Oda Wischmeyer on Love as Agape

I have recently finished Oda Wischmeyer‘s excellent new book Liebe als Agape: Das frühchristliche Konzept und der moderne Diskurs (cf. Google Books), which does so much in less than 300 pages! Showing a remarkable breadth and depth of knowledge, Wischmeyer approaches the topic from multiple perspectives, including perceptive engagement with contemporary conceptions of love such as those of Julia Kristeva, Martha Nussbaum, and Benedict XVI in his encyclical Deus caritas est. In this way, she facilitates a dialogue between the treatment of love in the New Testament and the diverse discussions of love in our own time. For this post, I have chosen a short passage from her fourth chapter. As usual I will begin with the translation and then quote the original text.

Translation (wmc): Common to Paul and John is the interpretation of the death of Jesus as giving up the life for others, understood as the highest form of love. This form of giving up the own life as the highest expression of love undoubtedly forms the theological-christological center of the whole New Testament concept of love. Here in the inner-divine sphere the basic form of love is pre-formed and pre-suffered. When in John 1.1-3, 14, 18 and Philippians 2.6-7 the separation of the Son from the Father is addressed, which is formulated elsewhere as “delivering up (of the Son)”, and Jesus’s fate of death is interpreted as the love of God and of Jesus to human beings, we find ourselves at the center of the concept of love. Love and death mutually condition each other here, and yet in such a way that love and thus life gains the victory.

Liebe als Agape (p. 153): Paulus und Johannes gemeinsam ist die Interpretation des Todes Jesu als Hingabe des Lebens für andere, verstanden als höchste Form der Liebe. Diese Form der Hingabe des eigenen Lebens als des höchsten Ausdrucks der Liebe bildet zweifellos das theologisch-christologische Zentrum des gesamten neutestamentlichen Liebeskonzepts. Hier im innergöttlichen Bereich ist die Grundform der Liebe vor-geformt und vor-erlitten. Wenn in Joh 1,1-3.14.18 und in Phil 2,6f. die Trennung des Sohnes vom Vater angesprochen wird, die an anderer Stelle also “Dahingabe (des Sohnes)” formuliert ist, und Jesu Todesschicksal also Liebe Gottes und Jesu zu den Menschen interpretiert wird, befinden wir uns im Zentrum des Liebeskonzept: Liebe und Tod bedingen sich hier gegenseitig, aber so, dass die Liebe und damit das Leben den Sieg behält.

(Selective) Grammatical Analysis: Not sure if “giving up” is a good solution for “Hingabe”. I considered saying “his life” rather than “the life” (as often, each solution has its advantages and disadvantages). inner-divine doesn’t quite do justice to innergöttlichen but it still seems to be the best solution. Not sure if “vor-erlitten” is best translated with “pre-suffered” or if the sense is weaker, i.e. something like pre-experienced. I also considered translating “Dahingabe” as “handing over” or “giving over” rather than “delivering up”, which might not be a good word choice. I considered translating den Sieg behält with “prevailed” but it seemed important to retain the word “victory” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:55-56).

In other news, Oda Wischmeyer provides a fascinating analysis of N. T. Wright’s Biblical hermeneutics in her contribution to the forthcoming volume God and the Faithfulness of Paul (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

Eberhard Jüngel: Love is Still Able to be Intensified

As a preface to today’s post, let me note that I have recently discovered five promising German resources, which may also be of interest to readers of this blog: (1) In July 2015 the Johannes Guttenberg Universität Mainz will be hosting an International Summerschool on German (and) Theology; (2) the Conversational Koine Institute has announced that it will be offering a new Conversational German Class; (3)  the Goethe Institut has recently launched an online game entitled Lern Deutsch; (4) Alexander Sager has started a new blog on raising children bilingually, (5) finally, some German TV recommendations can be found here.

Today’s key quotation is taken from a recent interview with Eberhard Jüngel, which my friend Jay Weldon kindly drew to my attention.

German Text

Ich wende mich gegen eine Rede vom Jenseits, in dem alles “totaliter aliter”, in dem alles total anders ist. Dann müsste man ja schweigen. Das ist aber nicht die Einstellung der Heiligen Schrift. Hier greift das Modell der Analogie: Nicht “totaliter aliter”, wohl aber wird es “aliter”, also anders sein. Aber wie? Es gibt schon hier auf der Erde das Phänomen der Liebe in unterschiedlichster Gestalt. Weh dem Menschen, der das nie erfährt. Die Liebe, die uns widerfährt, wenn wir Gott von Angesicht zu Angesicht sehen, ist auch Liebe – aber gesteigert. Es gibt Phänomene hier in Gottes Schöpfung, die sind in der Ewigkeit steigerungsfähig: Lieben, Loben, Danken, Gemeinschaft.

English Translation

I am opposed to a speech about the beyond in which everything is “totaliter aliter“, in which everything is totally different. Then one would actually have to be silent. But this is not the outlook of Holy Scripture. Here the model of analogy comes into play: Not “totaliter aliter“, but it will be “aliter“, i.e. different. But how? There exists already here on earth the phenomenon of love in the most different forms. Woe to the person who has never experienced this. The love that befalls us when we we see God face to face is also love—but intensified. There are phenomena here in God’s creation that are able to be intensified in eternity: love, praise, thanksgiving, fellowship.

Selective grammatical analysis

For Jenseits I went with “the beyond” rather than “the hereafter”, since the latter shifts the force from place to time. In the second sentence I considered leaving ja untranslated but decided to render it with “actually’, which is hopefully on target. In sentence three I struggled with Einstellung and settled on “outlook” rather than “attitude” or “mindset”. I was uncertain how to render greift but opted for “comes into play”, which hopefully captures the sense. I am often uncertain about the force of wohl: sometimes it means “probably” but sometimes it seems to have a strengthening force so that the meaning is something like “surely”; I think the latter may be the case here, but I decided to leave it untranslated since the force was somewhat unclear to me. Though Gestalt is singular it seemed necessary to write “in the most different forms”. I was not exactly sure how to render das, which I translated as “this”, in the phrase der das nie erfährt. I am not sure if I have made the best choice in the translation of the key word gesteigert/steigerungsfähig: I settled on “intensified”/”able to be intensified”, but perhaps another alternative would be better such as “increased”/”able to be increased”? I chose to render Gemeinschaft with “fellowship”, though “community” might be preferable here.

Substantive analysis

I like this quotation, which I think conveys well something of the manner and content of Jüngel’s thinking. It allows one’s hopes for the world to come to extend beyond what one knows and experiences in this life, while connecting it to the best of what we experience in God’s good creation.

For more on Eberhard Jüngel, 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.