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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In his introduction, Zimmerman clearly sets out his purpose:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jörg Frey, the Glory of the Crucified One, and the Dwelling of God in Jesus Christ

Alongside many other good moments at this year’s SBL, I especially enjoyed the review session that was dedicated to the most recent BMSEC volume, Jörg Frey’s The Glory of the Crucified One, which I co-translated with Christoph Heilig. For me, there were many highlights from this session. For example, Tobias Nicklas’ provocative exploration of features of John that may have facilitated the development of spiritualizing readings of the Gospel by certain readers in conversation with Frey’s sixth chapter on bodiliness and resurrection, Jo-Ann Brant’s probing questions regarding Frey’s discussion of predestination and his challenge to the validity of speaking of a “dualism of decision” in his fourth chapter on Dualism in John (e.g. 146-152, 165), Susan Hylen’s attention to the value of Frey’s historically differentiated discussion of noble death, effective death, vicarious death, and salvific death in the fifth chapter, and Daniel Weiss’ presentation of his own interpretation of the topic of ‘the Jews’ in John in dialogue with Frey’s second chapter on ‘The Jews’ in the Gospel of John and the ‘Parting of the Ways’ and his tenth chapter on God in the Fourth Gospel. And perhaps most of all, I found Susan Hylen and Jörg Frey’s substantive discussion of issues of methodology to be especially thought-provoking!

My only real disappointment with the review session is that little was said about my two favorite chapters in the volume! Accordingly, I would like to use this blog post to share two quotes from these chapters. As usual, I will alternate between the English and the German for those who are using this blog to keep up their German.

The first quotation comes from chapter 7, “The Glory of the Crucified One,” which I think captures especially well the particular way in which Frey reads John:

The Glory of the Crucified One 243: This Easter experience, which includes the concomitant experience of the Spirit, is reflected in the Johannine Gospel writing. It is not only the Farewell Discourses—in which Jesus’ impending death is programmatically interpreted—that aim to show the crucified one as the glorified one. The whole Gospel portrays the way of the earthly one in the light of his δόξα, i.e., in a perspective that was opened up to the witnesses only in retrospect, in the Spirit-effected remembrance and Spirit-effected reading of Scripture. Therefore, talk of the δόξα of the earthly one and especially talk of the δόξα of the preexistent one are likewise possible only in retrospect, in the believing recognition of the glorification of the crucified one. Here lies—at least noetically—the basis of the Johannine Christology.

Die Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten 646: Dieser Ostererfahrung bzw. die damit verbundene Geisterfahrung haben sich in der johanneischen Evangelienschreibung niedergeschlagen: Nicht nur die Abschiedsreden, in denen Jesu bevorstehender Tod programmatisch gedeutet wird, wollen den Gekreuzigten als Verherrlichten zeigen. Das ganze Evangelium zeichnet den Weg des Irdischen im Licht seiner δόξα, d.h. in einer Perspektive, die den Zeugen erst im Rückblick, in der geistgewirkten Erinnerung und Schriflektüre, erschlossen wurde. Die Rede von der δόξα des Präexistenten sind deshalb ebenfalls nur im Rückblick, in der glaubenden Erkenntnis der Verherrlichung des Gekreuzigten möglich. Hier liegt – zumindest noetisch – der Grund der johanneischen Christologie.

The second quotation comes from chapter 8, “The Incarnation of the Logos and the Dwelling of God in Jesus Christ.” While chapter 7 emerged as one of my favorite chapters from the moment I read it, it is interesting to me that chapter 8 first gained its ‘favorite status’ in the course of translating the volume. In short, in the course of working through this chapter I became convinced that sustained reflection on the stichos “and he dwelt among us” is indeed essential for interpreting the meaning and significance of John 1.14.

The Glory of the Crucified One 283-84: The “bridge” between the statement of the Logos becoming flesh and the beholding of his glory, which is established by the shekinah tradition, allows the full and unreduced humanity of Jesus of Nazareth and the presence of the divine δόξα in him, in his words, and in his way to be held together. … Theologically the shekinah theology provides an expression of the “condescension” of God, which is intensified in the Gospel of John all the way to the cross of Jesus, and precisely this horizon is already signaled in advance in 1.14 by the pronounced talk of the σάρξ. What the Gospel of John expresses in its narrative, which is directed to the passion—namely, that the crucified one is, in truth, the one clothed with glory by God and as such is the basis of faith and salvation—is already signaled in an anticipatory way in the collocation of σάρξ and δόξα in the Prologue, and the employment of the biblical model of the dwelling of God in the world or, more concretely, in “his people” illustrates this ostensibly paradoxical connection and fits it into the biblical tradition history. The becoming flesh of the Word—as a variation of the dwelling of God in the midst of his people—is aimed at the cross, where the sent one, who is crucified as “king of the Jews,” completes his way. And God’s nature and primordial loving will are, according to John, enduringly recognizable precisely in this glorified crucified one.

Das Geheimnis der Gegenwart Gottes 255-256: Die durch die Schechina-Tradition gebildtete “Brücke” zwischen der Aussage von der Fleischwerdung des Logos und der Schau seiner Herrlichkeit erlaubt es, die ganze und unverkürzte Menschlichkeit Jesu von Nazareth und die Gegenwart der göttlichen δόξα in ihm, seinen Worten und seinem Weg zusammen zu halten. … Theologisch bietet die Schechina-Theologie eine Aussageform der “Kondeszendenz” Gottes, die sich im Johannesevangelium bis zum Kreuz Jesu steigert, und eben dieser Horizont ist bereits in Joh 1,14 durch die prononcierte Rede von der σάρξ vorab angedeutet. Was das Johannesevangelium in seiner auf die Passion hinzielenden Erzählung zur Darstellung bringt, dass der Gekreuzigte in Wahrheit der von Gott mit Herrlichkeit Umkleidete und als solcher der Grund des Glaubens und des Heils ist, das ist in der Zusammenstellung von σάρξ und δόξα im Prolog schon vorausgreifend angedeutet und die Heranziehung des biblischen Modells der Einwohnung Gottes in der Welt bzw. konkreter in “seinem Volk” veranschaulicht diese augenscheinlich paradoxe Verbindung und ordnet sie in die biblische Traditionsgeschichte ein. Die Fleischwerdung des Wortes – als Variation der Einwohnung Gottes inmitten seines Volkes – zielt auf das Kreuz, an dem der als “König der Juden” gekreuzigte Gesandte seinen Weg vollendet. Und gerade im verherrlichten Gekreuzigten ist nach Johannes bleibend Gottes Wesen und sein uranfänglicher Liebeswille erkennbar.

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Thomas Söding and the Christology of Mark

Ever since my student days in Tübingen, I have enjoyed reading the publications of Thomas Söding. Most recently, I profited from his short book Das Markus-Evangelium: Anregungen zum Lesejahr B. This post will look at an excerpt from his section on “The christological basic line” (pp. 34-35):

Through the arrangement of his Gospel, Mark develops a fundamental theological interpretation of the person, activity, suffering, and resurrection of Jesus.

Markus entwickelt durch die Anlage seines Evangeliums eine fundamentale theologische Deutung der Person, des Wirkens, des Leidens und der Auferstehung Jesu.

On the one hand, the evangelist shows that the authoritative miracle worker and teacher Jesus can be understood and believed only on the basis of his death and resurrection.

Einerseits zeigt der Evangelist, das der vollmächtige Wundertäter und Lehrer Jesus nur von seinem Tod und seiner Auferweckung her verstanden und geglaubt werden kann.

In the Gospel of Mark the sometimes enigmatic appearing silence commands and motifs of incomprehension serve to work this out. They warn against breaking out into overly great rejoicing already with Jesus’ performance of a great deed of power—as if Jesus did not end up hanging powerless on the cross. And they project the failure of the disciples during the passion (14.50, 66-72) into the time of the public activity of Jesus—in order to make clear that the one who would deny or relativize Jesus’ suffering and death basically understands nothing at all about his parables, miracles, and discourses. [not really sure how to capture the force of wollte here]

Dies herauszuarbeiten, dienen im Markusevangelium die vielen, teils rätselhaft erscheinenden Schweigegebote und Unverständnismotive: Sie warnen davor, schon bei einer großen Machttat Jesu in allzu großen Jubel auszubrechen – so als ob Jesus nicht am Ende ohnmächtig am Kreuz hinge; und sie projizieren das Versagen der Jünger während der Passion (14.50, 66-72) in die Zeit des öffentlichen Wirkens Jesu hinein – um klarzustellen, dass von Jesu Gleichnissen, Wundern und Reden im Grunde gar nicht versteht, wer sein Leiden und Sterben leugnen oder relativieren wollte.

On the other hand, the evangelist shows that the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus continues to be dependent on remembering that it brings to expression the death and resurrection of the basileia-messenger Jesus of Nazareth. [basileia is Greek word for kingdom/reign/rule/dominion].

Andererseits zeigt der Evangelist, dass die Verkündigung des Todes und der Auferweckung Jesu bleibend darauf angewiesen ist, zu erinnern, dass sie den Tod und die Auferstehung des Basileia-Boten Jesu von Nazareth zur Sprache bringt.

What Jesus did and taught is not made obsolete by his death and resurrection but rather confirmed by God.

Was Jesus getan und gelehrt hat, wird durch seinen Tod und seine Auferweckung nicht überholt, sondern von Gott bestätigt.

More than that: Jesus is so unreservedly affirmed by God right through death that he can be active universally as the risen one in the power of God in the way in which he acted under the conditions of his earthly existence in Galilee and Jerusalem and sealed through his death. [tricky sentence, e.g. hard to translate durch … hindurch and difficult to get the last part right]

Mehr noch: Jesus wird von Gott durch den Tod hindurch so rückhaltlos bejaht, dass er als Auferweckter in der Kraft Gottes universal in der Weise wirken kann, wie er es unter den Bedingungen seiner irdischen Existenz in Galiläa und Jerusalem getan und durch seinen Kreuzestod besiegelt hat.

Mark makes this clear not least through the open conclusion of his Gospel: In the empty tomb the angel not only explicitly identifies the risen one with the crucified Jesus of Nazareth (16.6); he reminds the women also of the promise that he gave to the disciples on the way from the room of the Last Supper to Gethsemane: that he, despite their failure, will go ahead of them to Galilee, where they will see him, who calls them anew into discipleship (14.28; 16.7 [Psalm Sunday; Easter night]).

Markus macht dies nicht zuletzt durch den offenen Schluss seines Evangeliums deutlich: Im leeren Grab identifiziert der Engel nicht nur ausdrücklich den Auferweckten mit den gekreuzigten Jesus von Nazareth (16,6); er erinnert die Frauen auch an die Verheißung, die er den Jüngern auf den Weg vom Abendmahlssaal nach Getsemani gegeben hat: dass er ihnen trotz ihres Versagens nach Galiläa vorangehen wird, wo sie ihn sehen werden, der sie neu in die Nachfolge ruft (14,28; 16.7 [Psalmsonntag; Osternacht]).

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My Jesus Blog Review of the Jesus Handbook

The Jesus Blog is pleased today to publish Wayne Coppins’s detailed review of the new Jesus Handbuch, edited by Jens Schroeter and Christine Jacobi and published by Mohr Siebeck in their Handbuecher Theologie series. This review will particularly be helpful for those readers of the Jesus Blog who can’t read the Jesus Handbuch in German, though…

via Wayne Coppins’s Review of the Jesus Handbuch — The Jesus Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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