Celebrating the Life of an Important Scholar: Ernst Käsemann

12 Jul

On 12 July, 1906 the inestimable E.Käsemann was born.  He wrote a lot!  A LOT!  He was productive, and brilliant, and gifted, and personable, and warm, and generous with his time, and conversational, and of course, controversial. Käsemann was – as all should know – the (yes, the, not simply ‘a’) student of Rudolf Bultmann.  But in good German fashion he broke with his teacher over several issues, most noticeably on the question of the historical Jesus. He also grew ever more annoyed about the state of New Testament scholarship and the influence of ‘fad’ methodologies and he really, really let fly in one of his last essays published in Evangelische Theologie (2/92) in an essay simply titled ‘Protest!’ (concerned chiefly with an earlier essay by Seim on Jewish exegesis of the New Testament). In his remembrance Wille notes that K. also endured his fair share of tragedy-

Von Politik, von Gewaltpolitik war er und seine Familie ganz persönlich betroffen: 1977 wurde seine einzige Tochter Elisabeth von der argentinischen Militärjunta ermordet. Die politischen, auch die persönlich leidvollen Erfahrungen seines Lebens haben in seinem theologischen Denken Spuren hinterlassen. Das macht seine Theologie unverwechselbar und  glaubwürdig.  Am 17. Februar 1998 ist Ernst Käsemann gestorben. Seine Theologie war anstößig  – anstößig um der Wahrheit, der heilsamen Wahrheit des Evangeliums willen. So zeigt sie bis heute noch Wirkung.

Truly, K’s work was and is “unverwechselbar und  glaubwürdig”. I had the privilege of corresponding with the great man shortly before his death.  Unfortunately the only letter I’ve been able to find from his is this one, his last to me:

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