Michael Wolter on Jesus’s ἀγωνία in Luke 22.44

After two years of very hard and very rewarding labor, I am particularly pleased that both volumes of my co-translation (with Christoph Heilig) of Michael Wolter’s commentary on the Gospel of Luke are now complete and published as volumes 4 and 5 of the BMSEC series. I have, of course, produced multiple blog posts on these volumes already, but with this post I want to start a new series titled “Wolter Words” (the apparent alliteration is of course illusory), which will focus on one of my favorite aspects of his commentary, namely his tendency to challenge conventional assumptions about the meaning of many words and phrases in the Gospel.

In today’s post, we will look at Wolter’s interpretation of γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ in Luke 22:44.

Before turning to this issue, however, let me briefly comment on two others:

First, it is worth noting that Wolter (II: 483), based on a detailed analysis of the evidence, thinks the arguments for and against the originality of Luke 22:43-44 are quite evenly balanced, so that “we must remain for the time being with a non liquet.

Second, in response to a common misinterpretation of this text, Wolter (II: 479, 485) rightly stresses that when Luke says that Jesus’s “sweat became like drops of blood falling to the earth,” he does NOT intend to communicate that “Jesus sweats blood or that his sweat changed into blood” but rather that “Jesus sweats so profusely that his sweat drops to the ground,” i.e. “The tertium comparationis is … not the ‘consistency of his sweat’ (thus Klostermann 217) but its quantity. There is so much of it that—like when a person bleeds profusely—drops form that fall to the ground. Thus, the thrust of the statement wants to illustrate the intensity of the praying of Jesus and—at least indirectly—the greatness of his ἀγωνίᾳ.”

What then is meant by the phrase γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ? In what follows I will give Wolter’s answer in abbreviated form, alternating between the English translation (II: 483-484) and the German Version (723-724):

ET: That the appearances “strengthen” the recipient of the appearance is also known from many other texts … Elsewhere God also always “strengthens” the mediators sent by him so that they can fulfill their task … Therefore, the fact that Jesus nevertheless  falls into ἀγωνίᾳ, i.e., into inner agitation, need not stand in contradiction to the strengthening by the angel.

GV: Auch dass Erscheinungen den Erscheinungsempfänger “stärken”, ist aus vielen anderen Texten bekannt … Gott “stärkt” auch sonst immer die von ihm gesandten Mittler, damit sie ihren Auftrag erfüllen können … Dass Jesus trotzdem in ἀγωνίᾳ gerät, d.h. in innere Erregung, muss darum nicht in Widerspruch zur Stärkung durch den Engel stehen.

ET: Many interpreters have not been able to reconcile the two with each other. In the wake of Paton 1913 they therefore do not think that ἀγωνίᾳ designates the inner agitation of Jesus but equate it with ἀγών. In this view, the concern is with a “contest” or “struggle” (cf. e.g. Neyrey 1980, 159ff [“victorious struggle”]; 1985, 58ff. [“combat”]; Nolland III: 1084 [“the battle in prayer”]; Brown 1994, I: 189-90; Tuckett 2002, 138-39), which takes place in the “fervent” prayer of Jesus.

GV: Viele Interpreten haben beides nicht miteinander vereinbaren können. Sie sehen darum in Gefolge von. W.R. Paton, Ἀγωνία (Agony), CIR 27 (1913) 194 mit ἀγωνίᾳ nicht die innere Erregung Jesu bezeichnet, sondern setzen es mit ἀγών gleich: Es handele sich um einen “Kampf” (engl. “contest” or “struggle”; cf. z.B. Neyrey*, Absence, 159ff [“victorious struggle”]; Passion, 58ff [“combat”]; Nolland III, 1084 [“the battle in prayer”]; Brown* I, 189f; Tuckett* 138f.), der in dem “inständigeren” Beten Jesu stattfindet.

ET: In doing so, however, they make the error of arguing only with the lexical sense and not paying attention to the syntagmatic connection with γενόμενος; cf. e.g. Vita Aesopi 81 (“They fell into agitation [εἰς ἀγωνίαν γενάμενοι] … and regarded this great misfortune as an important sign”). Elsewhere, too ἀγωνίᾳ designates inner agitation in the face of coming unsalvation … [additional texts are adduced] … Furthermore the talk of Jesus as γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ must be placed in the nexus of all the texts in which there is talk of “coming” or “falling” ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ or εἰς ἀγωνίᾳ (e.g. Diodorus Siculus 14.35.2; 16.42.9; 20.51.1; Josephus, Antiquitates judaicae 6.107; 8.373; 11.326; 13.87 and especially P. Tebt II 423.13-14: “I have commissioned you …; you have not yet given me information about it, so that I have fallen at present into agitation [ὡς εἰς ἀγωνίαν με γενέσθαι ἐν τῷ παρόντι]”).

GV: Dabei machen sie jedoch den Fehler, nur mit der Wortbedeutung zu argumentieren und nicht die syntagmatische Verknüpfung mit γενόμενος zu beachten; vgl. z.B. Vita Aesopi 81 (“sie gerieten in Erregung [εἰς ἀγωνίαν γενάμενοι] … und hielten dieses große missgeschick für ein wichtiges Zeichen”). Auch anderswo bezeichnet die innere Erregung angesichts eines kommenden Unheils … [zusätzliche Texte sind angeführt] … Darüber hinaus ist die Rede von Jesus als γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ in den Zusammenhang all jener Texte zu stellen, in denen von ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ oder  εἰς ἀγωνίᾳ “geraten” oder “kommen” oder “fallen” die Rede ist (z. B. Diodorus Siculus 14,35,2; 16,42,9; 20,51,1; Josephus, Ant. 6,107; 8.373; 11,326; 13,87 und vor allem P. Tebt. II, 423,13f: “Ich habe dir aufgetragen …; du hast mir darüber noch nicht Auskunft gegeben, so dass ich zur Zeit in Erregung geraten bin [ὡς εἰς ἀγωνίαν με γενέσθαι ἐν τῷ παρόντι]”).

ET: It would therefore be a truncation if one wanted to reduce Jesus’s ‘strengthening’ to the empowerment to “fervent” prayer. The aforementioned linguistic contexts do not make the  ἐκτενέστερον προσεύχεσθαι of Jesus an expression of his ἀγωνία but rather let it become the reaction to it (cf. Philo, Legatio ad Gaium 366: “We had the souls no longer in us but they had gone forth ὑπ’ ἀγωνίας in order to implore the true God…”).

GV: Es wäre darum eine Verkürzung, wenn man Jesu ‘Stärkung’ auf die Befähigung zum “inständigeren” Beten reduzieren wollte. Die vorgenannten sprachlichen Zusammenhänge machen das ἐκτενέστερον προσεύχεσθαι Jesu nicht zum Ausdruck seiner ἀγωνία, sondern sie lassen es zur Reaktion auf sie werden (vgl. Philo, Leg. Gai. 366: “Wir hatten die Seelen nicht mehr in uns, sondern sie waren ὑπ’ ἀγωνίας herausgetreten, um den wahren Gott anzuflehen, …”).

In short, for Wolter attention to the syntagmatic connection of ἀγωνία with γενόμενος shows that the phrase means “als er in inneren Aufruhr geriet” (GV: 720) or “when he fell into inner turmoil” (ET: II: 479) rather than signaling that he is engaged in “victorious struggle,” “combat,” or “battle in prayer”.

Addendum: Luke 22:44 in the 2016 ESV Translation:

Not too long ago, there was a minor eruption in the blosphere when Crossway announced that “Beginning in the Summer of 2016, the text of the ESV Bible will remain unchanged in all future editions printed and published by Crossway—in much the same way that the King James Version (KJV) has remained unchanged ever since the final KJV text was established almost 250 years ago (in 1769)” (quoted from Scot McKnight; cf. Christianity Today).

While I did not follow this controversy in detail at the time, my work on Wolter’s commentary did make me sensitive to the change made in Luke 22:44:

2011: And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

2016: “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

While it is not exactly clear to me how the translators are interpreting this verse in the two cases, it seems to me that the 2016 translation might move a bit closer to Wolter’s understanding. However, if Wolter’s analysis is correct, it would probably be preferable to revise the 2016 ESV translation further and to translate γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ with “having fallen into inner turmoil” or “having come into inner turmoil” or “when he fell into inner turmoil” (Wolter II: 479) or “when he fell into inner agitation.” Moreover, since Crossway wisely ended up reversing its initial decision (see here), it is at least conceivable that they could reconsider their translation of this verse if the ESV translation is revised again in the future.

For a more complete list of changes that have been made to the ESV, see here and here.

For a small sample of the many blog posts on the controversy over the ESV’s initial statement about the finality of the 2016 ESV translation, see e.g. Anderson/Alsup, Kevin Antlitz, Denny BurkJoe CarterAmy GannettSusanna KrizoClaude Mariottini, Scot McKnightRachel MillerCarolyn MoorePorter/Yoon.

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

For interviews with me on my work, see here.

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


Torsten Jantsch on Jesus, the Savior: The Soteriology of the Lukan Doppelwerk

Since I have featured the work of Torsten Jantsch (Eng; Acad; Blog) on several occasions in the past (see here and here), I am especially pleased to include a post on his new book Jesus, der Retter: Die Soteriologie des lukanischen Doppelwerks (WUNT 381), Tübingen: Mohr, 2017, which is based on his LMU Munich habilitation thesis.

1. Translation and German Text (p. 351)

Even though this is not a “German Scholars Post” in the strict sense, I will include both a key excerpt from his book and a brief biographical note. As usual I will alternate between the English translation and the German text (p. 351):

Luke sketches a remarkably coherent picture of Jesus and his way from the prophet to the heavenly Christ, Lord, Ruler, and Savior.

Lukas zeichnet ein bemerkenswert kohärentes Bild von Jesus und seinem Weg vom Propheten zum himmlischen Christus, Herrn, Herrscher und Retter.

Jesus was active as Spirit-filled prophet and suffered the fate of the prophets of Israel, rejection and murder.

Jesus hat als geisterfüllter Prophet gewirkt und das Schicksal der Propheten Israels, Ablehnung und Tötung, erlitten.
* note: murder is not quite right for Tötung here, but it is perhaps better than “killing” or simply “death”

God, whose characteristic trait it is to exalt the lowly (Luke 1.51-53), restored the righteous and anointed servant of God Jesus, who had been lowered and killed, and exalted him to the Christ, Lord, Ruler, and Savior, who in and from heaven bestows his benefactions of the forgiveness of sins and following from this eternal life.
Gott, dessen Wesenszug es ist, die Niedrigen zu erhöhen (Lk 1,51–53), hat den erniedrigten und getöteten Gerechten und gesalbten Gottesknecht Jesus restituiert und zum Christus, Herrn, Herrscher und Retter erhöht, der im und aus dem Himmel seine Wohltaten der Sündenvergebung und daraus folgend ewiges Leben schenkt.

This will be visibly fulfilled at his parousia; in the time in between this Lord is accessible for believers in prayer.

Dies wird sich bei seiner Parusie sichtbar erfüllen; in der Zwischenzeit ist dieser Herr für die Gläubigen im Gebet zugänglich.

A fundamental statement of Lukan soteriology is: “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2.21/Joel 3.5).

Eine Grundaussage der lukanischen Soteriologie lautet: „Jeder, der den Namen des Herrn anruft, wird gerettet werden“ (Apg 2,21/Joël 3,5).

With this Luke sets forth the picture of a salvation that is consistently grounded in the person of Jesus.

Lukas entwirft damit das Bild eines konsequent in der Person Jesu begründeten Heils.

He does not, it is true, place the death of Jesus at the center of his soteriology – but the person of the exalted Savior.

Er stellt zwar nicht den Tod Jesu in das Zentrum seiner Soteriologie – aber die Person des erhöhten Retters.

Luke is the theology of salvation, which for him is to be obtained solely through Jesus as the Christ and Savior: He is the theologian of a consistently applied solus Christus.

Lukas ist der Theologe des Heils, das für ihn allein durch Jesus als den Christus und Retter zu gewinnen ist: Er ist der Theologe eines konsequent gedachten solus Christus.
* Not sure how to best capture the force of konsequent gedachten: consistently applied, consistently considered, consistently contemplated, consistently thought out, consistently applied, something else.

2. Biographical-Bibliographical Information

Torsten Jantsch, Dr. theol. from Humboldt University, Berlin, in 2009 with a dissertation on the concept of God in 1 Thess and 1/2 Cor, published as “Gott alles in allem” (1Kor 15,28): Studien zum Gottesverständnis des Paulus im 1. Thessalonicherbrief und in der korinthischen Korrespondenz (WMANT 129), Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener 2011. Habilitation in Munich (Ludwig Maximilian University) in 2015 on the concept of salvation in Luke-Acts, published as Jesus, der Retter: Die Soteriologie des lukanischen Doppelwerks (WUNT 381), Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2017. Hellenistic philosophies, particularly Cynicism, and the reception of Socrates from the beginnings (Xenophon, the early Platonic dialogues) until the time of the Roman Empire, the ancient ruler cult and prophecy in the Greco-Roman world were, among others, issues of his research so far. Several future research projects concern the perspective of collective memory in early Christianity, e.g. concerning the question of strategies of identity construction in Luke-Acts. Currently, he holds the position of Visiting Professor for New Testament II at the University of Munich (LMU).

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

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

Friederike Kunath and Preexistence in John

Like last week’s post, 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 her/himself and (II) some biographical-bibliographical information about the scholar in question.

Today’s German scholar is Dr. Friederike Kunath of the University of Zürich. In part 1 of this post I will provide an English translation and the German text of four key quotations from her 2016 book Die Präexistenz Jesu im Johannesevangelium. Readers whose interest is piqued by this post will also want to consult her own excellent summary of this book at the “Zürich New Testament blog” (see here).

I. The Preexistence of Jesus in the Gospel of John

WMC: “The sequence of the passages/places is not accidental but points to a chronological intensification, from John as a figure of the narrated time via Abraham through to the beginning of the world. Here one can see a course that runs backward through time, from the present of the narrated time to the beginning of the world. This chronologically opposite-flowing intensification runs parallel to the course of the narrated time of the Gospel of John and consequently forms an exactly contrary timeline.”

315: “Die Reihenfolge der Stellen ist nicht zufällig, sondern weist eine chronologische Steigerung auf, von Johannes als Figur der erzählten Zeit über Abraham bis zum Beginn der Welt. Hier zeigt sich ein rückläufiger Verlauf durch die Zeit, von der Gegenwart der erzählten Zeit aus bis an den Anbeginn der Welt. Diese chronologisch gegenläufige Steigerung verläuft parallel zum Verlauf der erzählten Zeit des Johannesevangeliums und bildet von daher eine genau konträre Zeitlinie.” (p. 315)

WMC: “The climax of the preexistence motif, the being-there of Jesus with God before the world, as the point that lies the farthest back in time, coincides with the culmination point of the narrative as a whole, the “hour.” Exactly complementary to this is the beginning of the motif. The Baptist is the chronologically closest point of reference, who even constitutes the beginning of the narrated time with his appearance and leads to the appearance of Jesus. While the narrated time between the Baptist and the death of Jesus lies about three years in the past, the preexistence motif goes back from the time of the Baptist to the beginning of the world.” [the intended sense is: to before the beginning of the world]

316: “Die Klimax des Präexistenzmotivs, das Dasein Jesu bei Gott vor der Welt, als am weitesten zurückliegender zeitlicher Punkt, fällt mit dem Kulminationspunkt der Erzählung insgesamt, der »Stunde«, zusammen. Genau komplementär dazu ist der Beginn des Motivs: Der Täufer ist der zeitlich am nächsten liegende Bezugspunkt, der den Beginn der erzählten Zeit mit seinem Auftreten sogar konstituiert und zum Auftreten Jesu hinführt. Während die erzählte Zeit zwischen Täufer und Tod Jesu etwa drei Jahre zurücklegt, geht das Präexistenzmotiv die Zeit vom Täufer zum Anfang der Welt zurück.”

WMC: “The supposedly central preexistence statement of John 1.1-2 proves here to be the passage/place that is most open for interpretation, which does not provide much that is concrete for the preexistence concept of the Gospel of John because of the absence of temporal and other references and also because of the joining with the Logos. … The topic of preexistence is developed successively in the course of the Gospel and it reaches its high point in Jesus’s farewell prayer, in connection with his departure and his glorification.”

366: “Die vermeintlich zentrale Präexistenzaussage Joh 1,1 f. erwies sich dabei als interpretationsoffenste Stelle, die wegen fehlender temporaler und anderer Referenzen und auch wegen der Verknüpfung mit dem Logos wenig Konkretes für das Präexistenzkonzept des Johannesevangeliums austrägt. … Das Thema der Präexistenz wird sukzessive, im Verlauf des Evangeliums entwickelt und es kommt im Abschiedsgebet Jesu, im Zusammenhang mit seinem Weggang und seiner Verherrlichung, zum Höhepunkt.”

WMC: “Preexistence is not simply placed in front of the way of Jesus as a temporal phase but it reveals itself with increasing intensity the more Jesus goes on his way. … However, the connection is not adequately specified by saying that Jesus was sent from his preexistence. The preexistence of Jesus becomes a way of knowledge, which goes hand and hand with the way of Jesus, won by the reader. The ideal reader (goes) along to the end of the motif and the end of the narrative and understands—guided by the Spirit—the depth of the way of Jesus that reaches back behind the creation.”

368: “Präexistenz ist nicht einfach dem Weg Jesu als zeitliche Phase vorangestellt, sondern offenbart sich immer stärker, je weiter Jesus seinen Weg geht. … Die Verbindung ist aber nicht damit hinreichend bestimmt, dass Jesus aus der Präexistenz heraus gesandt wurde. Die Präexistenz Jesu wird in einem Erkenntnisweg, der mit dem erzählten Weg Jesu einhergeht, vom Leser errungen. (D)er ideale Leser (geht) bis zum Ende des Motivs und dem Ende der Erzählung mit und versteht – angeleitet durch den Geist – die hinter die Schöpfung zurückreichende Tiefe des Weges Jesu.”

II. Biographical-Bibliographical Information

Born in 1982, Dr. Friederike Kunath studied German Language and Literature and Protestant Theology (and some History and Musicology) in Leipzig. She has been very much interested in the connection between linguistics and Bible Studies. She has worked with Prof. Ulla Fix in Leipzig (text linguistics), Prof. Jens Schröter in Leipzig and Berlin (New Testament) and Prof. Jörg Frey (Zurich). In 2016, she published her first book, an extended version of her PhD thesis, “Die Präexistenz Jesu im Johannesevangelium. Struktur und Theologie eines johanneischen Motivs” (BZNW 212, de Gruyter). Between 2010 and 2014 she has been the redactional assistant for the journal „Early Christianity“ (Mohr Siebeck).

She is currently working on her Habilitationsschrift about Ethics and Embodiment in Paul. Further fields or interest are writing development and mentoring and blogging (see http://schreibstimme.ch; see also here).


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

Michael Wolter and the Publication of The Gospel According to Luke – Volume I

As a way of celebrating the publication of this year’s BMSEC volume, The Gospel According to Luke – Volume I (1-9:50), which I have co-translated with Christoph Heilig, today’s “German scholars post” is devoted to Michael Wolter (Eng), Professor of New Testament at the Faculty of Protestant Theology at the University of Bonn in Germany and Honorary Professor at the Theological Faculty at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

As usual, the post will consist of 1) key excerpts from the book selected by Michael Wolter and 2) some biographical-bibliographical information about Michael Wolter.

Excerpts (alternating between the English and the German)

29: Luke writes his work with the knowledge that Christianity had been a supralocal entity spread throughout the entire Roman empire for many decades already. According to the witness of Acts, there are Christian communities not only in the eastern provinces of the imperium Romanum—i.e., not only in Syria and in Cilicia, in Galatia and in Asia, in Macedonia and in Achaia—but also in Italy and in Rome itself.

25: Lukas schreibt sein Werk im Wissen darum, dass das Christentum bereits seit vielen Jahrzehnten eine über das gesamte römische Reich verteilte überlokale Größe ist. Nach dem Zeugnis der Apostelgeschichte gibt es christliche Gemeinden nicht nur in den östlichen Provinzen des Imperium Romanum – d.h. nicht nur in Syrien und in Kilikien, in Galatien und in der Asia, in Mazedonien und in Achaia –, sondern auch in Italien und in Rom selbst.

29: It would certainly be completely inappropriate if one wanted to keep this knowledge away from the Lukan story of Jesus and restrict the horizon of its author to the boundaries of a single local Christian community. Beyond this, however, this circumstance makes it also very probable that the Gospel of Luke was written not only in the knowledge that there were Christian communities everywhere in the Roman provinces, but also that in the view of its author its content was also relevant to every single (Bauckham 1998, 1: “any and every”) one of these communities.

25: Es wäre mit Sicherheit ganz unsachgemäß, wenn man dieses Wissen von der lk Jesusgeschichte fernhalten und den Horizont ihres Verfassers auf die Grenzen einer einzigen christlichen Ortsgemeinde beschränken wollte. Dieser Sachverhalt macht es darüber hinaus aber auch sehr wahrscheinlich, dass das LkEv nicht nur im Wissen darum geschrieben wurde, dass es christliche Gemeinden überall in den römischen Provinzen gibt, sondern dass sein Inhalt nach der Meinung seines Verfassers auch für jede einzelne (Bauckham* 1: „any and every”) dieser Gemeinden theologisch relevant ist.

30: Finally, one can possibly even reckon with the fact that Luke imagined this readership not only as a synchronic entity but also as a diachronic entity. His narrative would then be intended not only for the Christians of his own time but also for Christians of future generations.

25: Und schließlich ist es möglicherweise sogar damit zu rechnen, dass Lukas sich diese Leserschaft nicht nur als eine synchrone, sondern auch als eine diachrone Größe vorgestellt hat. Seine Erzählung wäre demnach nicht nur für die Christen seiner eigenen Zeit, sondern auch für die Christen zukünftiger Generationen bestimmt.

30: That history writing could be guided by such a perspective is already recognizable in Thucydides, who composed his history of the Peloponnesian War “more as an enduring possession than as a masterpiece for current hearers” (… 1.22.4). …

25-26: Dass Geschichtsschreibung von einer solchen Perspektive geleitet sein kann, wird bereits bei Thucydides erkennbar, der seine Geschichte des Pelo-ponnesischen Krieges „eher zum bleibenden Besitz, denn als Meisterstück zum aktuellen Hören“ verfasst hat (…1,22,4). …

30: This does not mean, however, that with this expansion the picture of the intended readers becomes more diffuse, for with the Christian community of the Lukan present, Christian posterity enduringly shares the same characteristic feature that constitutes the identity of all intended readers, namely the foundation story of Christianity that Luke narrates in his “report.” For this story is also their story. …

26: Mit dieser Ausweitung wird das Bild der intendierten Leser durchaus nicht diffuser, denn mit den christlichen Gemeinden der lk Gegenwart teilt die christli-che Nachwelt bleibend ein und dasselbe Merkmal, das die Identität aller intendier-ten Leser konstituiert: die Basisgeschichte des Christentums, die Lukas in seinem Doppelwerk erzählt. Denn diese Geschichte ist auch ihre Geschichte. …

30-31: The Gospel of Luke is the first part of a two-part historical work that narrates an epoch of the history of Israel and thus belongs to the historical genre of “epoch histories” …

26: Das Lukasevangelium ist der erste Teil eines zweiteiligen Geschichtswerks, das eine Epoche aus der Geschichte Israels erzählt und damit zur historiographischen Gattung der „Epochengeschichten“ gehört …

32: Luke sees the special profile of this epoch, which makes the narrated time period into an epoch in the first place, as consisting in the fact that the sending of God’s eschatic salvation (σωτήριον; Luke 2.30; 3.6; Acts 28.28)—a sending that first took place through Jesus himself and then through his witnesses—was rejected by most of the Jews.

28: Das besondere Profil dieser Epoche, das den erzählten Zeitraum allererst zu einer Epoche macht, sieht Lukas darin bestehen, dass die Sendung von Gottes eschatischem Heil (σωτήριον; Lk 2,30; 3,6; Apg 28,28), die erst durch Jesus selbst und dann durch dessen Zeugen erfolgte, von den meisten Juden abgewiesen wurde.

32: Because, in contrast to this, the salvation of God was received by far more non-Jews, Luke can have Paul say with his last words in Acts 28.28: “And they will listen!” (αὐτοὶ καὶ ἀκούσονται…). …

29: Weil das Heil Gottes demgegenüber von sehr viel mehr Nichtjuden angenommen wurde, kann Lukas seinen Paulus darum mit dessen letztem Wort in Apg 28,28 sagen lassen: „Sie sind es, die auch hören werden!“ (αὐτοὶ καὶ ἀκούσονται …) …

33-34: The fulfillment of the promises for Israel therefore led to a separation process, which had as a consequence the fact that “Israel” received a quite peculiar form in the Lukan time. On the one hand, Luke views the Christian church as standing in the unbroken continuity of the history of the people of God Israel, for it now includes also the Jewish and non-Jewish Χριστιανοί, who were called this for the first time in Antioch according to Acts 11.26. The Χριστιανοί are all those believe that the promises of salvation given to the people of God are fulfilled in the sending and in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (e.g. Acts 13.32-39; 23.6; 26.6-8). According to the Lukan understanding, the history of Israel finds its continuation in the history of the church. On the other hand, those Jews who deny the Christ proclamation also continue, of course, to belong to Israel…

Die Erfüllung der Verheißungen für Israel mündete darum in einen Trennungsprozess, der zur Folge hatte, dass „Israel“ in lukanischer Zeit eine recht merkwürdige Gestalt bekommen hat: Zum einen sieht Lukas die christliche Kirche in der ungebrochenen Kontinuität der Geschichte des Gottesvolks Israel stehen, denn ihm gehören nun auch die nach Apg 11,26 erstmals in Antiochien so genannten jüdi-schen und nichtjüdischen Χριστιανοί an. Hierbei handelt es sich um all diejenigen, die glauben, dass die dem Gottesvolk geltenden Heilsverheißungen in der Sen-dung und in der Auferstehung Jesu von den Toten erfüllt sind (z.B. Apg 13,32–39; 23,6; 26,6–8). Nach lk Verständnis setzt sich die Geschichte Israels in der Geschichte der Kirche fort. Zum anderen gehören für Lukas natürlich auch weiter-hin diejenigen Juden zu Israel, die sich der Christusverkündigung versagen.

* For the Front Matter of Wolter’s commentary and existing reviews, see here. For Christoph Heilig’s post on this book at the Zürich New Testament blog, see here. For my other blog posts on this book, see here.

II. Biographical-bibliographical information

In this section I will provide two types of biographical-bibliographical information about Michael Wolter. First, I will translate a section (which I have selected) from Wolter’s chapter in Eve-Marie Becker‘s wonderful edited volume Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft. Autobiographical Essays aus der Evangelischen Theologie. Secondly, I will include some further information about Wolter’s biography and research (which he sent to me).

Excerpt from Neutestamentliche WissenschaftIn the years of the building and form-finding of a scholarly existence of my own I did not, to be sure, succeed in finding what characterizes many theological biographies: the lasting connection to a specific teacher or an embedding in the context of a certain school. This is especially recognizable in the fact that I— apart from the three years in which I was away with Klaus Berger in Heidelberg—gained two academic “fathers” with scholarly approaches to the theology that were separated by a rather great theological and methodological distance. My Heidelberg Doktorvater Erich Dinkler came out of the Marburg of Rudolf Bultmann, and, accordingly, he primarily made me familiar with the kerygma-theological program of demythologizing and existential interpretation. Very different my Habilitationsvater Otto Böcher. With him I learned that the mythical form of religious orientation of existence is not simply something that one has to interpret existentially in order to be able to begin something with it theologically but that it can and must be taken seriously theologically precisely also in its material objectification. Without any reservation both refrained from orienting their student to their own theological coordination system and to this day I remain deeply thankful to them for this.

Further Biographical-Bibliographical Information: Born 1950 in Hannover, Michael Wolter studied Protestant Theology in Berlin, Heidelberg, and Göttingen. He qualified in 1977 as Dr. theol. and worked from 1977 through 1983 as the editor of the “Theologische Realenzyklopädie” (TRE) at de Gruyter in Berlin. From 1983 through 1988 he was research assistant at the University of Mainz and attained there his habilitation in 1986. He taught Biblical Theology at the Universities of Aachen (1988) and Bayreuth (1988–1993) and New Testament at the University of Bonn (1993–2016). Since March 2016 he has been retired.

Michael Wolter is Honorary Professor at the University of Pretoria and Extraodinary Professor at the North-West University in Potchefstroom (South Africa). He is a member of the North-Rhine-Westfalia Academy of Sciences and Humanities. 2002–2004 he served as president of the Colloquium Oecumenicum Paulinum, and presently he is president elect of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (SNTS).

He was awarded the Hanns-Lilje-Prize by the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities in 1988, and in 2016 he received a honorary doctorate from the University of Athens.

Michael Wolter loves writing commentaries on New Testament writings. He has published commentaries on

Colossians and Philemon:

Der Brief an die Kolosser. Der Brief an Philemon (ÖTK 12), Gütersloh/Würzburg 1993

the Gospel of Luke:

Das Lukasevangelium (HNT 5), Tübingen 2008 (engl. trans. by Wayne Coppins and Christoph Heilig, Waco 2106/2017)

and Romans:

Der Brief an die Römer. Teilband I: Röm 1–8 (EKK 6/1), Neukirchen-Vluyn 2014

The second volume will be published in 2018.

Books on other topics include:

Rechtfertigung und zukünftiges Heil. Untersuchungen zu Röm 5,1-11 (BZNW 43), Berlin/New York 1978

Aus dem Archiv des Verlages Walter de Gruyter. Briefe – Urkunden – Dokumente, Berlin/New York 1980 [together with Doris Fouquet-Plümacher]

Theologie und Kirche im Wirken Hans von Sodens. Briefe und Dokumente aus der Zeit des Kirchenkampfes 1933–1945 (AKZ 2/2), Göttingen 1984 21986

Die Pastoralbriefe als Paulustradition (FRLANT 146), Göttingen 1988

5. Esra-Buch / 6. Esra-Buch (JSHRZ III/7), Gütersloh 2001 (translation and commentary)

Paulus. Ein Grundriss seiner Theologie, Neukirchen-Vluyn 2011 22015 (engl. trans. by R.M. Brawley, Waco 2015)


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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


Christoph Markschies and the Publication of Christian Theology and Its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire (BMSEC 3)


As a way of celebrating the publication of this year’s BMSEC volume, Christian Theology and Its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire: Prolegomena to a History of Early Christian Theology (cf. here!), today’s “German scholars” post is devoted to Christoph Markschies (cf. here), Professor of Ancient Christianity (Patristics) at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

For my other posts on this book, see here.

For my other “German scholars” posts, see here.

I. Excerpt Selected by Christoph Markschies

English Translation (page xvii-xix): By paying attention to the institutional contexts, I aim to avoid having only isolated segments of ancient Christianity come into view in this book, for example, by considering only a type of theology (e.g., the type that refers to the frames of reference of Platonic philosophy and shapes western Christian theology to some extent up to the present) or only a single region (Rome or precisely not Rome, depending on the confessional form) or only a certain social milieu (e.g., the social standing of those supported by communities and Christian teachers working in their educational institutions). For this reason, in the first main section of this book, I have especially directed my attention to the different institutional contexts in which Christian theologies were developed in the second and third centuries CE. I have investigated the development and change of such institutions and given consideration to public situations of communication—namely, pagan and Christian school contexts—but also, for example, the conditions at the great imperial and private estates. The differences and commonalities between Christian and pagan institutions are also dealt with, at least in the form of an overview.

German Version (pages 2-3): Durch die Beachtung der institutionellen Kontexte sollte vermieden werden, daß in diesem Buch nur Segmente des antiken Christentums isoliert in den Blick geraten, indem z.B. nur ein Typus von Theologie berücksichtigt wird (etwa der, der sich auf den Referenzrahmen platonischer Philosophie bezieht und in gewisser Weise bis heute abendländische christliche Theologie prägt) oder nur eine Region (je nach konfessioneller Ausprägung: Rom bzw. gerade nicht Rom) oder nur ein bestimmtes soziales Milieu (etwa der Stand von Gemeinden besoldeten und in deren Ausbildungseinrichtungen tätigen christlichen Lehrer). Deswegen habe ich in einem ersten Hauptteil dieses Buches mein Augenmerk besonders auf die unterschiedlichen institutionellen Kontexte zu richten versucht, in denen im zweiten und dritten nachchristlichen Jahrhundert christliche Theologien entwickelt wurden, habe die Entwicklung und Veränderung solcher Institutionen untersucht und öffentliche Kommunikationssituationen, pagane wie christliche Schulzusammenhänge, aber z.B. auch die Verhältnisse auf den großen kaiserlichen und privaten Landgütern in den Blick genommen. Auch die Unterschiede und Gemeinsamkeiten zwischen christlichen und paganen Institutionen werden wenigstens im Überblick behandelt“.

II. Biographical-bibliographical information

For Christoph Markschies’s publications, see here (English), here (complete), and here (academia.edu).

For audio-video material of Markschies, see here.

The following two paragraphs have been taken from Prof. Markschies’s webpage:

Research: “Ancient Christianity” with a particular focus on the intellectual history and history of ideas (history of Trinitarian theology), the marginalised movements of the majority church (so-called Gnosticism and Montanism), the transformation of the (Platonic) philosophy in Christian theology and the history of the body in Ancient Christianity within the context of other religions and movements. – The academic history of the discipline with a special focus on the Berlin faculty and the Academy of Sciences.

Academic Biography: Born in 1962 in Berlin, Christoph Markschies studied Protestant Theology, Classical Philology and Philosophy in Marburg, Jerusalem, Munich and Tübingen. He qualified in 1991 as Dr. theol., attained his habilitation in 1994 and, following professorships in Jena (1994-2000) and Heidelberg (2000-2004), has been Professor for Ancient Christianity at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin since 2004. He was President of this university from 2006 to 2010 and has been Vice-President of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of the Sciences and Humanities since 2012. He was awarded the Leibniz Prize in 2001.

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

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

Matthias Konradt and the Publication of Israel, Church, and the Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew (BMSEC 2)

As a way of celebrating the publication of this year’s BMSEC volume,  Israel, Church, and the Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew, today’s “German scholars” post is devoted to Matthias Konradt, Professor of New Testament Theology at the University of Heidelberg and Editor of the Zeitschrift für die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft.

The category “German scholars” seeks to introduce German scholars and their research to the English-speaking world. Each post consists of (I) a translation of a short passage from a publication submitted by the German author her/himself and (II) some biographical-bibliographical information about the scholar in question. For further information on this category, see here. For my other “German scholars” posts, see here.

Rather than including a grammatical analysis for this post, let me simply express my great admiration for Kathleen Ess’s elegant translation of this quotation and of the volume as a whole!

I. Translation

Israel, Church, and the Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew (p. 324; translated by Kathleen Ess): [T]he central aspect of the Matthean narrative program is to be seen in that the evangelist interlaced the missions to Israel and the nations with the development of Jesus’ messianic identity as the Son of David and the Son of God. The presentation of the Davidic Messiah’s ministry to his people is followed by the inclusion of the nations in salvation on the basis of the death of the Son of God for the “many” and the installation of the Son of God as the universal Lord, equipped with universal authority. Just as the universal dimension of salvation is indicated prior to Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus’ ministry in Israel, so too is Jesus’ identity as the Son of God presented before his portrayal as the Davidic Messiah. Jesus’ salvific death and resurrection, or exaltation, are for Matthew the kairos in which his divine sonship becomes a “public” topic, as does the universal significance of the salvation Jesus has brought about. The two soteriological horizons of the two commissions in 10.5– 6 and 28.19 are thus to be seen in connection with the narrative Christology of the Matthean Jesus story.

Israel, Kirche und die Völker im Matthäusevangelium (p. 347-348): Das zentrale Moment der matthäischen Erzählkonzeption ist … darin zu sehen, dass der Evangelist den Zusammenhang von Zuwen­dung zu Israel und Völkermission mit der Entfaltung der messianischen Identität Jesu als Sohn Davids und Sohn Gottes verschränkt hat. Nach der Darlegung der Zuwendung des davidischen Messias zu seinem Volk er­folgt die Einbeziehung der Völker in das Heil auf der Basis des Todes des Gottessohnes für die „Vielen“ und der Einsetzung des Gottessohnes zum mit universaler Vollmacht ausgestatteten Weltenherrn. Wie die universale Dimension des Heils als Vorzeichen vor Matthäus’ Darstellung des Wir­kens Jesu in Israel gesetzt ist, so steht die Gottessohnwürde Jesu als Vor­zeichen vor seiner Präsentation als davidischer Messias. Heilstod und Auf­erweckung bzw. Erhöhung Jesu sind für Matthäus der Kairos, an dem seine Gottessohnwürde ‚öffentliches‘ Thema wird und damit verbunden die uni­versale Bedeutung des von Jesus gewirkten Heils hervortritt. Die unter­schiedlichen soteriologischen Horizonte der beiden Aussendungen in 10,5f und 28,19 sind also mit der narrativen Christologie der matthäischen Je­susgeschichte in Verbindung zu bringen.

II Biographical-Bibliographical Information

The Gospel of Matthew developed as one of my main fields of interest quite early. At the end of my theological education at the University of Heidelberg, I had to write a thesis paper on the topic “Israel and Salvation History According to the Gospel of Matthew”. From that point on, the exegesis of Matthew’s Gospel has been my steady companion, although it took a backseat during my dissertation work on the Letter of James (University of Heidelberg, published in 1998 with Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht), my pastoral internship, and my postdoctoral thesis (Habilitationsschrift) on the concept of judgment in Paul (published in 2003 with de Gruyter). From 2003 on, I intensified my work on the Gospel of Matthew. One of the results was my monograph on “Israel, Church, and the Gentiles in the Gospel of Matthew”, published in German in 2007 with Mohr Siebeck. The monograph focuses on what I consider to be one of the most central problems for understanding the theology of the Gospel of Matthew—namely, identifying the cause for the transition from the Israel-centered, pre-Easter ministry of Jesus and his disciples to the universal mission post-Easter, and the relationship between the formation of the Church and Israel’s role as God’s chosen nation in Matthew’s concept. Contrary to the traditional interpretation, which suggests that Matthew advocates the replacement of Israel by the Church and—in keeping with this—of the mission to Israel by the universal mission, my thesis is that the Israel-centered and the universal dimensions of salvation are positively interconnected in the narrative conception, in which Matthew develops Jesus’ messianic identity as the Son of David and the Son of God.

After the publication of this monograph, I started to write a commentary on Matthew’s Gospel which will be published with Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht at Göttingen in April 2015, and as part of my participation in the project Corpus Judaeo-Hellenisticum Novi Testamenti I am preparing the volume on the Gospel of Matthew. My other projects include a book on New Testament ethics, a monograph on Paul’s life, letters and theology as well as commentaries on the Epistles to the Thessalonians and a commentary on Ephesians.

For a list of Prof. Konradt’s English Publications, see here. For a full bibliography of his publications, see here.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! Unfortunately, I have found it increasingly difficult to write a new post each Monday, but I hope to be able to write at least two or three Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.



Jens Schröter and the Publication of Jesus of Nazareth – Jew from Galilee, Savior of the World

As a way of celebrating the imminent publication of Jesus of Nazareth – Jew from Galilee, Savior of the World, today’s “German scholars” post is devoted to Jens Schröter, Professor of Exegesis and Theology of the New Testament and Ancient Christian Apocrypha at the Humboldt University of Berlin. For my other posts on this book, see here.

The category “German scholars” seeks to introduce German scholars and their research to the English-speaking world. Each post consists of (I) my translation of a short passage from a publication submitted by the German author her/himself and (II) some biographical-bibliographical information about the scholar in question. For further information on this category, see here. For my other “German scholars” posts, see here.

Prof. Schröter’s passage of choice comes from the original German version of Jesus of Nazareth, namely Jesus von Nazareth: Jude aus Galiläa – Retter der Welt, which Evangelische Verlagsanstalt has published in the attractive series Biblische Gestalten. It is now in its fourth edition.

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

I. Translation

Jesus of Nazareth (trans. W. Coppins and S. B. Pounds: p. 17): Jesus research since the second half of the eighteenth century has created important methodological and thematic presuppositions for an engagement with Jesus under the conditions of the modern historical-critical consciousness. It moves in the tension between historical reconstruction, which wants to know how it “really” was, and post-Easter construction, which regards this aim as unreachable and orients itself instead to the post-Easter faith witnesses. In both options we are dealing with radical solutions that are inadequate if taken on their own. Together, however, they give modern Jesus research a dynamic that shows itself to be extremely fruitful: the engagement with the sources presents a picture of the past that as a product of the present always remains, however, changeable, fallible, and incomplete. Therefore, historical research can never ground the Christian faith let alone prove its correctness. It can, however, show that this faith is founded on the activity and fate of a person, who can still be portrayed today, if not in every detail, then at least in important facets. In this way it makes a substantial contribution to the task of taking intellectual and ethical responsibility for the Christian faith in the modern world.

Jesus von Nazareth (p. 36): Die Jesusforschung seit der zweiten Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts hat wichtige methodische und inhaltliche Voraussetzungen für eine Beschäftigung mit Jesus unter den Bedingungen des neuzeitlichen historisch-kritischen Bewusstseins geschaffen. Sie bewegt sich dabei in der Spannung von historischer Rekonstruktion, die wissen will, wie es „wirklich“ war, und nachösterlicher Konstruktion, die dies für unerreichbar hält und sich stattdessen an den nachösterlichen Glaubenszeugnissen orientiert. Bei beiden Optionen handelt es sich um Radikallösungen, die für sich genommen unzureichend sind. Gemeinsam verleihen sie der neuzeitlichen Jesusforschung jedoch eine Dynamik, die sich als äußerst fruchtbar erweist: Die Beschäftigung mit den Quellen stellt ein Bild der Vergangenheit vor Augen, das als Produkt der Gegenwart jedoch immer veränderlich, fehlbar und unvollständig bleibt. Historische Jesusforschung kann deshalb den christlichen Glauben niemals begründen oder gar seine Richtigkeit beweisen. Sie kann jedoch zeigen, dass dieser Glaube auf dem Wirken und Geschick einer Person gründet, das sich, wenn auch nicht in jedem Detail, so jedoch in wichtigen Facetten auch heute noch nachzeichnen lässt. Damit leistet sie für die Verantwortung des christlichen Glaubens in der modernen Welt einen substantiellen Beitrag.

Selective grammatical analysis: seit is always difficult. “since” is a bit awkward but “from” is not always clear; instead of using “since”, I sometimes use “from … on” or “starting in”. I often translate Beschäftigung with “engagement”, though sometimes with occupation or the like. In sentence 4, we left dabei untranslated, but I sometimes attempt to convey it with “thereby”, “here”, “in the process” or “in doing so”, depending on the context. oder gar (sentence 4) has the force of “let alone” in English. nachzeichen has the force of “trace after” but “portray” is probably preferable for the sake of readability. We seem to have translated Verantwortung rather freely as “the task of taking intellectual and ethical responsibility”, presumably in correspondence with Prof. Schröter.

Bibliographical-Biographical Information

For more on Prof. Schröter’s research interests, projects, and publications, see his university webpage here.

For an up-to-date list of his English publications, see here.

From the very beginning of my studies on early Christianity and the New Testament I have been intrigued by the question of how the movement that started with Jesus and Paul quickly became an influential religion within the Roman Empire. My research began with an investigation of Paul’s self-understanding as a messenger of God and Jesus Christ who established lively relationships between “his” communities and God by bringing to them the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In a next step I turned to the earliest layers of the Jesus tradition. In this context the problem of “re-construction” of history came into my focus. For many years now I have been engaged with the methodological and epistemological questions of the relationship of the life and message of Jesus to its reception in earliest Christianity and with an approach to the past under the circumstances of the historical-critical consciousness.

Another area of my research is devoted to the Acts of the Apostles and the history of early Christianity. Here the problem of the relationship of the events of the past and their interpretation by the historians occurs again. My approach can be characterized as an attempt to understand Luke as “the first Christian historian” within the context of ancient Jewish and Hellenistic-Roman historiography and to elaborate the meaning of his historical narrative for a history of Christianity today.

Finally, I am also interested in the relationship of so-called “canonical” and “apocryphal” Christian writings and the emergence of the New Testament canon. Together with my colleague Christoph Markschies I am editing the “Ancient Christian Apocrypha” in fresh German translations and with new introductions. My specific viewpoint is directed towards the development of Christianity in the first two centuries as a multifaceted phenomenon, documented in a wide range of writings. I am convinced that it is important for Christianity to reflect on these beginnings even today.

For my other blog posts on Jens Schröter, see here .

For Schröter posts focused specifically on historiography, see here.

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

For tips on how to use this blog, please see here.

For two interviews with me about the BMSEC series, see Clifford Kvidahl and Michael Hölscher.

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