Top 5 Posts in 2014

I have very much enjoyed my first year of blogging and even more being part of the blogosphere community! So thanks to all who have taken the time to read this blog and especially to those who have encouraged me along the way.

For the last Monday of the year, I thought it would be appropriate to provide links to my 5 most popular posts from 2014. For links to other “top posts in 2014” posts, see here.

1. Jens Schröter on the character of every historical (re)presentation – with special guests Chris Keith and Anthony Le Donne

2. Hengel and Schwemer on Historiography and the Messianic Claim of Jesus: with special guests Jens Schröter and Dale Allison

3. Gerd Theissen’s Critique of the New Perspective on Paul

4. Always Choose the Stronger Word and Beware of False Friends: A Translator’s Memories of Martin Hengel (1926-2009) and John Bowden (1935-2010)

5. Volker Rabens, “‘Schon jetzt’ und ‘noch mehr’: Gegenwart und Zukunft des Heils bei Paulus und in seinen Gemeinden” (JBTh 2013)

Other popular authors-topics-series included Schröter/HistoriographySchröter/Jesus of Nazareth, Käsemann-Baur-LincicumFrey/John, Schliesser/Pistis, Markschies/Theology-Institutions-Canon, Wolter/Quirinius, Wischmeyer/Bibelhermeneutik,  Bultmann-Käsemann/Righteousness,  Koch/Septuagint, Jüngel/LoveKonradt/Matthew, Paulus Handbuch Series, German Scholars Series.

I wish everyone a great 2015!

For three interviews with me about the BMSEC series, see here, here, and here.

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! 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.

Udo Schnelle and Eugene Boring on “Geschichte”, “Historie”, and “Historik”: with special guests Jens Schröter, Chris Keith, and Brevard Childs

Today’s post will discuss a noteworthy quotation from Udo Schnelle on his use of the terms “Geschichte“, “Historie“, and “Historik“, which also includes an instructive translator’s note by Eugene Boring (= MEB). The following quotation is taken from Udo Schnelle. Theology of the New Testament. Translated by Eugene Boring. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2007, p. 27n5:

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

Analysis: This quotation is interesting for several reasons. From the perspective of the subject matter, it is noteworthy insofar as Schnelle recognizes the need to distinguish between two different concepts, namely between “what happened” and “the ways that historians attempt to determine what this was”, and decides to mark this distinction terminologically, namely by using “Geschichte” for the former and “Historie” for the latter. Jens Schröter makes a somewhat comparable move in distinguishing between “past” and “history” (see e.g. From Jesus to the New Testament, p. 98n12 and pp. 22-24), and in his inaugural lecture at St Mary’s University Chris Keith makes a related distinction between “the actual past”, “the (commemorated/received/inherited) past,” and the “present” (see here, esp. 14:22-16:44, 19:20-23:10, 25:18-30:22, 31:47-34:27, 36:21-39:15, 42:30-42:56, 44:00-46:03, 46:04-50:52, 56:32-57:22). Secondly, it is notable that Eugene Boring has difficulty maintaining Schnelle’s terminological distinction in his translation, which could be viewed as an argument against this usage. Thirdly, it is conspicuous insofar as other scholars distinguish between Geschichte and Historie in rather different ways, which is probably an even stronger argument against Schnelle’s usage. For example, in The Church’s Guide for Reading Paul, Brevard Childs writes:

“In a real sense, there is an analogy between his [Gerhard Lohfink’s] categories and those of Martin Kähler between Geschichte and Historie. Geschichte is the historical reflections on events and conditions carried on within a confessing community of faith. Historie is the attempt to understand events from an objective, scientific analysis, applying ordinary experience, apart from any confessional content, as the measure of its credibility” (p. 165; cf. Daniel Driver, Brevard Childs Biblical Theologian for the Church’s One Bible, p. 18).

[Similarly, David Jasper writes: “Historie is a description of how events actually happened; Geschichte is a description of what events mean, both to those who first experienced them and to us now. In other words Geschichte is also concerned with contemporary present-day experience. History is not just about the past; it is about the present” (A Short Introduction to Hermeneutics, p. 93, cited by Walter Moberly, Old Testament Theology, p. 92) and in this vein Karl Barth wrote “Not all history is ‘historical’ [Nicht alle Geschichte ist “historisch”]” (Church Dogmatics III/I:61-94, esp. 80; cited by Walter Moberly, Old Testament Theology, p. 92).]

With a view to all of these observations, I think that Schnelle’s attempt to distinguish terminologically between “what happened” and “the ways that historians attempt to determine what this was” is salutary, but I am not convinced that using Geschichte and Historie to do so is the best way forward, and I also have some reservations about Schnelle’s way of formulating the concepts that need to be distinguished. I find Schröter’s distinction between “past/events” and “history” preferable as a way of speaking about “what happened” and “what (ancient and modern) historians do” (without this being limited to the ways that historians attempt to determine what happened but rather related more closely to the ways in which historians represent the past in the present with reference to the sources that are available to us). If Chris Keith’s more differentiated terminology is drawn upon, then I think it works well to distinguish between “the actual past”, “the inherited past”, and “the present”, whereas I find it somewhat unhelpful to simply speak of “the past” with reference to something other than “the actual past” (even if this usage is widespread in social memory research) since this usage is likely to be misunderstood by many New Testament scholars (for my own confusion on this point and Chris Keith’s helpful clarification, see here: Part II: 41:54-43:50).

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

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

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

Jens Schröter on the character of every historical (re)presentation – with special guests Chris Keith and Anthony Le Donne

I was somewhat amused to see that Chris Keith stole my thunder on Friday by concluding his blog post on Jens Schröter with the same quotation that I had selected for this week’s blog post. But hopefully, this is more a case of “great minds think alike” than “Zwei Dumme, ein Gedanke”.

Like my other Schröter posts on historiography, today’s “key quotation” deals with the relationship between historiography and New Testament scholarship. It is taken from Jens Schröter’s discussion of “the historicity of the Gospels” in From Jesus to the New Testament.

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the (selective) grammatical commentary directly follows the German text. As a way of illustrating the different ways that a passage can be translated, I will include both Anthony Le Donne’s earlier translation of this passage in The Historiographical Jesus (thunder stolen once again) and my own translation in From Jesus to the New Testament.

The Historiographical Jesus, p. 75: “If every historical construction represents the relationship between event and story (even those that are written within the rubric of the historical-critical consciousness) then a contemporary portrait of Jesus cannot simply set aside the narrative representations of the person of Jesus in the Gospels. On the contrary, this portrait has to be related to these representations and be reconstructed within the rubric of contemporary epistemology. The outcome is not the ‘real’ Jesus behind the Gospels. The outcome is a historical construction which claims to be plausible within the rubric of contemporary epistemology.”

From Jesus to the New Testament, pp. 131-132: “If, however, every historical presentation presents a combination of event and narrative, including the kind that is composed under the conditions of the historical-critical consciousness, then a present-day Jesus presentation also cannot simply disregard the narrative representations of the person of Jesus in the Gospels. Instead, it has to orient itself to them and put them together anew under today’s conditions of knowledge. The result is not the ‘real’ Jesus behind the Gospels. The result is a historical presentation that claims to be plausible under current conditions of knowledge.”

Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament, 146: “Stellt jedoch jede historische Darstellung eine Verbindung von Ereignis und Erzählung dar, auch eine solche, die unter den Bedingungen des historisch-kritischen Bewusstseins verfasst wird, dann kann auch eine gegenwärtige Jesusdarstellung die narrative Repräsentationen der Person Jesu in den Evangelien nicht einfach beiseite stellen. Sie hat sich stattdessen an diesen zu orientieren und sie unter heutigen Erkenntnisbedingungen neu zusammenzusetzen. Das Ergebnis ist nicht der ‚wirkliche‘ Jesus hinter den Evangelien. Das Ergebnis ist eine historische Darstellung, die den Anspruch erhebt, unter gegenwärtigen Erkenntnisbedingungen plausibel zu sein.“

Selective Grammatical Commentary: Although I have translated “Darstellung” as “presentation”, it could also be rendered as “representation”, “portrayal” or “portrait” (Le Donne’s “construction” is more free, but I think it accurately unpacks what Schröter is saying). Here, I think it may be preferable to render Darstellung as “presentation” or “portrayal” so that it can be distinguished from Schröter’s subsequent use of “Repräsentationen”/representations. Similarly, “Verbindung” could also be translated as “linking” or “connection” rather than “combination” (Anthony’s “relationship” is also possible). The fact that the sentence begins with the verb “stellt … dar” followed by a subsequent “dann”, lets the reader know that we are dealing with an “if … then” construction. Anthony’s translation of “beiseite stellen” as “set aside” may well be preferable to my choice of “disregard”. As usual the verbs “verfasst wird” and “erhebt” are pushed to the end of the subordinate clauses in which they appear. I think that Anthony’s translation of “Ergebnis” as “outcome” is probably preferable to my choice of “result”. Although I prefer the word “contemporary” (Anthony) to “current” or “present-day”, I tend to avoid it since there is sometimes ambiguity about whether one means contemporary with the ancient or modern situation. I remain uncertain about Anthony’s translation of “unter den Bedingungen des historisch-kritischen Bewusstseins” as “within the rubric of the historical-critical consciousness” and “unter gegenwärtigen Erkenntnisbedingungen” as “within the rubric of contemporary epistemology”, but this may well represent an improvement on my rather wooden translation of these phrases.

Substantive Analysis: In this quotation Schröter makes clear that both past and present-day historical presentations of Jesus involve a combination/linking of event and narrative. In other words, past and present historical portrayals do NOT differ in this respect, but rather in the conditions of knowledge under which they are composed. On the basis of this view of the nature of all historical presentations/portrayals/representations, Schröter then argues against the practice of disregarding/setting aside the narrative representations of the person of Jesus in the Gospels and for an approach that takes its orientation from these portrayals, with the goal of putting them together anew under the respectively current conditions of knowledge. Against this backdrop, it would be interesting for me to hear more about the extent to which Schröter thinks that the presentations of Jesus in the Gospels could (or should) play a role in shaping present-day conditions of knowledge. I also think that it would be interesting to compare Schröter’s approach with that of Udo Schnelle, another German giant who has attempted to appropriate recent research on the theory of history into his scholarship (e.g., Theology of the New Testament and  Apostle Paul). So perhaps this could be a good paper topic for some ambitious young graduate student.

For a complete list of my Schröterposts, see here.

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

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

For three interviews with me about the BMSEC series, see here, here, and here.

Facebook Page: To receive notifications of future blog posts, please subscribe to this blog and/or like my facebook page here.

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.