Differing Doubts About the Authorship of Luke-Acts: Schröter and Wolter

Building on my post from two weeks ago, today’s post will begin a short series of posts on Luke-Acts, most of which will juxtapose the positions of Jens Schröter (Eng) in From Jesus to the New Testament and Michael Wolter (Eng) in The Gospel According to Luke. Today we look at the question of authorship.

While Schröter and Wolter both express themselves with caution regarding the question of the authorship of Luke-Acts, it is notable that their respective uncertainties are located at quite different points. Let me illustrate this with a quotation from each scholar, alternating between the English and the German text.

1. Jens Schröter (FJNT 287-288; VJNT 312-313)

Thus, the Muratorianum is of interest for our line of questioning first because it confirms the association of Luke/Paul, which is also found in Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen. This, however, is … not derived from Acts. Rather, it is clear that the name Luke was already attached to the Gospel and was transferred from there to Acts.

Das Muratorianum ist somit für unsere Fragestellung zum einen deshalb von Interesse, weil es die auch bei Irenäus, Tertullian und Origines begegnende Verbindung Lukas/Paulus bestätigt. Diese wird … jedoch nicht aus der Apg abgeleitet. Deutlich ist vielmehr, dass der Name Lukas bereits am Evangelium haftete und von dort auch auf die Apg übertragen wurde.

This finding is supported by the fact that in light of the observations on the four-gospel collection (cf. § 3 below) it can be regarded as completely improbable that the Gospel of Luke circulated anonymously for quite a long time and was first ascribed to the Paul-companion Luke in the course of the acceptance of Acts. Rather, the ascription of the third Gospel to Luke is an old tradition that arose at the latest in connection with the superscriptions of the Gospels.

Dieser Befund wird dadurch unterstützt, dass es angesichts der Beobachtungen zur Vier-Evangelien-Sammlung (vgl. unten unter 3.) als gänzlich unwahrscheinlich gelten kann, dass das LkEv längere Zeit anonym umlief und erst im Zuge der Aufnahme der Apg dem Paulusbegleiter Lukas zugeschrieben wurde. Die Zuschreibung des dritten Evangeliums an Lukas ist vielmehr eine alte, spätestens im Zusammenhang der Evangelienüberschriften entstandene Tradition.

To what this is to be traced remains mysterious to a certain extent. It is conspicuous at any rate that the subsequent invention of a tradition about the Gospel-writer Luke first produced the problem of legitimating this gospel, since one could not appeal for this to an eyewitness—unlike with Matthew and John and also unlike with Mark, which was at least supported by the authority of Peter.

Worauf diese zurückzuführen ist, bleibt einigermaßen rätselfhaft. Auffällig ist jedenfalls, dass die nachträgliche Erfindung einer Tradition über den Evangelienschreiber Lukas erst das Problem produziert hätte, dieses Evangelium zu legitimieren, da man sich hierfür – anders als bei Mt und Joh, anders auch als bei Mk, das wenigstens durch die Autorität des Petrus gestützt wurde – nicht auf einen Augenzeugen berufen konnte.

For my other Schröter posts, see here.

2. Michael Wolter (GAL 7-8; DLE 6-7).

Above all 2 Timothy 4.11 could have played an important role in this connection. When it states there that “only Luke is with me” and this letter also acts as if it were written by Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome with death before his eyes (1.17; 4.16ff), then it could only—so the conclusion had to run 2 Timothy was still regarded as authentic—have been this Luke from whom the report of the Pauline imprisonment in Rome comes, which one can read in Acts 27.17-31. …

Vor allem 2.Tim 4,11 könnte in diesem Zusammenhang eine wichtige Rolle gespielt haben: Wenn es hier heißt “nur Lukas ist bei mir”, und dieser Brief außerdem so tut als wäre er von dem in Rom gefangenen Paulus geschrieben worden, der den Tod vor Augen hat (1,17; 4,16ff), konnte es – so musste die Schlussfolgerung lauten, als man den 2. Timotheusbrief noch für authentisch hielt – eben nur dieser Lukas gewesen sein, von dem der Bericht von der paulinischen Gefangenschaft in Rom stammt, der in Apg 28,17–31 zu lesen ist. …

And because one had recognized already in the second century that the Gospel of Luke and Acts were written by the same author, it is not to be ruled out that the name Luke was first inferred for the author of Acts from 2 Timothy 4.11 and then transferred to the Gospel. …

Und weil man auch schon im 2. Jahrhundert erkannt hatte, das LkEv und Apg von ein und demselben Autor geschrieben worden waren, ist es nicht ausgeschlossen, dass der Name Lukas von 2. Tim 4,11 aus erst für den Verfasser der Apostelgeschichte erschlossen und dann auf das Evangelium übertragen wurde. …

Thus, it would have been only the above-cited information from 2 Timothy 4.11 with whose help one was able to give a name to the anonymous author of Luke–Acts. It is, however, also conceivable that the name Luke adhered to the Gospel already independently of Acts (in this vein, cf. now especially again Thornton 1991, 78; Jervell 1988, 80f; Schröter 2007, 312–13; 2013, 287–88).

Denkbar ist aber auch, dass der Name Lukas auch schon unabhängig von der Apostelgeschichte am Evangelium haftete (in diesem Sinne vg. jetzt vor allem wieder Thornton* 78; Jervell, Apg, 80f.; Schröter, Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament, 312f).

The consequences would be very far-reaching in this case, for this connection between the name Luke and the Gospel could only be traced back to historical recollection. How could one otherwise and without the detour via Acts explain that the composition of the Gospel of Luke was ascribed to Luke, of all people?

Die Konsequenzen wären in diesem Fall sehr weitgehend, denn auf anderes als auf historische Erinnerung ließe sich diese Verknüpfung nicht zurückführen. Wie wollte man sonst und ohne den Umweg über die Apostelgeschichte erklären, dass die Abfassung des LkEv ausgerechnet dem Paulusbegleiter Lukas zugeschrieben wurde?

Taking all things into consideration, however, we cannot get around the diagnosis that, with respect to the person of the author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts, there are more questions than answers and earlier certainties have gone lost in the meantime, namely on both sides of the argument.

Aufs Ganze gesehen kommen wir aber nicht um die Feststellung herum, dass es in Bezug auf die Person des Verfassers von LkEv und Apg mehr Fragen als Antworten gibt und dass frühere Gewissheiten inzwischen verloren gegangen sind, und zwar auf beiden Seiten.

For my other Wolter posts, see here.


To me what is noteworthy about these two quotations is the very different location of the uncertainty. Schröter is quite certain that the name Luke was first attached to the Gospel and then to Acts, but apparently uncertain about how the name Luke became attached to the Gospel. By contrast, it seems that Wolter is uncertain about whether the name Luke was attached to the Gospel by way of Acts but quite certain that if it was not attached to the Gospel via Acts, then the only explanation for it being attached to the Gospel must be historical recollection.

For my other Luke-Acts posts, see here.

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Jens Schröter, Galatians 1.6-7, and the Greek Scholars

Since they are included in a collection of essays that is especially associated with historiography and New Testament scholarship, Jens Schröter’s two chapters on Galatians in From Jesus to the New Testament could easily be missed. To my mind, however, they both merit the attention of Pauline scholars. In particular, since Galatians 1:6-7 is such a striking and important verse, I am hopeful that Schröter’s interpretation of this key text in chapter 7 will gain a hearing in the commentary literature and beyond (cf. Joel Willitts appreciation of its significance). And since part of Schröter’s argument involves a reassessment of the semantic relationship of ἕτερος and ἄλλος, I would be delighted to see this part of the essay subjected to critical evaluation by the group of scholars who are most qualified to assess it—namely, those scholars who have established themselves as leading authorities in Greek lexicography or, more broadly, in the application of linguistic insights to the New Testament. In other words, I hope that this post will provoke one or several of them to respond to Schröter in the Blogosphere or in the context of a conference paper or journal article.

Before turning to two key quotes from Schröter’s essay, however, let me first pause for a moment and encourage all my readers to check out and follow the recently established “Zürich New Testament blog,” which will undoubtedly be a great resource for everyone interested in engaging with ‘German’ New Testament scholarship! Indeed, I am hoping against hope that Zürich might prove to be the first fruits of a full harvest of New Testament blogs associated with leading universities in the German-language sphere. We’ll see.

Returning to Schröter, I will provide two key quotations (only in English this time). The first  will showcase his understanding of the semantic relationship of ἕτερος and ἄλλος (this is the part of the essay where I think the Greek scholars among us are especially well qualified to weigh in). The second quotation represents Schröter’s paraphrase and interpretation of Gal 1.6-7 on the basis of his understanding of the overall argument of these verses (evaluating this material thus requires more – but not less! – than an evaluation of his interpretation of ἕτερος and ἄλλος).

I. ἕτερος and ἄλλος (Is he right, Greek scholars?!)

From Jesus to the New Testament (pp. 133-153, esp. 137-146): (141) However, the exchangeability of ἕτερος and ἄλλος, even if it occurs in Paul himself, does not yet prove that the meaning-specific characteristics of the terms were lost, thus that one is to start not merely from a referential but also from a lexical synonymity. … (142) With regard to the sentence in question, one should start from the syntactical observation that ἕτερος is negated through ἄλλος. This speaks against assuming a synonymous relation or de facto replacing ἄλλος through εὐαγγέλιον in the interpretation. … (143) Ramsay emphasized the fact that while both terms can take on the meaning “different,” this does not answer the question of which of the two expresses the higher degree of difference when they are placed in syntactical opposition to each other. … (144) Zahn thus observes very precisely the semantic difference between ἕτερος and ἄλλος when he distinguishes between an additional gospel and the question of its difference in kind. … As far as I can see, among recent interpretations a correct semantic description of the findings is found—besides the already mentioned statement of Brigitte Kahl on the relative sentence in 1.7—only with François Vouga. He writes, “unlike Gal 1.19, but as in 2 Cor 11.4, ἕτερος and ἄλλος are precisely distinguished: the alternative message (alter), to which the Galatians turn cannot be gospel because there cannot be a different (alius) gospel at all.” … (145) the interpretations of Ramsay and Zahn as well as the statements of Kahl and Vouga lead to the right interpretation, which also allows the point of the Pauline argument to appear somewhat different. First, it is rightly emphasized in these interpretations that with ἕτερος, when it stands in opposition to ἄλλος, it is not a greater degree in difference that is expressed but an enumerative sense; secondly, it is pointed out that ὅ οὐκ ἔστιν ἄλλο can hardly be interpreted as a negation of the existence of the ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον. Thus Paul’s concern in Galatians 1.6 is not to dispute the existence of a second form of the εὐαγγέλιον. Rather, he grants that there is such an additional form of the proclamation of the εὐαγγέλιον (a ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον) alongside his own. This is not, of course, to be understood in the sense of a concession to his rivals! Instead, it follows from verse 7 that it is only through the distortion of the εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ that the ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον becomes an ἄλλο εὐαγγέλιον, the following of which represents a turning from God.

II. Schröter’s paraphrase and Interpretation of Gal 1.6-7

(146) A paraphrase of the analyzed sentence thus reads: “I am amazed that you are so quickly turning from the one who called you in the grace of Christ to another gospel. This would not at all stand in contradiction to the one that I proclaimed to you if certain people would not confuse you and distort the gospel of Christ.” As the result of this section the following can thus be maintained: the argument of Paul in Galatians 1.6-7 is that his opponents wrongly claim that there is another (ἕτερον, alter) legitimate form of the gospel that is materially different (ἄλλο, alius) from his own. With this he does not fundamentally deny that there is another form of gospel proclamation altogether. It is decisive, however, that this other gospel (ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον) stands on the same basis as his own. Thus the ἕτερον εὐαγγέλιον may not be an ἄλλο εὐαγγέλιον because it would then no longer be εὐαγγέλιον. The contestation of this unity of the gospel makes the alternative form of its proclamation a distortion of the εὐαγγέλιον τοῦ Χριστοῦ and thus misleads the Galatians to turn away from God. Thus, Paul is concerned to emphasize the unity of the one gospel in two forms. What this unity consists in will be investigated in the next section.

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Richard Bauckham, Jens Schröter, and Paul Ricoeur on Memory and its Errors

Earlier this month I had the good fortune that my family vacation to Norway and England happened to coincide with the first day of the 2016 “Memory and the Reception of Jesus in Early Christianity” conference at St. Mary’s University in London. I thoroughly enjoyed the papers and even more so the opportunity to meet several people in person whom I had previously only ‘met’ virtually, i.e. in the scholarly blogosphere and facebooksphere.

While it would be unwise to put my memory to the test by attempting to summarize all the papers, I would like to flag up one issue that I found quite interesting, namely the fact that from their papers alone one could be left with the impression that there is a great chasm between Richard Bauckham and Jens Schröter with regard to the question of the functioning of memory and its propensity to error. To some extent, this is not surprising, since there are considerable differences between the two scholars on this point. Still, my memory of what Schröter had said in chapter 4 of From Jesus to the New Testament leads me to believe that the two scholars are perhaps a bit closer than what one might gather from their presentations. Therefore, I thought it would be worthwhile to provide an excerpt from this chapter.

Before doing so, however, let me add a few sentences on the papers themselves for those who were not at the conference.  In his paper on “The Psychology of Eyewitness Memory,” Richard Bauckham was concerned to distinguish between different types of memory and show that memory could be very reliable under certain conditions. By contrast, in his key note address “Memory, Theories of History, and the Reception of Jesus,” Jens Schröter was concerned to distinguish between appeals to individual memory as a way of getting back to Jesus and his own appeal to memory as a hermeneutical category that helps us to conceptualize the relationship between the past and the present and what we are doing when we represent the past in the present (regrettably, I think I’ve done a rather poor job clarifying the precise nature of this distinction, but hopefully I have been able to convey the basic point that Schröter wants to distinguish his own “memory approach” from a “memory approach” that appeals to individual memory as a way back to (the impact of) Jesus; for a much clearer treatment of this distinction between two different types of “memory approaches,” see Christine Jacobi‘s 2015 book Jesusüberlieferung bei Paulus? Analogien zwischen den echten Paulusbriefen und den synoptischen Evangelien, pp. 9-20; cf. here; for more on Schröter’s own perspective on historiography and memory, see here) . Within this context, Schröter was concerned to stress the fallibility of memory as a way of showing the problems with appealing to individual memory as a way of establishing a connection between Jesus and the Gospels (for example, along the lines of Richard Bauckham), since he was concerned to sideline this “memory approach,” with the goal of convincing his hearers to take up instead his own “memory approach,” which then he developed in the second part of his paper. For me, it was especially noteworthy that Schröter explicitly appealed to Johannes Fried when he was stressing the fallibility of memory in response to Bauckham’s line of argumentation, since in chapter 4 of From Jesus to the New Testament, Schröter had criticized Fried in a manner that suggests to me that Schröter’s understanding of the functioning of memory and its errors might be a bit closer to Bauckham than one might assume on the basis of their  papers at the St. Mary’s conference. With this in mind, let me now turn then to the key quotation, which is developed in relation to Paul Ricoeur and Johannes Fried. As usual, I will alternate between the English and the German.

II. Key Quotation (FJNT 58-59; VJNT 65-66):

Ricoeur then describes the work of the memory, which is related to the representation of the past and thus to history writing, in three steps: the documentary phase, the phase of explanation and understanding, and finally the phase of representation, thus the presentation in the historical narrative. Here, it is important to him that while “the historical representation is indeed a present picture of an absent thing,” the past things actually happened and “no one can make it that they did not happen.”

Die auf die Repräsentation der Vergangenheit, also die Geschichtsschreibung bezogene Arbeit des Gedächtnisses beschreibt Ricoeur sodann in drei Schritten: die dokumentarische Phase, die Phase des Erklärens und Verstehens sowie schließlich diejenige der Repräsentation, also der Darstellung in der historischen Erzählung. Dabei ist ihm wichtig, dass zwar “die geschichtliche Repräsentation ein gegenwärtiges Bild einer abwesenden Sache” ist, dass die vergangenen Dinge aber tatsächlich geschehen sind und “keiner machen kann, daß sie nicht gewesen sind”.

For a phenomenology of memory, it follows from this that Ricoeur warns against “approaching the memory from its deficiencies, indeed from its dysfunctions.” Ricoeur sees the validity of such a position in the fact that it pays attention to the problem of forgetting and the “deletion of traces.”

Für eine Phänomenologie des Gedächnis folgt daraus, dass Ricoeur davor warnt, “sich dem Gedächnis von seinen Insuffizienzen, ja seinen Fehlfunktionen her zu nähern.” Das Recht einer solcher Position sieht Ricoeur darin, dass sie auf das Problem des Vergessens und der “Auslöschung von Spuren” aufmerksam macht.

These problems, however, cannot be reduced to neurophysiological findings. Rather, it must first be considered that forgetting is a constitutive form of recollection, thus “before the abuse, there was the use, namely the necessarily selective character of the narrative.”

Allerdings lasse sich diese Problematik nicht auf einen neurophysiologischen Befund verkürzen. Vielmehr sei zunächst zu bedenken, dass Vergessen eine konstitutive Form der Erinnerung sei, also “vor dem Mißbrauch, nämlich der notwendig selektive Charakter der Erzählung” stehe.

In this Ricoeur’s approach differs fundamentally from that of Fried, who presented the memory as an entity that is deficient per se and ultimately applied the neurological findings in an arguably insufficiently differentiated manner to the epistemological and [66] science-of-history direction of questioning.

Damit ist Ricoeurs Zugang grundlegend von demjenigen Frieds unterschieden, der das Gedächtnis als eine per se fehlerhaft Instanz dargestellt und den neurologischen Befund letztlich wohl zu undifferenziert auf die epistemologische und geschichtswissenschaftliche Fragestellung übertragen hatte.

For Ricoeur, by contrast, forgetting does not simply represent a dysfunction of the memory that is to be corrected. Rather, forgetting, which is therein related to forgiving, can also have a salutary function for the appropriation of the past.

Für Ricoeur stellt sich das Vergessen dagegen nicht einfach als eine zu korrigierende Fehlfunktion des Gedächtnis dar. Vielmehr kann dem Vergessen, das darin dem Vergeben verwandt ist, auch eine für die Aneignung der Vergangenheit heilsame Funktion zukommen.

However, it may not be, as Ricoeur explicitly stresses, a “commanded forgetting.” Rather, a “salutary identity crisis” as a constituent part of the work of the memory is essential for the reappropriation of the past.

Allerdings darf es sich hierbei, wie Ricoeur ausdrücklich betont, nicht um ein “befohlenes Vergessen” handeln. Vielmehr sei für die Wiederaneignung der Vergangenheit eine “heilsame Identitätskrise” also Bestandteil der Errinnerungsarbeit erforderlich.

The strength of Ricoeur’s conception consists in the retention of the distinction between fiction and past reality. As much as he himself emphasizes the interweaving of the two spheres, he nevertheless always stresses their own respective modes of reference.

Die Stärke von Ricoeurs Entwurf besteht im Festhalten der Unterscheidung von Fiktion und vergangener Wirklichkeit. So sehr er selbst die Überschneidung beider Bereiche herausstellt, betont er jedoch stets ihren je eigenen Referenzmodus.

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Francis Watson, Jens Schröter, and the Sayings Collection Genre of the Gospel of Thomas

I recently completed Francis Watson‘s impressive book Gospel Writing, which is rightly receiving much attention (see here). I profited much from this stimulating work, and I especially enjoyed seeing the many ways in which it converged with and diverged from Jens Schröter‘s perspectives in From Jesus to the New Testament and Christoph Markschies‘s perspectives in Christian Theology and its Institutions in the Early Roman Empire.

Against this background, I hope to devote two (or more?) blog posts to comparing Watson’s book with the aforementioned works, namely as examples of the “I’d like to see someone else write about this” genre. In other words, these posts will flag up areas of inquiry that I will probably not write on but that I hope someone else might be motivated to investigate in greater detail, i.e. in the form of a blog post, conference paper, or article.

This week’s post will focus on the the different ways that Jens Schröter and Francis Watson deal with the sayings tradition and its development with special reference to the place they assign to the Gospel of Thomas. I’ll begin with a quotation by Watson, follow it with a quotation by Schröter, and then add a few words of analysis.

Francis Watson (Gospel Writing, pp. 249-250): “A closely related issue has been less intensively discussed, and it concerns the format of GTh. This text consists of a series of sayings, whether shorter or longer, single or composite, normally introduced by the formula “Jesus said…” While Thomas is apparently dependent on Matthew and Luke for parts of its content, it is independent of them as regards its format. Nor does this format conform to the (now discredited) Q Gospel. … There is no basis for the common assumption that Thomas closely resembles Q, and that it thereby strengthens the case for Q. … In terms of format, Thomas is unique, the single surviving instance of a sayings collection to set alongside the narrative gospels. The question is whether GTh was always unique or whether it attests the existence of a Sayings Collection genre, a class of writing whose existence ran parallel to that of the narrative gospels and that might conceivably have predated them. That is not to say that GTh itself may be earlier than the narrative gospels. If it contains early elements at all, predating the canonical evangelists, these can be identified only tentatively; they cannot be assembled into an ‘original core’ to which a mid-first-century date may be assigned. Even within the more self-consciously literary genre of the narrative gospels, there is considerable fluidity as stories pass from unknown sources into Mark and from Mark into Matthew and Luke. Within an initially preliterary Sayings Collection genre, that fluidity is likely to have been greater still. It is therefore impossible to recover from GTh the text of a primitive sayings collection along the lines of reconstructions of Q. What may still be possible is to recover from GTh a primitive genre, one in which sayings of Jesus were simply listed one after the other with an introductory formula attached to each. This genre would be at least as old as the oldest written sayings in GTh. If Thomas preserves even a single saying or parable in a form that predates the synoptic versions, it most probably owes its preservation to an unbroken chain of written transmission. The links in the chain are beyond recovery—although, as we have seen, Clement of Alexandria’s Gospel according to the Hebrews may have been one of them. Yet, if the Sayings Collection genre can be traced back behind GTh into the presynoptic era, it is plausible to suppose that texts of this kind may have been available to the synoptic evangelists. Before as well as after the composition of their gospels, Jesus’ sayings were transmitted by way of Sayings Collections (SCs). To the L/M hypothesis, which replaces Q, a Thomas-based SC hypothesis may be added. the two hypotheses are independent yet mutually reinforcing. If there is a Sayings Collection genre that predates the narrative gospels, then there is no need to envisage an extended period of purely oral transmission of Jesus’ sayings. The writing of a saying would be an original rather than a secondary feature of the traditioning process.”

Jens Schröter (From Jesus to the New Testament, p. 110-111 + note 49): “The one-sided preference for Q and the Gospel of Thomas—which in the process are also incorrectly assigned to the same genre—in Jesus presentations such as that of John Dominic Crossan or the methodologically completely untenable plea for the historical preference for a supposedly oldest layer of Q by James M. Robinson are indebted to a perspective that disregards the historical concretion and is not adequate to the sources. By contrast, every historical presentation of the person of Jesus has to take its orientation from the fact that his sayings were spoken in concrete situations to concrete human beings, that they only present one aspect of his activity and stand alongside the others—such as the constitution of a circle of followers, his healings and meal-fellowships, and the controversy [123] with opponents, to name only a few—and that in the sources that are available, whole pictures of his activity and fate are provided and not collections of sayings.” Note 49: “This is not altered at all by the fact that with the Gospel of Thomas we have a writing concentrated on the presentation of isolated sayings and parables. Such a collection is an artificial product that already presupposes the narrative presentation of the activity of Jesus and takes this path in contrast to another path in order to explicate the significance of Jesus. The thesis of the ancient character of such a collection is refuted by observations pertaining to the secondary character of the Gospel of Thomas over against the Synoptic Gospels, as well as by the fact with the philosophical biographies of Diogenes Laertius and the Apophthegmata Patrum we have parallel works from about the same time or even later in which the collection character of the material has just as little to do with antiquity. On this cf. also Hezser 1996, 393.”

Analysis: As mentioned at the outset, this post belongs to what I am calling the “I’d like to see someone else write about this” form/genre. In other words, although (or because!) I don’t plan on researching this topic further myself, I would be delighted if my presentation of these two quotations would provoke some bright, industrious scholar to compare and contrast the ways in which Jens Schröter (e.g. in From Jesus to the New Testament, chapters 5-6, and 12) and Francis Watson (in Gospel Writing, perhaps esp. in chapters 5 and 7) discuss the character and development of the sayings tradition, which would obviously not be limited to their treatment of the Gospel of Thomas.

My impression is that both scholars have developed extremely impressive models for how to understand the overall development of the sayings tradition, which makes it all the more interesting to observe areas of sharp disagreement (e.g. placing the sayings collection genre reflected in the Gospel of Thomas at an earlier or later point in the development) alongside many notable agreements (e.g. their shared view that Q and the Gospel of Thomas do not belong to the same genre and that the Gospel of Thomas is familiar with the Synoptic Gospels). While this post obviously does not go very far in showing how such an investigation might prove fruitful, perhaps it will prove sufficient to motivate someone else to pursue the matter further. If so, Schröter’s multiple exchanges with James Dunn could also prove relevant for this task (see here and here), since it seems to me that there are some points in which Watson and Dunn stand over against Schröter (e.g. in placing the sayings tradition in the context of recollection about Jesus from the beginning rather than seeing it initially located in a paraenetic context that was not focused on biographical recollection) and others in which Dunn and Schröter stand over against Watson (e.g. in the fact that they are inclined to appeal to oral tradition to explain much of the material that Watson explains with reference to the Sayings Collection Genre).

If anyone does wish to develop this topic, I recommend beginning with chapter 5 of From Jesus to the New Testament and pages 249-285 and 347-355 of Gospel Writing.

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Top 5 Posts in 2014

I have very much enjoyed my first year of blogging and even more being part of the blogosphere community! So thanks to all who have taken the time to read this blog and especially to those who have encouraged me along the way.

For the last Monday of the year, I thought it would be appropriate to provide links to my 5 most popular posts from 2014. For links to other “top posts in 2014” posts, see here.

1. Jens Schröter on the character of every historical (re)presentation – with special guests Chris Keith and Anthony Le Donne

2. Hengel and Schwemer on Historiography and the Messianic Claim of Jesus: with special guests Jens Schröter and Dale Allison

3. Gerd Theissen’s Critique of the New Perspective on Paul

4. Always Choose the Stronger Word and Beware of False Friends: A Translator’s Memories of Martin Hengel (1926-2009) and John Bowden (1935-2010)

5. Volker Rabens, “‘Schon jetzt’ und ‘noch mehr’: Gegenwart und Zukunft des Heils bei Paulus und in seinen Gemeinden” (JBTh 2013)

Other popular authors-topics-series included Schröter/HistoriographySchröter/Jesus of Nazareth, Käsemann-Baur-LincicumFrey/John, Schliesser/Pistis, Markschies/Theology-Institutions-Canon, Wolter/Quirinius, Wischmeyer/Bibelhermeneutik,  Bultmann-Käsemann/Righteousness,  Koch/Septuagint, Jüngel/LoveKonradt/Matthew, Paulus Handbuch Series, German Scholars Series.

I wish everyone a great 2015!

For three interviews with me about the BMSEC series, see here, here, and here.

For a complete list of my blog posts, please see here.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! Unfortunately, I have found it increasingly difficult to write a new post each Monday, but I hope to be able to write at least two or three Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.

Jens Schröter on Jesus’ use of the Son of Man Expression as Aufmerksamkeitssignal

Today’s model sentence is excerpted from Jens Schröter‘s attractive attempt to answer the Gretchenfrage of the Son of Man Problem in his book Jesus of Nazareth – Jew From Galilee, Savior of the World (2014)Jesus von Nazaret: Jude aus Galiläa – Retter der Welt (1st = 2006; 4th = 2012).

For my other posts on this book, see here. For all my Schröterposts, see here.

Jesus of Nazareth (p. 167): The Son of Man expression can then be placed into the profile of the activity of Jesus as follows: Jesus used this expression in such a way that with it the distinctive character of precisely his activity was stressed … Thus, Jesus used the expression “Son of Man” rather than merely saying “I” in order to point to the distinctiveness of his person: everything that took place through him and toward him was of singular significance because as the representative of God he established God’s reign and confronted human beings with the decision over salvation and judgment. Thus, one can understand Jesus’ use as an attention-attracting signal with which he pointed to the distinctiveness of his person.

Jesus von Nazaret (4th edition, p. 254-255): Der Menschensohnausdruck lässt sich dann folgendermaßen in das Profil des Wirkens Jesu einzeichnen … Jesus benutzt demnach den Ausdruck “Menschensohn” und sagte nicht einfach “ich”, um damit auf die Besonderheit seiner Person hinzuweisen: Alles, was sich durch ihn und an ihm ereignete, war deshalb von einzigartiger Bedeutung, weil er als Repräsentant Gottes dessen Reich aufrichtete und die Menschen mit der Entscheidung über Heil und Unheil konfrontierte. Man kann die Verwendung durch Jesus also als ein Aufmerksamkeitssignal verstehen, mit dem er auf die Besonderheit seiner Person hinwies.

Grammatical Analysis: the subject is Menschensohnausdruck/Son of Man expression. I usually translate the expression lässt sich + infinitive (here: einzeichnen) as can be verb-ed (here: “can be placed into” or “can be sketched into”). dann = then. folgendermaßen = as follows. in das Profil (acc) + des Wirkens (genitive) + Jesu (genitive) goes with einzeichnen: can be placed/sketched into the profile of the activity of Jesus. Jesus is the subject and benuzt/uses is the verb. With a view to readability, I translated demnach as “thus” rather than “according to this”. den Ausdruck/the expression is the object of the verb and Menschensohn/Son of Man represents the expression that is in view. I translated und sagte nicht einfach (and said not simply) as “rather than merely saying” with a view to English style. “ich” = “I”. um + zu + infinitive = in order to verb: the zu is found in the verb at the end (hinzuweisen = zu hinweisen = “in order to point to”). I left damit untranslated: I sometimes translate damit with “thereby” or “in this way”. auf goes with the verb (to point to); it takes the accusative die Besonderheit/the distinctiveness + genitive seiner Person/of his person. Alles, was = everything which/that (I chose “that” because it seems to me that the clause is defining rather than non-defining). sich ereignete is the verb (happened/took place); durch ihn = through him. an ihm is more difficult and I’ve never discovered a great way to capture the sense in English, since “on him” doesn’t work so well and “toward him” or “to him” is not much better; sometimes I use “in relation to him”. war von Bedeutung = was of importance/significance + einzigartiger = was of singular or unique significance. deshalb/weil literally means  “therefore/for this reason …. because” but in this construction it is probably better to leave deshalb untranslated. weil/because introduces a subordinate clause and therefore the verbs aufrichtete/established and konfrontierte/confronted move to the end of their sentence segments. als Repräsentant Gottes = as representative God; in English it seemed necessary to write “as the representative of God”, though it probably would have been better to translate this phrase with “as God’s representative”. dessen Reich is the object of aufrichtete: established his reign/kingdom. In the context, his = God’s. Given the German word choice it may have been preferable to translate Reich as kingdom, but the translation really depends on knowing what emphasis the author wants to set with each use of this term. die Menschen = “people” or “human beings” is the object of konfrontierte. mit + dative (der Entscheidung) goes with konfrontierte = “confront … with the decision”, which is defined further via the preposition über/over + the two objects of the preposition, namely Heil/salvation and Unheil/judgment. Unfortunately, the word “unsalvation” doesn’t exist in English, so it is necessary use a word such as “judgment”, “ruin” or “disaster”: one of the the latter options may be preferable. Man = one or people. Man kann …x…als … verstehen = “one can understand x” or “x can be understood as”: the latter is often preferable despite the change from active to passive. die Verwendung (object of verstehen) = the use; durch Jesus = by Jesus: it would have been possible to alter the syntax and simply write “Jesus’ use”. also = thus/therefore (not “also”, which is a false friend): in English it is often best to move “Thus” to the beginning of the sentence. als ein Aufmerksamkeitssignal = “as an attention-attracting signal”: it is in the same case as die Verwendung (accusative), which would make it an object complement in Greek, but I’m not sure if this is the way one would speak of this construction in German/English. mit dem = with which. It introduces a subordinate clause and the verb hinwies (from hinweisen) moves to the end: with which er/he … points + auf/to + accusative die Besonderheit/the distinctiveness + genitive seiner Person/of his person.

Substantive analysis: I am attracted to and convinced by Schröter’s interpretation of Jesus’ use of the Son of Man expression as an Aufmerksamkeitssignal, which I think makes good sense of what we find in the narratives of the Gospels and good sense of what seems likely for the earthly Jesus.

Let me conclude today’s post by giving a plug for my wife Ingie Hovland‘s latest blog post on the anthropology of Christianity: Hidden determinants of Christians’ behavior: Reading Annelin Eriksen and Joel Robbins on values in Christianity!

Facebook Page: To receive notifications of future blog posts, please subscribe to this blog and/or like my facebook page here.

For a complete list of my blog posts, please see here.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! Unfortunately, I have found it increasingly difficult to write a new post each Monday, but I hope to be able to write at least two or three Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.



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)

For a complete list of my blog posts, please see here.

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For three interviews with me about the BMSEC series, see here, here, and here.

Facebook Page: To receive notifications of future blog posts, please subscribe to this blog and/or like my facebook page here.

German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! Unfortunately, I have found it increasingly difficult to write a new post each Monday, but I hope to be able to write at least two or three Monday blog posts each month. We’ll see. Best, Wayne.