Grace… It’s Interesting Who Doesn’t Use the Word

Mark doesn’t, Matthew doesn’t, James doesn’t.  The other Gospels use it very few times, the Catholic epistles as few.  Paul uses it most.

The interesting thing, as I think about it, is the fact that the worse a person is, the more they want to trade on grace.

Among New Testament authors Paul was, morally speaking, the most challenged.  So he trades on grace more than the rest.  Among the Reformers it’s Luther who talks most of grace because he is most in need of it.

And in our own time the people with the worst track records in terms of ethics are the ones who like to remind everyone how important grace is.

And, of course, to be sure, it is important.  It’s just intriguing to me to note the sort of people who find it necessary to remind themselves of it most frequently.  That’s not a criticism, it’s just an observation.

Remembering the Death of Rudolf Bultmann: His Most Influential Commentary

bultmannPersonally, I’ll admit, I love his commentary on 2 Corinthians most, but I suppose it’s fair to say that his greatest commentary is the one on the Gospel of John.  In many ways it has been surpassed but it continues to exert grand influence on the area of Johannine studies.  I can’t think of a single commentary since that hasn’t made reference to his.  Not one.  It has even been republished numerous times- as recently as last year-

As the first volume in the Johannine Monograph Series, The Gospel of John: A Commentary by Rudolf Bultmann well deserves this place of pride. Indeed, this provocative commentary is arguably the most important New Testament monograph in the twentieth century, perhaps second only to The Quest of the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer. In contrasting Bultmann’s and Schweitzer’s paradigms, however, we find that Bultmann’s is far more technically argued and original, commanding hegemony among other early-Christianity paradigms. Ernst Haenchen has described Bultmann’s commentary as a giant oak tree in whose shade nothing could grow, and indeed, this reference accurately describes its dominance among Continental Protestant scholarship over the course of several decades.

Indeed.

Remembering Rudolf Bultmann on the Anniversary of his Death: The Marburg Sermons

Bultmann was never ordained but he was frequently asked to preach and he was always active in the life of the Lutheran parish in Marburg.  It was his task to stand at the door with the poor box and receive offerings as congregants left the service on Sunday morning.  And he took this job seriously and performed it every Sunday he was in attendance (which was every Sunday he wasn’t elsewhere lecturing or preaching).

He was, to put it bluntly, a better Church member than the Fundamentalists who assail him without cause.

If you have never read any of his sermons, find a copy of this book and read them.  You won’t regret it.  You will regret it if you don’t, though.

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In Memoriam Rudolf Karl Bultmann

Rudolf Bultmann, the most important New Testament scholar in the history of Christianity, died on the 30th of July, 1976.

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Fundamentalists and the ignorant have demonized Bultmann as some sort of heretic but nothing could be further from the truth, as anyone who has bothered to read Bultmann’s bio or even his sermons knows.

Take a little time to read Bultmann, instead of reading about Bultmann, and you’ll come to appreciate the great man for yourself.

Lest we forget…

Memorializing Rudolf Karl Bultmann on the Anniversary of His Death

bultmann_graveRudolf Karl Bultmann, the greatest New Testament exegete of the 20th century (and as yet still unsurpassed as the best New Testament exegete of all time) died on the 30th of July in 1976.  In honor of the great man, here’s a photo gallery.  Here’s a recent book about him.  Here’s a fun essay about him.  Here’s a quote from the quotable chap.  And here’s a reminiscence on the anniversary of his death I posted several years ago.

Rudolf, you were and remain the greatest New Testament scholar of your generation and ours.

Rudolf Bultmann: The Morning After Kristallnacht

bultmann22As related by Kurt Anders Richardson on FB-

Some years ago as a visiting prof at Uni Marburg theologische Fakultaet, I was told several times by different people about a certain non-lecture event. On the morning after that first Nazi pogrom, “Kristallnacht”, the regular lecture of Rudolf Bultmann was to take place.

His usual hall was on the third floor in the south east corner of the building with windows on two sides. For years the view had included the Synagogue of Marburg; but now, it was a smoking foundation.

Bultmann walked in at his usual time to a packed and silent room, everyone braced to hear what he might have to say – although all were now fearful to say anything. He came to the lectern, opened his folder, but immediately turned away from the students, walking over to the windows. For the entire period Bultmann stood staring out the window at the empty space and made no sound whatsoever. At the end of the time he returned to his notes, closed the folder, and walked out of the room.

Sometimes, many times indeed, silence speaks loudest of all.  Bultmann became a member of the Confessing Church and an inveterate foe of the ‘German Christians’ and Naziism.  Because of his standing he was left alone.  Had he been a man of less importance there is no reason to believe he wouldn’t have died in a death camp.

The ‘Invisible Church’ Is An Invention of the Antichrist

Emil Brunner writes

Christ desires no invisible army. He wants a host of such a kind that even the children of this world, who know nothing of faith nor want to know, will be able to note that there is something mightily at work within these “called-soldiers”; that they obey a mighty Other and no longer their own wills.

An invisible church is no church at all just as an invisible disciple is no disciple at all and invisible obedience is no real obedience at all.  If Christianity isn’t visible, it isn’t Christianity.  All those who believe faith is a ‘private’ matter wish it to be an ‘invisible’ matter and thus anything but true faith.

The Two Best Books About Bultmann

  1. The best biography of Bultmann is that of Konrad Hammann (and it’s better in German).  Particularly important is his discussion of Bultmann during the era of the Second World War.
  2. The best short study of Bultmann’s theology is Gareth Jones’s “Bultmann: Towards a Critical Theology“.  This book has not received the very wide attention it deserves.  It is indispensable.

People ask me from time to time how they can best be introduced to Bultmann’s theology and I always tell them- read BULTMANN!  Once, though, you’ve read half a dozen or more of Bultmann’s books, these three are next on the list – at the top of the list of books ABOUT Bultmann that interested persons should read.  Bultmann first, these three next.  And then it’s back to Bultmann himself.

You will never learn about someone’s ideas if you only read what others think.  You have to have first hand acquaintance with someone’s work.  There are no shortcuts.

F.F. Bruce- On The Passing of Bultmann

When the Society for New Testament Studies held its annual meeting in August 1976 at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina, the secretary read out at the opening session the names of members who had died since the previous meeting. When this is done, the chairman usually invites those present to stand for a moment in respect for the memory of departed colleagues. On this occasion, when the names were read in alphabetical order, the first was that of Professor Dr. Rudolf Bultmann, and as soon as his name was read out, the audience rose to its feet as one man: such was the esteem in which this veteran scholar was held, by those who disagreed most profoundly with him as well by members of his school.

Rudolf Bultmann was appointed Lecturer in New Testament at Marburg in 1912. After four years there he moved to Breslau and then to Giessen, but in 1921 he returned to Marburg as full professor, and remained there for thirty years of active teaching and then for twenty-five years of active retirement.

Outside the academic world he became known first for his identification with the Confessing Church movement in its opposition to the Hitler regime, and then for his ‘demythologizing programme’. In both respects he was moved by concern for the purity of the gospel. The demythologizing programme attempted to remove what he considered to be all irrelevant stumbling-blocks in the way of the gospel so that men and women might be confronted by the unencumbered offence of the cross. Like a number of other German theologians, he was more Lutheran than Luther: he deplored any appeal to the historical foundation of Christianity on the ground that justification by history was simply one form of justification by works and therefore inimical to the gospel of justification by faith alone.

He was not sceptical for the sake of scepticism, and some who could be described as being just that could not understand why, in view of his negative attitude to the historical evidence, he bore firm witness to Jesus as the Word became flesh. The reason was not far to seek: he knew whom he had believed.

F.F. Bruce