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

This post will inaugurate the new category of “German scholars”. The purpose of this category is to introduce junior and senior German scholars and their research to the English speaking world. Each post will consist of (a) my translation of a short passage (ca. 3-7 sentences) that the German author has selected and submitted from one of his or her publications and (b) some biographical-bibliographical information about the scholar in question, which will also be provided by the German author. For my other “German Scholars” posts, see here. For further information on this category, see here.

Today’s “German scholar” is Dr. Volker Rabens of the University of Jena, who is especially well known for his publications on the Spirit in early Christianity and its environment. Indeed, I suspect that a time will come when he may need to be added to Brian LePort’s list of “influential pneumatologists”. Please see here for Dr. Rabens website at the Theologische Fakultät Jena, which includes a picture of him. For his Academia.edu-profile, see here.

I. Translation: Adoption and Pauline Eschatology           

As his passage of choice, Dr. Rabens has submitted the following excerpt from his freshly-minted article “‘Schon jetzt’ und ‘noch mehr’: Gegenwart und Zukunft des Heils bei Paulus und in seinen Gemeinden”, which can be found in Jahrbuch für Biblische Theologie 28 (2013). This volume of JBTh, which is focused on the topic of “Zeit”, includes contributions from many perspectives, including New Testament scholarship, systematic theology, and practical theology (for Rabens essay, see now here)

English Translation (wmc): The motif of adoption, which we have returned to here, allows multiple characteristic features of Pauline eschatology to come to light. υἱοθεσία is a central image/picture for God’s intervention for the liberation of human beings(,) who live under the slavery of the powers. It has a punctiliar aspect, for it marks the entrance into God’s space of salvation, i.e., his family (which is again a ‘local’ aspect of the new age, as became clear in II.1.). But it does not only stand at the beginning of the salvific action of God. Rather, the experience of belonging to the family of God continually changes the believers in their identity and in their being. The Spirit of the Son lives the childship of God in the believers and gives expression to it (Gal 4.6; Rom 8.15). They no longer live under the slavery of the flesh, but due to these new experiences they can win the fight against the temptations of the flesh (Rom 8.12-17; Gal 5.16-18). Finally, adoption as children of God also has a future dimension, for it will only become completely manifest at the end of time (Rom 8.23). In closing we will now take up this future dimension of “time” in Paul in part III.

German version: Das Motiv der Adoption als Kinder Gottes, auf das wir hier zurückgekommen sind, lässt mehrere charakteristische Züge der paulinischen Eschatologie zutage treten. Die υἱοθεσία ist ein zentrales Bild für das Eingreifen Gottes zur Befreiung der Menschen, die unter der Knechtschaft der Mächte leben. Sie hat einen punktuellen Aspekt, denn sie markiert den Eintritt in den Heilsraum Gottes, seine Familie (die wiederum ein ‚lokaler‘ Aspekt des neuen Äons ist, wie in II.1. deutlich wurde). Sie steht aber nicht nur am Beginn des Heilshandeln Gottes. Vielmehr verändert die Erfahrung der Zugehörigkeit zur Familie Gottes kontinuierlich die Gläubigen in ihrer Identität und in ihrem Sein. Der Geist des Sohnes lebt die Gotteskindschaft in den Gläubigen und verleiht ihr Ausdruck (Gal 4,6; Röm 8,15). Sie leben nicht mehr unter der Knechtschaft des Fleisches, sondern können aufgrund dieser neuen Erfahrungen den Kampf gegen die Versuchungen des Fleisches gewinnen (Röm 8,12–17; Gal 5,16–18). Schließlich hat die Adoption als Kinder Gottes auch eine zukünftige Dimension, denn sie wird erst am Ende der Zeit vollkommen offenbar werden (Röm 8,23). Diese zukünftige Dimension von „Zeit“ bei Paulus werden wir nun in Teil III abschließend aufgreifen.

Selective Grammatical Commentary: Rather than writing “who live under the slavery of the powers” I considered writing “living under the slavery of the powers” for the sake of readability, but I think this may slightly shift the sense, which might be problematic. I have added „i.e.” before “his family” for the sake of clarity. I don’t think “intervention” is a particularly good translation for “Eingreifen” but I haven’t found a better one yet. Volker Rabens noted that he discusses Martyn’s language of “invasion” at an earlier point in the essay, but agreed that it would not be a good translation for “Eingreifen” here. I think “punctiliar” is preferable to “punctual” since the latter usually has the meaning of “on time”. I have translated “Heilsraum” as “space of salvation” but “Heilshandeln” as “salvific action”, while recognizing that it might be preferable to translate the former as “salvific space” or the latter as God’s act of salvation for the sake of consistency. I initially translated “Heilsraum” as “sphere of salvation”, but when Volker Rabens alerted me to the fact that “Heilsraum” (arguably) has more personal and “warm” connotations than “Heilssphäre”, I decided to translate it as “space of salvation”, which allowed me to maintain a distinction between “Heilsraum” and “Heilssphäre”. But it could be preferable to retain “sphere” since “space of salvation” sounds a bit awkward. It is very difficult to translate “Gotteskindschaft”, which I have translated with the non-word “childship of God”. Since Volker has presumably chosen it in order to employ gender inclusive language, I don’t think it would be appropriate to render it as “sonship”, though “sonship and daughtership” would be an option (see n. 33 in his article). This whole sentence is very difficult, for which reason I have had to discuss it with Volker Rabens. It is not uncommon to encounter such sentences, for which reason it is invaluable to me if I can have correspondence with the German author of the works I translate. Despite its enigmatic character, we settled on the wooden translation that I have provided, with the acknowledgement that a better translation is probably possible. The translation of “abschließend” is difficult. It sometimes works to translate it as “finally” but I’m not sure if that works well here. I decided to adopt “in closing”, despite the fact that this resulted in the awkward ending “in Paul in part III”. Another option would be to translate “abschließend” more freely with “as a final line of thought”, which could be placed at the end of the sentence. The sentence would then read: In part III we will we will now take up this future dimension of “time” in Paul as a final line of thought. Or, with Judy Redman, one could adopt an even more dynamic translation such as “In the final part of this paper, we will now deal with this ‘future’ dimension of time in Paul.”

II. Biographical-Bibliographical Introduction (as submitted by the author)

I am an enthusiastic Neutestamentler. I enjoy research and lecturing at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena where I currently hold a position as Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter in the New Testament department. The major places in my academic life have been London, Tübingen, Bochum, and now Jena. This means that I’ve come to benefit from the advantages of both Anglo-American and German scholarship on the New Testament, and one of my aims is to foster the dialogue between both traditions (see, e.g., my monograph The Holy Spirit and Ethics in Paul, which has been published both in Germany with Mohr Siebeck as well as in the United States with Fortress Press). My major areas of research are Paul and Pauline theology, early Judaism, Johannine Literature, and I am starting to work on 1 Peter. I have a particular interest in ethics and pneumatology. I am also interested in hermeneutics, particularly in critical methodologies of bringing early Christian ethics into dialogue with contemporary ethics. I enjoy contributing to international conferences, for example to the SBL Annual Meeting, where I am an active member of the steering committee of the “Biblical Ethics” Section.

Addendum: Readers of this blog may also be interested in Dr. Rabens’s PowerPoint on Der Paulinische Sündenbegriff.

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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.