Daily Archives: 20 Aug 2019

Bullinger’s “Kommentare zu den neutestamentlichen Briefen: Hebräerbrief – Katholische Briefe”

The print edition is available from the publisher and an extracted electronic edition is available here. Click the link and then the ‘downloads’ tab.  Or enjoy the full volume by clicking on the ‘open access‘ tab.

Im Geist der Reformation verstand Heinrich Bullinger Theologie in erster Linie als Auslegung der Heiligen Schrift. Mit diesem Band – dem neunten in der Reihe seiner Theologischen Schriften – wird die Edition seiner Kommentare zu den neutestamentlichen Briefen abgeschlossen. Darin enthalten sind die Auslegungen des Briefs an die Hebräer sowie der Katholischen Briefe.

Die Texte sind anhand der Erstauflage sowie der ersten Gesamtausgabe der Kommentare Bullingers zu den neutestamentlichen Briefen (1537) historisch-kritisch ediert worden. Erschlossen wird die Edition durch eine Einleitung und insgesamt vier Register (Bibelstellen, Quellen, Personen und Orte).

Bullinger’s commentaries on the Catholic Epistles and the Book of Hebrews are to this day helpful guides to understanding the biblical text.

The introductory chapter is an indispensable aid for seeing the commentaries in their proper historical light.  Following that, the volume offers modern scholars a critical edition of Bullinger’s work on Hebrews, First Peter, Second Peter, First John, James, and Second and Third John.  And Jude.

After the presentation of the critically achieved text of these commentaries, the editor of the volume, the amazingly careful and academically gifted Luca Baschera provides readers with a thorough bibliography, a Scripture index, a listing of sources, an index of persons, and an index of places.

Those indices are wonderful tools for the reader of the printed edition of the volume and readers and users of the electronic edition can, naturally, search for terms or places or Scripture passages quite easily by using the search feature of the PDF.

If, for instance, one wishes to know where Zwingli is mentioned, one need simply ‘search’ Zwingli.

Another important feature of this important work is the marginal notes which, as is the case of the other volumes in the series, allows readers to scan the pages quite quickly and follow the main points of the presentation, stopping along the way at those places of personal interest.

The biblical text upon which Bullinger comments is the Latin.  This because these works were intended for the intelligentsia and not the average pew occupying Zuricher.  They were intended to be read by the learned clergy and those clergy were intended to take what they learned in the pages of Bullinger’s works to their own congregants.

Bullinger’s handling of the biblical text is, as hinted at above, remarkably timeless.  Take, for instance, his treatment of the crucially important James 2:14-17-

14 Qua utilitas, fratres mei, si fidem dicat aliquis habere se, facta vero non habeat? Num potest fides salvum facere illum? 15 Quod si frater aut soror nudi fuerint et egentes quotidiano victu, 16 dicat autem aliquis vestrum illis: abite cum pace, calescite et saturamini, non tamen dederitis illis, quae sunt necessaria corpori, quae erit utilitas? 17 Sic et fides, si 10 facta non habuerit, mortua est per se.

Bullinger observes

Refutat nunc validius hypocritas et titulotenus christianos vividis argumentis docens, non satis esse verbis profiteri fidem, nisi et operibus misericordiae et charitatis praestemus eandem. Isti, quod et paulo ante monui, iactabant solam fidem iustificare, se autem credere, ergo et iustos esse, et recte quidem si per fidem intellexissent coelestem, vivam et efficacem per charitatem vim, nunc autem iactabant vanam quandam de deo et religione opinionem, quam nulla sequebatur vitae morumque mutatio. Ea vero non est fides illa, cui scripturae tribuunt iustificationem. Appellatur tamen a Iacobo »fides« idque per mimesim; hypocritae enim de opinione sua ceu fide gloriabantur. Contra hos autem:  »Quae«, inquit, »utilitas, fratres mei, si dicat aliquis se habere fidem, facta vero non habeat?« Hoc est: »Nihil prodest homini, si tantum dicat: ›Credo in Christum‹, interim vero effectis caret fidei.« Efficit autem fides in pectoribus fidelium serenam conscientiam, tranquillum animum, securum minimeque de bonitate dei atque promissis, maxime de remissione peccatorum nihil ambigentem, sed in concussa spe aeternam vitam expectantem. Efficit praeterea, ut rebus studeamus sanctis piisque, abnegemus indies mundanas concupiscentias et desyderia carnalia. Praestat item, ut deum diligamus atque proximos, iis inserviamus officiis pietatis, misericordia ac charitate.

Haec, inquam, sunt facta sive fructus fidei. Iam ergo, qui his destituitur, nullum certe fructum ex eo sentit, quod dicit se  credere. Atque hoc est, quod dicit Iacobus: »Num potest fides salvum facere illum?«, iterum nominans fidem non vividam fidem, sed inanem de religione conceptam opinionem. Iactitat aliquis se habere vel herbam vel radicem, quae ex lacte hausta medeatur febribus. Haec quid, obsecro, prodest febricitanti, si hausta eam vim non habet, quam iste iactabat habere? Ad eundem modum quid proderit homini fidem iactasse et effectibus fidei caruisse? Iactitat aliquis fidem, sed fides iustificat et ad opera charitatis impellit; hic vero iniustus et immisericors est; quid ex his aliud colligas, quam istum fide carere? D[ivus] Iacobus huius rei evidentem producit parabolam: »Si quis«, inquit, »sorori aut fratri, cui vestis desit ac victus quotidianus, dicat blandis verbis: ›Abite cum pace‹ (Got t b e r adt üc h)  ›dominus provideat vobis victum et amictum‹, atque haec loquutus nihil interim eorum dederit, quae vitae necessaria sunt sustentandae, verba quidem bona loquutus est, sed illa nihil prosunt egentibus, qui nihilominus algent et esuriunt.«

Ioannes potius non sermone et lingua, sed in veritate et opere docet christianos diligere. Ad hunc autem modum habet et negotium praesens. Si quis dicat:  »Credo in Christum et habeo fidem evangelicam«, egregiam quidem professionem facit, at si nihilominus impurus est, avarus et immisericors, inutilis est illa professio. Id vero Iacobus sic enunciat: »Sic et fides, si facta non habuerit, mortua est per se«, hoc est sola; id est: inane fidei vocabulum inefficax est. Et mortuus homo speciem habet hominis, vim et opera hominis non habet. Inde autem tracta est metaphora ad fidem vocabulo tantum, non etiam re fidem.  ….

Etc.  For 8 more pages on these 4 verses.  Bullinger wasn’t averse to using a lot of ink and paper.

The print edition also includes, as do other volumes in the series, a cd-rom which is attached to the back inside cover in a plastic sleeve and said cd contains the volume and is ideal for searches of anything for which one would wish to search.  This is a fabulous and ingenious idea.  More publishers of primary source materials should follow the lead of TVZ and include a cd.

Stunningly, Bullinger still speaks today.  I think the reason for that is because his interpretation of Scripture is theologically oriented and the truth of Scripture is mirrored in the truths of Bullinger’s exegesis.

This is a remarkable volume.  Do obtain a copy and add it to your personal collection.  And then read it.  And what you read, share.  The publisher is to be thanked for making it available.  The editor is to be thanked for a stupendous job.

Call for Applications

Call for Applications: Doctoral Fellowships at the Herzog August Bibliothek

The private foundations Dr. Günther Findel-Stiftung/Rolf und Ursula Schneider-Stiftung run fellowship programmes for doctoral candidates in Wolfenbüttel. These programmes are open to applicants from Germany and abroad and from all disciplines. They fund young scholars who are working on projects linked to the Herzog August Bibliothek’s holdings. The Herzog August Bibliothek functions as one of Europe’s most important research libraries. Its unique rare book and manuscript holdings and special collections, such as print, painting and historical map collections, are famous all around the world. Applicants may apply for a fellowship of between 2 and 10 months.

The fellowships are € 1.100 per month. Fellowship holders are housed in library accommodation for the duration of the fellowship and pay the rent from their fellowship. There is also an allowance of € 100 per month to cover costs of copying, reproductions etc. Candidates can apply for a travel allowance if no funds are available to them from other sources. Please request an application form.

Begin of Fellowship: April 1st 2020 at the earliest
Application deadline: October 1st 2019

Dr. Elizabeth Harding
Herzog August Bibliothek Postfach 1364
D-38299 Wolfenbüttel
e-mail: forschung@hab.de

‘The Jews Are Disloyal to the Reich’ – Adolf Hitler

A fact which makes this story more revealing:

President Trump said Tuesday that American Jews who vote for the Democratic Party may be showing “great disloyalty.”

Speaking to reporters in the Oval Office while meeting with the President of Romania, Trump was asked about his criticisms of Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, who were barred from entering Israel last week due to their support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

“Any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat — I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty,” Trump said.

On Bultmann’s Birthday- A Layman Talks About His Importance

Much can be said about Rudolf Bultmann. In my limited study of his work, I have perhaps found a reason he is feared and hated. Bultmann says to look inward to find evil, all men do evil. Jesus calls upon man to make a decision (a free decision) before God. What decision is this? A decision for “radical obedience”, obedience, not just of outward manifestation, but of inward obedience. The kind of obedience that becomes a part of your character. But, it is more than this. It frees man from rules and laws and makes you responsible for your own actions.

God wants “radical obedience”, that is when man assents inwardly as to what is asked of him by God. You do it out of love of God and others. This obedience for which Jesus asks is easy, because it frees a man from dependence on formal authority.

This is important: “Such obedience is easy, because it depends on the judgment and responsibility of the one concerned.” Why? Because you need not consult your pastor or your elder. But, such a decision is not easy for the weak man, who needs rules and laws to tell him how to obey. Love God first, surrender your will to him. Only then can you then love your neighbor. Because we self love ourselves already, once we surrender our will to God, we will turn that self love to loving our neighbors. If man really loves, he knows already what he has to do.

Think about this for a moment. All of the rules and laws your church makes are gone The fear for evangelicals is that there are no rules to follow. No laws to claim your life. That is frightening for many people. But, it does not have to be. Take that self love and turn it toward your neighbor. You already know how to love your neighbor, just do it.

Doug Iverson

End Times Fanatics and their Connection to Trumpism

This is a genuinely fascinating report.

By the numbers, there is no bigger advocate of President Donald Trump on Facebook than The Epoch Times.

The small New York-based nonprofit news outlet has spent more than $1.5 million on about 11,000 pro-Trump advertisements in the last six months, according to data from Facebook’s advertising archive — more than any organization outside of the Trump campaign itself, and more than most Democratic presidential candidates have spent on their own campaigns.

Those video ads — in which unidentified spokespeople thumb through a newspaper to praise Trump, peddle conspiracy theories about the “Deep State,” and criticize “fake news” media — strike a familiar tone in the online conservative news ecosystem. The Epoch Times looks like many of the conservative outlets that have gained followings in recent years.

But it isn’t.

Behind the scenes, the media outlet’s ownership and operation is closely tied to Falun Gong, a Chinese spiritual community with the stated goal of taking down China’s government.

It’s that motivation that helped drive the organization toward Trump, according to interviews with former Epoch Times staffers, a move that has been both lucrative and beneficial for its message.

Former practitioners of Falun Gong told NBC News that believers think the world is headed toward a judgment day, where those labeled “communists” will be sent to a kind of hell, and those sympathetic to the spiritual community will be spared. Trump is viewed as a key ally in the anti-communist fight, former Epoch Times employees said.

Read the whole.  Fascinating.

How Old is the Hebrew Bible?

The age of the Hebrew Bible is a topic that has sparked controversy and debate in recent years. The scarcity of clear evidence allows for the possibility of many views, though these are often clouded by theological and political biases. This impressive, broad-ranging book synthesizes recent linguistic, textual, and historical research to clarify the history of biblical literature, from its oldest texts and literary layers to its youngest. In clear, concise language, the authors provide a comprehensive overview that cuts across scholarly specialties to create a new standard for the historical study of the Bible. This much-needed work paves the path forward to dating the Hebrew Bible and understanding crucial aspects of its historical and contemporary significance.

Ronald Hendel is the Norma and Sam Dabby Professor of Hebrew Bible and Jewish Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and general editor of The Hebrew Bible: A Critical Edition.Jan Joosten is Regius Professor of Hebrew at the University of Oxford and editor-in-chief of Vetus Testamentum.

My review will appear in SJOT in a future issue.  For now I will simply summarize my findings.

First, this volume is both interesting and provocative.  Second, the examples offered which the authors opine support their thesis that the Hebrew language’s development can be traced within the Hebrew Bible are intriguing even if relatively sparse (given the data set (the entire HB)) that they have to work with.  More evidence will need to be found.  If their examples are the full extent of their evidence, then their thesis is very tenuous.  And third, their aim to

… reinscribe historical research on the Hebrew language where it belongs: at the heart of biblical studies…

is both noble and necessary.  Research on the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek languages do indeed belong at the heart of biblical studies.  Woe betide poor students in theology and biblical studies institutions where that is not the case.

If this little book (it’s just 125 pages plus a couple of appendices and indices) can persuade people to study Hebrew, then it is a glorious achievement, even if it proves unable to demonstrate that the development of Hebrew can be traced in the pages of the Hebrew Bible.

Rudolf Bultmann: Scholar of Faith

bultmannHere’s a great essay for your reading pleasure:

Rudolf Bultmann — who died on July 30, 1976 at the advanced age of 91 was the last of the theological giants who grew up in the universities of the Kaiser’s Germany (he began to study theology in 1903 at 19), and the last of the prophets who struggled to hear the word of the Christians’ Lord after what had happened in 1914. Teaching New Testament at Marburg University from 1921 to 1951, Bultmann exerted all his many talents in order to recover the highest tradition of German biblical scholarship after the interruption of the war. Giving his acute and well-stored mind to the problems of biblical interpretation, or hermeneutics, he developed the science of form criticism with Martin Dibelius. However, he also took very seriously the world around him — the postwar world of the Weimar Republic, groping for financial as well as spiritual stability (in the end, its gospel was Mein Kampf).


There were plenty of men (Karl Jaspers, Fritz Bun, Herbert Braun and others) who urged him to complete his program by a thoroughgoing secularization, but Bultmann obstinately insisted on the power and grace of the Other who comes. He knew. He had met him. This is his glory, in an age which has exalted research above the encounters of life, and which has obscured God by the massive horrors of politics as well as by the petty sentimentalities of religion.

Bultmann was one of the finest Christians of the century (and he never cheated on his wife like Barth did).  Don’t believe the lies his enemies spew about him being an unbeliever.  Go read the rest.

Today With Zwingli

First, in 1524, on 20 August, Zwingli published his delightful REPLY OF HULDREICH ZWINGLI TO JEROME EMSER, DEFENDER OF THE CANON OF THE MASS and second, on 20 August, 1530, his justly famous SERMON ON THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD appeared in print.  August 20 was a momentous day on at least two occasions for our dear Huldrych.

The latter work is introduced in its English rendering thusly:

AD ILLVSTRISSIMVM CATTORVM PRINcipem Philippum, sermonis De providentia Dei Anamnema.
VENITE AD ME OMNES QUI LAboratis et onerati estis, et ego reficiam vos. Matth. XI.
Tigvri apvd Christophorvm Froschouer, Anno M.D. XXX.

160 octavo pages, numbered by leaves (2–80). Signed on p. 159: Tiguri XX. Augusti M.D. XXX. Opera Zwinglii, Tom. I, fol. 352a–379b; Schuler and Schulthess ed. Vol. IV, pp. 79–144. A German edition, translated by Leo Juda and printed by Froschouer in 1531, has the following title:

An den Durchlüchtigesten Fürsten vnd Herren, Herrn Philippen, Landgraff in Hessen, Von der Fürsichtigkeyt Gottes, ein büchlin inn Latin beschribenn durch Meister Huldrich Zwinglin. Vertütschet durch Leo Jud. Matth. XI. At the end, on p. 221: Getruckt zu Zürich by Christoffel Froschouer. M. D. XXXI. 224 unnumbered octavo pages. Finsler, Zwingli Bibliographie, Nos. 94 and 95.

The following English translation is based on one by Mr. Henry Preble. It was revised throughout by the editor.

The work of Zwingli “On the Providence of God” is a free reproduction from memory of a sermon, delivered by Zwingli at Marburg during the Marburg Colloquy, October 1–4, 1529. As rewritten by Zwingli the sermon has become a philosophical treatise. In his philosophy he follows principally Aristotle and the Stoics. The doctrine of God, starting from the conception of the Highest Being, is developed into a cosmological argument for the Being of God. Upon this basis the discussion of the Divine Providence proceeds, culminating in the question of Divine Predestination. It is the most abstruse as well as the most penetrating Latin work of Zwingli.

Even now it is a delightful read.

The Best Introduction To Bultmann

9781619708136oDecades ago Morris Ashcraft wrote the definitive exposition of the theology of Rudolf Bultmann.  It also went out of print decades ago and became a classic in the meanwhile.

Hendrickson has, thankfully, republished this masterpiece in paperback and made it once more easily available.

How can modern scientific humanity understand the strange religious language of the Bible? This is one of the questions Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976) spent his life answering. As a devout Lutheran committed to the Christian faith, Bultmann’s concern was how to make Christianity intelligible in the twentieth century. His concept of demythologizing was part of his lifelong attempt to help people “hear” the Christian gospel and respond to it authentically. All of this originated out of a genuine pastoral concern to highlight the nature of New Testament faith. As Morris Ashcraft writes, “He stands alongside Karl Barth as a man who changed the direction of theology significantly and perhaps permanently.”

In this book, along with a brief biographical sketch, Morris Ashcraft provides a concise and reliable guide to Bultmann’s system of thought and his continuing influence.

Dean Ashcraft was at Southeastern Seminary while I was there doing an MDiv and a ThM and a finer scholar and Christian you’ve never met.  His book on Bultmann remains the finest of the genre.  Students of the New Testament should all be required to read it.

In Appreciation: A Brief Piece on Bultmann (and von Rad) On the Anniversary of the Former’s Birth

bultmann10When I was a small boy I started to attend the closest church to my home because I felt drawn to the place.  It just so happened to have been a Baptist church.  I had friends who attended other houses of worship but none of them seemed very appealing to my 14 year old mind.  The Pentecostals were nice enough but all the yelling and screaming during their services was offputting.  The Methodists were all old.  And so it was that I landed in the Baptist church which, like Goldilocks, I found just right.  No screaming and yelling and enough people my age that I felt like I fit in (inasmuch as any 14 year old boy can fell like he fits in anywhere).

It was, I think it needless to say, a very conservative place with a very conservative (read: fundamentalist) Pastor.  The Bible wasn’t just THE book, it was THE book of literal historical narration.  If there had been cameras around in the ancient world they would have recorded exactly what the Bible reported.  That was what we were all taught; it was what we all believed.

bultmannSo imagine my surprise when, upon arriving in Seminary (at Southeastern, before the days of darkness descended and the place became itself a fundamentalist stronghold manned by a fundamentalist President who saw to it that the faculty was replaced by fundamentalists as well) I discovered that there was another way to read, to see, the Bible: as theology, not historiography.

Enter my esteemed teachers, Max Rogers and Don Cook and Richard Spencer and John Durham and Sam Balentine and Elmo Scoggin and all the rest – scholars who opened up the panorama of the Bible by insisting that we read such dyed in the wool heretics as von Rad and Eichrodt and Bultmann and Schweizer and Stuhlmacher and a who galaxy of German theological heavyweights.

The scales, as they say, fell off my eyes and I could see, as never before, the Bible for what it was, for what it is.

vonradEncountering Bultmann and von Rad in particular, however, precipitated a crisis of faith.  What was I to do with all that I had been taught as a teen in the Church which I loved and which loved me and which would never mislead me or try to fool me?  The questions the critical study of the Bible raised were ominous and terrifying.  How could I maintain faith?

The answer to that question was found in further reading, and greater understanding, of the works of the two men who affected me most, Rudolf Karl Bultmann and Gerhard von Rad (to whose memories I dedicated my ThM Thesis on The Use of Isaiah in the Gospel of John).   At the feet of these two I grew in faith and in learning and came to understand that the Bible’s purpose is deeper and broader and wider and wiser than as a mere historical documentary.  It tells the tale of God’s interaction with humanity, in theological terms with the intention of being understood theologically.

Had it not been God’s providential hand leading me to von Rad and Bultmann, I have no idea what would have become of my understanding of God, Scripture, truth, and Church.

It seems fitting, to me at least, to offer this public appreciation for the work of von Rad and Bultmann on the birth anniversary of the latter.  People who demonize Bultmann (and von Rad) simply have no idea what they’re talking about when they talk about him.  They’re sadly uninformed and ignorant, because God spoke through, and speaks through them.  No higher compliment can be paid to a theologian or biblical scholar than that.  Indeed, God speaks still through those two far more than he does most theologians and scholars today.

Happy birthday R.K.B.  Thanks, again.