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.

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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.