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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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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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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Jan Rüggemeier on Markan Christology in Cognitive-Narratological Perspective

Today’s offering falls under one of my favorite categories on this blog, namely “German scholars.” The purpose of this category is to introduce German scholars and their research to the English-speaking world. Each post will consist of (I) an excerpt (or series of excerpts) from a publication submitted by the German author him/herself and (II) some biographical-bibliographical information about the scholar in question.

Today’s German scholar is Dr. Jan Rüggemeier (Acad) of the University of Bern. In part 1 of this post I will provide an English translation and the German text of five key quotations from his 2017 book Poetik der markinischen Christologie. Eine kognitiv-narratologische Exegese. As usual I will alternate between English translation and German text for those who are using these excerpts to (re)learn German.

Quote 1 (pp. 3-4)

The goal of this work is therefore to transfer the historical and philological methods of exegesis, which are already always subject to the influence of other scholarly insights, and newer approaches, especially from the sphere of literary criticism and narrative studies, into a common system of viewing the text.

Das Ziel der vorliegenden Arbeit ist es deshalb, die historischen und philologischen Methoden der Exegese, die ihrerseits immer schon dem Einfluss anderer Wissenschaftserkenntnisse und -strömungen unterlagen, und neuere Ansätze, insbesondere aus dem Bereich der Literatur- und Erzählwissenschaften, in ein gemeinsames System der Textbetrachtung zu überführen.

At the same time, the possibilities of such a viewing of the text are to be demonstrated with reference to the example of the Markan picture of Jesus in order ultimately to answer the material question of the Christology of the earliest Gospel anew and with as much nuance as possible.

Zugleich sollen die Möglichkeiten einer solchen Textbetrachtung am Beispiel des markinischen Jesusbildes demonstriert werden, um letztlich die inhaltliche Frage nach der Christologie des ersten Evangeliums neu und möglichst differenziert zu beantworten.

Here it is precisely the recent developments within narrative studies today, which are usually summarized under the keyword of the cognitive turn (cf. chapter 2.1) that contain within themselves a high potential for integration and can lead to an overcoming of the differentiation—which has been unsatisfactory up to now and anything but precise or unified—between so-called synchronic and diachronic methodological steps.

Gerade die neueren Entwicklungen innerhalb der heutigen Erzählwissenschaften, die zumeist unter dem Stichwort der Kognitiven Wende bzw. des cognitive turn zusammengefasst werden (vgl. Kap. 2.1), bergen dabei ein hohes Integrationspotenzial in sich und können zu einer Überwindung der bisher unbefriedigenden und alles andere als präzisen bzw. einheitlichen Differenzierung zwischen sogenannten synchronen und diachronen Methodenschritten führen.

Because it is above all through the narrative-critical “re-discovery” of the recipient that the understanding of the text as an interactive process is grasped, in which there is always an alternating alignment between text-external pre-existing knowledge and text-internal guiding mechanisms, historical source work and narrative-critical interpretation are interdependent.

Weil v.a. durch die erzählwissenschaftliche „Wiederentdeckung“ des Rezipienten das Textverstehen als ein interaktiver Prozess begriffen wird, bei dem es immer zu einem wechselseitigen Abgleich zwischen textextern vorgegebenen Wissensbeständen und textintern angelegten Steuerungsmechanismen kommt, sind historische Quellenarbeit und erzählwissenschaftliche Interpretation aufeinander angewiesen.

Thus, in the case of ancient narratives the text-external knowledge of an intended recipient cannot be drawn out in any other way than with the methods and possibilities of historical source work.

So können bei antiken Erzählungen die textexternen Wissensbestände eines intendierten Rezipienten gar nicht anders als mit den Mitteln und Möglichkeiten einer historischen Quellenarbeit erhoben werden.

And, conversely, a purely historical study of the sources in the context of an explanation of the text would remain deficient, for only by taking into account the specific inferential processes as well as the cognitive-psychological propositions of the recipient can one adequately trace how, conditioned by a selection of individual possibilties of understanding, an actual or intended understanding of the text arises when it is read.

Und umgekehrt bliebe ein rein historisches Quellenstudium im Zusammenhang der Texterklärung defizitär, weil erst unter Berücksichtigung der spezifischen Inferenzprozesse sowie der kognitionspsychologischen Propositionen des Rezipienten hinreichend nachgezeichnet werden kann, wie es bedingt durch eine Auswahl einzelner Verstehensmöglichkeiten bei der Lektüre zu einem tatsächlichen bzw. intendierten Textverstehen kommt.

Quotation 2: Character Traits (pp. 529-30)

Through Jesus’s supernatural knowledge (4.3.1g), his non-limited perception (4.3.1b), and his behavior (4.3.1d), but also on the basis of his repeatedly articulated claim of authority (4.3.1a) or through the overcoming of evident spatial limits (4.3.1-2) and the sudden change of his appearance (4.3.1e), Jesus can be contrasted with other awaited figures of the endtime or paralleled with the Old Testament Kyrios (cf. 4.3.2b).

Durch Jesu übernatürliches Wissen (4.3.1g), seine entgrenzte Wahrnehmung (4.3.1b) und sein Verhalten (4.3.1d), aber auch aufgrund seines wie- derholt artikulierten Vollmachtsanspruchs (4.3.1a) oder durch die Über- windung offensichtlicher Raumgrenzen (4.3.1f) und den plötzlichen Wandel seines Äußeren (4.3.1e) kann Jesus mit anderen erwarteten Gestalten der Endzeit kontrastiert oder mit dem alttestamentlichen Kyrios parallelisiert werden (vgl. 4.3.2b).

A significant function of the character traits consists in setting Jesus into relation with text-external conceptions of characters and precisely in this way to portray his uniqueness and unity with God.

Eine wesentliche Funktion der Figurenmerkmale be- steht darin, Jesus mit textexternen Figurenvorstellungen in Beziehung zu setzen und gerade so seine Einzigkeit und Einheit mit Gott zu inszenieren.

This explains the occasional incoherence, which can be recognized in the characterization of Jesus.

Dies erklärt die gelegentliche Inkohärenz, die sich in der Charakterisierung Jesu erkennen lässt.

Thus, the narrator pursues not the goal of producing a unified conception of Jesus’s [outer] appearance but the appearance has primarily a functional relevance, because it serves the purpose of making a contrast in individual episodes (9.15 after 9.2-6) or gives the recipient a spatial orientation (6.56).

So verfolgt der Erzähler nicht das Ziel eine einheitliche Vorstellung vom Figurenäußeren zu erzielen, sondern das Äußere hat primär eine funktionale Bedeutung, weil es in einzelnen Episoden der Kontrastierung dient (9,15 nach 9,2–6) oder dem Rezipienten eine räumliche Orientierung bietet (6,56).

Quote 3: The Narrator’s Point of View (523):

The actual standpoint of the narrator (cf. chapter 4.2.1) is characterized by a surprisingly small degree of explicitness.

Der eigentliche Erzählerstandpunkt (vgl. Kap. 4.2.1) zeichnet sich durch eine überraschend geringe Explizität aus.

This is probably a co-cause of the large differences in interpretation within the history of scholarship up to now.

Dies dürfte mitursächlich für die großen Interpretationsunterschiede innerhalb der bisherigen Forschungsge- schichte sein.

The Markan Christology shows itself in its core to be emergent, i.e. the standpoint of the narrator cannot be reduced to individual pieces of textual information or be completely aligned with the standpoints of individual characters but can only be deduced from the interplay of all individual perspectives.

Die markinische Christologie erweist sich im Kern als emergent, d.h. der Standpunkt des Erzählers lässt sich nicht auf einzelne Textinformationen reduzieren oder mit einzelnen Figurenstandpunkten voll- ständig in Deckung bringen, sondern kann erst aus dem Wechselspiel aller Einzelperspektiven abgeleitet werden.

Through explicit narrative asides, the perspectival means of the reduplication of information, the presented (un)reliability of individual bearers of perspectives or other means of hierarchization, the narrator positions himself in an indirect—but nevertheless unmistakable—way.

Durch explizite Erzählerkommentare, das perspektivische Mittel der Informationsverdoppelung, die vor Augen gestellte (Un)Zuverlässigkeit einzelner Perspektiventräger oder andere Mittel der Hierarchisierung positioniert sich der Erzähler auf eine indirekte – aber nichtsdestotrotz unmissverständliche – Weise.

Quote 4: Kyrios-Christology (p. 531):

Through the contrast character of John-Elijah and the opening prophet quotation in 1.2-3 it is suggested from the start (= primacy effect) that Jesus is to be identified with the Kyrios and his Sonship is to be understood in the sense of a unique relationship of belonging between God and Jesus (cf. 4.3.2b).

Durch die Kontrastfigur des Johannes-Elia und das einleitende Prophetenzitat 1,2f.) wird von Anfang an nahegelegt (= Primäreffekt), dass Jesus mit dem Kyrios zu identifizieren ist und seine Sohnschaft im Sinne eines einzigartigen Zugehörigkeitsverhältnisses zwischen Gott und Jesus zu verstehen ist (vgl. 4.3.2b).

This parallelization is taken up in the further course of the narrative so that one can by no means speak only of a ‘sporadic Kyrios-Christolgy’ in the Gospel of Mark.

An diese Parallelisierung wird im weiteren Erzählverlauf angeknüpft, so dass keineswegs nur von einer ‚sporadischen Kyrios-Christologie’ im Markusevangelium zu sprechen ist.

Rather, Mark materially takes up the early Christian confession of the one God of Israel and of the one Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor 8.6) and joins it narratively with the episodic narratives of the primitive community, with a far-reaching continuity between the pre- and post-Easter nature of Jesus being postulated.

Vielmehr greift Markus das frühchristliche Bekenntnis zu dem einen Gott Israels und dem einen Herrn Jesus Christus (vgl. 1Kor 8,6) inhaltlich auf und verknüpft es erzählerisch mit den episodenhaften Erzählungen der Urgemeinde, wobei eine weitgehende Kontinuität zwischen dem vor- und nachösterlichen Wesen Jesu postuliert wird.

The frequency of the explicit and implicit Kyrios-allusions, the high relevance for action that can be ascribed to Jesus self-claim and the opposing accusation of blasphemy by the authorities, and the explicit questions about Jesus’s identity as well as the disciples’ obvious lack of understanding (e.g. 1.27; 4.41; 6.52; 8.17-20), which increase the attention of the recipient along the lines of the suspense of a mystery, reveal the great significance of this character parallel.

Die Häufigkeit der expliziten und impliziten Kyrios-Anspielungen, die hohe Handlungsrelevanz, die sich dem Selbstanspruch Jesu und dem entgegengesetzten Blasphemievorwurf der Autoritäten zuschreiben lässt, und die expliziten Fragen nach Jesu Identität sowie das offensichtliche Unverständnis der Jünger (z.B. 1,27; 4,41; 6,52; 8,17–20), die im Sinne einer Rätselspannung die Aufmerksamkeit des Rezipienten erhöhen, lassen die große Bedeutung dieser Figurenparallele erkennen.

Quote 5: Main Function (p. 532)

The main function of the Markan narrative can be designated as the epistemological function.

Die Hauptfunktion der markinischen Erzählung kann als epistemologische Funktion bezeichnet werden.

In distinction from today’s narrative, this is not meant to suggest that the Gospel of Mark disputes every human possibility of knowing in principle or that the question of what identity to ascribe to Jesus can be answered in an exclusively subjective manner.

Im Unterschied zu heutigen Erzählung ist hiermit nicht gemeint, dass das Markusevangelium jede menschliche Er- kenntnismöglichkeit prinzipiell bestreitet oder dass sich die Frage, welche Identität Jesus zuzuschreiben ist, ausschließlich subjektiv beantworten lässt.

Rather, it is demonstrated through the narrative that humans have de facto not recognized Jesus in his actual identity—and this means, according to Markan understanding, as preexistent Son and Kyrios.

Es wird durch die Erzählung vielmehr aufgezeigt, dass die Menschen Jesus in seiner eigentlichen Identität – und d.h. nach markinischem Verständnis als präexistenten Sohn und Kyrios – faktisch nicht erkannt haben.

II. Biographical-Bibliographical Information

Born in 1981, Dr. Jan Rüggemeier (Acad) studied Protestant Theology in Heidelberg, Oxford (Regent’s Park College) and Tübingen. Between 2011 and 2016 he has worked with Prof. Hans-Joachim Eckstein (Tübingen). In 2017 he joined the Institute of New Testament Studies at the University of Bern, where he is preparing a research project on urban christianity with Prof. Benjamin Schliesser. So far his research is focused on the gospels, on biblical narratology and on methodology of the New Testament in general. His handbook Methoden der neutestamentlichen Exegese. Ein Lehr- und Arbeitsbuch, published 2016 together with Sönke Finnern, gives an overview of important exegetical “tools” and introduces new trends in Biblical Studies

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne