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.

 

Markus Öhler, “Das ganze Haus. Antike Alltagsreligiosität und die Apostelgeschichte”, ZNW 102, 2011, 201-234

This post falls under one of my favorite categories on this blog, namely “German scholars”. The purpose of this category is to introduce junior and senior German scholars and their research to the English-speaking world. Each post will consist of (I) my translation of a short passage from a publication submitted by the German author him/herself 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.

Today’s “German scholar” is Prof. Markus Öhler of the University of Vienna. As his passage of choice, Prof. Öhler has submitted an excerpt from the following work: “Das ganze Haus. Antike Alltagsreligiosität und die Apostelgeschichte”, ZNW 102, 2011, 201-234. See further here.

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

I. Translation

English Translation (wmc): “Thus, also in places where a pagan household turned completely to faith in God and Christ, as in the case of the prison guard of Philippi, it is implied for Luke and his readers that this left its mark also on the house as a building and the religious daily life that took place therein. Cultic images and house altars were expelled, the daily rites for Hestia, Zeus, and the Agathos Daimon were abandoned, the gods of the family that had been revered for generations were rejected as idols. Thus, the household as religious paradigm is characterized by the fact that in it the faith in the Kurios Christ pre-given by the head of the household is lived out in daily life. Thus the religious experience of the community realizes itself in the non-public sphere of the house and the family, which thus becomes the cult fellowship for God and Christ.”

„Das Ganze Haus“ (p. 234): „So wird auch dort, wo wie im Fall des Gefängniswärters von Philippi eine pagane Hausgemeinschaft sich vollständig dem Glauben an Gott und Christus zuwandte, für Lukas und seine Leser und Leserinnen impliziert sein, dass dies auch am Haus als Gebäude und dem sich darin vollziehenden religiösen Alltag nicht spurlos vorüberging. Kultbilder und Hausaltäre wurden hinausgeschafft, die täglichen Riten für Hestia, Zeus und den Agathos Daimon aufgegeben, die seit Generationen verehrten Götter der Familie als Götzen abgelehnt. Die Hausgemeinschaft als religiöses Paradigma zeichnet sich also dadurch  aus, dass in ihr der durch den Haushaltsvorstand vorgegebene Glaube an den Kyrios Christos im Alltag gelebt wird. Damit vollzieht sich das religiöse Erleben der Gemeinde im nicht-öffentlichen Bereich des Hauses und der Familie, die damit zur Kultgemeinschaft für Gott und Christus wird.“

Selective Grammatical Analysis: “So wird auch dort … impliziert sein, dass” is the basic building block of the difficult first sentence. It means „Thus it is implied also there that”. Since, however, “there, where” does not really work as a translation for “dort, wo” in English, I have translated “dort, wo” with “in places where”. Another common solution to this problem is to use “when” instead of “where”, which is more idiomatic. “am Haus … nicht spurlos vorüberging” could be translated literally as “did not pass by the house … without a trace”, but I decided to render it more idiomatically as “left its mark also upon the house…”. “zeichnet sich dadurch aus, dass” could also be translated with “is distinguished by the fact that” instead of “is characterized by the fact that”. I am uncertain how to translate “durch den Haushaltsvorstand vorgegebene Glaube”: I opted for the wooden “faith … pre-given by the head of the household”, though “prescribed by the head of the household” might be preferable, unless it shifts the meaning too much. I am uncertain whether “cult fellowship” is an adequate translation for “Kultgemeinschaft“. Other options might be “cultic fellowship” or “cult community”.

II. Biographical-Bibliographical Information about Markus Öhler

In the context of my PhD dissertation I especially dealt with the Jesus tradition (Elia im Neuen Testament, 1997). In my Habilitation, I then turned my attention to the history of early Christianity (Barnabas, 2003). Since then I have focused on two main areas of research. First, I have occupied myself with the social history of early Christianity, with an emphasis on the understanding of early Christian communities as a type (Spielart) of Greco-Roman associations (for example with regard to table fellowship and setting in houses). Secondly, I have focused on explaining early Christianity as part of Hellenistic-Roman history of religions, with a focus at present on religiosity in daily life. I teach New Testament in all its breadth for BA, MA, and PhD students at the Protestant Faculty of Theology of the University of Vienna where I studied and have remained, apart from a two-year research period in Tübingen. From the small Protestant faculty in Vienna, which represents an island in a land that is mostly Catholic, I attempt, by hosting conferences in Vienna and by attending conferences abroad, to take my exegetical approach into the world and to learn from all the world.

For further details on Prof. Öhler’s research and publications, please 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.

Michael Hölscher, “Entweder Gott oder der Mammon – Das soziale Anliegen des Lukas”

As I explained in my previous “German scholars” post on Volker Rabens, the purpose of this category is to introduce junior and senior German scholars and their research to the English speaking world. Each post will consist of (a) my translation of a short passage from a publication submitted by the German author him/herself and (b) some biographical-bibliographical information about the scholar in question. For information on submitting an entry for this category, see here.

Today’s “German scholar” is Michael Hölscher from the University of Mainz. He blogs at Grámmata, where he was kind enough to interview me about the Baylor-Mohr Siebeck Series in March (see here).

As his passage of choice, Hölscher has submitted an excerpt from the following work: Michael Hölscher. “Entweder Gott oder der Mammon – Das soziale Anliegen des Lukas”. Pages 222-226 in Jetzt verstehe ich die Bibel. Edited by A. Leinhäupl. Stuttgart: Katholisches Bibelwerk, 2010. For his reflections on poverty and riches in Luke, see also here.

I) Translation: The Parable of the Unrighteous Manager (Luke 16:1-8)

English Translation (wmc): “Nevertheless the parable remains illogical: why is the manager praised at the end for doing exactly what he was reproached for at the beginning (squandering the possessions of the rich man)? Should one make a defrauder one’s role model? The narrative is not an example story that recommends that one act exactly as the hero in the narrative, but rather a parable that must be transferred/applied – for instance to the situation of the Christian community of Luke. Perhaps it is a matter of acting “cleverly” according to the different logic of the Lord and scraping/muddling through in a manner that is socially acceptable (and yet “unrighteous” according to worldly perceptions). The exhortation then reads: “Make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon” (Luke 16.9). For Christians there remains only the hope of being judged and praised as “clever” by God at the end – because his logic is unworldly and illogical in the good sense.”

“Entweder Gott oder der Mammon“ (p. 225): „Nichtsdestotrotz bleibt das Gleichnis unlogisch: Warum wird der Verwalter am Ende dafür gelobt, dass er genau das tut, was ihm zu Beginn vorgeworfen wurde (den Besitz des Reichen zu verschleudern)? Soll man sich einen Betrüger zum Vorbild nehmen? Die Erzählung ist keine Beispielgeschichte, die einem empfiehlt, sich genau so zu verhalten wie der Held in der Erzählung, sondern eine Parabel, die übertragen werden muss – etwa auf die Situation der christlichen Gemeinde des Lukas. Vielleicht geht es darum, gemäß der anderen Logik des Herrn „klug“ zu handeln und sich sozialverträglich (aber nach weltlichem Empfinden „ungerecht“) durchzuschlagen. Die Aufforderung lautet dann: „Macht euch Freunde mit dem ungerechten Mammon“ (Lk 16,9). Für die Christinnen und Christen bleibt nur die Hoffnung, am Ende von Gott als „klug“ beurteilt und gelobt zu werden – weil seine Logik im guten Sinne weltfremd und unlogisch ist.”

Selective Grammatical Analysis: I experienced two difficulties with this passage. First, how can I convey the force of “übertragen”? Applied reads better but it doesn’t quite capture the sense that something must be taken over into another sphere. “transferred” seems better in terms of precision but it seems to require the addition of something else such as “to another sphere”. So I waffled and wrote transferred/applied, which is not really an option for a published translation. Secondly, I struggled to find a translation for “durchzuschlagen”, which I rendered as “scraping/muddling through”. The sense is clearer in the larger context of the essay where Hölscher has shown how the manager finds a way to maneuver through the difficult situation he is in, which helps to contextualizes what is meant here. Third, it is difficult to convey the force of “weltfremd” – unworldly isn’t quite right, but “foreign to the world” seemed to cumbersome.

II. Biographical-Bibliographical Information about Michael Hölscher (as submitted by author, with some modifications)

From 2003 to 2009 Michael Hölscher studied Catholic Theology, German language and literature in Münster (Germany). Between 2009 and 2013 he worked as a research assistant at the University of Graz (Austria). For the summer term of 2012 he furthered his studies of Matthew and Q in Edinburgh (United Kingdom). He now works at the University of Mainz (Germany). For further information, see his university page here.

At present Hölscher is working on his PhD dissertation. Its working title is “Matthäus liest Q. Eine Studie zu Mt 11,2-19 und Q 7,18-35” (Matthew as a Reader of Q: A Study of Matt 11.2-19 and Q 7.18-35).

He is interested in the way that Matthew deals with his sources Mark and Q, but especially with Q. Following James M. Robinson and Linden Youngquist he thinks that Matthew appreciates Q because Matthew sometimes takes over the Q outline and arranges the surrounding material to prepare for and reinforce the material adopted from Q. Matt 11:2-19/Q 7:18-35 is a good example of this technique: Matthew prepares for Matt 11:5/Q 7:22 (“The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear …”) by composing the miracle chapters 8-9 in such a way that in the Matthean story line Matt 11:5 can be read as a fulfillment statement.

In his dissertation he will provide (1) a history of research about the topic, (2) a reconstruction of Q 7:18-35 and a short commentary on the Q text to trace its specific theological profile, and (3) an analysis of the Matthean redaction and composition in Matt 11 (with a view to the whole Gospel). For a more detailed description of his project 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.