Jörg Frey on the Historicizing Approach to Johannine Interpretation

Looking into the future, this week’s post comes from my übernächsten translation project, namely Jörg Frey‘s book Die Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten: Studien zu den Johanneischen Schriften I / The Glory of the Crucified One: Studies on the Johannine Writings I. For all my posts on this book see here.

Today’s key quotation continues my series of posts on Frey’s introductory chapter “Ways and Perspectives of the Interpretation of the Gospel of John. Reflections on the Way to a Commentary”. More specifically,  it comes from section 1: Five Classic Model of Interpretation, which provides an analysis of The Theological Approach (1.1.), The Historicizing Approach (1.2), The zeitgeschichtlicher approach (1.3), The literarkritische and Redaction-critical Approach (1.4), and the literaturwissenschaftliche or Narratological Approach (1.5). [Still need to think about the translation of some of these terms]

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the (selective) grammatical commentary directly follows the German text.

I. Translation

The Glory of the Crucified One (wmc): A second approach stands in a complementary relation to the first. It has largely disappeared from the scholarly discussion in the German-language sphere but it still occurs in ‘naive’ readings and it finds defenders time and again in conservative-evangelical circles, above all in North America. It is the historicizing exposition, which in the episodes reported in John and also from the Johannine speeches wants to see, almost without exception, information about the time and history of Jesus and thus reads the Johannine work solely with reference to the time and history of Jesus. … A thoroughgoing reading of the Johannine text in the horizon of the time and history of Jesus strikes upon insurmountable limits, and it appears that with some – not all – evangelical commentators deference to the public interested in the historicity of the biblical texts, to sponsors or the statements of faith of a specific teaching institution impairs too much the view of the freedom of the Johannine manner of presentation and thus a reflection on its problems that is appropriate to the subject matter and honest. One must, however, hold fast to the particula veri of the historicizing interpretation: According to its own claim, the Gospel of John is not a timeless and placeless ‘mythological’ presentation, but rather the narrated witness of the history of Jesus of Nazareth that is concrete and anchored in space and time – irrespective of the clear traces of post Easter and addressee-oriented shaping.

Die Herrlichkeit des Gekreuzigten (pp. 8 … 12): Ein zweiter Ansatz steht dem ersten komplementär gegenüber. Er ist aus dem wissenschaftlichen Gespräch im deutschsprachigen Raum weithin verschwunden, begegnet aber nach wie vor in ‘naiven’ Lektüren und findet in konservativ-evangelikalen Kreisen, vor allem in Nordamerika immer wieder Verteidiger. Er ist die historisierende Auslegung, die in den bei Johannes berichteten Begebenheiten und auch aus den johanneischen Reden Jesu fast durchweg Informationen über die Zeit und Geschichte Jesu sehen will und somit das johanneische Werk allein mit Blick auf die Zeit und Geschichte Jesu liest. … Eine konsequente Lektüre des johanneischen Textes im Horizont der Zeit und Geschichte Jesu stößt an unüberwindliche Grenzen, und es scheint, daß bei manchen – nicht allen – evangelikalen Kommentatoren die Rücksichtnahme auf das an der Historizität der biblischen Texte interessierte Publikum, auf Sponsoren oder die Glaubenssätze einer spezifischen Lehrinstitution den Blick auf die Freiheit der johanneischen Darstellungsweise und damit eine sachgemäße und aufrichtige Reflexion ihrer Probleme allzusehr beeinträchtigen. Festzuhalten ist freilich die particula veri der historisierenden Auslegung: Das Johannesevangelium ist nach eigenem Anspruch keine zeit- und ortlose ‘mythologische’ Darstellung, sondern das erzählte Zeugnis der konkreten, in Raum und Zeit verankerten Geschichte Jesu von Nazareth – ungeachtet der deutlichen Spuren nachösterlicher und adressatenbezogener Ausgestaltung.

Select grammatical analysis: (2) although it is weaker, I often use “still” for nach wie vor. In order to identify the object of findet one needs to look ahead to Verteidiger, which is at the very end of the sentence. (3) For historisieren I often use “historize” rather than “historicize” since the latter is a somewhat loaded word, but it seems like “historicize” might be preferable here, with the meaning of “treat or represent as historical”. I considered using “events” to translate Begebenheiten, but went with “episodes” in order to distinguish this term from Ereignisse. I translated fast durchweg as “almost without exception”, but “almost always” might be just as good or better.  (4) I am not sure if “deference” is the best translation of Rücksichtnahme…auf or if “consideration of/for” or another alternative would be better. sachgemäß is difficult: appropriate would be preferable with a view to readability in the target language, but it seems to me that something important is lost with this translation, so I adopted “appropriate to the subject matter”. “honest” seemed to capture the force of aufrichtig here, i.e., instead of alternatives such as “sincere”, “genuine”, or “upright”.  For beeinträchtigen I debated between impairs, negatively impacts, and compromises – I’m not sure why it is plural, unless die Rücksichtnahme is plural; even if it is plural, I think the singluar translation is correct in English.  I am unsure whether the force of Reflexion ihrer Probleme is “reflection on its problems” or “reflection of its problems”, but I think the former is correct. (5) It seemed appropriate to translate sondern as “but rather” here. I am not sure if “addressee-oriented” is an adequate translation for addressatenbezogener, but it was the best I could come up with,

Substantial analysis: As with my last post in this series, I am basically on the same page as Frey in his assessment of the historicizing approach. Specifically, with Frey I would like to affirm both that the Gospel of John is concerned with the concrete history of Jesus in space and time and that (to a greater degree than the Synoptics) this Gospel reflects post-Easter shaping and the life setting of the author and the author’s community at many points. I am, however, less comfortable with Frey’s attribution of some evangelical scholars’ advocacy of the historicizing approach to deference to institutions, sponsors, or statements of faith, even with his important qualification some – not all. It is not that I doubt that this plays a role in at least some cases, but simply that I think there is more to be gained by assuming/presuming the best of the vast majority of (conservative) evangelical scholars. In particular, while I assume that the diverse contexts and atmospheres in which scholars work shape our perspectives to a great extent and recognize that this sometimes makes scholars of various persuasions toe various lines, I also assume that evangelical scholars who hold to a more maximalist assessment of the extent to which John’s narrative can be situated in the life of Jesus do so because they remain convinced of the viability of this reading rather than that their view is (primarily or exclusively) determined by deference to others, just as I hope that evangelical scholars will give me the benefit of the doubt and assume that I have come to a different judgment in this matter because my sustained engagement with the texts and critical issues has led me to believe that this is the best explanation and not simply because I am am eager to be accepted by others who teach in a public institution like I do, etc. In short, I am hesitant to frame my difference of viewpoint in this matter to a difference in the extent to which I am “honest” or the extent to which I am “toeing a given line”, but I am in agreement with Frey’s assessment that strong forms of the historicizing approach face insurmountable limits and with his conviction that this approach does not do justice to the freedom of the Johannine manner of presentation. In other words, I am critical of this approach because I think it  ultimately fails to “Let John be John” (James Dunn).

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

Since my first published translations were of works by or about Martin Hengel, I am especially looking forward to collaborating with Brian Pounds on the translation of Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer‘s book Jesus und Judentum / Jesus and Judaism.Today’s key quotation is taken from the forward to this volume.

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the grammatical analysis directly follows the German text:

Jesus and Judaism (wmc): Since the historical quest for Jesus of Nazareth has been controversial since the 18th century and will also remain so in the future, we have placed before the actual historical portrayal extensive considerations on the course of scholarship and on the sources, which explain that in this it can be nothing more than “attempts to draw near”, which admittedly allow very clear contours of this singular figure to become visible. A special focal point is formed by the problem, which is widely misjudged up to the present day, of the messianic claim of Jesus, without which we cannot understand the accounts of the Gospels. The still ever so popular “unmessianic” Jesus never existed. This is shown by the comparison of Jesus with John the Baptist, his proclamation in “authority”, his “deeds of power”, the Passion story with its charge that he is allegedly “the King of the Jews”, and the emergence of the earliest Christology, which possesses its ultimate foundation in Jesus’ activity and way.

Jesus und das Judentum (p. V): Da die historische Rückfrage nach Jesus von Nazareth seit dem 18. Jahrhundert umstritten ist und auch in Zukunft bleiben wird, haben wir der eigentlichen geschichtlichen Darstellung ausführliche Überlegungen zum Gang der Forschung und zu den Quellen vorangestellt, die darlegen, daß es sich bei derselben um nicht mehr als “Annäherungsversuche” handeln kann, die freilich sehr deutliche Konturen dieser einzigartigen Gestalt sichtbar werden lassen. Ein besonderer Schwerpunkt bildet das bis heute weithin verkannte Problem des messianischen Anspruch Jesu, ohne den wir die Berichte der Evangelien nicht verstehen können. Den immer noch so beliebten “unmessianischen Jesus” hat es nie gegeben. Das zeigen der Vergleich Jesu mit Johannes dem Täufer, seine Verkündigung in “Vollmacht”, seine “Krafttaten”, die Leidensgeschichte mit ihrer Anklage, er sei “der König der Juden”, und die Entstehung der frühesten Christologie, die ihren letzten Grund in Jesu Wirken und Weg besitzt.

Selective Grammatical analysis: die historische Rückfrage nach Jesus von Nazareth is difficult. We would perhaps say “the quest for the historical Jesus”, but it would perhaps shift the meaning too strongly to shift “historical” from Rückfrage to Jesus. A wooden solution of the phrase might read: “the historical inquiry into Jesus” or “the historical question about Jesus”. But for now at least, it seemed preferable to split the difference and write “the historical quest for Jesus of Nazareth”: methodologically the translator is always forced to negotiate between the divided allegiances to the source and target languages. For Darstellung I sometimes adopt “presentation” and sometimes prefer “portrayal”. I think that “explain” probably captures best the force of “darlegen” here, though it sometimes simply has the force of set forth or present. I am a bit lost about how “bei derselben” is functioning and have therefore adopted the fuzzy translation “in this”: does it refer back to Darstellung? Ännäherungsversuche is difficult: possible options could be “attempts to draw near” or perhaps “attempts at approximation”. I have changed the active construction bildet das to the passive construction “is formed by” for the sake of readability and word order. I think “misjudged” captures the basic force of verkannte here. I have adopted the awkward solution of splitting up “the problem of the messianic claim of Jesus” and putting relative clause after “problem” (which is widely misjudged…) and the other after “the messianic claim of Jesus” (without which …). Other solutions would be to combine the relative clauses at the end (… which is widely misjudged … and without which …) or to retain the first as a participial modifier (by the still widely misjudged problem of the messianic claim of Jesus). On reflection, the latter solution might be preferable. Hard to say.

Substantive analysis: In reading this quotation I was reminded of several lines of thought that I have recently encountered in translating Jens Schröter’s book Jesus of Nazareth and in my reading of Dale Allison’s book Constructing Jesus. Like Hengel-Schwemer, Schröter begins his Jesus book with an extensive discussion of historiography and the sources (pages 1-42). Moreover, like Hengel-Schwemer, he stresses that pictures of the “historical Jesus” can “always only be approaches (Annäherungen) toward the world of Jesus and his activity and fate” (p. 246 in the English version; page 362 in the 4th edition of the German version). Finally, although he does not adopt the same position as Hengel-Schwemer with regard to the messianic claim of Jesus, he nevertheless makes the similar claim that “In contrast to what is sometimes assumed in scholarship the understanding of these two aspects cannot be divided into a “pre-Easter,” “non-messianic” activity of Jesus and a post-Easter emergence of faith in him. Rather, it becomes clear that impulses went forth from the activity and fate of Jesus that had a direct impact on the development of the early Christian faith.” (p. 176-177; p. 268 in the German version).  Though Hengel-Schwemer’s claim is stronger, their talk of “very clear contours of this singular figure” becoming visible reminded me, in turn, of the following line of thought in Allison’s Constructing Jesus: “I am not here contending for a naïve or robust confidence in the historicity of the Synoptics … What I do maintain is that the materials gathered into the Synoptics, however, stylized and otherwise distorted, descend from narratives and sayings that were in circulation and valued from early times, and that we may reasonably hope to find in those Gospels, above all in their repeating patterns, some real impressions or memories that, taken together, produce more than a faint image… Although barnacles cover the rock, we can still see the rock’s shape.” (p. 164)

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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 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.

Jens Schröter on the Areopagus Speech and Not Reducing Historicity to Facticity

Before turning to things German, let me begin this post by saying happy anniversary to my wife Ingie!

Whereas my posts from January 13, February 17, and March 17 dealt with Jens Schröter’s theoretical reflections on historiography, this post, like my posts from May 19 and July 7th, will focus more specifically on Jens Schröter’s perspectives on the historical value of Acts in From Jesus to the New Testament, which will presumably inform his forthcoming HNT commentary on Acts. Needless to say, I would be delighted if these posts would initiate/provoke a more substantive response to Schröter’s treatment of this topic by one (or several) of the many Acts specialists in the blogging community!

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the (selective) grammatical commentary directly follows the German text.

Translation

From Jesus to the New Testament ( p. 46): “This is not, of course, to claim that Paul actually delivered or would have delivered a speech such as that in Acts 17. In the sense of the aforementioned Thucydidean principle, the Areopagus speech can, however, be viewed as a composition that reproduces the ξύμπασα γνώμη of how Paul, according to the view of Luke, could have spoken in such a situation. Its programmatic character is emphasized thereby not only through the location, but also through its position at the center of the independent mission of Paul within the book of Acts. The Areopagus speech thus shows itself to be a configuration of the historian Luke, who links the activity of Paul with its historical consequences – the hardening of Judaism and the emergence of the Gentile-Christian church. Only on this foundation can the Lukan Paul and the Paul of the Letters be placed in relation to each other in a meaningful manner. The assessment that Paul, if he gave the speeches [correction: speech] reported by Luke at all, did not, in any case, give them [correction: it] in this way, would, by contrast, be a truncated understanding of historical reference – as would the opposite attempt, which is undoubtedly more difficult to carry out, to prove the actuality of the speech. Both models reduce historicity to facticity and thereby remain behind the aforementioned methodology-of-history insights.”

Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament (pp. 51-52): “Damit ist selbstverständlich nicht behauptet, dass Paulus eine Rede wie diejenige aus Apg 17 tatsächlich gehalten hat oder gehalten haben würde. Die Areopagrede kann jedoch im Sinne des oben genannten thukydideischen Prinzips als eine Komposition angesehen werden, die die ξύμπασα γνώμη dessen wiedergibt, wie Paulus nach Auffassung des Lukas in einer derartigen Situation geredet haben könnte. Ihr programatischer Charakter wird dabei nicht nur durch den Ort, sondern auch durch ihre Stellung im Zentrum der selbständigen Mission des Paulus innerhalb der Apostelgeschichte hervorgehoben. Die Areopagrede erweisst sich somit als eine Gestaltung des Historikers Lukas, der das Wirken des Paulus mit seinen geschichtlichen Konsequenzen – der Verstocken des Judentums und der Entstehung der heiden-christlichen Kirche – verknüpft. Erst auf dieser Grundlage können der lukanische Paulus und derjenige der Briefe sinnvoll miteinander in Beziehung gesetzt werden. Die Feststellung, Paulus habe die von Lukas berichtete Rede wenn überhaupt, dann jedenfalls nicht so gehalten, wäre dagegen ein verkürztes Verständnis von historischer Referenz – genauso wie der entgegengesetzte, zweifellos schwieriger durchzuführende Versuch, die Tatsächlichkeit der Rede zu erweisen. Beide Modele reduzieren Historizität auf Faktizität und bleiben damit hinter den oben genannten geschichtsmethodologischen Einsichten zurück.”

Grammatical Analysis

Rather than offering a selective grammatical analysis of the entire passage, I will skip over the first part and comment on the last part of the passage as a model sentence.

Die Feststellung (the assessment) is the subject. habe is subjunctive, which signals that Paulus habe … gehalten conveys what someone might say as their assessment or claim. Die … Rede is the direct object of “habe … gehalten”. It is singular and therefore should have been translated as “speech” rather than “speeches”(mea culpa). It is modified by the past participle (berichtete/reported), which is modified by von Lukas/“by Luke”. Wenn überhaupt [gehalten] = if at all, i.e., if [he delivered/gave the speech reported by Luke] at all. dann = then. jedenfalls = “in any case” or “at any rate”. “habe … nicht so gehalten” = delivered/gave [the speech/it] not in this way, which becomes “he did not give it [not: them!] in this way”. Die Feststellung + Paulus habe … gehalten (i.e., the content/expression of the assessment voiced by another) is the subject of wäre = “would be”. dagegen = by contrast. einVerständnis … is the predicate. The past participle verkürztes is easy enough to understand but difficult to translate: I opted for “truncated”. The adjective + noun historischer Referenz is dependent on von/“of” and is dative since von takes the dative. genauso wie = just as. der … Versuch/”the attempt” is the subject, which is complemented by the infinitive zu erweisen (the attempt to show/prove/demonstrate). erweisen takes the direct object die Tatsächlichkeit, which is modified by the genitive der Rede (“the actuality of the speech”). der Versuch is modified by“entgegengesetzte” and “zweifellos schwieriger durchzuführende”. As often, I retained the first modifier with the noun (the opposite attempt) and transformed the second into a clause (which is undoubtedly more difficult to carry out). I think that entgegengesetzte is the past participle of entgegensetzen, but I forget how to describe the grammar of durchzuführende. Beide Modelle is the subject of reduzieren (which picks up verkürzte in terms of content) and Historizität is the direct object. One reduces something to (zu) something else (here: Faktizität), which is dative because it is governed by “zu”. Beide Modelle is also the subject of zurückbleiben/“remain behind or fall behind”, which becomes bleiben … zurück. damit has the force of “with this”, but I often translate it with “thus”. Hinter/”behind” takes the dative object den … Einsichten/”the insights”, which is modified by the participle oben genannten (above mentioned = aforementioned) and the adjective geschichtsmethodisch, which I rendered as “methodology-of-history” rather than “historical methodological” (or the like) in order to make clear that these models are being criticized from the perspective of a certain approach to doing history.

Substantive Analysis

What I like about this point is that it shows how Schröter attempts to relate his theoretical reflections to the interpretation and evaluation of a classic issue, namely the relevance of the areopagus speech for thinking about Luke as an ancient historian. I think Schröter is probably right to argue against reducing historicity to facticity, which is not to say that questions about the facticity of a given event are unimportant.

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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.

 

Christoph Markschies on Portraying the History of Theology as a One-Way Street

Since I am now pressing toward the submission of my translation of Christoph Markschies’ book Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen: Prolegomena zu einer Geschichte der antiken christlichen Theologie / Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire: Prolegomena to a History of Early Christian Theology, it seemed fitting to include an excerpt from this work as today’s key quotation.

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the (selective) grammatical commentary directly follows the German text.

I. Translation and German Original

Christian Theology and Its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire: Many classical and present-day portrayals of the history of Christian theology describe the path of Christian theology as a kind of one-way street … I wish to designate this hermeneutical model as a “one-way street” because it basically starts implicitly from the present organizational form of scholarly theological reflection at universities and reconstructs the development of the history of theology from this endpoint as teleology. … Such a teleology, which—as indicated—starts implicitly from the present form of theological reflection, which is oriented to philosophical standards of rationality as its norm, must almost inevitably marginalize other forms of theological reflection as unimportant byways or even as unfruitful dead ends—and it is then left to general ecclesial or even societal trends to discover the relevance of these alleged byways and dead ends.

Kaiserzeitliche christliche Theologie und ihre Institutionen: (pp. 11-12): Viele klassische und aktuelle Darstellungen der christlichen Theologiegeschichte beschreiben den Weg der christlichen Theologie als eine Art von Einbahnstraße … Als „Einbahnstraße“ möchte ich dieses hermeneutische Modell bezeichnen, weil es im Grunde implizit von der gegenwärtigen Organisationsgestalt wissenschaftlicher theologischer Reflexion an Universitäten ausgeht und von diesem Endpunkt her die Entwicklung der Theologiegesichchte als Teleologie rekonstruiert. … Eine solche Teleologie, die – wie gesagt – implizit von der heutigen, an philosophischen Rationalitätsstandards orientierten Form von theologischer Reflexion als Norm ausgeht, muß nahezu zwangsläufig andere Formen von theologischer Reflexion als unwichtigere Seitenwege oder gar als unfruchtbare Sackgassen marginalisieren – und es bleibt dann allgemeinen kirchlichen oder gar gesellschaftlichen Modeströmungen vorbehalten, die Relevanz dieser angeblichen Seitenwege und Sackgassen zu entdecken.

II. Select grammatical analysis

One of the first lessons learned in German is that the verb occupies the second position in a sentence, which requires some clarification. It does not mean that the verb is always the second word but that it occurs as the second element in a sentence. Here, the first element is the rather lengthy phrase Viele … Darstellungen … der … Theologiegeschichte, which forms the subject of the verb beschreiben. I considered translating wissenschaftlicher as “academic” in this context, but stuck with “scholarly” in view of its broader associations (for further discussion of the translation of Wissenschaft/wissenschaftliche, see here).  As usual, the participial modifier an … orientierten in the phrase von der heutigen, an philosophischen Rationalitätsstandards orientierten Form von theologischer Reflexion has to be transformed into a relative clause: from the present form of theological reflection, which is oriented to philosophical standards of rationality

III. Substantive analysis

At first glance, it may seem surprising that Markschies structures the argument of the second major section of his book around three rather different institutional contexts, namely The Free Teachers and Christian Schools (2.1), The Montanist Prophets and their Circle (2.2), and The Christian Worship Service and its Prayers (2.3). Against the background of this programmatic key statement, however, his logic becomes much clearer. In short, once one has become conscious of the extent to which the “one-way street model” has influenced one’s approach to the material, it becomes evident that greater attention must be given to a diverse range of institutional contexts if one wishes to grasp something of the full range of the dynamics and forms that characterized the history of theology in the first centuries of Christianity.

For my other posts on Christoph Markschies, see here.

For a few audio recordings and videos of Christoph Markschies, see here.

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

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 Baylor-Mohr Siebeck 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.

 

Jens Schröter on Luke as an Ancient Historian and the Need for Differentiation in Assessing the Historical Value of Acts

Whereas my posts from January 13February 17, and March 17 dealt with Jens Schröter’s theoretical reflections on historiography, this post, like my posts from May 19 and August 25, will  focus more specifically on Jens Schröter’s perspectives on the historical value of Acts in From Jesus to the New Testament, which will presumably inform his forthcoming HNT commentary on Acts. Needless to say, I would be delighted if these posts, to which one more will be added, would initiate/provoke a more substantive response to Schröter’s treatment of this topic by one (or several) of the many Acts specialists in the blogging community!

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the (selective) grammatical commentary directly follows the German text.

English Translation and German Version

From Jesus to the New Testament, p. 224: “If we evaluate these findings, then it can be said that the presentation of Luke moves within the framework of what was expected from an ancient historian. He possesses knowledge about the areas concerning which he reports; sometimes chronological inaccuracies slip in; and entirely in the sense of Lucian he has shaped his presentation and in this way drawn a picture of the development of Christianity in the first decades. … It has been shown further that one cannot adjudicate the historical value of Acts in general but only in detail. Luke possesses variously detailed information and local knowledge about different stages of the narrated history, which possibly provides a clue to his own background, perhaps even to his participation in the events.”

Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament, p. 244: Werten wir diesen Befund aus, so lässt sich formulieren, dass sich die Darstellung des Lukas im Rahmen des von einem antiken Historiker zu Erwartenden bewegt. Er besitzt Kenntnis über die Gegenden, von denen er berichtet, mitunter unterlaufen ihm chronologische Ungenauigkeiten, ganz im Sinne Lukians hat er seine Darstellung geformt und auf diese Weise ein Bild der Erwicklung des Christentums in den ersten Jahrzehnten gezeichnet.  … Es zeigt sich weiter, dass über den Geschichtswert der Apg nicht pauschal, sondern nur im Detail befunden werden kann. Lukas hat über die verschiedenen Etappen der erzählten Geschichte unterschiedlich detaillierte Informationen und Lokalkenntnisse, was möglicherweise einen Hinweis auf seine eigene Herkunft, vielleicht sogar auf seine Beteiligung an den Ereignissen, gibt.

Selective grammatical analysis

wertenaus (auswerten) = evaluate. I usually translate lässt sich + infinitive (here: formulieren) as “can be x-ed (here: formulated/stated/said). Since it is a subordinate clause introduced by dass, the verb bewegt moves to the end of the sentence. von einim antiken Historiker qualifies zu Erwartenden, which goes with des: “of the thing that is to be expected” / “of what was expected from”. mitunter = sometimes, occasionally, or every once in a while. Rather than using “slip in” unterlaufen ihm could also be translated as “slip by him” (unlike Wolter, I believe that Schröter explains the Quirinus census as an example of such a slip). I have translated im Sinne as “in the sense of”, but it might be preferable to write “in the vein of” or “along the lines of” (for the related phrase in diesem Sinne I think “in this vein”, adopted from Kathleen Ess, is a great solution). Es zeigt sich could be translated with “it becomes clear” or “it is shown”, but here I think a past tense is needed to capture the intended sense. It might be preferable to translate pauschal in a more precise manner as “across the board” or “in a sweeping manner”, but it seems to me that “in general” might convey the intended sense more clearly. befunden werden (befunden) seems to have the force of “decide”, “adjudge”, or “adjudicate”. Here, I have changed the passive verb to an active formulation for the sake of readability.

Substantive analysis

Let me develop my comments on the importance of this quotation by Jens Schröter by setting it in relation to a statement by Richard Bauckham. In his important book The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple (p. 27), Richard Bauckham writes: “I do not think that everything in John’s Gospel can be verified historically in these ways. As with any other source, what needs to be assessed is its general reliability. (This is the best reason why commentators are either consistently skeptical of historicity in John or consistently inclined to accept it.) If the Gospel is judged trustworthy so far as we can test it, then we should probably trust it for what we cannot verify. That is ordinary historical method.” Without wishing to affirm or reject this quotation in its entirety, today’s key quotation by Jens Schröter leads me to believe that Bauckham’s fundamental statement on “ordinary historical method” probably needs to be further nuanced, at least in relation to the question of the historicity of Acts. In particular, I think it needs to be stressed that our “testing” of the apparent relation between events and narrative in a given work might very well reveal that the author possesses “variously detailed information and local knowledge about different stages of the narrated history”, so that our conclusions about the “general reliability” of a given work may need to include the observation that the author appears to be more or less “reliable” in relation to various aspects of the narrative, i.e. in terms of precision, accuracy, or both. My point here is NOT that Richard Bauckham himself would necessarily disagree with this line of thought, but simply that it needs to be made explicit if his statement about ordinary historical method is not to be appropriated in unhelpful ways.

 

 

Jens Schröter on the Need to Assess the Historical Value of Acts on Multiple Levels

Whereas my posts from January 13, February 17, and March 17 dealt with Jens Schröter’s theoretical reflections on historiography, this will be the first of three posts (see now here and here) that focus more specifically on Jens Schröter’s perspectives on the historical value of Acts in From Jesus to the New Testament, which will presumably inform his forthcoming HNT commentary on Acts. Needless to say, I would be delighted if these three posts would initiate/provoke a more substantive response to Schröter’s treatment of this topic by one (or several) of the many Acts specialists in the blogging community! Since today’s excerpt is  rather short, I will analyse it in greater detail as a model sentence.

As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the grammatical commentary directly follows the German text.

English Translation and German Original

From Jesus to the New Testament, p. 219: “No one disputes that Luke – as every other writer of history – has selected events and arranged them from a certain perspective. Likewise it is uncontroversial that he has made use of information about actual events, general knowledge about the places of the events, and knowledge about the political and military governance of the Roman provinces. If there is agreement about this, then the question of its historical value arises on multiple levels: How precise is Luke’s knowledge of circumstances and the course of narrated events? How well informed about the local color of the respective areas? And finally: How are his intentions and his manner of presentation to be described? In order to characterize Acts as a work of history, one must carefully distinguish between these levels.”

Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament, p. 239: „Niemand bestreitet, dass Lukas – wie jeder andere Geschichtsschreiber auch – Ereignisse ausgewählt und aus einer bestimmten Perspektive gestaltet hat. Ebenso ist unstrittig, dass er dabei Informationen über tatsächliche Ereignisse, allgemeines Wissen über die Orte des Geschehens sowie Kenntnisse über die politische und militärische Verwaltng der römischen Provinzen verarbeitet hat. Herrscht hierüber Einigkeit, so stellt sich die Frage nach dem Geschichtswert auf mehrfacher Ebene: Wie genau kennt Lukas Umstände und Verlauf der erzählten Ereignisse? Wie gut ist er über das Lokalkolorit der jeweiligen Gegenden informiert? Und schließlich: Wie sind seine Intention und seine Darstellungsweise zu beschreiben? Um die Apg als Geschichtswerk zu charakterisieren, ist zwischen diesen Ebenen sorgfältig zu unterscheiden.“

Grammatical analysis

Niemand is the subject and bestreitet the verb. dass introduces the content of what is not disputed. Lukas is the subject. wie = as. jeder anderer = every other. I have left auch untranslated, but I could have written: as every other writer of history “also”. Since dass introduces a subordinate clause the verbs move to the end of the sentence; hat goes with both ausgewält and gestaltet. Ereignisse/events is the direct object of ausgewält hat/selected and the prepositional phrase (aus + dative) aus einer bestimmten Perspektive/from a certain perspective modifies gestaltet hat/arranged. gestaltet could also be translated as “configured”. Ebenso = likewise; unstrittig = uncontroversial; dass introduces the content that is “uncontroversial” and the verb verarbeitet hat. I sometimes translate verarbeiten as “processed” or “reworked”, but here I translated it as “made use of”. Er/he is the subject. It is often best to leave dabei untranslated as I have done here, but I sometimes translate it as “here”, “in doing so”, “in the process”, or “thereby”. Informationen, allgemeines Wissen, and Kenntnisse are the direct objects of verarbeiten hat, and all three direct objects are modified with prepositional phrases that use über, which I have translated with “about” here, though “concerning” or “on” would have worked also. the adjectives tatsächliche/actual and allgemeines/general modify  Ereignisse/events and Wissen, which are both governed by über. The genitive des Geschehens modifies die Orte, which is also governed by über. The adjectives politische/political and militärische/military modify Verwaltung/governance. The genitive der römischen Provinzen indicates what is governed. Verwaltung could also be translated as “administration”. Herrscht stands at the beginning of the sentence, and so is encountered later. I believe that this signals to the reader that it should be translated as “if … then” though I’m not quite sure here. Einigkeit/agreement is the subject of herrscht and hierüber/about this specifies what their is agreement about. Rather than saying “if agreement rules (or prevails) about this” I have conformed the translation to the target language and written “if there is agreement about this” (“if there is consensus on this point” would also have worked). stellt sich die Frage can be translated as “the question arises”, literally “the question poses itself”. Frage nach can be translated as “question of” or sometimes “quest for” (as in Frage nach dem historischen Jesus). dem Geschichtswert = historical value (dative with nach). auf mehrfacher Ebene/on multiple levels (dative with auf). Introducing a question, wie genau/how exactly modifies the verb kennt, which is followed by the subject Lukas. Umstände/circumstances [or conditions] and Verlauf/course are the direct objects of the verb kennt. The genitive construction der erzählten Ereignisse/of the narrated events modifies both Umstände and Verlauf. Introducing a question, wie gut/how well modifies the verb ist … informiert. er is the subject. über/about takes the accusative das Lokalkolorit, which is modified by the genitive der Gegenden/areas {or regions]. It often works to translate jeweiligen as “respective” or “each”. Und schliesslich = and finally. Introducing a question, wie/how modifies the verb sind … beschreiben. sind + infinitive is often best translated “must be described”, though “are … to be described” or “should … be described” are sometimes better. Intention is singular rather than plural, so perhaps I should have translated it as “intention” rather than “intentions”. I think Intention and Darstellung are technically the subjects of sind … zu beschreiben, but am not really sure how to explain the nuts and bolts of this construction properly. Um .. zu + infinitive/charakterisieren = in order to characterize. Apg/Acts is the object and I think als Geschichtswerk/as a work of history could be described as an object complement. ist … zu + infinitive/unterscheiden: one must distinguish. zwischen diesen Ebenen/between these levels (dative plural with zwischen). The adverb sorgfältig/carefully modifies the verb unterscheiden.

Substantive analysis

What I like about this quotation from Schröter is that it seeks to distinguish between several specific questions that have a bearing on how one thinks about the historical value of Acts. Whereas scholars sometimes proceed as if one must choose between “Luke the theologian” and “Luke the historian”, Schröter’s distinction between various levels makes it possible to provide a more nuanced account of Luke’s intention, manner of presentation, and knowledge of various circumstances, events, and areas.

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.

 

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.

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

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.

Rehabilitating F. C. Baur with Jens Schröter and Matthew Hopper

While looking through my Mohr Siebeck catalogue, I was pleased to learn of a forthcoming volume entitled Ferdinand Christian Baur und die Geschichte des frühen Christentums (eds. Martin Bauspiess, Christof Landmesser, and David Lincicum). Sharing David Lincicum’s high estimation of Baur’s importance (see here; cf. here, here, and here), this post will attempt to prepare the way for this forthcoming volume by “rehabilitating” Baur in two respects, namely (1) in relation to his pioneering appropriation of historiographical insights and (b) in relation to his relationship to Hegel. To do so, I will take my initial orientation from two quotations from Jens Schröter’s book Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament / From Jesus to the New Testament.

1) Baur and Historiography

From Jesus to the New Testament (p. 320): “These exegetical-historical conclusions were obtained on the basis of the conviction that historical individual-appearances can only be understood by discovering their inner connection. As isolated individual phenomena, by contrast, they remain mute. In early Christianity, Baur saw such a connection in the opposition between Pauline and Petrine parties, whose views were then conciliated with each other. Even if this view was subsequently clearly differentiated with regard to the positions represented in early Christianity, the lasting significance of Baur lies in the thoroughgoing application of the principles of historical research to the beginnings of Christianity. He thereby laid the methodological foundations for all subsequent conceptions of a history of Christianity.” (cf. pp. 15-18, 27, 29, 31, 39, 319-21).

Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament ( p. 346): “Diese exegetisch-historischen Ergebnisse sind auf der Grundlage der Überzeugung gewonnen, das geschichtliche Einzelerscheinungen nur dadurch verstanden werden können, dass man ihren inneren Zusammenhang aufdeckt. Als isolierte Einzelphänomene bleiben sie dagegen stumm. Im Urchristentum sah Baur einen solchen Zusammenhang im Gegenüber der paulinischen und petrinischen Partei, deren Auffassungen dann miteinander vermittelt worden seien. Auch wenn diese Sicht im Blick auf die im Urchristentum vertretenen Positionenen später deutlich ausdifferenziert wurde, liegt die bleibende Bedeutung Baurs darin, die Prinzipien historischer Forschung konsequent auf die Anfänge des Christentums angewandt zu haben. Er hat damit die methodischen Grundlagen für alle späteren Entwürfe einer Geschichte des Urchristentum gelegt.”

2) Baur and Hegel

From Jesus to the New Testament (p. 320n6): “By contrast it is inappropriate, as unfortunately often occurs, to dismiss Baur’s contribution with the observation that he forced Hegel’s philosophy of history onto the history of early Christianity. The article on the Corinthian Letters, in which he submitted his view for the first time, was written before Baur became familiar with Hegel’s writings. Cf. Hodgson 1966, 22.”

Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament   (p. 346n6): “Dagegen ist es unangemessen, was leider oft geschieht, Baurs Beitrag mit dem Hinweis abzutun, er habe der Geschichte des Urchristentums Hegels Geschichtsphilosophie aufgezwungen. Der Aufsatz über die Korintherbriefe, in dem er seine Sicht zum ersten Mal vorlegte, wurde geschrieben, bevor Baur mit Hegels Schriften bekannt wurde. Vgl. Hodgson, Historical Theology, 22.”

3) Substantive Analysis

My purpose here is not to rehabilitate Baur at every point. On the contrary, I think that fundamental aspects of his project have rightly been called into question. I do, however, think that it is unhelpful when a towering figure like Baur is set aside with dismissive slogans rather than engaged with in a critical and constructive manner. Against this background, I was somewhat frustrated to read the following statement in David Wenham’s forward to the important work Earliest Christian History: History, Literature, and Theology: Essays from the Tyndale Fellowship in Honour of Martin Hengel (eds. M. Bird and J. Maston): “Baur’s Hegelian analysis of the history of early Christianity and of the New Testament as a conflict between the Jewish Christianity of Peter and others and the Hellenistic Christianity of Paul was very influential, very damaging to traditionally orthodox Christian faith, but deeply flawed, as has been almost universally recognized since” (my emphasis). And I experienced comparable disappointment upon reading the similar statement of Daniel B. Wallace in his otherwise enjoyable blog post in memory of Martin Hengel: “These 19th-century scholars, especially Baur, applied Hegelian dialectic to New Testament studies (i.e., thesis vs. antithesis, struggling with each other end up resulting in a synthesis of both). Baur had been one of Hegel’s students; he applied this dialectic to the authorship of the NT writings, resulting in seeing only four authentic letters by Paul and seeing John as written sometime after 160 CE” (my emphasis). The problem with these quotations is not that Baur is beyond reproach. He is not! The problem is that Baur’s contribution is too quickly sloganized and dismissed by means of a somewhat inaccurate – or at least grossly oversimplified – attribution of his views to the influence of Hegel, which inevitably prevents the productive aspects of his approach from being appreciated and appropriated, for example his appropriation of advances in historiography (cf. FJNT, p.16). In fact, it could be added that in this respect F. C. Baur and Martin Hengel could be compared rather than contrasted with each other (cf. Hengel, “Eye-Witness Memory and the Writing of the Gospels”, pp. 93-95)! Let me conclude by noting that my own stance toward Baur was greatly shaped through my supervision of Matthew Hopper’s learned and spirited MA Thesis “Historical Theology as the Crossroads of Faith and Reason: The Contribution of Ferdinand Christian Baur”, which he completed in 2008. While my enthusiasm for Baur does not extend as far as my student’s, I remain indebted to Mathew Hopper for giving me a much greater appreciation for this Tübingen giant. Needless to say, I look forward to learning more about Baur’s achievements and shortcomings from the forthcoming volume Ferdinand Christian Baur und die Geschichte des frühen Christentums.

For some other posts on F. C. Baur in the blogosphere, see here.

For my other posts on Jens Schröter and historiography, 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 two interviews with me about the Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Series, see Clifford Kvidahl and Michael Hölscher.

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.

Jens Schröter on the Differences between Historical and Literary Narratives

In connection with my other Schröter posts on historiography, this “key quotation” on historiography and New Testament scholarship will be taken from the 10th chapter of Jens Schröter’s book Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament/From Jesus to the New Testament, namely Luke as Historiographer.  As usual I will begin with the English translation so that the (selective) grammatical commentary directly follows the German text.

From Jesus to the New Testament, p. 215: “The joining of historical material and interpretive presentation is thus a constitutive characteristic for every presentation of history. The differences between historical and literary narratives lie, however, in the ‘documentary’ aim of the former, which is oriented to the securing of the traces from the past. This distinguishes it from novelistic presentations, which on the basis of their genre already show themselves to be works that are not obligated to a critical processing of the source material. The task of historiographic works, by contrast, can be described as ‘representation’ (Repräsentanz), insofar as the historical narrative stands for the past in the present on the basis of the historical material.”

Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament, p. 234: „Die Verknüpfung von historischem Material und interpretierender Darstellung ist somit ein für jede Geschichtsdarstellung konstitutives Merkmal. Die Differenzen zwischen historischer und literarischer Erzählung liegen indes in der ‚dokumentarischen‘, an der Sicherung der Spuren aus der Vergangenheit orientierten Ausrichtung der Ersteren. Dies unterscheidet sie vom romanhaften Darstellungen, die sich bereits von der Gattung her als Werke zu erkennen geben, die nicht auf eine kritische Aufbereitung des Quellenmaterials verpflichtet sind. Die Aufgabe historiographischer Werke lässt sich dagegen als ‚Repräsentanz‘ beschreiben, insofern die historische Erzählung auf der Basis des historischen Materials die Vergangenheit in der Gegenwart vertritt.“

(Selective) Grammatical Commentary:  “Verknüpfung” has the force of “joining”, “linking”, “connecting” or “combination”. “Darstellung” could be translated as presentation, representation, or portrayal. “somit” can often be translated as “thus”; “therefore” or “consequently” could also be good options here. Instead of “a constitutive characteristic for every presentation of history” it might have been better/clearer to translate the German phrase as “a characteristic (or feature) that is constitutive for every presentation of history”.  “Ausrichtung is modified by ‘dokumentarischen’ and “orientierten”, and the phrase “an der Sicherung der Spuren aus der Vergangenheit” is dependent upon “orientierten” – a good example of syntax that is difficult to follow and even more difficult to translate! One obviously cannot write: “in the documentary, to-the- securing-of-the-traces-of-the-past oriented aim of the former. The translation of “Ausrichtung” as “aim” is perhaps not ideal. Normally, “orientation” is a good solution, but this would be awkward here since it is followed by the word “oriented”. “Focus” or “direction” might be workable options, but aim is probably just as good or better.  “zu erkennen geben” has the force of “show themselves to be” or “reveal themselves to be” – as usual the verb is moved to the end of the subordinate clause. “lässt sich … + infinitive” has the force of “can be verb-ed” (here: can be described). “Dagegen” can be translated as “by contrast”, “however,” or “whereas” depending on the context. In FJNT I chose to translate “Repräsentanz” as “representation” and “Vertretung” as “standing for” (p. 90), and I have consequently translated “vertritt” as “stand for” here. But if my memory hold true, I believe that Ricoeur’s translators take the opposite tack in Time and Narrative, i.e., they translate “Repräsentanz” as “standing for” and “Vertretung” as “representation”.

Substantive Analysis: This paragraph captures well the nuanced position that Schröter is trying to develop. On the one hand, he is concerned to highlight the epistemological inadequacy of the “Aristotelian opposition between history writing, which transmits what happened, and literature (or poetry), which fabricates what could have been” (FJNT, p. 13). On the other hand, he is concerned here to stress that it is still possible to identify differences between historical narratives and literary narratives or novelistic presentations, namely with reference to the obligation to a critical processing of the source material. Finally, Ricoeur’s category of “representation” is taken up as a valuable concept for communicating Schröter’s nuanced view of the task of historiographic works (see further FJNT, index: Ricouer).

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