Barth Handbuch

5923_00_detailKarl Barth (1886–1968) war einer der großen prägenden Theologen des 20. Jahrhunderts. Mit seinen theologischen Arbeiten erreichte er weltweiten Einfluss. Nach dem Ersten Weltkrieg formierte sich mit der von ihm inspirierten »dialektischen Theologie« die damals bedeutendste Aufbruchsbewegung der evangelischen Theologie. Sein Denken erlangte in den dramatischen Auseinandersetzungen zwischen Kirche und Nationalsozialismus kirchenpolitische Orientierungskraft von historischer Dimension. Als theologischer Lehrer der evangelischen Kirche hat Barth in seiner Kirchlichen Dogmatik zentrale Grundeinsichten der reformatorischen Theologie aufgenommen und weiterentwickelt. Er muss als ein problemsensibler theologischer Autor gelesen werden, der sich den Herausforderungen der Moderne nicht verweigerte, sondern sich in einem häufig unterschätzten Ausmaß auf ihre Herausforderungen eingelassen hat.

In der Reihe der Theologen Handbücher bietet das Karl Barth Handbuch übersichtliche und instruktive Zugänge zur Biografie, zur Werk- und Wirkungsgeschichte und zu den profilbildenden theologischen Entscheidungen und Themen im Denken dieses großen Theologen. Es wendet sich in gleicher Weise an allgemein Interessierte und an Fachleute. Die einzelnen Artikel können sowohl als Hinführung als auch als Bündelung und Fokussierung gelesen werden. Das Barth Handbuch ist ein unentbehrliches Hilfsmittel für jeden, der sich mit dem Werk Karl Barths und seiner Interpretation beschäftigt.

Go here for the full table of contents.

Karl Barth has been an influential theologian for over 90 years.  Indeed, in 3 years we will observe the 100th anniversary of the first edition of his ‘Romans’, published in 1919 and ‘falling like a bomb on the playground of the theologians’.  His significance has waxed and waned over the decades and presently his popularity has surpassed past appreciation.  To call the early 20th century a ‘Barth Revival’ would not be inappropriate.

Enter, then, Michael Beintker and his merry band of Barthian scholars to offer the public not merely a handbook (oh those Germans and their understated titles) but a virtual encyclopedia of Karl Barth’s life and thought.

The first segment of the book provides something of an ‘orientation’ to Karl Barth and his importance.  This is followed by segment B- Barth’s Person.  Under this heading readers can discover the highlights of Barth’s biography and his interactions with theologians and theological movements current to his milieu including but not limited to pietism, Brunner, Bultmann, the Reformed, the Catholics, the Lutherans, the Jews, and politics (along with a couple dozen others).

Segment C provides overviews into Barth’s various works (sermons, lectures, books, etc.) and theological themes (the trinity, Jesus, creation, sacraments,  etc.).

Segment D is the final section and here Barth gets the ‘Reception History’ treatment.  This discussion is subdivided into the pre-Nazi, Nazi, post-Nazi, and modern periods.  The end of the volume is comprised of a chronological table of Barth’s life and work and the usual indices of Scripture, authors, subjects, and the like.

The magnificent achievement of the volume is that nothing, literally nothing is left out.  Charlotte von Kirschbaum even has a section of her own and her and Barth’s relationship is unflinchingly examined as are her own contributions to Barth’s theological work.  Everything, and anything, that can be known of Karl Barth can be found within these brilliantly written thoughtfully presented pages.  It is a masterpiece.

My only regret in reading the volume is that something similar hasn’t been done (yet?) for Emil Brunner and Rudolf Bultmann.  This work is, and this is no fluffing exaggeration, a volume which no one interested in the life and theology of Karl Barth can afford to do without.

Persons bereft of German should petition the publisher to provide an English translation as soon as possible, and sooner.  Not only is this work indispensable, it is literally invaluable.  The 130 Euro being asked for it is too small a price to pay for the learning here assembled.  The volume is worth two to three times as much and belongs on the shelves of every research library in the theological world and on the personal bookshelves of every student of the theology of Karl Barth around the globe.  And that is no exaggeration.  In the least.

Allow me one brief summary, from the discussion by the learned Hinrich Stoevesandt, on CvK-

Towards the end of her life Lotte was ill and unable to speak.  Karl visited her every Sunday and sang to her hymns from the Hymnal.  He did this every week as long as he was able, from 1966 till his own death in 1968.  Lotte lived on until 24 July, 1975.

Dear reader, you will learn things from this collection of encyclopedic essays about Barth that you will never learn anywhere else.  That’s sufficient reason to heartily commend it to your attention.

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