues” in Gal 5:19-23. d) Since I have tended to side with interpreters who have sought to relate Paul’s use of “we” and “you” in multiple texts to Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians, I found it significant that Osten-Sacken, like J. L. Martyn and others, argues against this interpretive tendency at multiple points with admirable clarity, detail, and argumentative rigor (e.g. 154-55, 170, 192). e) In terms of broader themes, Osten-Sacken unsurprisingly gives considerable attention to Paul’s diverse statements and perspectives on the law. This is developed both in relation to his discussion of specific texts (e.g. his comments on 3:19-25, esp. p. 167, and his comments on 5:14, esp. 259, 260-63), in his Vertiefungen (e.g. 70-72, 282-284), and in various summarizing-systematizing statements (e.g. 282, 340-42). As a point of criticism, while I think Osten-Sacken justifiably emphasizes the significance of the hina clause in Gal 3:22 (cf. also 3:24) for thinking about Paul’s view of the law, I do not think that this justifies assigning more than a temporal meaning to Paul’s use of eis in 3:23 and 3:24—as Osten-Sacken appears to do (see p. 167 and 282)—and correspondingly translating eis with “auf hin” in 3:23, 24 rather than with “bis” as in 3:19. Instead, as indicated by the purely temporal force of the same preposition in 3:19 and the temporal marker “before” in 3:23, the preposition eis should be translated with “until/bis” in 3:19, 23, 24. Despite this criticism, I think that Osten-Sacken’s larger point remains valid and important: In comparison with 3:19, Paul does assign a more positive role for the law with his use of hina clauses in 3:23-25. f) Let me conclude my comments on the body of the commentary with a comparison of Osten-Sacken and John Barclay in relation to a specific point (while Osten-Sacken himself interacts with Barclay’s earlier work, he unfortunately does not engage with Paul and the Gift). Within the context of a footnote justifying his translation and interpretation of Gal 3:11, Barclay writes: “There is no reason to find here a generalized contrast between the conditional Torah (which demands “doing”) and the promise (which requires only “faith” in God’s unconditional saving act; so F. Watson, Paul and the Hermeneutics of Faith [London: T&T Clark, 2004], pp. 16-63, 276-77; developed in P.M. Sprinkle, Law and Life: The Interpretation of Leviticus 18:3 in Early Judaism and in Paul [Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck 2008, pp. 133-64). Paul makes it clear that faith also involves action (5:6), arising from and made possible by the Christ-gift (2:20), and that in such action eternal life is at stake (5:21; 6:8). The Torah is problematic for Paul, not for setting conditions, or for demanding human action prior to God’s, but because it stands apart from the promise fulfilled in Christ and is incapable of producing either the righteousness or the faith to which the promise points” (Paul and the Gift, p. 406n40). On the one hand, like Barclay, Osten-Sacken strongly emphasizes that faith involves action that arises from and is made possible by the the action of God, Jesus Christ, and the Spirit (e.g. 261) and notes that we also find a poiein and ergazesthai in the life of the Christian (161). Moreover, like Barclay, he takes the threat of judgment and its relation to the conduct of the Christian in 5:21 and 6:8 very seriously (see 274 and 299-304). On the other hand, Osten-Sacken nevertheless argues with reference to Gal 3:11-12 that for Paul “the nomos is now rejected as medium of justification and deliverance in general (generell), because it is oriented in general (überhaupt) to poiein, doing, and not to pistis” (114; not sure how best to translate überhaupt here). In other words, while he shares much in common with Barclay and his interpretation should not be equated with the specific emphases of Watson or Sprinkle that Barclay is rejecting, Osten-Sacken does think that Paul presents an opposition between “faith” and “doing” in Gal 3:11-12 and in other key texts in Galatians and Romans (cf. also II.b. above and IV.c. below).

IV. To give the reader of this post a true taste of the commentary, I will now translate an excerpt from Osten-Sacken’s three types of material: Überblick, Einzelexegese, Vertiefungen:

a) Überblick/Overview (p. 149, on Gal 3:13-14):

ET: The two verses 13-14 give the impression that they would bundle once again all the load-bearing terms of the preceding context and lead them to their goal. At the same time, the statements in 3:1-14 appear as a considered ring composition. It begins with the reminder of the proclamation of the crucified one by the apostle in the Galatian communities (3:1), and it concludes with the recourse to his liberating deed on the cross (3.13-14). What is new in 3.13-14 is the term promise (epangelia, 3:14), which occurs for the first time in the letter here. It is taken up especially in the second half of the third chapter and therefore in 3.14 resembles a springboard into the following statements of the apostle.

GV: Die beiden Verse 13f. erwecken den Eindruck als würden sie noch einmal alle tragenden Begriffe des vorausgehenen Zusammenhangs 1,1-12 bündeln und zu ihrem Ziel führen. Zugleich erscheinen die Ausführungen in 3,1-14 wie eine überlegte Ringkomposition. Sie beginnen mit der Erinnerung an die Verkündigung des Gekreuzigten durch den Apostel in den galatischen Gemeinden (3,1), und sie schließen mit dem Rekurs auf seine befreiende Tat am Kreuz (3,13f.). Neu ist in 3,13f. der hier zum ersten Mal im Brief begegnende Begriff der Verheißung (epangelia, 3,14). Er wird vor allem in der zweiten Hälfte des dritten Kapitels mehrfach aufgenommen und gleicht deshalb in 3,14 einem Sprungbrett in die anschließenden Darlegungen des Apostels.

b) Einzelexegese/Detailed exegesis (p. 191, on Gal 4:4)

ET: For a long time already, interpreters have postulated behind this expression [genomenon ek gynaikos/born of a woman] the Hebrew syntagm yelud isha, which occurs in both the Bible of Israel and in the texts of the Dead Sea. With this designation is connected statements that describe human life in a way in its creaturely frailty, which evoke associations that it is verhängt [not sure how to translate verhängt here: doomed? fated? punished? something else?] and in this sense subjected to stoicheia tou kosmou as enslaving conditions of existence. … The previously suggested understanding has the advantage that it interprets v. 4 also with its first participial specification genomenon ek gynaikos (and not first with the second genomenon hypo nomon) in close connection back to v. 3. The expression means, as a first illustration of the enslavement under the world elements, participation in human existence above all in its frailty or also in its Verhängtheit [also unsure how to translate the noun: doomed condition? fatedness? punishment?]. In this sense, the son is subjected to the same conditions of existence as the ones for whose sake he is sent.

GV: Man hat hinter dieser Wendung [genomenon ek gynaikos/geboren von einer Frau] schon seit langem die hebräische Verbindung jelud ischa vermutet, die sowohl in der Bibel Israels als auch in den Texten vom Toten Meer begegnet. Mit dieser Bezeichnung verbinden sich Aussagen, die das menschlichen Leben in einer Weise in seiner kreatürlichen Hinfälligkeit beschreiben, die die Assoziation hervorrufen, es sei verhängt und in diesem Sinn stoicheia tou kosmou als versklavenden Existenzbedingungen unterworfen. … Das zuvor vorgeschagene Verständnis hat den Vorzug, dass es v. 4 auch mit seiner ersten Partizipialbestimmung genomenon ek gynaikos (und nicht erst mit der zweiten genomenon hypo nomon) in engem Rückbezug auf v. 3 deutet. Die Wendung meint, als erste Veranschaulichung der Versklavung unter die Weltelemente, Teilhabe an menschlicher Existenz vor allem in ihrer Hinfälligkeit oder auch in ihrer Verhängtheit. In diesem Sinn ist der Sohn denselben Existenbedingungen unterworfen wie die, um derentwillen er gesandt ist.

c) Vertiefungen/Deependings (p. 70-72, on Gal 1.6-9; cf. II.b. and III.f. above)

ET: Revelation and Prerogative of Interpretation: Paul and the Rabbis

GV: Offenbarung und Deutungshoheit: Paulus und die Rabbinen

ET: The clearest material connection between Gal 1.6-9 and and b. Bava Metzia 59b lies in the firm rejection of a mixing in of the heavenly world in the shaping of the teaching of the apostle or the rabbis. …

GV: Die deutlichste sachliche Verbindung zwischen Gal 1,6-9 und bBava Mezia 59b liegt in der dezidierten Abwehr einer Einmischung der himmlischen Welt in die Gestaltung der Lehre des Apostels bzw. der Rabbinen. …

ET: Thus, the prerogative of interpretation of the apostle refers not only to the gospel received and proclaimed by him, but—as its basis—also to the Holy Scriptures of Israel, above all to the Torah.

GV: Die Deutungshoheit des Apostels bezieht sich mithin nicht nur auf das von ihm empfangene und verkündigte evangelium, sondern – als dessen Grundlage – auch auf die heiligen Schriften Israels, allen voran die Tora.

ET: In this respect, we can speak then not only of an analogy between Paul and the rabbis, but unquestionably also of a relation of divergence.

GV: In dieser Hinsicht lässt sich dann nicht nur von einer Analogie zwischen Paulus und die Rabbinen sprechen, sondern fraglos auch von einem Divergenzverhältnis.

ET: While the rabbis bring to the fore the Torah not exclusively but indeed with special weight as halakah, Paul interprets it as witness for Jesus Christ, a clear indication of the entirely different presupposition from which he comes since his calling to proclaim the gospel.

GV: Während die Rabbinen die Tora nicht allein, aber doch mit besonderen Gewicht als Halacha zur Geltung bringen, legt Paulus sie als Zeugnis für Jesus Christus aus, deutliches Indiz für die völlig andere Voraussetzung, von der er seit seiner Berufung zur Verkündigung des Evangeliums herkommt.

ET: The divergence becomes most impressively visible in the interaction with the last verse of the section Deut 30:12-14. The rabbis let it stand as it is: “The word is near in your mouth and in your heart, to do it.” Paul, by contrast, breaks off the quotation before the infinitive clause and continues: “This is the word of faith, which we proclaim” (Rom 10:8).

GV: Am eindrücklichsten zeigt sich die Divergenz an dem Umgang mit dem letzten Vers des Abschnitts Dtn 30,12-14. Die Rabbinen lassen ihn stehen, wie er ist: “Nahe ist das Wort in deinem Munde und in deinem Herzen, es zu tun.” Paulus hingegen bricht das Zitat vor dem Infinitivsatz ab und fährt fort: “Das ist das Wort des Glaubens, das wir verkündigen” (Rom 10,8).

ET: What is juxtaposed/opposed with all this is not gospel and Torah—after all, Paul reclaims the Torah as a witness for the gospel and thereby draws it to his side—but rather gospel and halakah.

GV: Gegenüber stehen sich mit allem nicht Evangelium und Tora – Paulus reklamiert die Tora ja als Zeuge für das Evangelium und zieht sie damit auf dessen Seite –, vielmehr Evangelium und Halacha.

ET: In terms of substance, this juxtaposition/opposition [not sure how best to render Gegenüber here and below] also grasps the conflict in the Galatian communities and its theological processing by Paul much better than the frequently used antithesis of gospel and law, which we have already raised questions about.

GV: Dieses Gegenüber erfasst in der Sache auch den Konflikt in den galatischen Gemeinden und seine theologische Bearbeitung durch Paulus viel besser als die bereits problematisierte, oft bemühte Antithese von Evangelium und Gesetz.

ET: It makes clear terminologically that while the Pauline statements about the understanding of the law on the side of his opponents grasp a fundamental aspect of the law, they do not grasp the fullness of its significance in Judaism.

GV: Es macht begrifflich klar, dass mit den paulinischen Aussagen über das Verständnis des Gesetzes aufseiten der Gegner zwar ein wesentlicher Aspekt, aber nicht die Fülle seiner Bedeutung im Judentum erfasst wird.

ET: Thus, this—the juxtaposition/opposition of gospel and halakah—is probably the most important insight that is to be drawn from the recourse to b. Bava Metzia for the interpretation of Galatians.

GV: So dürfte dies – das Gegenüber von Evangelium und Halacha – die wichtigste Erkenntnis sein, die aus dem Rekurs auf bBava Mezia für die Auslegung des Galaterbrief zu ziehen ist.

V. Let me conclude by reiterating my great appreciation for Osten-Sacken’s commentary and by thanking him also for including both an index of ancient sources and an index of terms, subjects, and persons, which will be of particular help to his English readers!

For more German commentaries on Galatians, see here.

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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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