Angelika Reichert on the Positive Statements about the “I” in Romans 7

In my preparations for my Paul class this semester, I have enjoyed reading through many of the fine essays in The Letter to the Romans (ed. U. Schnelle). In my judgment, Angelika Reichert‘s essay “Literarische Analyse von Römer 7,7-25A” in this volume presents a perceptive reading of Romans 7 as a whole and an especially insightful analysis of the positive statements about the “I” in this chapter. Thus, today’s post will look at an excerpt from her discussion of this topic. As usual, I will alternate between my English translation and the German text (pp. 321-322):

Consequently, it appears sensible to modify how the question is posed, i.e. instead of the question of the meaning of the positive statements about the “I”, to place the question of their function in the flow of vv. 14-23 in the foreground.

Daraufhin erscheint es sinnvoll, die Fragestellung zu modifizieren, d.h. statt der Frage nach der Bedeutung der positiven Aussagen über das Ich diejenige nach ihrer Funktion im Duktus von V. 14-23 in den Vordergrund zu rücken.

With regard to the flow of the text, we have already shown [or: it had already become clear] that it stands under the leading thesis of v. 14b, “sold under sin,” and all three subsections (vv. 15-17, 18-20, 21-23) lead to a statement about the “I” being occupied by sin.

Zum Duktus des Textes hatte sich schon gezeigt: Er steht unter der Leitthese von V. 14b, “unter die Sünde verkauft”, und alle drei Unterabschnitte (V. 15-17.18-20.21-23) münden in eine Aussage über das Besetztsein des Ich durch die Sünde.

If, consequently, the positive references cannot have the function of modifications or reservations in relation to the leading thesis, then they can be understood only as its intensification.

Wenn folglich die positiven Hinweise im Verhältnis zur Leitthese nicht die Funktion von Modifikationen oder Vorbehalten haben können, dann lassen sie sich nur als deren Verstärkung auffassen.

This means, first, that the references to the willing (of the good), the agreement with or joy in the law, and the mention of the tendency of the ἔσω ἄνθρωπος and of the νοῦς underline the strength of the power of sin.

Das heißt: Zum einen unterstreichen die Hinweise auf das Wollen (des Guten), die Zustimmung zum bzw. Freude am Gesetz, die Erwähnung der Tendenz des ἔσω ἄνθρωπος und des νοῦς die Stärke der Sündenmacht.

This has not brought a “no man’s land” under its rule when it took possession of the “I” and determined its reality in such a way that in it the actual willing of the “I” and its positive state of being addressed by God’s announcement of his will do not come to fruition.

Dies hat kein “Niemandsland” unter ihre Herrschaft gebracht, als sie vom Ich Besitz ergriff und seine Wirklichkeit so prägte, dass darin das eigentliche Wollen des Ich und dessen positives Angesprochensein durch Gottes Willenskundgabe grundsätzlich nicht zum Zuge kommen.

Secondly, it is precisely the positive references that bar conceivable escapes from the situation of the “I” sold under sin. There is no sense in showing this “I” what it actually wants, what is actually in its interest; it wants, after all, the good in the comprehensive sense, but it cannot translate this into its reality.

Zum anderen versperren gerade die positiven Hinweise denkbare Auswege aus der Situation des unter die Sünde verkauften Ich: Es hat keinen Sinn, diesem Ich zu zeigen, was es eigentlich will, was eigentlich in seinem Interesse liegt; es will ja das Gute im umfassenden Sinn, kann dies aber nicht in seine Wirklichkeit übersetzen.

There is also no sense in confronting this “I” with the will of God; it has, after all, its joy in it, but this has no effect de facto.

Es hat auch keinen Sinn, dieses Ich mit dem Gotteswillen zu konfrontieren; es hat ja seine Freude daran, aber diese wirkt sich faktisch nicht aus.

Finally, there is certainly no sense in expecting something from an inner instance (ἔσω ἄνθρωπος, νοῦς) of the “I”; the “law of my mind” has no chance against the “law of sin”, i.e. no possibility of determining the reality of the “I”.

Schließlich hat es erst recht keinen Sinn von einer inneren Instanz (ἔσω ἄνθρωπος, νοῦς) des Ich irgendetwas zu erwarten; das “Gesetz meiner Vernunft” hat gegen das “Gesetz der Sünde” keine Chance, also keine Möglichkeit, die Wirklichkeit des Ich zu bestimmen.

** After completing this blog post, I was pleased to (re)discover that Reichert’s excellent essay has been published in an English translation (see here)! I have not yet had a chance to consult the English version, but I look forward to re-reading this fine essay in English and no doubt discovering ways in which I could have improved my own rendering of this key passage.

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Eve-Marie Becker, Ancient History Writing, and the Genre of Mark

Not too long ago, I finished reading through Eve-Marie Becker‘s new collection of essays Der früheste Evangelist. Studien zum Markusevangelium, which contains  nine English essays and eleven German essays on the Gospel of Mark. As with other works of hers that I have blogged about, I enjoyed Becker’s multidisciplinary approach, her impressive grasp of the history of scholarship, and her independence of thought, all of which will undoubtedly also be showcased in her most recent book The Birth of Christian History: Memory and Time from Mark to Luke-Acts. For my full range of posts on the topic of historiography, see here.

If one is looking for an avenue into Eve-Marie Becker’s work, I recommend beginning with her autobiographical English essay “Mark in the Frame of Ancient History Writing: The Quest for Heuristics” (pp. 279-291, esp. pp. 284-291 in Der früheste Evangelist), which conveys central elements of her approach, provides insight into how she got there, and relates her research to her teaching. Here is a quotation from that essay:

289: So, where have we come? The contextualization of the Markan Gospel in the frame of ancient history writing has huge implications for textual interpretation. It leads us to a comprehensive view of Mark’s literary concept as well as its theological outline. Seen against the broader frame of ancient history writing, the Markan Gospel appears to be a piece of literature in which past time is depicted as a narrative construct of “history,” while the display of “time” becomes a matter of temporal orientation. By transforming the memory of the past into a cohesive narrative account for contemporary readers as well as for posterity, the Markan Gospel largely contributes to the shape of a narrative identity in early Christian times. To be sure, it hardly claims to be historiography stricto sensu, but it does certainly prepare the way for historiographical access (Luke-Acts; Eusebius) to the beginnings of the gospel proclamation and its memorization among Christ-believing groups.”

The reader, of course, will also profit greatly from Becker’s new introductory chapter “Der früheste Evangelist im Lichte der aktuellen Markusforschung. Eine Standortsbestimmung” (pp. 1-13), which introduces her own approach and helpfully situates her work in relation to recent scholarship on Mark. Here is a quotation and translation from that chapter:

1 (cf. p. 8): Der vorliegende Aufsatzsammlung liegt ein gemeinsamer Ansatz zugrunde: die Sicht auf Markus als den frühesten Evangelisten, der mit seiner Evangelienerzählung eine neue literarische Form, eine Gattung sui generis, schafft, die sich in den weiteren Rahmen der frühkaiserzeitlichen Historiographie einzeichnen lässt. / A shared conception underlies the present collection of essays: the perspective on Mark as the earliest evangelist, who, with his Gospel narration, creates a new literary form, a genre sui generis, which can be placed in the broader framework of the historiography of the early imperial period.

As indicated by the previous two quotes, Eve-Marie Becker returns at multiple points to the question of the genre of Mark’s Gospel. Here are two more quotations on that topic (and references to some others):

31 (cf. 188, 274): Wir haben es, so meine ich, hier nicht mit einer Biographie oder einer biographischen Darstellungsform, sondern mit einer personzentrierten vorhistoriographischen Erzählung zu tun, wie sie besonders aus dem Bereich der frühjüdischen Historiographie bekannt ist / Here we are dealing, so I believe, not with biographical form of presentation but with a person-centered pre-historiographical narrative, as it is known especially from the sphere of early Jewish historiography. [this claim is then given further justification in what follows]

126 (cf. 230, 244): Mark shapes a proto-type of a writing, which does have immediate (Matthew and Luke) and later (apocryphal gospels) successors. Because the Markan Gospel deals with a sequence of a ‘history of events’ that is related to the activity of a specific person (Jesus of Nazareth) and his mission, it might in terms of its macro-genre best be placed in the broader frame of ancient historiographical writings in which it appears more precisely as a ‘person-centered pre-historiographical account.”

Whether or not one is convinced by Becker’s argument that Mark should be classified as a ‘person-centered pre-historiographical account’ and not as a biographical form of presentation, I think that there is much to be learned from Becker’s extensive comparison of the ways that Paul, Mark, and Luke work with history – for example in “Patterns of Early Christian Thinking and Writing of History: Paul – Mark – Acts” (219-239), which includes an interesting discussion of 1 Cor 15:3b-5 and 11:23-25 (pp. 231-237), and “The Konstruktion von ‘Geschichte’. Paulus und Markus im Vergleich” (253-278), which I have discussed here.

From among the essays focused on key issues or texts in Mark, I profited especially from Becker’s discussion of the Markan summaries, i.e. “Die markinischen Summarien – ein literarischer und theologischer Schlüssel zu Mk 1-6” (pp. 327-349).

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Friederike Kunath and Preexistence in John

Like last week’s post, today’s offering falls under one of my favorite categories on this blog, namely “German scholars.” The purpose of this category is to introduce German scholars and their research to the English-speaking world. Each post will consist of (I) an excerpt (or series of excerpts) from a publication submitted by the German author her/himself and (II) some biographical-bibliographical information about the scholar in question.

Today’s German scholar is Dr. Friederike Kunath of the University of Zürich. In part 1 of this post I will provide an English translation and the German text of four key quotations from her 2016 book Die Präexistenz Jesu im Johannesevangelium. Readers whose interest is piqued by this post will also want to consult her own excellent summary of this book at the “Zürich New Testament blog” (see here).

I. The Preexistence of Jesus in the Gospel of John

WMC: “The sequence of the passages/places is not accidental but points to a chronological intensification, from John as a figure of the narrated time via Abraham through to the beginning of the world. Here one can see a course that runs backward through time, from the present of the narrated time to the beginning of the world. This chronologically opposite-flowing intensification runs parallel to the course of the narrated time of the Gospel of John and consequently forms an exactly contrary timeline.”

315: “Die Reihenfolge der Stellen ist nicht zufällig, sondern weist eine chronologische Steigerung auf, von Johannes als Figur der erzählten Zeit über Abraham bis zum Beginn der Welt. Hier zeigt sich ein rückläufiger Verlauf durch die Zeit, von der Gegenwart der erzählten Zeit aus bis an den Anbeginn der Welt. Diese chronologisch gegenläufige Steigerung verläuft parallel zum Verlauf der erzählten Zeit des Johannesevangeliums und bildet von daher eine genau konträre Zeitlinie.” (p. 315)

WMC: “The climax of the preexistence motif, the being-there of Jesus with God before the world, as the point that lies the farthest back in time, coincides with the culmination point of the narrative as a whole, the “hour.” Exactly complementary to this is the beginning of the motif. The Baptist is the chronologically closest point of reference, who even constitutes the beginning of the narrated time with his appearance and leads to the appearance of Jesus. While the narrated time between the Baptist and the death of Jesus lies about three years in the past, the preexistence motif goes back from the time of the Baptist to the beginning of the world.” [the intended sense is: to before the beginning of the world]

316: “Die Klimax des Präexistenzmotivs, das Dasein Jesu bei Gott vor der Welt, als am weitesten zurückliegender zeitlicher Punkt, fällt mit dem Kulminationspunkt der Erzählung insgesamt, der »Stunde«, zusammen. Genau komplementär dazu ist der Beginn des Motivs: Der Täufer ist der zeitlich am nächsten liegende Bezugspunkt, der den Beginn der erzählten Zeit mit seinem Auftreten sogar konstituiert und zum Auftreten Jesu hinführt. Während die erzählte Zeit zwischen Täufer und Tod Jesu etwa drei Jahre zurücklegt, geht das Präexistenzmotiv die Zeit vom Täufer zum Anfang der Welt zurück.”

WMC: “The supposedly central preexistence statement of John 1.1-2 proves here to be the passage/place that is most open for interpretation, which does not provide much that is concrete for the preexistence concept of the Gospel of John because of the absence of temporal and other references and also because of the joining with the Logos. … The topic of preexistence is developed successively in the course of the Gospel and it reaches its high point in Jesus’s farewell prayer, in connection with his departure and his glorification.”

366: “Die vermeintlich zentrale Präexistenzaussage Joh 1,1 f. erwies sich dabei als interpretationsoffenste Stelle, die wegen fehlender temporaler und anderer Referenzen und auch wegen der Verknüpfung mit dem Logos wenig Konkretes für das Präexistenzkonzept des Johannesevangeliums austrägt. … Das Thema der Präexistenz wird sukzessive, im Verlauf des Evangeliums entwickelt und es kommt im Abschiedsgebet Jesu, im Zusammenhang mit seinem Weggang und seiner Verherrlichung, zum Höhepunkt.”

WMC: “Preexistence is not simply placed in front of the way of Jesus as a temporal phase but it reveals itself with increasing intensity the more Jesus goes on his way. … However, the connection is not adequately specified by saying that Jesus was sent from his preexistence. The preexistence of Jesus becomes a way of knowledge, which goes hand and hand with the way of Jesus, won by the reader. The ideal reader (goes) along to the end of the motif and the end of the narrative and understands—guided by the Spirit—the depth of the way of Jesus that reaches back behind the creation.”

368: “Präexistenz ist nicht einfach dem Weg Jesu als zeitliche Phase vorangestellt, sondern offenbart sich immer stärker, je weiter Jesus seinen Weg geht. … Die Verbindung ist aber nicht damit hinreichend bestimmt, dass Jesus aus der Präexistenz heraus gesandt wurde. Die Präexistenz Jesu wird in einem Erkenntnisweg, der mit dem erzählten Weg Jesu einhergeht, vom Leser errungen. (D)er ideale Leser (geht) bis zum Ende des Motivs und dem Ende der Erzählung mit und versteht – angeleitet durch den Geist – die hinter die Schöpfung zurückreichende Tiefe des Weges Jesu.”

II. Biographical-Bibliographical Information

Born in 1982, Dr. Friederike Kunath studied German Language and Literature and Protestant Theology (and some History and Musicology) in Leipzig. She has been very much interested in the connection between linguistics and Bible Studies. She has worked with Prof. Ulla Fix in Leipzig (text linguistics), Prof. Jens Schröter in Leipzig and Berlin (New Testament) and Prof. Jörg Frey (Zurich). In 2016, she published her first book, an extended version of her PhD thesis, “Die Präexistenz Jesu im Johannesevangelium. Struktur und Theologie eines johanneischen Motivs” (BZNW 212, de Gruyter). Between 2010 and 2014 she has been the redactional assistant for the journal „Early Christianity“ (Mohr Siebeck).

She is currently working on her Habilitationsschrift about Ethics and Embodiment in Paul. Further fields or interest are writing development and mentoring and blogging (see http://schreibstimme.ch; see also here).

***

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Susanne Luther and Stephen Barton on Speech-Ethics, Anger, and Community in Ephesians 4:25-32

Since it seems relevant against the backdrop of the anger and heated speech surrounding this year’s presidential election within the American community, this post will look at the topics of speech-ethics, anger, and community in the New Testament. Drawing on some of my most recent readings, it will consist of two quotations on Ephesians 4:22-32 by Susanne Luther (Eng) and Stephen Barton. While direct lines can only rarely be drawn from ecclesial reflection to political reflection, perhaps some insights can nevertheless be gained.

Quotation 1: Susanne Luther on Speech-Ethics in Eph 4

The first quotation comes from Luther’s book Sprachethik im Neuen Testament. In addition to the fact that Luther tackles a fascinating and neglected topic, I have been especially impressed by the rigor and clarity of her methodological approach and analysis (see further here). In this post, I will simply provide a quotation in English and German from her comments on Ephesians 4:25, 29, 31:

English: Eph 4.25 mediates a positive speech-ethical demand. Adequate speech is characterized as a speaking of the truth (λαλεῖτε ἀλήθειαν) and – in an application of the image of body and members to the addressee community – grounded with the solidarity [or: connectedness] of the speakers in the community.

* Note that it is often preferable to translate “qualifizieren” with “characterize” rather than with “qualify”.

German (p. 222): Eph 4,25 vermittelt eine positive sprachethische Forderung: Das adäquate Sprechen wird als ein Sprechen der Wahrheit (λαλεῖτε ἀλήθειαν) qualifiziert und – in Applikation des Bildes vom Leib und den Gliedern auf die Addressatengemeinde – mit der Verbundenheit der Sprechenden in der Gemeinschaft begründet.

English: Ephesians 4.29 shows an orientation of the speech-ethical instruction to the inner-community situation and thematizes the problems of the λόγος σαρπός: every word should serve the building up of the community, as it is appropriate to the status of the holy ones, every appropriate word is characterized as ἀγαθός and assigned to the οἰκοδομην τῆς χρείας.

German: Eph 4,29 zeigt eine Ausrichtung der sprachethischen Weisung auf die innergemeindliche Situation und thematisiert die Problematik des λόγος σαρπός: Jedes Wort soll dem Aufbau der Gemeinde diene, wie es dem Status der Heiligen angemessen ist, jedes angemessene Wort wird als ἀγαθός qualifiziert und der οἰκοδομην τῆς χρείας zugeschrieben.

English: The vice catalogue in v. 31 frames the speech-ethical references – κραυγη και Βλασφημια- with dispositional entities that connect the speech-ethics closely with the human disposition: πᾶσα πικρία και θυμος και ὀργή [Ε] συν πάσῃ κακίᾳ.

German: Der Lasterkatalog in V. 31 rahmt die sprachethischen Bezüge – κραυγη και Βλασφημια – durch dispositional Verweisgrößen, die die Sprachethik eng mit der menschlichen Disposition in Verbindung bringen: πᾶσα πικρία και θυμος και ὀργή [Ε] συν πάσῃ κακίᾳ.

Quotation 2: Stephen Barton on Anger in Eph 4

My second quotation comes from Stephen Barton’s article “‘Be Angry But Do Not Sin’ (Ephesians 4:26a): Sin and the Emotions in the New Testament with Special Reference to Anger.”  Of my teachers, it was above all Stephen Barton who taught me to appreciate the value of multidisciplinary approaches to reading the Bible, and I enjoyed having my horizons broadened once again by him in this essay. Here is his key quotation:

My central thesis is that the teaching here about anger has to be situated in relation to the moral-theological vision of Ephesians as a whole, central to which is the revelation of the mystery (μυστήριον) of creation-renewing salvation in Christ bringing personal transformation in the context of the eschatological coming together as one of Jews and Gentiles in the Church. As elaborations of this transformation, instruction and exhortation are given on the virtues and vices. The virtues are qualities of character and personal practice which build up and sustain the unity of the Church in love and peace. The vices are qualities of character and personal practice that destroy that unity. Among the vices, particular attention is given to speech and related behaviors, including anger. It is apparent, however, that anger is not a sin in itself. Anger becomes sinful, I suggest, if it undermines the eschatological identity and oneness of the Church. The accent, then, is on sin as a contradiction of Christian identity under God and a threat to Christian sociality, with the appropriate control and discipline – indeed, ‘discipling’ – of the passions, including anger, as a necessary corollary.

For my other posts on affects/emotions in the New Testament, see here.

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Susanne Luther’s Discourse-Analytical Approach to Speech-Ethics in Matthew, James, and 1 Peter: A Reading Guide to an Impressive New Book

In today’s post I will look at a recent work by Dr. Susanne Luther (Eng) of the University of Mainz. I  have decided to provide a “reading guide” to her 2015 book Sprachethik im Neuen Testament (Google Books) simply because I think it is an impressive book that will be of interest not only to New Testament scholars specializing in speech-ethics, but also to three other groups of people, namely a) scholars with a special interest in cutting-edge methodological reflection in the field [see esp. my discussion of her Introduction], b) exegetes of all stripes whose research is focused on Matthew, James, or 1 Peter [see especially my discussion of chapter 8], and c) PhD students (and other scholars) who are looking for a well-developed, imitable methodological approach [see especially my discussion of chapters 2-7 and of her introduction]. In other words, my purpose is not to offer a full review but merely to direct my readers to particular topics and pages that might be of special relevance to their research.

Preface: Two points may be noted here: 1) The book is based on Luther’s PhD dissertation at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg, which was supervised by Prof. Oda Wischmeyer (Eng). 2) Since 2009 Luther has held the position of Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin for the chair of Prof. Ruben Zimmermann (Eng) in Mainz.

1. Introduction: This 66 page introduction will be especially relevant to scholars interested in reflecting upon methodological developments in New Testament Studies. After (1) defining her topic and key terms and (2) providing a brief account of the status quaestionis, Luther (3) presents a valuable 23 page discussion of her chosen methodology, i.e. discourse analysis (23-47), as well as (4) further discussion of the importance of context for discourse analysis. In my judgment, section 3 is especially valuable. The strength of her discussion lies not simply in the fact that she provides a helpful discussion of Michel Foucault’s discourse theory and its appropriation and development in application oriented discourse theories (esp. in Achim Landwehr’s historical discourse analysis and Siegfried Jäger’s critical discourse analysis) but even more in the fact that she ably and concisely articulates her own view of the “heuristic added value the discourse-analytical method” (pp. 40-43) and, most importantly, sketches out in a very precise way how she will implement her “combination of methods of historical as well as critical discourse analysis, linguistic and literary text-analysis, and historical-critical exegesis” (43-47). In other words, unlike many studies, her theoretical reflections build to a very coherent and imitable approach that I think could be of value to other scholars who are seeking to find a methodological framework that could help them to approach and structure their research, especially if they, like Luther, wish to pursue a given topic that is developed in various New Testament books.

Chapters 2-7: In these chapters Luther organizes the material thematically, i.e. by topic and not by New Testament book. For example, in chapter 2 she discusses the topic of “speaking in anger.” Notably, each chapter basically proceeds in the same way. First, after a very brief chapter introduction, Luther discusses the discursive context. Here,  the focus is not on historical dependence but on material/thematic parallels to the topic in question. For example, in chapter 2 she discusses how the topic of speaking in anger is treated in Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Plutarch, Epictetus, Philo, the Old Testament, Wisdom Literature, and the Dead Sea Scrolls. Second, she discusses the relevant New Testament texts (in this case Mt 5.21-26 and James 1.19-27). Third, she provides a more synthetic analysis of the topic.

Notably, her discussion of the texts always follows the same pattern: 1) Translation and 2) Exegetical Observations. The latter is then subdivided into the same categories: 2.1: Argumentative structures; 2.2: Intertextuality [understood very broadly] and discourse-strand overlaps, 2.2.3: Ideological Frameworks; 2.2.4 Speech-Ethical Aspects. In my judgment, it is this sort of structural consistency and precision that makes her approach particularly useful for comparing themes across the New Testament and potentially imitable. In other words, one could use this same format to discuss another theme, which would only require a revision of the focus of 2.2.4.

The topics of the chapters are as follows: 2) Anger: Speaking in Anger and the Intention of the Speaker, 3) The ‘Control of the Tongue’: Control of the Affects and Controlled Speaking, 4) Speaking Falsely: Inadequate Forms and Intentions of Speaking, 5) Taking Oaths: Speech-Acts and the Truth of Speaking, 6) The Divided Person: The Integrity of the Person and Speech, 7) From Judging to Reprimand: Speech in the Responsibility of a Person.

I have not yet read all of these chapters yet, but the material I have read is characterized by considerable exegetical insight and impressive theoretical and synthetic reflection.

Chapter 8: The Discourse Strand of Speech-Ethics in the New Testament.

Exegetes who are specializing in Matthew, James, or 1 Peter may wish to start with chapter 8. Here, Luther initially proceeds on a book-by-book basis, providing a concise synthesis of her analysis of speech-ethics in Matthew (407-414), James (414-422; cf. 441-453), and 1 Peter (422-428). Moreover, she then goes on to provide a Reconstruction of the New Testament Discourse Strand (430-437). Rather than merely offering atomistic observations on passages pertaining to speech-ethics, Luther’s synthetic analyses seek to work out the depth dimensions of these books as a whole in such a way that they will be relevant for any exegete who is interested in Matthew, James, and 1 Peter.

Appendix: The Law in James (pp. 441-453)

The book concludes with an appendix on the law in James, which gives special attention to the relationship between λόγος and νόμος. Here is a brief quotation from its conclusion to give you a sense of where she ends up:

English: In James there is not an identification of λόγος and νόμος but rather a coordination of the two terms to each other, which displays their complementing supplemental relation. The λόγος presents the presupposition and grounding of the νόμος.

German (p. 452): Im Jakobusbrief findet sich keine Identifikation von λόγος und νόμος, sondern eine Zuordnung der beiden Termini zueinander, die ihr sich komplematär ergänzendes Verhältnis anzeigt: Der λόγος stellt die Voraussetzung und Begründung des νόμος dar.

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Oda Wischmeyer on the “Grandness” of N.T. Wright with a Review of God and the Faithfulness of Paul

Over the last few weeks I have enjoyed reading through God and the Faithfulness of Paul (edited by Christoph Heilig, J. Thomas Hewitt, and Michael F. Bird), which contains many excellent responses to N.T. Wright‘s Paul and the Faithfulness of God. Hence, after providing a key excerpt—in English and German—from Oda Wischmeyer (Eng) on the “grandness” of N.T. Wright, this post will also include some brief comments on the chapters written by German-language-sphere scholars. On another note, readers of this blog may be interested in participating in the 2016 Mainz Summer School in German (and) Theology.

I. Oda Wischmeyer on the “Grandness” of N.T. Wright

I both profited from and greatly enjoyed co-translating (with Christoph Heilig) Oda Wischmeyer‘s chapter in God and the Faithfulness of Paul. What I found so remarkable was the honest and profound way that she was able to interact with both N.T. Wright’s work and her own academic tradition (cf. Christoph Heilig’s comments on Wischmeyer’s essay). Unlike many of us—whether we are Wright’s adoring admirers, sharp critics, or somewhere in between—Wischmeyer seemed to be entirely comfortable in her own shoes when discussing Wright and his work, so that she was able both to reflect on her own tradition with great insight and self-awareness and to draw out striking aspects of N.T. Wright’s work in a way that was both appreciative and critical in the best sense of the word. I don’t know why exactly this is the case. Perhaps it is because Prof. Wischmeyer herself is a senior scholar who has nothing to prove. Or perhaps it is simply because her hermeneutical approach has given her better tools for observing and reflecting on what is going on with Wright and in her own tradition. Whatever the reason, I found the tone and content of her essay to be both refreshing and illuminating. Let me turn then to my key excerpt, alternating between the English translation and the German original for those who are learning—or seeking to revive their—German:

GFP 74: Exactly one hundred years after the publication of Wilhelm Bousset’s great Paul article in the first edition of Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, N. T. Wright in his two-volume work Paul and the Faithfulness of God has again struck that sonorous tone which one could probably last hear in Germany in the the Pauline research of the history of religion school. …

Genau hundert Jahre nach dem Erscheinen des großen Paulus-Artikels von Wilhelm Bousset in der ersten Auflage der “Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart” hat N.T. Wright in seinem zweiteiligen Werk „Paul and the Faithfulness of God“ wieder jenen klangvollen Ton angeschlagen, den man in Deutschland wohl zuletzt in der Paulusforschung der Religionsgeschichtlichen Schule hören konnte…

GFP 74: At the first reading of Wright, it is the perception of the lofty tone, the liveliness of the historical narration and methodological discussion, and finally the certainty, elegance, and joy in the details of the presentation that excites an exegete who comes from the Bultmann school. …

Es ist die Wahrnehmung des hochgestimmten Tones, der Lebendigkeit der historischen Erzählung wie der methodischen Diskussion und schließlich der Sicherheit, Eleganz und Detailfreude der Darstellung, die eine Exegetin, die aus der Bultmannschule kommt, bei der ersten Lektüre von Wright begeistert. …

GFP 75: Wright writes today as Bousset … wrote a hundred years ago and as one does not write in contemporary German-language exegesis. …

Wright schreibt heute, wie Bousset … vor hundert Jahren schrieb und wie in der zeitgenössischen deutschsprachigen Exegese nicht geschrieben wird. …

GFP 76: For “German” ears or, more specifically, for a hermeneutical perception from the German-language exegetical tradition it is first—this deserves to be repeated once more—Wright’s tone or style that demands our full attention. …

Für „deutsche“ Ohren bzw. für eine hermeneutische Wahrnehmung aus der deutschsprachigen exegetischen Tradition ist es – es sei noch einmal wiederholt – zuerst der Ton oder der Stil Wrights, der alle Aufmerksamkeit beansprucht. …

GFP 76: Behind the pages of Wright we hear Handel’s music and Shakespeare’s language and we might not only be impressed by the force and energy of the presentation, but even saddened, or at least discontent, that we ourselves have lost this tone so completely and can no longer rhetorically orchestrate “grandness.”

Wir hören hinter den Seiten Wrights Händels Musik und Shakespeares Sprache und sind unter Umständen nicht nur beeindruckt von der Wucht und Energie der Darstellung, sondern auch betrübt oder mindestens unzufrieden, dass uns selbst dieser Ton so ganz abhandengekommen ist und wir „Größe“ nicht mehr rhetorisch instrumentieren können.

GFP 76: Or we react critically and regard this tone as too pious, too triumphalistic, too self-assured, not analytical enough—depending on our own academic background.

Oder wir reagieren kritisch und halten diesen Ton für zu fromm, zu triumphalistisch, zu selbstgewiss, zu wenig analytisch – je nach unserer eigenen akademischen Prägung.

GFP 76: Precisely these signals should be observed hermeneutically.

Gerade diese Signale gilt es hermeneutisch aufzufangen.

II. Review of Chapters by German-Language-Sphere Scholars

* For the complete table of contents, see here.

In “Paul and the Faithfulness of God among Pauline Theologies” Benjamin Schliesser (Eng) effectively situates Wright’s contribution in relation to the Pauline theologies of Bultmann, Dunn, Schreiner, Wolter, and Schnelle, displaying a remarkable gift of synthesis (cf. also his 2013 German article).

In “N.T. Wright’s Biblical Hermeneutics” Oda Wischmeyer (Eng) discusses both the history and present situation of German-language Pauline scholarship and the biblical hermeneutics of N.T. Wright.

In “Wright’s Version of Critical Realism” Andreas Losch offers a valuable discussion of “critical realism” in relation to the works of Ian Barbour, Bernard Lonergan, Ben F. Meyer, and N.T. Wright. Whether or not his thesis that Wright’s “critical realism” was initially developed with respect to Barbour and only associated with Lonergan/Meyer secondarily is correct (Wright rejects it [p. 718]), I found this chapter to be a helpful presentation of different versions of “critical realism” and benefited from Losch’s own assessment of the value and limitations of this approach.

In “Historical Methodology” Theresa Heilig and Christoph Heilig (Eng) provide a careful discussion of abduction, inference to the best explanation, and Bayesian confirmation, which includes a systematic analysis of the crucial issues in the debate between Barclay and Wright over whether Paul is criticizing the Roman empire (pp. 145-148)

In “Wright’s Paul and the Paul of Acts” Eve-Marie Becker (Eng) argues from the perspective of recent advances in historiography that Wright should have taken greater account of Acts as a source for Paul, suggesting, inter alia, that such an approach would have preventing him from problematically failing to incorporate Paul’s activities as miracle worker into his overall portrayal of Paul (pp. 160-161). In some respects her argument reminded me of perspectives advanced in Benjamin White’s important book.

In “N.T. Wright’s Narrative Approach” Joel R. White provides a sympathetic presentation and defense of much of what Wright is doing (e.g. he defends “the existence of a common first-century Jewish metanarrative highlighting God’s faithfulness to Israel in spite of her ‘ongoing exile'”), while also criticizing Wright at specific points (e.g. his treatment of apocalyptic language in relation to the notion of cosmic cataclysm, pp. 198-199). Significantly, at certain points White made me feel the force of Wright’s vision to a greater extent than Wright himself has done!

In “N.T. Wright’s Understanding of Justification and Redemption” (trans. Lars Kierspel), Peter Stuhlmacher both challenges key elements of Wright’s interpretation (e.g. the validity of his controlling narrative; cf. John BarclayAlexandra Brown, and Chris Tilling [part I]; but see also Joel R. White’s defense of this metanarrative) and, perhaps more importantly, provides a compact and eloquent presentation of his own views on sacrifice and justification in critical dialogue with Wright (cf. Christoph Heilig’s comments on Stuhlmacher’s essay).

In “God and His Faithfulness in Paul” Torsten Jantsch (Eng) both presents a very helpful discussion of the history of research on God in Paul and compactly outlines aspects of the “concept of God” in Romans in critical dialogue with N.T. Wright (cf. also here). In my judgment Jantsch’s chapter would be an excellent place to start for anyone interested in recent (German) research on God (in Paul). It complements well Jochen Flebbe’s fine monograph on God in Romans.

In “Demythologizing Apocalyptic?” Jörg Frey (Eng) provides both an extensive discussion of recent perspectives on apocalyptic and a hard-hitting critique of Wright’s treatment of apocalyptic, which he regards as a “neutralizing” or “taming” of apocalyptic. In particular, Frey stresses that there is no need to deny that Paul drew on mythological concepts such as the idea of an end of the world and personally reckoned with the return of Christ during his lifetime (p. 526; cf. Joel R. White’s comments on pp. 198-199; cf. also Paula Fredriksen; Larry Hurtado). In his lengthy response Wright emphasizes the extent of their agreement (744-745, 748), differentiates between 6 forms of apocalyptic (pp. 745-748), denies the charge of neutralizing/taming (751), and responds to their primary disagreement about whether or not Paul’s “end-of-the-world” language is concerned with the end of the world as well as the relationship between this question and the early Christian conviction that Jesus the Messiah would return from heaven (748-754).

In “The Faithfulness of God and Its Effects on Faithful Living” Volker Rabens investigates Tom Wright’s portrayal of Paul’s ethics. In addition to providing a valuable discussion of Wright’s treatment of “plight” and “solution”, Rabens develops an especially perceptive critique that warns against Wright’s tendency to give pride of place to cognitive renewal and presses Wright to give greater attention to relational transformation and, more specifically, to “the transforming and empowering transferal by the Spirit into loving relationships to the divine and the community of faith” (p. 577; cf. Wright’s response on 729, 762 and 766).

In “Barth, Wright, and Theology” Sven Ensminger provides a concise sketch of Barth’s treatment of revelation, religion, and Christology with some points of comparison with N.T. Wright. Ensminger seeks to contribute to the question of the relationship between biblical studies and theology (658), and gives particular attention to the following question: “to what extent can God be bracketed out of theological reflection about a key figure of the Christian church such as Paul in order to consider him as a historical figure with his socio-political background?” (p.656). See also my post Sven Ensminger on N.T. Wright, Karl Barth, and the Aufhebung of Religion.

In “Evangelism and the Mission of the Church” Eckhard J. Schnabel tackles a range of topics related to evangelism and mission, including a) a challenge to Wright’s suggestion that Paul wanted to visit places “where Caesar’s power was the strongest” (p. 688), b) the interpretation of Gal 2:7-9 (691-692), c) the validity of the language of “conversion” (692-696; but cf. 759), d) the meaning of gospel (796; but cf. 729), and e) a critique of Wright’s alleged repetition of caricatures of missionaries (700-704; but cf. 757-758).

Finally, if I could mention only one of the many fine essays by English-language-sphere scholars—I realize, of course, that some of the scholars could be classified in both groups—I would highlight Gregory Sterling‘s chapter “Wisdom or Foolishness? The Role of Philosophy in the Thought of Paul”. Sterling shows genuine appreciation for N.T. Wright’s treatment of philosophy, while suggesting, inter alia, that Wright has not given sufficient attention to the later Platonic tradition and specifically to what we call Middle Platonism. Among other observations, I found Sterling’s discussion of prepositional metaphysics to be especially illuminating (cf. here). More generally, I found his chapter to be a very helpful introduction to recent scholarship on philosophy and early Christianity, and I will certainly return to it (for N. T. Wright’s very positive response to Sterling’s essay, see p. 754-756).

For more posts on GFP, see here and 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

Eve-Marie Becker on Humility in Paul

In today’s post I will comment on a key quotation from Eve-Marie Becker‘s excellent new book Der Begriff der Demut bei Paulus (for my other E.-M. Becker posts, see here; for a bibliography of Prof. Becker’s English publications, see here).

To provide a taste of Becker’s work, I have selected a passage from the final section of her book (pp. 217-218). Since it is a lengthy quote, I will first provide the English translation in its entirety and then present the German and English text in an alternating format along with select grammatical notes, for those who want to work through the translation.

English Translation

With ταπεινοφροσύνη Paul describes an ethical stance that has to be thought from the standpoint of the individual and related to the community. The goal of humility is the oneness of the community with a view to the expectation of the eschatological time – humility functions here as an ethical and ecclesiological instrument. It promotes fellowship also with the apostle even across physical separation. Paul defines ταπεινοφροσύνη not primarily with respect to its content, but rather elucidates it narratively in an exemplum. To practice humility is dependent on persons and context, but presupposes – as  the Christ example shows – a self-conscious personal status. It leads to an ecclesial or communitarian dynamic that finds expression in continual mutual higher-regarding, and entails a vertical interaction structure. The low-thinking realizes itself at the same time in the personal perception of the community members, of the person of Paul, and of the Kyrios Christ. In the sense of Aristotelian ethics and platonic theory of the state humility serves as Christian phronesis of the ‘political’ organization of the ecclesial fellowship for the establishment of righteousness and the doxa of God (Philippians 2.11). The practice of humility has a religious perspective that is already heard in Plato. However, it is only with Paul that it becomes an ἐκκλησία-related religious identity marker, which is typical for early Christianity precisely in its communitarian aspects. It is not least the eschatological implications that contribute to this: The reward of humility lies in the future in the ultimate conformity with Christ.

* What I find striking about this quotation in particular and Becker’s book in general is the way she argumentatively develops a more complex and rich notion of “humility” in relation to Paul’s writings. Indeed, I think her reflections on humility could prove fruitful for the academy, churches, and politics of our time.

German Text with Translation and Notes

Mit der ταπεινοφροσύνη umschreibt Paulus eine ethische Haltung, die vom Einzelnen her zu denken und auf die Gemeinschaft zu beziehen ist.

With ταπεινοφροσύνη Paul describes an ethical stance that has to be thought from the standpoint of the individual and related to the community.

* I usually translate the relative pronoun (here: die) with “that” (rather than “which”) when I think the relative clause is defining (see here). vom einzelnen her is not easy, but I think “from the standpoint of the individual” might work.

Das Ziel  der Demut ist das Eins-Sein der Gemeinde im Blick auf die Erwartung der eschatologischen Zeit – die Demut fungiert dabei als ethisches und ekklesiologisches Werkzeug. Sie fördert die Gemeinschaft auch mit dem Apostel sogar über physische Trennung hinweg.

The goal of humility is the oneness of the community with a view to the expectation of the eschatological time – humility functions here as an ethical and ecclesiological instrument. It promotes fellowship also with the apostle even  across physical separation.

* Eins-Sein is tricky: “oneness” is not ideal”; “is for the community to be one…” might work better? dabei is often troublesome: “here” is sometimes the best option. The translation of “auch” frequently causes problems, since the German word placement is often awkward, whereas a change of placement often shifts the sense somewhat; here I retained the placement. I translated “über hinweg” with “across”, though I suspect a better option might exist.

Paulus definiert die ταπεινοφροσύνη nicht primär in Hinsicht auf ihren Inhalt, erläutert sie aber in einem exemplum narrativ. Demut zu üben, ist personen- und kontextabhängig, setzt aber, wie das Christus-Beispiel zeigt, einen selbstbewussten persönlichen Status voraus.

Paul defines ταπεινοφροσύνη not primarily with respect to its content, but rather elucidates it narratively in an exemplum. To practice humility is dependent on persons and context, but presupposes – as the Christ example shows – a self-conscious personal status.

* “explains” is often a good solution for erläutern but “elucidates” seemed better here. setzt … voraus = voraussetzen = “presupposes”; I used dashes to make the sentence easier to read.

Sie führt zu ekklesialer bzw. kommunitärer Dynamic, die in kontinuierlicher gegenseitiger Höher-Achtung ihren Ausdruck findet, und geht mit einer vertikalen Interaktionsstruktur einher.

It leads to an ecclesial or communitarian dynamic that finds expression in continual mutual higher-regarding, and entails a vertical interaction structure.

* I debated translating “kommunitärer” with “communal” rather than “communitarian”, but decided on the latter since Becker references an English work that uses this word in this context. It might be better to change the wooden “mutual higher-regarding” to “in continually regarding the other more highly than oneself” but that would become rather free.

Die Niedrig-Gesinnung realisiert sich dabei zugleich in der personalen Wahrnehmung der Gemeindeglieder, der Person des Paulus und des Kyrios Christus.

The low-thinking realizes itself at the same time in the personal perception of the community members, of the person of Paul, and of the Kyrios Christ.

* I think that “low-thinking” is probably the best solution for Niedrig-Gesinnung, which Becker uses as a literal translation for ταπεινο-φροσύνη (see p. vii n. 1), but there may be a better one.

Im Sinner aristotelischer Ethik und platonischer Staatslehre dient die Demut als christliche Phronesis der ‚politischen‘ Organisation der ekklesialen Gemeinschaft zur Durchsetzung von Gerechtigkeit und Doxa Gottes (Phil 2,11).

In the sense of Aristotelian ethics and platonic theory of the state humility serves as Christian phronesis of the ‘political’ organization of the ecclesial fellowship for the establishment of righteousness and the doxa of God (Philippians 2.11).

* It is probably best to translate Im Sinne with “In the sense of” but “In the vein of” is sometimes better in this sort of context or “Along the lines of”. I think ecclesial or ecclesiastical are valid options for translating ekklesialen. “for the establishment” is probably the best solution for zur Durchsetzung, though it is far from perfect. I am not sure if it should be “for the establishment of the righteousness and doxa of God” or “for the establishment of righteousness and the glory of God”.

Die Übung der Demut hat eine religiöse Perspektive, die schon bei Platon anklingt, aber erst mit Paulus zu einem auf die ἐκκλησία bezogenen religiösen identity marker wird, der gerade in seinen kommunitären Aspekten für das frühe Christentum typisch ist.

The practice of humility has a religious perspective that is already heard in Plato. However, it is only with Paul that it becomes an ἐκκλησία-related religious identity marker, which is typical for early Christianity precisely in its communitarian aspects.

* This sentence is easy enough to understand but very difficult to translate. erst is often difficult: first is frequently a false friend; only is a good solution in many cases; sometimes “not until” is even a good option. I added in “it is … that” which may or may not have been a good decision. The real difficulty is that the relative pronoun “der” looks back to einem … identity marker. This creates a problem, since I would normally translate einem auf die bezogenen religiösen identity marker with “an identity marker related to the ἐκκλησία” but cannot do so here, since the reader would most likely link the following “which” with ἐκκλησία and not with “identity marker”. Accordingly, I have had to render it with “an ἐκκλησία-related religious identity marker, which…”.

Hierzu tragen nicht zuletzt die eschatologische Implikationen bei: Der Lohn der Demut steht in der endgültigen Konformität mit Christus aus.

It is not least the eschatological implications that contribute to this: The reward of humility lies in the future in the ultimate conformity with Christ.

* Struggled with the first part of this sentence, which I may or may not have gotten right. Likewise, I am not sure whether “lies in the future” captures the force of “steht … aus”, but I think it does.

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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