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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Christine Jacobi on Social Memory and Jesus Tradition in Paul

Like many readers of The Jesus Blog, I have enjoyed seeing its circle of contributors expand from Anthony Le Donne and Chris Keith to include James Crossley and now Christine Jacobi, Brant Pitre, and Rafael Rodríguez.

As a way of celebrating this recent expansion and especially the addition of a Neutestamentlerin from Germany, today’s post will look at Christine Jacobi‘s 2015 book Jesusüberlieferung bei Paulus? Analogien zwischen den echten Paulusbriefen und den synoptischen Evangelien. In order to give the reader a better sense of the book, I have chosen to translate four short excerpts rather than commenting on a single key quotation.

Like Benjamin White’s important monograph (cf. esp. pp. 49-54 and 70-107), Christine Jacobi‘s book is one of the first full-scale studies to apply social memory theories to Pauline Studies. Hence, I have taken the first excerpt from the section of her book (pp. 9-20) entitled “Eine neue Hermeneutik zum Vergangeneitsbezug der synoptischen Evangelien: Allgemeine Aspekte des Erinnerungszugangs“. This first excerpt is meant to give the reader a sense of where Jacobi stands in relation to various “memory approaches”. The next three excerpts, in turn, are taken from her conclusion. They are intended to give the reader a sense of the direction in which Jacobi takes her argument. As indicated by the the question mark in her title, part of her argument involves a questioning of the appropriateness of speaking of “Jesus tradition in Paul”. I will alternate between English translation and German original.

Translation 1 (wmc): Jens Schröter already drew attention to the complex and indissoluble connection between past and present in the Gospels in 1997 in his habilitation Errinerung an Jesu Worte, in which he specified anew the relation between Jesus traditions and the texts that process them. … A Jesus research following on from Schröter takes interest in the different post-Easter pictures of Jesus or the ways of his making-present and representation. It describes the texts as interpretations or “remembrances” of the pre-Easter activity of Jesus. Corresponding conceptions therefore do not necessarily speak of “Jesus tradition” but more openly of “Vergangenheit” and “past” or of “commemorative products” and “memory”. That the Gospels take up older traditions and the task of the exegete cannot exhaust itself in a description of the world of the text is taken into account. However, one does not search for the oldest tradition but the texts as wholes are understood as witnesses of memory, which process themes and motifs from the tradition in various ways and according to the needs of the respective present. The past activity of Jesus molds, together with other influences such as the Scripture, the first Christians’ coordinates of understanding and schemata of perception and contributes to early Christian self-understanding. And, conversely, Jesus’s person and activity are interpreted, in turn, by such patterns of understanding. “Erinnerung” or “(social) memory” are terms used for this nexus, with which a series of current studies in Jesus- and Synoptic scholarship is working.

Quotation 1 (Page 11-12): Auf die komplexe und unauflösbare Verbindung von Vergangenheit und Gegenwart in den Evangelien machte bereits 1997 Jens Schröter in seiner Habilitationsschrift Errinnerung an Jesu Worte aufmerksam, in welcher er das Verhältnis von Jesusüberlieferungen zu den sie verarbeitenden Texten neu bestimmte. … Eine an Schröter anschließende Jesusforschung interessiert sich für die verschiedenen nachösterlichen Bilder Jesu bzw. die Weisen seiner Vergegenwärtigung und Repräsentation. Sie beschreibt die Texte als Deutungen bzw. “Erinnerungen” an das vorörsterliche Wirken Jesu. In entsprechenden Entwürfen ist daher gar nicht mehr unbedingt von “Jesustradition” die Rede, sondern offener von “Vergangenheit” oder “past” bzw. von “commemorative products” and “memory”. Dass die Evangelien ältere Überlieferungen aufnehmen und die Aufgabe des Exegeten sich nicht in einer Beschreibung der Textwelt erschöpfen kann, wird dabei berücksichtigt. Es wird jedoch nicht nach den ältesten Überlieferung gefahndet, sondern die Texte als Ganze werden als Erinnerungszeugnisse verstanden, die Themen und Motive aus der Überlieferung auf vielfältige Weise und je nach den Bedürfnissen der eigenen Gegenwart bearbeiten. Das vergangene Wirken Jesus modelliert zusammen mit anderen Einflüssen wie beispielsweise die Schrift die Verstehungskoordinaten und Wahrnehmungsschemata der ersten Christen und trägt zum frühchristlichen Selbstverständnis bei. Und umgekehrt werden Person und Auftreten Jesu wiederum durch solche Interpretationsmuster gedeutet. “Erinnerung” oder “(social) memory” sind die für diesen Zusammenhang verwendeten Termini, mit denen eine Reihe aktueller Beiträge der Jesus- und Synoptikerforschung arbeitet.

Translation 2 (wmc): Finally, from the findings on the reception of so-called Jesus tradition in Paul one must draw conclusions for the picture of Jesus that is painted in the letters of Paul. Negatively one can say that Jesus as an originator of tradition and teacher is not relevant for Paul. But what is his significance with a view to the so-called Jesus tradition in Paul?

Quotation 2 (page 392): Aus den Ergebnissen zur Rezeption sogenannter Jesusüberlieferung bei Paulus sind schließlich Konsequenzen für das Bild von Jesus zu ziehen, das in den Paulusbriefen gezeichnet wird. In negativer Hinsicht kann festgestellt werden, dass Jesus als Traditionsurheber und als Lehrer für Paulus nicht relevant ist. Welche Bedeutung aber kommt ihm mit Blick auf die sogenannte Jesustradition bei Paulus zu?

Translation 3: When Paul describes a new view of reality with expressions such as “in the Kyrios” or “in Christ”, this shows that he does not distinguish between the Kyrios as the Risen and Exalted One, on the one hand, and Jesus as the originator of traditions, on the other hand. The reason for this is again that the event of salvation and the new reality of faith are thought of as connected with the Lord Jesus Christ in the closest way. The Kyrios forms the center of all expressions of faith. In this way the authority of the Kyrios can encompass both Pauline argumentation as well as already circulating traditions taken up by Paul and traditions that go back to the earthy Jesus himself. Therefore, all the admonition of the apostle ultimately takes place in the sphere of validity of faith in Christ, which forms the framework for his own remarks on the Christian self-understanding. The sphere of interpretation in which Paul places topoi, motifs, and contents of tradition, levels out their respectively specific backgrounds.

Quotation 3 (page 393): Wenn Paulus mit Wendungen wie “im Kyrios” oder “in Christus” eine neue Wirklichkeitssicht beschreibt, so zeigt sich darin, dass er nicht zwischen dem Kyrios als dem Auferweckten und Erhörten einerseits und Jesus als Urheber von Traditionen anderseits unterscheidet. Der Grund dafür liegt wiederum darin, dass das Heilsgeschehen und die neue Glaubenswirklichkeit insgesamt mit dem Herrn Jesus Christus auf engste Weise verbunden gedacht werden. Der Kyrios bildet das Zentrum aller Glaubensäußerungen. Auf diese Weise kann die Autorität des Kyrios sowohl paulinische Argumentationen als auch bereits zirkulierende, von Paulus aufgegriffene Überlieferungen und auf den irdischen Jesus selbst zurückgehende Traditionen umfassen. Deshalb erfolgt letzlich alles Ermahnen des Apostels im Geltungsbereich des Christusglaubens, der den Bezugsrahmen für seine eigenen Ausführungen über das christliche Selbstverständnis und den Stand der Adressaten bildet. Der mit “in Christus/im Kyrios” markierte Deutungsraum, in den Paulus Topoi, Motive und Überlieferungsinhalte stellt, nivelliert deren je spezifische Herkunft.

Translation 4 (wmc): From a reception-oriented perspective 1 Cor 7.10-11 and 9.14 in particular can rather be understood as special forms of the much more frequent reference to the Kyrios through the ἐν-κυρίῳ-/ἐν-χριστῷ-expressions. For although in 1 Cor 7.10-11 and 9.14-15 Paul designates the content of the statements as words/sayings of the Lord, he relativizes their content from a christological perspective. Paul sees himself legitimated by the Lord for this work of mediation between the words of the Lord and the world of faith opened up “in Christ” (cf. 1 Cor 7.25, 40; 9.15-18). For the Kyrios as foundation of faith possesses for Paul more weight than the Kyrios as originator of tradition. With this the Pauline perspective on the action of God toward and through Christ becomes apparent, which alongside various other spheres of tradition integrates also the words of the Lord traditions into a common paradigm.

Quotation 4 (page 394): Aus einer rezeptionsorientiertenten Perspektive lassen sich insbesondere 1 Kor 7,10f. und 9,14 eher als Sonderformen der wesentlich häufigeren Bezugnahme auf den Kyrios durch die ἐν-κυρίῳ-/ἐν-χριστῷ-Wendungen verstehen. Denn obwohl Paulus in 1 Kor 7,10f. und 9,14 Aussagegehalte als Herrenworte kennzeichnet, relativiert er ihre Inhalte von einer christologischen Perspektive her. Zu dieser Vermittlungsarbeit zwischen den Herrenworten und der “in Christus” eröffneten Glaubenswelt sieht Paulus sich selbst vom Kyrios legitimiert (vgl. 1 Kor 7,25.40; 9,15-18). Denn für Paulus besitzt der Kyrios als Glaubensfundament mehr Gewicht als der Kyrios als Traditionsurheber. Damit zeichnet sich die paulinische Perspektive auf das Handeln Gottes an und durch Jesus Christus als derjenige Horizont ab, der neben verschiedenen anderen Traditionsbereichen auch die Herrenwortüberlieferungen in ein gemeinsames Paradigma integriert.

Substantive Analysis: In a previous post, I suggested that a comparison between the treatment of the sayings tradition in the work of Francis Watson and Jens Schröter would make a great research project, especially if it also drew upon the multiple exchanges between James Dunn and Jens Schröter on this topic. Having dipped into Jacobi’s fine monograph, I now think that her voice should definitely be added to this discussion, especially since she has already developed it at much greater depth in relation to a wider range of voices.

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Eve-Marie Becker on the Construction of History in Mark, Paul, and Luke

Adding to my other posts on historiography and New Testament scholarship, today’s post will provide a translation of a key excerpt from the work of another leading scholar in this area, namely Prof. Eve-Marie Becker (cf. here) of Aarhus University .

Our quotation is taken from her 2014 essay “Die Konstruktion von ‘Geschichte’. Paulus und Markus im Vergleich“, which appeared in Paul and Mark (ed. Oda Wischmeyer et al). It stands alongside her many other important publications in this area, such as her 2006 book Das Markus-Evangelium im Rahmen antiker Historiographie, her 2014 essay “Patterns of Early Christian Thinking and Writing of History: Paul – Mark – Acts” and her forthcoming book Historiography in New Testament Times (cf. here). More generally, readers of this blog may also be interested in her edited volume Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft. Autobiographische Essays aus der Evangelische Theologie.

Let us turn then to our excerpt. Since I will not be providing a grammatical commentary, I will alternate between the German text and my English translation.

Die Konstruction von ‘Geschichte’ (p. 415-16): Markus wählt für seine Erzählung eine ‘personzentrierte Darstellungsweise’. Die Geschichte der Evangeliumsverkündigung ist an einzelne Handlungsträger wie den Täufer, in erster Line aber an Jesus von Nazaret gebunden.

Mark chooses for his narrative a ‘person-centered manner of presentation’. The (hi)story of the proclamation of the gospel is tied to individual agents such as the Baptist, but primarily to Jesus of Nazareth.

Diese Personzentrierung wird nicht zuletzt deswegen möglich und nötig, weil Markus – anders als der Briefschreiber Paulus – nicht im Sinne der Selbst-Referentialität seine eigene Person als narratives Scharnier oder auch als autorisierenden Referenzpunkt seiner Darstellung anführen kann.

This person-centeredness is possible and necessary not least because Mark – unlike the letter writer Paul – cannot bring in his own person as (the) narrative hinge or as (the) authorizing reference point of his presentation in the sense of self-referentiality.

Im Lukanischen Doppelwerk ändert sich die narrative Bedeutung der Personzentrierung wiederum. Indem Lukas nämlich in beiden Werken eingangs die Hetero-Referentialität seiner Erzählung explizit macht, ermöglicht er dem Leser, die Handlungsträger der Darstellung, also vor allem Jesus, Petrus und Paulus, deutlicher von der Rolle des erzählenden Historikers abzugrenzen.

In the Lukan Doppelwerk [or in Luke-Acts] the narrative significance of the person-centeredness changes once more. For by making the hetero-referentiality of his narrative explicit at the outset in both works, Luke makes it possible for the reader to demarcate the agents of the presentation, i.e. above all Jesus, Peter and Paul, more clearly from the role of the narrating historian.

Damit variiert auch der geschichtliche Raum, dem sich der einzelne Autor narrativ zuwenden kann: Während Paulus faktisch nur über den von ihm selbst erlebten Zeitraum sprechen und Markus lediglich die zeitliche Periode, die an das Wirken seiner Handlungsträger gebunden ist, in den Blick nehmen kann, dehnt Lukas den zeitlichen Rahmen seiner Darstellung nach vorne und hinten erheblich aus:

In this way the historical space to which the individual author can turn also varies. While Paul can speak de facto only about the period of time experienced that he has experienced and Mark can only consider the temporal periods that are bound to the activity of his agents, Luke considerably extends the temporal framework of his presentation both forward and backward.

Die ereignisgeschichtliche Darstellung kann dort beginnen, wo der Historiker und Erzähler – für seine Leser erkennbar – seinen Quellen folgt. So kann erst die Explikation der Hetero-Referentialität zur zeitlichen Ausdehnung der ereignisgeschichtlichen Darstellung führen.

The event-historical presentation can begin where the historian and narrator – recognizably for his readers – follows his sources. Thus only the explication of the hetero-referentiality can lead to the temporal extension of the event-historical presentation.

II. Substantive analysis: What I liked about this quotation (and Becker’s essay as a whole) is that it brings the category of history into connection with Mark and Paul rather than relating it exclusively to Luke, while simultaneously showing with great precision how concrete differences in the authors’ perspectives and approaches resulted in important differences in the ways that they construct ‘history’ in their works.

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Annette Merz on Gender Research and the Quest for the Historical Jesus

Rather than undertaking a detailed grammatical analysis of a single quotation, today’s post will provide a translation of three different excerpts from Prof. Annette Merz‘s essay “Wie verändert die Genderforschung die Frage nach dem historischen Jesus?” as a way of giving the reader a better sense of her overall approach and argument. In my judgment, this essay would be an excellent place to start for anyone who is interested in seeing how this topic is being discussed in recent German (and Anglophone) scholarship.

Like Petra von Gemünden essay on affects in the Synoptic Gospels, Merz’s essay appeared in Jesus – Gestalt und Gestaltungen: Rezeptionen des Galiläers in Wissenschaft, Kirche und Gesellschaft. Festschrift für Gerd Theißen zum 70. Geburtstag. Edited by Petra von Gemünden, David Horrell and Max Küchler. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013, pp. 597-622.

(1) Translation (wmc): The often heard accusation that gender conscious reconstructions/Bible translations falsify history fails to recognize the complexity of historical research. Historical reconstruction always has to do with judgments of probability and the weighing of plausibilities. I am personally of the opinion that the few cases in which women have perhaps been  wrongly added through gender conscious reconstruction are far outweighed by the number of cases in which they have been wrongly removed from a historical setting. The application of the hermeneutic of suspicion has led to an intensive historical research and to the demonstration of the participation of women in many life spheres in which androcentric history writing of past centuries did not suspect them.

German (602-603): Der oft zu hörende Vorwurf, dass geschlechterbewusste Rekonstruktionen/Bibelübersetzungen die Historie verfälschen, verkennt die Komplexität historischer Forschung. Historische Rekonstruktion hat es immer mit Wahrscheinlichkeitsurteilen und dem Abwägen von Plausibilitäten zu tun. Ich persönlich bin der Meinung, dass die wenigen Fälle, in denen Frauen durch geschlechterbewusste Rekonstruktion eventuell zu Unrecht hinzugefügt worden sind, bei weitem überwogen werden durch die Zahl der Fälle, in denen sie zu Unrecht aus einer historischen Szenerie entfernt worden sind. Die Anwendung der Hermeneutik des Verdachts hat zu einer intensivierten historischen Forschung und zum Nachweis der Partizipation von Frauen in vielen Lebensbereichen geführt, in denen androzentrische Geschichtsschreibung vergangener Jahrhunderte sie nicht vermutete.

* unsure if “setting” or “scenery” is better for Szenerie, but the former seems better? Not sure if”did not suspect them” captures the force of “sie nicht vermutete” or if it would be better to say “never suspected them” or something entirely different.

(2) Translation (wmc): Corley must initially be affirmed as correct in the fact that there are no traditions that can traced back with certainty to Jesus that explicitly thematize the theme of gender justice. Jesus neither took up the cause of the liberation of the woman nor that of the man from patriarchy. But this does not yet mean that the theme of gender definition and gender justice is not, in fact, present in his message, even if it may be implicit and broken by contradictions, which could not be expected to be otherwise in light of the dominant patriarchalism of ancient culture. In my opinion, one cannot convincingly contest the fact that the Jesus tradition reveals a criticism of dominant common-ancient concepts of masculinity and femininity. I am going to discuss thereto four thematic spheres: gender symmetry in a strikingly large number of traditions, countercultural values in the family and gender order presupposed in Jesus logia, criticism of rulership and imperialism as kyriarchy criticism and indirect patriarchy criticism, and the specific form of sexual morality formulated with a view to men and women.

German (615): Corley ist zunächst darin Recht zu geben, dass es keine mit Sicherheit auf Jesu zurückführbaren Traditionen gibt, die das Thema der Geschlechtergerechtigkeit explizit thematisieren. Jesus hat sich weder die Befreiung der Frau noch die des Mannes vom Patriarchat auf die Fahnen geschrieben. Das bedeutet aber noch nicht, dass das Thema der Geschlechterdefinition und Geschlechtergerechtigkeit nicht doch in seiner Botschaft vorhanden ist, sei es auch implizit und durch Widersprüchlichkeiten gebrochen, was angesichts des dominanten Patriarchalismus der antiken Kultur gar nicht anders zu erwarten ist. Man kann m. E. nicht überzeugend bestreiten, dass die Jesusüberlieferung eine Kritik an dominanten gemeinantiken Männlichkeits- und Weiblichkeitskonzepten erkennen lässt. Ich bespreche dazu vier Themenbereiche: Gendersymmetrie in auffällig vielen Traditionen, gegenkulturelle Werte in der in Jesuslogien vorausgesetzten Familien- und Geschlechterordnung, Herrschafts- und Imperialismuskritik als Kyriarchats- und indirekte Patriarchatskritik und die spezifische Form der mit Blick auf Männer und Frauen formulierten Sexualmoral.

*tough paragraph: struggled to translate opening words; gender equality read better than gender justice but the latter seemed preferable in terms of content; not at all sure whether “even if it may be implicit” captures the force of “sei es auch implicit” or whether “could not be expected to be otherwise” captures “gar nicht anders zu erwarten ist”. I very unsure about the force of dazu, which I translated as thereto. Finally, “order” might not be the best translation for “-ordnung”?

(3) Translation (wmc): The aforementioned observations do not intend to re-establish a feminist myth of origin. This has been rightly criticized, and it occurs, by the way, not only in Jesus research but also as a much used problematic model for history (of religion) writing, which has a tendency to glorify beginnings. Rather, my concern has been to place Jesus’s teaching and the way of life of the Jesuanic kingdom of God movement in a nuanced manner into the complex historical context that knew of not one but many gender discourses.

German (618): Mit den genannten Beobachtungen soll nicht ein feministischer Ursprungsmythos re-etabliert werden, der zu Recht kritisiert worden ist und übrigens nicht nur in der Jesusforschung vorkommt, sondern als ein vielfach verwendetes problematisches Muster von (Religions-)Geschichtsschreibung identifiziert wurde, die eine Tendenz hat, Anfänge zu verklären. Es geht vielmehr darum, Jesu Lehre und den Lebensstil der jesuanischen Reich-Gottes-Bewegung differenziert in den komplexen historischen Kontext einzuordnen, der nicht einen, sondern verschiedene Geschlechterdiskurse kannte.

* Another tough paragraph! I sometimes find it preferable to translate mit X … passive verb into X … active verb. Using “intend” to translate soll sometimes seems best. And it seemed preferable to break up the long German sentence here by introducing a full stop. “by the way” is the best solution I have for  übrigens apart from not translating it; writing history (of religion) of the writing of history (of religion) might be better than history (of religion) writing. verklären could perhaps be translated with “transfigure” to make a connection with the “transfiguration” but “glorify” seemed to convey the most important point more clearly. I translated es geht um very freely with “my concern has been” rather than “the concern is” or the like. It might be better to translate Jesuananische with Jesus’s instead of Jesuanic? Likewise, it might be better to simply say “carefully” rather than “in a nuanced manner” for differenziert.

Substantive analysis: Annette Merz is one of those rare scholars who effectively combines (a) advanced theoretical reflection, (b) high quality exegesis, and (c) the ability to communicate her arguments in a clear and compelling manner. For me at least, these excerpts convey something of all three of these virtues. Excerpt 1 immediately turns the tables on the reader who might approaches her topic with reservations or skepticism: Yes, it is true that it is possible to read women into early Christianity in problematic ways. But, no, you shouldn’t dismiss what I am going to say because the danger of reading women out of early Christianity in problematic ways is much greater. In other words, precisely in order to do good historical research, you need to alter your default setting. Excerpt 2 then acknowledges an element of truth in second perspective that runs counter to her own, while explaining why this element of truth does not undermine her viewpoint and outlining how exactly she will develop her argument in relation to the primary texts. Finally, in Excerpt 3 she distances herself from an approach to her topic that has met with criticism, while showing how her approach is not liable to such criticism insofar as it is precisely concerned to provide a nuanced account that does justice to the complex historical context.

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Petra von Gemünden on Affekte in the Synoptic Gospels

Today’s post will look at a model sentence from Petra von Gemünden‘s essay “Affekte in den synoptischen Evangelien. Die Bedeutung der literarischen Gattung für die Darstellung von Zorn, Begierde, Furcht/Angst und Neid” [Affects in the Synoptic Gospels: The Significance of the Literary Genre for the Presentation of Anger, Lust, Fear/Angst and Envy]. Pages 255-284 in Jesus – Gestalt und Gestaltungen: Rezeptionen des Galiläers in Wissenschaft, Kirche und Gesellschaft. Festschrift für Gerd Theißen zum 70. Geburtstag. Edited by Petra von Gemünden, David Horrell and Max Küchler. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013.

For Petra von Gemünden’s English publications, see here. For some of her other relevant publications on the topic of this post, see esp. her 2009 book Affekt und Glaube: Studien zur Historischen Psychologie des Frühjudentums und Urchristentums (UGAhere).

Translation and German Text

English Translation (wmc): Here an important role is assigned to the affects of the (male and female) disciples and their failure. In the figures of the (male and female) disciples problems are addressed and moved into the light anew in a correcting manner. Jesus functions as an overcoming model: he is afraid but overcomes his angst. In this way the figure of Jesus makes possible a learning in relation to a model. As psychology has shown, learning in relation to an overcoming model is more effective than the example of a “perfect” (here: an absolutely fearless) person.

“Affekte in den synoptischen Evangelien” (p. 278): Den Affekten der JüngerInnen und ihrem Versagen kommt hier eine wichtige Rolle zu. In den Figuren der JüngerInnen werden Probleme angesprochen und korrigierend neu ins Licht gerückt. Als überwindendes Modell fungiert Jesus: Er fürchtet sich, überwindet aber in Getsemane seine Angst. Damit ermöglicht die Figur Jesu ein Lernen am Modell. Wie die Psychologie gezeigt hat, ist das Lernen am überwindenden Modell effektiver, als das Exempel eines “vollkommenen” (hier: eines absolut furchtlosen) Menschen.

Grammatical analysis

(1) Den Affekten der JüngerInnen und ihrem Versagen kommt hier eine wichtige Rolle zu.

(1) the subject is eine wichtige Rolle, the verb is zukommen (it separates and zu moves to the end), the datives den Affekten and ihrem Versagen indicate what a role is assigned to, the genitive plural der JüngerInnen elegantly deals with the difficulty that German writers must choose between Jünger (which does not specifically signal that women are also in view and could be understood to mean that only men are in view) and the feminine Jüngerinnen (which includes only women): In other words, assuming my understanding is correct, the term JüngerInnen conveys something like Jünger and/or Jüngerinnen, like our “s/he” [Jünger/innen is also used]. I have translated zukommen somewhat freely as “is assigned to” rather than “belongs” or “is due to”.

(2) In den Figuren der JüngerInnen werden Probleme angesprochen und korrigierend neu ins Licht gerückt. 

(2) In + dative den Figuren + genitive plural der JüngerInnen, plural subject = Probleme, verbs = werden … angesprochen and werden gerückt, korrigierend and neu are adverbs. ins Licht = in + das Licht (accusative since it is with a verb of motion, i.e., into).

(3) Als überwindendes Modell fungiert Jesus: Er fürchtet sich, überwindet aber in Getsemane seine Angst.

(3) Jesus is the subject, fungiert is the verb, als = as, I think Modell is a predicate nominative, überwindendes is a nominative, singular, neuter, present participle that modifies Modell.  Er is the subject, fürchtet sich and überwindet are the verbs, aber is postpositive, in Getsamene indicates the location, seine = his, Angst is the direct object of überwindet; since P. v. Gemünden uses Furcht/Angst it seemed preferable to translate Angst with “angst” rather than “fear”, with the hope that the semantic range of the German “Angst” and the English “angst” are close enough that angst is not a false friend; it could be, however, and it might be better to translate it as “fear”.

(4) Damit ermöglicht die Figur Jesu ein Lernen am Modell. 

(4) Damit is hard to translate: sometimes it is best to turn it into a “this”, but I often translate it with “in this way” or sometimes with “thus”, “thereby”, or “with this”. die Figur is the subject, Jesu is genitive (the figure of Jesus), ein Lernen [the verb lernen is made into a noun by being capitalized, which makes it “a learning”] is the object of ermöglicht, an [am = an dem] is often difficult: I sometimes use “toward” or “in relation to”, though neither is quite right; Modell is dative.

(5) Wie die Psychologie gezeigt hat, ist das Lernen am überwindenden Modell effektiver, als das Exempel eines “vollkommenen” (hier: eines absolut furchtlosen) Menschen.

(5) Wie = as (introduces a subordinate clause here, verb moves to end), subject = die Psychologie, past-tense-verb of the clause introduced by Wie = hat gezeigt, verb of main sentence = ist, subject = das Lernen, am = an dem (dative neuter) + überwindenden Modell, effektiver = comparative form of effektiv, als with a comparative = than (more effective than), das Exempel is also nominative, eines Menschen is genitive and is modified by the adjective vollkommenen, (hier: eines absolut furchtlosen) provides a gloss for what is meant by ein vollommenen in this case, for which reason it is also put in the genitive.

Substantive Analysis

There are many things that I appreciate about this excerpt and P. v. Gemünden’s essay as a whole. Perhaps most of all, I like how this quotation rightly and powerfully underscores the way in which Jesus functions as an overcoming model in Gethsemane, i.e, against the tendency to undercut or minimize this function by stressing the extent to which Jesus’s particular way of suffering and death was unique and unrepeatable.


My own interest in the topic of historical psychology and New Testament interpretation was first ignited by my RBL review of Gerd Theissen’s 2007 book Erleben und Verhalten der Ersten Christen: Eine Psychologie des Urchristentum, and it received new life through my supervision of Amanda Atkinson‘s MA research on Pauline Conversion and Resurrection.

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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 one or two  Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.

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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Oda Wischmeyer and the Lexikon der Bibelhermeneutik

This post 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) 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.

Today’s “German scholar” is Prof. Dr. Oda Wischmeyer (em.) of the Friedrich-Alexander Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, an institution that holds a special place in my heart as my first university home during my studies in Germany. Insofar as this blog and the BMSEC series both aim to facilitate increased dialogue between English-language and German-language scholarship, I would like to underline here the extent to which Prof. Wischmeyer’s scholarship has contributed to this aim, for example through the English translation of her edited volume Paul: Life, Setting, Work, Letters, which I mentioned in my last post, and now through her 2014 co-edited volume Paul and Mark (cf. Jim West’s Review), which brings together the work of about twelve German-speaking scholars and twelve English-speaking scholars who deal with the question of the influence of Paul on Mark.

As her passage of choice for this post, Prof. Wischmeyer has submitted an excerpt from the Lexikon der Bibelhermeneutik. Edited by Oda Wischmeyer. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2013, p. VI.

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): “The text-oriented hermeneutic of the Bible represents a new hermeneutic paradigm in which the canonical version of the Bible is not primarily understood in a theologically internal manner as ‘gospel’ and ‘Holy Scripture’ and thereby largely hermeneutically and methodologically withdrawn from the non-theological text-oriented disciplines. Rather, the hermeneutical approach [of the Lexikon] is already in its basic approach heuristic and multiperspectival and does not follow an already existing conception. The leading theological-hermeneutical terms ‘gospel’, ‘word of God’, ‘Holy Scripture’, and ‘revelation’ stand alongside terms that belong to the humanities and the study of culture   [or: to the human sciences and cultural sciences] in the broadest sense such as ‘canon’, ‘holy book’, ‘text’, ‘supertext’, and ‘reception’. The term/concept of text is chosen as an integrating guiding term/concept to which both the theological disciplines and the humanities and cultural disciplines have genuine methodological and hermeneutical points of access and to which they can make their own contribution. The Bible is understood as a collection of different texts that together form a supertext. All present-day text-elucidating scholarly [or scientific] disciplines with their theories, methods, conceptions, and terms/concepts are drawn upon for the understanding of this text or these texts. The field of linguistic, literary, historical, theological, philosophical, and religious studies understanding yields together the basis of a ‘Bible hermeneutic’ that opens up the biblical texts in all their aspects to understanding.”

Lexikon der Bibelhermeneutik (p. VI): “Die textbezogene Hermeneutik der Bibel stellt ein neues hermeneutisches Paradigma dar, in dem die kanonische Fassung der Bibel nicht primär binnentheologisch als ‘Evangelium’ und ‘Heilige Schrift’ verstanden wird und damit den nicht-theologischen textbezogenen Disziplinen hermeneutisch und methodisch weitgehend entzogen ist. Der hermeneutische Zugang [des Lexikons] ist vielmehr bereits im Ansatz heuristisch, multiperspektivisch und schließt sich nicht einer bereits bestehenden Konzeption an. Die führenden theologisch-hermeneutischen Begriffe ‘Evangelium’, ‘Wort Gottes’, ‘Heilige Schrift’, ‘Offenbarung’ stehen neben den im weitesten Sinne geistes- und kulturwissenschaftlichen Begriffen wie ‘Kanon’, ‘heiliges Buch’, ‘Text’, ‘Supertext’, ‘Rezeption’. Als integrierender Leitbegriff ist der Textbegriff gewählt, zu dem die theologischen Disziplinen ebenso wie die geistes- und kulturwissenschaftlichen Fächer genuine methodische und hermeneutische Zugänge besitzen und eigene Beiträge leisten können. Die Bibel wird als eine Sammlung unterschiedlicher Texte verstanden, die gemeinsam einen Supertext bilden. Zum Verstehen dieser Texte bzw. dieses Textes werden alle gegenwärtig texterklärenden wissenschaftlichen Disziplinen mit ihren Theorien, Methoden, Konzeptionen und Begriffen herangezogen. Das Feld von sprachlichem, literarischem, historischem, theologischem, philosophischem und religionswissenschaftlichem Verstehen ergibt gemeinsam die Basis einer ‘Bibelhermeneutik’, die die biblischen Texte in allen ihren Aspekten dem Verstehen erschließt.”

Selective grammatical analysis: Let me restrict myself to a few difficult points. textbezogene could be translated text-related, but it is perhaps a bit weak, and I think that text-oriented might capture the intended sense better. binnentheologisch is hard to render: I chose to adopt the paraphrasing translation “in a theologically internal manner”. It would have read better to translate entzogen as “removed” but I thought “withdrawn” better conveyed the intended sense. “approach” is often the best translation for Zugang and Ansatz, but in order to lessen the awkward repetition I translated Ansatz as “basic approach”. I considered translating Ansatz as “conception” here, but this solution also fell flat since this term follows shortly thereafter! As I have indicated elsewhere (see here and From Jesus to the New Testament, p. viii), the translation of the German term Wissenschaft/wissenschaftlich causes problems (for me), since there are advantages and disadvantages of using the language of “science/scientific” in English. With respect to the phrase neben den im weitesten Sinne geistes- und kulturwissenschaftlichen Begriffen, the problem is felt with particular severity for three reasons. First, it is necessary for stylistic reasons to change the German adjectival construction to a relative clause, which also requires one to change the adjectives into nouns here. Secondly, the translation of Begriff (my least favorite German word) is often problematic since it tends to hover between word and concept (see further here). Thirdly and most importantly, it is extremely difficult (for me) to translate geistes- und kulturwissenschaftlichen. In English, I suspect we might just say “the humanities” or “the liberal arts”, which in our sentence would result in “alongside terms that belong to the humanities in the broadest sense”. But I think it is probably necessary to retain at least something of the German nuance, so I have suggested “alongside terms that belong to the humanities and studies of culture in the broadest sense”. In the end, however, it might be better to employ the language of “science” here and write “that belong to the human sciences and cultural sciences in the broadest sense”, despite the fact using the language of “science” for anything other than the “natural sciences” (Naturwissenschaften) will probably meet with criticism from at least some readers (see e.g., here), which is notable in view of the different linguistic conventions of French, German, and presumably other languages. Finally, there would be several options for translating dem Verstehen erschließt. Given the overall tenor of the quotation, it seemed preferable to me to adopt the less theologically-loaded translation “open up” rather than “disclose” or “reveal” for erschließt. It is not clear to me whether it would be better to say “to the understanding” or “to understanding” in this case.

II) Biographical-Bibliographical Information

For Prof. Wischmeyer’s academic profile, see here. For a chronological list of her publications, see here.

Prof. Wischmeyer describes her current research focus as follows:

My field of research is the collection of writings of the New Testament in their religious, literary and historical contexts. At the foreground of my work stand, on the one hand, the writings of ancient Judaism (esp. Ben Sira), and, on the other hand, texts, themes and theology of Paul’s letters and the letter of James as well as the Gospel of Mark. The canonical and noncanonical writings of ancient Judaism and early Christianity are foundational texts both in religious and cultural respects. Like the great texts of the Graeco-Roman culture – above all the Homeric epics and the Aeneid but also the texts of Plato – they have brought forth a hermeneutic of their own. Rudolf Bultmann showed for the European and North American exegesis of the twentieth century that New Testament scholarship always goes together with hermeneutical questions. In the last generation it came, in the wake of the globalization of biblical scholarship, to something like an explosion of new hermeneutical approaches that must be exegetically and hermeneutically sifted and processed. It is to this task that my own works on New Testament hermeneutic are devoted, namely the Lexikon der Bibelhermeneutik (ed. Oda Wischmeyer 2009 and 2013) and the Handbuch der Bibelhermeneutiken (ed. Oda Wischmeyer, Walter de Gruyter, forthcoming 2015).

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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.