Michael Wolter on Jesus’s ἀγωνία in Luke 22.44

After two years of very hard and very rewarding labor, I am particularly pleased that both volumes of my co-translation (with Christoph Heilig) of Michael Wolter’s commentary on the Gospel of Luke are now complete and published as volumes 4 and 5 of the BMSEC series. I have, of course, produced multiple blog posts on these volumes already, but with this post I want to start a new series titled “Wolter Words” (the apparent alliteration is of course illusory), which will focus on one of my favorite aspects of his commentary, namely his tendency to challenge conventional assumptions about the meaning of many words and phrases in the Gospel.

In today’s post, we will look at Wolter’s interpretation of γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ in Luke 22:44.

Before turning to this issue, however, let me briefly comment on two others:

First, it is worth noting that Wolter (II: 483), based on a detailed analysis of the evidence, thinks the arguments for and against the originality of Luke 22:43-44 are quite evenly balanced, so that “we must remain for the time being with a non liquet.

Second, in response to a common misinterpretation of this text, Wolter (II: 479, 485) rightly stresses that when Luke says that Jesus’s “sweat became like drops of blood falling to the earth,” he does NOT intend to communicate that “Jesus sweats blood or that his sweat changed into blood” but rather that “Jesus sweats so profusely that his sweat drops to the ground,” i.e. “The tertium comparationis is … not the ‘consistency of his sweat’ (thus Klostermann 217) but its quantity. There is so much of it that—like when a person bleeds profusely—drops form that fall to the ground. Thus, the thrust of the statement wants to illustrate the intensity of the praying of Jesus and—at least indirectly—the greatness of his ἀγωνίᾳ.”

What then is meant by the phrase γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ? In what follows I will give Wolter’s answer in abbreviated form, alternating between the English translation (II: 483-484) and the German Version (723-724):

ET: That the appearances “strengthen” the recipient of the appearance is also known from many other texts … Elsewhere God also always “strengthens” the mediators sent by him so that they can fulfill their task … Therefore, the fact that Jesus nevertheless  falls into ἀγωνίᾳ, i.e., into inner agitation, need not stand in contradiction to the strengthening by the angel.

GV: Auch dass Erscheinungen den Erscheinungsempfänger “stärken”, ist aus vielen anderen Texten bekannt … Gott “stärkt” auch sonst immer die von ihm gesandten Mittler, damit sie ihren Auftrag erfüllen können … Dass Jesus trotzdem in ἀγωνίᾳ gerät, d.h. in innere Erregung, muss darum nicht in Widerspruch zur Stärkung durch den Engel stehen.

ET: Many interpreters have not been able to reconcile the two with each other. In the wake of Paton 1913 they therefore do not think that ἀγωνίᾳ designates the inner agitation of Jesus but equate it with ἀγών. In this view, the concern is with a “contest” or “struggle” (cf. e.g. Neyrey 1980, 159ff [“victorious struggle”]; 1985, 58ff. [“combat”]; Nolland III: 1084 [“the battle in prayer”]; Brown 1994, I: 189-90; Tuckett 2002, 138-39), which takes place in the “fervent” prayer of Jesus.

GV: Viele Interpreten haben beides nicht miteinander vereinbaren können. Sie sehen darum in Gefolge von. W.R. Paton, Ἀγωνία (Agony), CIR 27 (1913) 194 mit ἀγωνίᾳ nicht die innere Erregung Jesu bezeichnet, sondern setzen es mit ἀγών gleich: Es handele sich um einen “Kampf” (engl. “contest” or “struggle”; cf. z.B. Neyrey*, Absence, 159ff [“victorious struggle”]; Passion, 58ff [“combat”]; Nolland III, 1084 [“the battle in prayer”]; Brown* I, 189f; Tuckett* 138f.), der in dem “inständigeren” Beten Jesu stattfindet.

ET: In doing so, however, they make the error of arguing only with the lexical sense and not paying attention to the syntagmatic connection with γενόμενος; cf. e.g. Vita Aesopi 81 (“They fell into agitation [εἰς ἀγωνίαν γενάμενοι] … and regarded this great misfortune as an important sign”). Elsewhere, too ἀγωνίᾳ designates inner agitation in the face of coming unsalvation … [additional texts are adduced] … Furthermore the talk of Jesus as γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ must be placed in the nexus of all the texts in which there is talk of “coming” or “falling” ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ or εἰς ἀγωνίᾳ (e.g. Diodorus Siculus 14.35.2; 16.42.9; 20.51.1; Josephus, Antiquitates judaicae 6.107; 8.373; 11.326; 13.87 and especially P. Tebt II 423.13-14: “I have commissioned you …; you have not yet given me information about it, so that I have fallen at present into agitation [ὡς εἰς ἀγωνίαν με γενέσθαι ἐν τῷ παρόντι]”).

GV: Dabei machen sie jedoch den Fehler, nur mit der Wortbedeutung zu argumentieren und nicht die syntagmatische Verknüpfung mit γενόμενος zu beachten; vgl. z.B. Vita Aesopi 81 (“sie gerieten in Erregung [εἰς ἀγωνίαν γενάμενοι] … und hielten dieses große missgeschick für ein wichtiges Zeichen”). Auch anderswo bezeichnet die innere Erregung angesichts eines kommenden Unheils … [zusätzliche Texte sind angeführt] … Darüber hinaus ist die Rede von Jesus als γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ in den Zusammenhang all jener Texte zu stellen, in denen von ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ oder  εἰς ἀγωνίᾳ “geraten” oder “kommen” oder “fallen” die Rede ist (z. B. Diodorus Siculus 14,35,2; 16,42,9; 20,51,1; Josephus, Ant. 6,107; 8.373; 11,326; 13,87 und vor allem P. Tebt. II, 423,13f: “Ich habe dir aufgetragen …; du hast mir darüber noch nicht Auskunft gegeben, so dass ich zur Zeit in Erregung geraten bin [ὡς εἰς ἀγωνίαν με γενέσθαι ἐν τῷ παρόντι]”).

ET: It would therefore be a truncation if one wanted to reduce Jesus’s ‘strengthening’ to the empowerment to “fervent” prayer. The aforementioned linguistic contexts do not make the  ἐκτενέστερον προσεύχεσθαι of Jesus an expression of his ἀγωνία but rather let it become the reaction to it (cf. Philo, Legatio ad Gaium 366: “We had the souls no longer in us but they had gone forth ὑπ’ ἀγωνίας in order to implore the true God…”).

GV: Es wäre darum eine Verkürzung, wenn man Jesu ‘Stärkung’ auf die Befähigung zum “inständigeren” Beten reduzieren wollte. Die vorgenannten sprachlichen Zusammenhänge machen das ἐκτενέστερον προσεύχεσθαι Jesu nicht zum Ausdruck seiner ἀγωνία, sondern sie lassen es zur Reaktion auf sie werden (vgl. Philo, Leg. Gai. 366: “Wir hatten die Seelen nicht mehr in uns, sondern sie waren ὑπ’ ἀγωνίας herausgetreten, um den wahren Gott anzuflehen, …”).

In short, for Wolter attention to the syntagmatic connection of ἀγωνία with γενόμενος shows that the phrase means “als er in inneren Aufruhr geriet” (GV: 720) or “when he fell into inner turmoil” (ET: II: 479) rather than signaling that he is engaged in “victorious struggle,” “combat,” or “battle in prayer”.

Addendum: Luke 22:44 in the 2016 ESV Translation:

Not too long ago, there was a minor eruption in the blosphere when Crossway announced that “Beginning in the Summer of 2016, the text of the ESV Bible will remain unchanged in all future editions printed and published by Crossway—in much the same way that the King James Version (KJV) has remained unchanged ever since the final KJV text was established almost 250 years ago (in 1769)” (quoted from Scot McKnight; cf. Christianity Today).

While I did not follow this controversy in detail at the time, my work on Wolter’s commentary did make me sensitive to the change made in Luke 22:44:

2011: And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

2016: “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

While it is not exactly clear to me how the translators are interpreting this verse in the two cases, it seems to me that the 2016 translation might move a bit closer to Wolter’s understanding. However, if Wolter’s analysis is correct, it would probably be preferable to revise the 2016 ESV translation further and to translate γενόμενος ἐν ἀγωνίᾳ with “having fallen into inner turmoil” or “having come into inner turmoil” or “when he fell into inner turmoil” (Wolter II: 479) or “when he fell into inner agitation.” Moreover, since Crossway wisely ended up reversing its initial decision (see here), it is at least conceivable that they could reconsider their translation of this verse if the ESV translation is revised again in the future.

For a more complete list of changes that have been made to the ESV, see here and here.

For a small sample of the many blog posts on the controversy over the ESV’s initial statement about the finality of the 2016 ESV translation, see e.g. Anderson/Alsup, Kevin Antlitz, Denny BurkJoe CarterAmy GannettSusanna KrizoClaude Mariottini, Scot McKnightRachel MillerCarolyn MoorePorter/Yoon.

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

For interviews with me on my work, see here.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne


This is the Dream, This is my Body: Theodotion-Daniel 2.36 and the interpretation of Luke 22.19

In celebration of International Septuagint Day, today’s post will look at the way in which Michael Wolter (Eng) appeals to Theodotion-Daniel 2.36 in his interpretation of Luke 22.19.

Before turning to Wolter, however, let me first take a moment to congratulate my co-translator Christoph Heilig on the publication of his new book Paul’s Triumph, which he has recently discussed on the Zürich New Testament Blog (here and here)!

English Translation and German Text

English (2017, ad loc.): Daniel 2.36Theodotion may help us to understand how τοῦτό ἐστιν could be meant. Daniel recounts Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (vv. 31-35) and concludes with the words τοῦτό ἐστιν το ἐνύπνιον (“this is the dream”; LXX: τοῦτο το ὅραμα).

German (p. 706): Damit man sich vorstellen kann, wie τοῦτό ἐστιν gemeint sein kann, hilft vielleicht Dan 2,36Theod. weiter: Daniel erzählt Nebukadnezars Traum (V. 31-35) und schließt mit den Worten: τοῦτό ἐστιν το ἐνύπνιον “das ist der Traum” (LXX: τοῦτο το ὅραμα).

English: Daniel’s narrative is not, of course, the dream itself, but it is, in fact, the authentic making present of its content.Entirely analogously, the bread is not the body of Jesus given for the disciples itself; it is, however, the authentic making present of its salvific effect.

German: Natürlich ist Daniels Erzählung nicht der Traum selbst, aber sie ist doch die authentische Vergegenwärtigung von dessen Inhalt. Ganz analog ist auch das Brot nicht der für die Jünger gegebene Leib Jesu selbst; es ist aber die authentische Vergegenwärtigung von dessen Heilswirkung.

English: In other words, as the narrative is a possibility to actualize the content of the dream ever anew, so the “breaking of bread” that takes place with reference to Jesus (according to 19c εἰς την ἐμην ἀνάμνησιν) is also a possibility to stage ever anew the remembrance of Jesus for the participants in the meal.

German: Anders gesagt: wie die Erzählung eine Möglichkeit ist, den Inhalt des Traumes immer wieder neu zu aktualisieren, so ist auch das mit Bezug auf Jesus (nach 19c εἰς την ἐμην ἀνάμνησιν) erfolgende “Brotbrechen” eine Möglichkeit, die Erinnerung an Jesus für die Mahlteilnehmer immer wieder neu zu inszenieren.

English: As the dream is present in Daniel’s narrative, without being identical with it, so too the body of Jesus that is “given for you” is present in the bread which is also “given for you” (and only as such!), without being identical with it.

German: Wie der Traum in Daniels Erzählung präsent ist, ohne mit ihr identisch zu sein, so ist auch der Leib Jesu als “für euch gegebener” (und nur als solcher!) in dem Brot präsent, ohne mit ihm identisch zu sein.

English: The explanation of σῶμα as a designation for the person (see above) must not level out the semantic tension that the τοῦτό ἐστιν establishes. Something analogous also applies to the interpretation of the cup in v. 20b.

German: Die Erklärung von σῶμα als Bezeichnung  für die Person (s.o.) darf die semantische Spannung, die das herstellt, nicht einebnen. Analoges gilt dann auch für die Deutung des Bechers in V. 20b.

Linguistic and substantive analysis: In terms of translation, the term Vergegenwärtigung, which I have rendered with “making present” is difficult. In terms of substance, I find it significant that Wolter has developed an interpretation that differentiates between Jesus’s body and the bread and yet has the body of Jesus be present in the bread which is “given for you.”

For my other Septuagint posts, see here.

For my other Wolterposts, see here.

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

For interviews with me on my work, see here.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne

Michael Wolter on the Meaning of κατάλυμα in Luke 2:7

Yesterday my facebook feed was abuzz with posts about where Jesus was born. In particular, Margaret Mowczko asked if Jesus was born in a barn, and Brice C. Jones (for me via Anthony Le Donne) summarized Stephen Carlson’s article on this topic. And these posts, of course, stand alongside older discussions on this topic by scholars such as John Byron, Ian Paul, and Mark Goodacre (NT Pod). And so, having followed all things semi-carefully from the beginning, this week’s post will look at what Michael Wolter has to say about this longstanding question.

As usual I will alternate between the English translation and the German text.

The Gospel According to Luke (p. 123): The meaning of κατάλυμα is unclear only if one merely asks about the reference (cf. the overview in R. E. Brown 1993, 400). If, by contrast, one asks about the functional meaning of this term in the present context in light of its usual contextual usage, then a clear answer emerges.

Das Lukasevangelium (p. 126): Die Bedeutung von κατάλυμα ist nur dann unklar, wenn mann lediglich nach der Referenz fragt (vgl. den Überblick bei Brown* 400). Fragt man hingegen von den literarischen Verwendungszusammenhängen her nach der funktionalen Bedeutung dieses Begriffs im vorliegenden Kontext, gibt es eine eindeutige Antwort:

The Gospel According to Luke (p. 123): Time and again κατάλυμα designates a place where one stays temporarily, i.e., when one is on a journey and not at home (cf. e.g., Exodus 4.24; 1 Samuel 1.18LXX; 2 Samuel 7.6 = 1 Chronicles 17.5; 1 Chronicles 28.18LXX; Jeremiah 14.8; 40.12LXX; Letter of Aristeas 181; Diodorus Siculus 36.13.2; Polybius 2.36.1; the denotation is different in every case, but the function is identical; see also LaVerdiere 1985, 552ff).

Das Lukasevangelium (p. 126): Mit κατάλυμα wird immer wieder ein Ort bezeichnet, an dem man sich vorübergehend aufhält, d.h. wenn man unterwegs und nicht zuhause ist (vgl. Ex 4,24; 1 Sam 1,18LXX; 2. Sam 7,6 = 1.Chr 17,5; 1Chr 28,13LXX; Jer 14,8; 40,12LXX; EpArist 181; Diodorus Siculus 36,13,2; Polybius 2,36,1; das Denotat ist in allen Fällen unterschiedlich, die Funktion jedoch identisch; s. auch LaVerdiere* 552ff).

For Wolter’s discussion of Luke’s placement of the Quirinius Census, see here.

For my other Luke-Acts posts, see here.

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

For interviews with me on my work, see here.

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German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne


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.

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

For interviews with me on my work, see here.

Facebook Page: To receive notifications of future blog posts, please like my facebook page here.

German Mondays: Thank you for making it to the end of this blog post! I hope to be able to write at least one Monday blog post each month. Best, Wayne

Michael Wolter and the Publication of The Gospel According to Luke – Volume I

As a way of celebrating the publication of this year’s BMSEC volume, The Gospel According to Luke – Volume I (1-9:50), which I have co-translated with Christoph Heilig, today’s “German scholars post” is devoted to Michael Wolter (Eng), Professor of New Testament at the Faculty of Protestant Theology at the University of Bonn in Germany and Honorary Professor at the Theological Faculty at the University of Pretoria in South Africa.

As usual, the post will consist of 1) key excerpts from the book selected by Michael Wolter and 2) some biographical-bibliographical information about Michael Wolter.

Excerpts (alternating between the English and the German)

29: Luke writes his work with the knowledge that Christianity had been a supralocal entity spread throughout the entire Roman empire for many decades already. According to the witness of Acts, there are Christian communities not only in the eastern provinces of the imperium Romanum—i.e., not only in Syria and in Cilicia, in Galatia and in Asia, in Macedonia and in Achaia—but also in Italy and in Rome itself.

25: Lukas schreibt sein Werk im Wissen darum, dass das Christentum bereits seit vielen Jahrzehnten eine über das gesamte römische Reich verteilte überlokale Größe ist. Nach dem Zeugnis der Apostelgeschichte gibt es christliche Gemeinden nicht nur in den östlichen Provinzen des Imperium Romanum – d.h. nicht nur in Syrien und in Kilikien, in Galatien und in der Asia, in Mazedonien und in Achaia –, sondern auch in Italien und in Rom selbst.

29: It would certainly be completely inappropriate if one wanted to keep this knowledge away from the Lukan story of Jesus and restrict the horizon of its author to the boundaries of a single local Christian community. Beyond this, however, this circumstance makes it also very probable that the Gospel of Luke was written not only in the knowledge that there were Christian communities everywhere in the Roman provinces, but also that in the view of its author its content was also relevant to every single (Bauckham 1998, 1: “any and every”) one of these communities.

25: Es wäre mit Sicherheit ganz unsachgemäß, wenn man dieses Wissen von der lk Jesusgeschichte fernhalten und den Horizont ihres Verfassers auf die Grenzen einer einzigen christlichen Ortsgemeinde beschränken wollte. Dieser Sachverhalt macht es darüber hinaus aber auch sehr wahrscheinlich, dass das LkEv nicht nur im Wissen darum geschrieben wurde, dass es christliche Gemeinden überall in den römischen Provinzen gibt, sondern dass sein Inhalt nach der Meinung seines Verfassers auch für jede einzelne (Bauckham* 1: „any and every”) dieser Gemeinden theologisch relevant ist.

30: Finally, one can possibly even reckon with the fact that Luke imagined this readership not only as a synchronic entity but also as a diachronic entity. His narrative would then be intended not only for the Christians of his own time but also for Christians of future generations.

25: Und schließlich ist es möglicherweise sogar damit zu rechnen, dass Lukas sich diese Leserschaft nicht nur als eine synchrone, sondern auch als eine diachrone Größe vorgestellt hat. Seine Erzählung wäre demnach nicht nur für die Christen seiner eigenen Zeit, sondern auch für die Christen zukünftiger Generationen bestimmt.

30: That history writing could be guided by such a perspective is already recognizable in Thucydides, who composed his history of the Peloponnesian War “more as an enduring possession than as a masterpiece for current hearers” (… 1.22.4). …

25-26: Dass Geschichtsschreibung von einer solchen Perspektive geleitet sein kann, wird bereits bei Thucydides erkennbar, der seine Geschichte des Pelo-ponnesischen Krieges „eher zum bleibenden Besitz, denn als Meisterstück zum aktuellen Hören“ verfasst hat (…1,22,4). …

30: This does not mean, however, that with this expansion the picture of the intended readers becomes more diffuse, for with the Christian community of the Lukan present, Christian posterity enduringly shares the same characteristic feature that constitutes the identity of all intended readers, namely the foundation story of Christianity that Luke narrates in his “report.” For this story is also their story. …

26: Mit dieser Ausweitung wird das Bild der intendierten Leser durchaus nicht diffuser, denn mit den christlichen Gemeinden der lk Gegenwart teilt die christli-che Nachwelt bleibend ein und dasselbe Merkmal, das die Identität aller intendier-ten Leser konstituiert: die Basisgeschichte des Christentums, die Lukas in seinem Doppelwerk erzählt. Denn diese Geschichte ist auch ihre Geschichte. …

30-31: The Gospel of Luke is the first part of a two-part historical work that narrates an epoch of the history of Israel and thus belongs to the historical genre of “epoch histories” …

26: Das Lukasevangelium ist der erste Teil eines zweiteiligen Geschichtswerks, das eine Epoche aus der Geschichte Israels erzählt und damit zur historiographischen Gattung der „Epochengeschichten“ gehört …

32: Luke sees the special profile of this epoch, which makes the narrated time period into an epoch in the first place, as consisting in the fact that the sending of God’s eschatic salvation (σωτήριον; Luke 2.30; 3.6; Acts 28.28)—a sending that first took place through Jesus himself and then through his witnesses—was rejected by most of the Jews.

28: Das besondere Profil dieser Epoche, das den erzählten Zeitraum allererst zu einer Epoche macht, sieht Lukas darin bestehen, dass die Sendung von Gottes eschatischem Heil (σωτήριον; Lk 2,30; 3,6; Apg 28,28), die erst durch Jesus selbst und dann durch dessen Zeugen erfolgte, von den meisten Juden abgewiesen wurde.

32: Because, in contrast to this, the salvation of God was received by far more non-Jews, Luke can have Paul say with his last words in Acts 28.28: “And they will listen!” (αὐτοὶ καὶ ἀκούσονται…). …

29: Weil das Heil Gottes demgegenüber von sehr viel mehr Nichtjuden angenommen wurde, kann Lukas seinen Paulus darum mit dessen letztem Wort in Apg 28,28 sagen lassen: „Sie sind es, die auch hören werden!“ (αὐτοὶ καὶ ἀκούσονται …) …

33-34: The fulfillment of the promises for Israel therefore led to a separation process, which had as a consequence the fact that “Israel” received a quite peculiar form in the Lukan time. On the one hand, Luke views the Christian church as standing in the unbroken continuity of the history of the people of God Israel, for it now includes also the Jewish and non-Jewish Χριστιανοί, who were called this for the first time in Antioch according to Acts 11.26. The Χριστιανοί are all those believe that the promises of salvation given to the people of God are fulfilled in the sending and in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (e.g. Acts 13.32-39; 23.6; 26.6-8). According to the Lukan understanding, the history of Israel finds its continuation in the history of the church. On the other hand, those Jews who deny the Christ proclamation also continue, of course, to belong to Israel…

Die Erfüllung der Verheißungen für Israel mündete darum in einen Trennungsprozess, der zur Folge hatte, dass „Israel“ in lukanischer Zeit eine recht merkwürdige Gestalt bekommen hat: Zum einen sieht Lukas die christliche Kirche in der ungebrochenen Kontinuität der Geschichte des Gottesvolks Israel stehen, denn ihm gehören nun auch die nach Apg 11,26 erstmals in Antiochien so genannten jüdi-schen und nichtjüdischen Χριστιανοί an. Hierbei handelt es sich um all diejenigen, die glauben, dass die dem Gottesvolk geltenden Heilsverheißungen in der Sen-dung und in der Auferstehung Jesu von den Toten erfüllt sind (z.B. Apg 13,32–39; 23,6; 26,6–8). Nach lk Verständnis setzt sich die Geschichte Israels in der Geschichte der Kirche fort. Zum anderen gehören für Lukas natürlich auch weiter-hin diejenigen Juden zu Israel, die sich der Christusverkündigung versagen.

* For the Front Matter of Wolter’s commentary and existing reviews, see here. For Christoph Heilig’s post on this book at the Zürich New Testament blog, see here. For my other blog posts on this book, see here.

II. Biographical-bibliographical information

In this section I will provide two types of biographical-bibliographical information about Michael Wolter. First, I will translate a section (which I have selected) from Wolter’s chapter in Eve-Marie Becker‘s wonderful edited volume Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft. Autobiographical Essays aus der Evangelischen Theologie. Secondly, I will include some further information about Wolter’s biography and research (which he sent to me).

Excerpt from Neutestamentliche WissenschaftIn the years of the building and form-finding of a scholarly existence of my own I did not, to be sure, succeed in finding what characterizes many theological biographies: the lasting connection to a specific teacher or an embedding in the context of a certain school. This is especially recognizable in the fact that I— apart from the three years in which I was away with Klaus Berger in Heidelberg—gained two academic “fathers” with scholarly approaches to the theology that were separated by a rather great theological and methodological distance. My Heidelberg Doktorvater Erich Dinkler came out of the Marburg of Rudolf Bultmann, and, accordingly, he primarily made me familiar with the kerygma-theological program of demythologizing and existential interpretation. Very different my Habilitationsvater Otto Böcher. With him I learned that the mythical form of religious orientation of existence is not simply something that one has to interpret existentially in order to be able to begin something with it theologically but that it can and must be taken seriously theologically precisely also in its material objectification. Without any reservation both refrained from orienting their student to their own theological coordination system and to this day I remain deeply thankful to them for this.

Further Biographical-Bibliographical Information: Born 1950 in Hannover, Michael Wolter studied Protestant Theology in Berlin, Heidelberg, and Göttingen. He qualified in 1977 as Dr. theol. and worked from 1977 through 1983 as the editor of the “Theologische Realenzyklopädie” (TRE) at de Gruyter in Berlin. From 1983 through 1988 he was research assistant at the University of Mainz and attained there his habilitation in 1986. He taught Biblical Theology at the Universities of Aachen (1988) and Bayreuth (1988–1993) and New Testament at the University of Bonn (1993–2016). Since March 2016 he has been retired.

Michael Wolter is Honorary Professor at the University of Pretoria and Extraodinary Professor at the North-West University in Potchefstroom (South Africa). He is a member of the North-Rhine-Westfalia Academy of Sciences and Humanities. 2002–2004 he served as president of the Colloquium Oecumenicum Paulinum, and presently he is president elect of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas (SNTS).

He was awarded the Hanns-Lilje-Prize by the Göttingen Academy of Sciences and Humanities in 1988, and in 2016 he received a honorary doctorate from the University of Athens.

Michael Wolter loves writing commentaries on New Testament writings. He has published commentaries on

Colossians and Philemon:

Der Brief an die Kolosser. Der Brief an Philemon (ÖTK 12), Gütersloh/Würzburg 1993

the Gospel of Luke:

Das Lukasevangelium (HNT 5), Tübingen 2008 (engl. trans. by Wayne Coppins and Christoph Heilig, Waco 2106/2017)

and Romans:

Der Brief an die Römer. Teilband I: Röm 1–8 (EKK 6/1), Neukirchen-Vluyn 2014

The second volume will be published in 2018.

Books on other topics include:

Rechtfertigung und zukünftiges Heil. Untersuchungen zu Röm 5,1-11 (BZNW 43), Berlin/New York 1978

Aus dem Archiv des Verlages Walter de Gruyter. Briefe – Urkunden – Dokumente, Berlin/New York 1980 [together with Doris Fouquet-Plümacher]

Theologie und Kirche im Wirken Hans von Sodens. Briefe und Dokumente aus der Zeit des Kirchenkampfes 1933–1945 (AKZ 2/2), Göttingen 1984 21986

Die Pastoralbriefe als Paulustradition (FRLANT 146), Göttingen 1988

5. Esra-Buch / 6. Esra-Buch (JSHRZ III/7), Gütersloh 2001 (translation and commentary)

Paulus. Ein Grundriss seiner Theologie, Neukirchen-Vluyn 2011 22015 (engl. trans. by R.M. Brawley, Waco 2015)


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Zimmermann’s Parables, Congdon’s Bultmann, and Wolter’s Paul—With a note on the terms “eschatic” and “existentialogical”

At this year’s SBL I picked up three great books that are likely to be of particular interest to readers of this blog. Therefore, it seemed fitting to give them each a plug in the form of a brief comment and key quotation.

I am excited to work through Ruben Zimmermann‘s Puzzling the Parables of Jesus: Methods and Interpretations not only because it showcases his characteristic blend of sophisticated methodological reflection and close textual analysis, but also because—as shown by the following quotation—it explicitly seeks to bring together current German and American research.

Puzzling the Parables of Jesus (p. xiii): In spite of strong German roots with Jülicher and Joachim Jeremias, a certain gap has appeared between continental (esp. German) and American scholarship, and the two threaten to continue to drift apart. In this book it is my intention to bridge this gap and to demonstrate how current questions are still being influenced by decisions made by older German parable researchers. Furthermore, it is my hope to be able to bring together, at least to a certain extent, current German and American research on parables and in the process to gain insights from engagement with each other.

While I have thus far only read the first four chapters of David Congdon‘s short book Rudolf Bultmann: A Companion to His Theology, I can already tell that it is likely to shape—and correct—my understanding of Bultmann in many helpful ways (cf. also Congdon’s illuminating review of Beyond Bultmann). Here is a quotation to give you a feel for his book:

Rudolf Bultmann (pp. 59): We can therefore define Bultmann’s concept of theological self-understanding as follows: Self-understanding is the event in which a person encounters the word of God and so discovers herself to be a sinner who has received justification by God’s grace, and who has therefore been given a new future, a new life, a new world. Faith as self-understanding has nothing to do with a solipsistic turning inward upon oneself. It rather means being placed outside ourselves and into a new historical existence, and thus it is “the exact opposite of a dwelling-on-oneself.” For Bultmann, following Paul (cf. Gal 3:23), faith is the advent of new creation: “Could faith then be the Archimedean point from which the world is moved off its axis and is transformed from the world of sin into the world of God? Yes! That is the message of faith.”

Finally, having spent much of my existence over the last year co-translating Michael Wolter‘s impressive commentary on Luke, I am taking great pleasure in reading Robert L. Brawley‘s fine translation of Wolter’s Paul: An Outline of His Theology, not only because of I am interested in Wolter’s interpretation of Paul, but also because it is both fun and illuminating to see how Brawley has navigated some of the same sticking points that Christoph Heilig and I have attempted to get past in our own translation. With this in mind (and with a view to Bultmann’s distinction between existentiell and existential) I have chosen a quote from Wolter’s book that relates to his introduction of the term “eschatisch/eschatic”.

Paul (p. 181 n. 14): I use the adjective “eschatic” here and in what follows to signify end-time events and conditions (that is, the so-called “last things”) (see also Härle, Dogmatik, 605n8). By contrast, I limit the use of the adjective “eschatological” to matters that concern speaking or thinking about the last things. The distinction between “eschatic” and “eschatological” thus is parallel to the distinctions between “Egyptian” and “Egyptological,” “ontic” and “ontological,” “existential” and “‘existentialogical,'” etc.

Though I doubt that Wolter will be successful, I think this is a fascinating attempt to introduce a distinction between eschatisch/eschatic and eschatologisch/eschatological that runs parallel to the Bultmannian distinction between existentiell/existential and existential/existentialogical, which corresponds in turn to the more widely made distinction between ontisch/ontic and ontologisch/ontological and Egyptisch/Egyptian and Egyptologisch/Egyptological. Against this background, I also think it would be appropriate if Bultmann scholars would consider translating existentiell with “existential” and existential with “existentialogical”, though I also think this is unlikely to be taken up. At any rate, I will probably do so!

Addendum: David Congdon has informed me via a facebook exchange that he would “dispute the comparison to the existentiell/existential distinction” on the grounds that “the latter is not a first-order/second-order distinction but rather a theological/phenomenological or personal/general distinction” and has explained that against this backdrop he thinks it is preferable to retain the standard translation for the two terms, i.e. “existential” for existentiell and “existentialist” for existential. On the basis of his helpful explanation, I think I will also retain this standard translation rather than adopting “existentialogical” as I had suggested in my original post. But I still like “eschatic”!

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Michael Wolter, Martin Hengel, and the Titles of the Gospels

Happy New Year! With reference to an article by Simon Gathercole and Michael Kok’s new bookJames McGrath and Michael Barber have recently written substantial posts on the titles of the Gospels (cf. now also Jonathan Bernier’s perceptive post). As a contribution to this discussion, today’s key quotation will look at the way in which Michael Wolter differs from the influential viewpoint of Martin Hengel (cf. here and here) in his treatment of the probable date of these titles. I found this to be an especially fascinating quotation and am curious to learn what others think of the way that Wolter attempts to reverse Hengel’s logic at a key point.

Translation and German Text

The Gospel According to LukeThe formulations εὐαγγέλιον κατά + name or κατά + name are the same in all the gospels. It can be inferred from this that they arose and were attached to the respective works at the earliest (not “at the latest” as Hengel 1984, 47 thinks) at the point in time when at least two different gospels existed alongside one another. The superscripts had the task of distinguishing the gospels from one another and avoiding mix-ups. This procedure took place not earlier than the first half of the second century (see also Petersen 2006, 273), for in the superscripts the word εὐαγγέλιον is used as a designation for a literary work and elsewhere this meaning is relatively certain first in the middle of the second century in Justin (Apologia i 66.3) and at best perhaps already attested in the 120s in the Didache (cf. Kelhoffer 2004; see also section 6.1 below).

Das Lukasevangelium (p. 4): Die Formulierungen εὐαγγέλιον κατά + Name or κατά + Name sind in allen Evangelien gleich. Daraus lässt sich schließen, dass sie frühestens (nicht “spätestens”, wie Hengel* 47 meint) zu dem Zeitpunkt entstanden sind und den jeweiligen Werken beigegeben wurden, als mindestens zwei verschiedene Evangelienschriften nebeneinander existierten. Die Überschriften hatten die Aufgabe, die Evangelien voneinander zu unterscheiden und Verwechslungen zu vemeiden. Dieser Vorgang wird nicht früher als in der ersten Hälfte des 2. Jahrhunderts stattgefunden haben (s. auch Petersen* 273), denn in den Überschriften wird das Wort εὐαγγέλιον als Bezeichnung für ein literarisches Werk gebraucht, und einigermaßen sicher ist diese Bedeutung ansonsten erst in der Mitte des 2. Jahrhunderts bei Justin (1. Apol. 66,3) und höchstens vielleicht schon in den 120er Jahren in der Didache belegt (cf. dazu Kellhoffer, “How Soon…”; see auch u. Abschn. 6.1).

Grammatical Analysis: I will provide a detailed analysis of the crucial first two sentences as a model sentence. The plural subject is Die FormulierungenName. The verb is sind/are. Here in takes the dative allen Evangelien/all the Gospels. The predicate is gleich/the same. I usually render lassen + infinitive as “can be x-ed”: here lässt sich schliessen = it can be inferred + daraus/from this. dass/that indicates what can be inferred. sie = they (= Die Formulierungen … Name). The verbs entstanden sind/arose (or emerged) and beigegeben wurden/were attached (or added) move, as usual, to the end of the subordinate clause. frühestens = at the earliest. nicht “spätestens” = not “at the latest”. wie Hengel meint = “as Hengel thinks/says, believes/holds/reckons/fancies(not sure what is the best translation of meinen here; “fancies” seems to strong and “believes” has its drawbacks; but “says” or “reckons” might be better than “thinks”).  zu dem Zeitpunkt … als = “at the point in time … when“. The dative plural den jeweiligen Werken/”the respective works indicates” what they are attached to. mindestens zwei verschiedene/at least two different modifies the plural noun Evangelienschriften = gospels (gospels seemed better than gospel writings or gospels writings), which is the subject of existieren/existed. nebeneinander = alongside one another (or next to one another). As a rule I use “one another” when more than two things are in view and “each other” when only two things are in view (since two or more are in view I used “one another” here).

Substantive analysis: As I noted above, I am curious what others think about Wolter’s argument that the uniform character of the formulations indicates that they were attached “at the earliest” (Wolter) rather than “at the latest” (Hengel) when at least two different gospels existed alongside one another.

For other posts (in alphabetical order by last name) on the titles of the Gospels, see e.g. Michael Barber (cf. here), Jonathan BernierNicholas Covington, Simon GathercoleBart Ehrmann (cf. herehere, here), Matthew Ferguson, Michael Kok, Michael Kruger (cf. here), James McGrath, Keith Reich.

For my Roundup of “Top Posts Posts” from 2014, 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.