Bultmann Handbuch


This gem has been published by Mohr

Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976) prägte durch seinen hermeneutischen Ansatz die exegetischen und systematisch-theologischen sowie kirchlichen Diskurse des 20. Jahrhunderts wesentlich mit. Als Mitbegründer der formgeschichtlichen Schule und früher Vertreter der Dialektischen Theologie setzte er sich in den 1920er Jahren kritisch mit Positionen der liberalen Theologie auseinander und rückte die hermeneutische Frage nach den Verstehensbedingungen der biblischen Texte sowie deren Bedeutung für die Leserinnen und Leser in der Moderne in den Fokus seiner wissenschaftlichen Arbeit. Seine Theologie entwickelte Bultmann im Gespräch und in der Auseinandersetzung; so pflegte er einen intensiven Austausch mit Kolleginnen und Kollegen auch anderer wissenschaftlicher Disziplinen, mit Studentinnen und Studenten, mit Pfarrerinnen und Pfarrern.

Dieses Handbuch bietet neben einem ersten Orientierungsabschnitt über Bultmanns Werke und den gegenwärtigen Forschungsstand, in einem zweiten Abschnitt einen Zugang zur Person. Darin werden die Biographie, die theologischen Prägungen, die Beziehungen zu wichtigen Gesprächspartnern und seine politisch-gesellschaftlichen Kontexte in den Blick genommen. Eine Beschäftigung mit dem Werk Bultmanns findet im dritten Abschnitt statt. In diesem Abschnitt werden die vielfältigen Gattungen und Themen seines Œuvres behandelt sowie die sein Gesamtwerk prägenden Strukturen. Schließlich wird die Wirkung und Rezeption seiner Theologie insbesondere im deutschsprachigen Raum dargestellt und diskutiert. Das Handbuch eignet sich für eine erste Orientierung in der Beschäftigung mit Bultmann; es ist darüber hinaus auch ein Nachschlagewerk für Fachleute und Bultmann-Kenner.

The publisher has sent along a review copy.

The volume consists of

  • A. – Orientation
  • B. – Person
  • C. – Works
  • D. – Reception

The Orientation takes readers through a very extensive listing of Bultmann’s works and works about Bultmann.  Section B. introduces readers to the biography of Bultmann and then to those scholars and theologians who influenced him and with whom he interacted (including, but not limited to Rade, Gunkel, Barth, Heidegger, his Marburg colleagues and Fuchs.  This section also includes descriptions of Bultmann’s relation to the Jews, Politics, the Church, and Culture.  Section C. focuses on the works of Bultmann and is comprised of descriptions of the genres of his books and essays, the structures of his thought, and the chief themes he works with (including but not limited to Hellenism and Judaism, The New Testament, the Old Testament, eschatology, faith, ethics and hermeneutics.  Finally the volume concludes in section D. with the various debates provoked by Bultmann’s work (like demythologizing, Jesus research, Johannine research, and Pauline studies).

The work also includes a list of contributors and a general bibliography along with the usual indices.

The aim of the work is described by its editor in the opening pages: it’s goal is to deepen our understanding of Bultmann’s work, and more importantly, to provoke us to read Bultmann himself.  Each chapter is brief but utterly packed to the brim with important and useful information.  Each includes a bibliography and each is festooned with indicators of further information to be found in other parts of the volume.  So, for instance, if one is reading the subsection about Bultmann’s biography and is intrigued by details concerning his time at Marburg, parenthetical references direct readers to other places in the work where that information is expanded upon or described more fully.

This is an authentic handbook (in that typically understated German sense of actually describing an encyclopedia).  The learning on display is encyclopedic and this could easily be called a Bultmann encyclopedia.  And should.  Its one shortcoming is a lack of images and portraits of the great teacher in and amidst his environment.  The only photo graces the cover, and it is of Bultmann mid career.

The highlights of the volume are numerous.  The discussion of Bultmann’s connection to Luther is sublime, as are the discussions of Bultmann’s politics and his interactions with Judaism.  When it comes to Section C., III (Themes) the material is a primer in Bultmannian theology the likes of which have never been produced before.  If readers wish to know what Bultmann taught concerning Jesus, Michael Theobald’s treatment is perfection.  Similarly, Christof Landmesser’s treatment of Bultmann’s theology of Paul is so far superior to anything in the genre that it is worthy of special notice.

Andreas Lindemann’s discussion of the ‘Bultmann School’ in D. I. is superb, as is Francis Watson’s description of Bultmann’s reception in the English speaking world in D. VIII.

It’s no secret, at least to people who know me, that Bultmann has been and remains one of the most important theological influences in my own life.  Among the greatest-  Zwingli, Brunner, Luther, Calvin, Barth, von Rad, and Kierkegaard, Bultmann is among the top three.  It was Bultmann who convinced me, as a Grad Student, that Faith and Understanding were two sides of the same coin.  It was he who taught me the folly of attempting to read the Gospels as biography.  It was he who introduced me to the profundinty of Paul’s theology.  It was he who taught me to look at the Gospels through redaction-critical eyes.  Among New Testament scholars he is and will always be the most influential.

That’s why, primarily, I welcome this brilliant and useful volume, and recommend it to you so enthusiastically.  If you think you know Bultmann- his life, his works, his influence- then you will still learn much from this book.  If you don’t know much about Bultmann at all, this is the book to read.  And if you’re a serious New Testament scholar you already know that at some point or other you will have to interact with Bultmann’s scholarship- no matter which aspect of New Testament studies interests you.  Bultmann is the Himalaya over which every scholar must traverse in their intellectual and theological pilgrimage in order to be a real scholar.  This book will help you understand him far better than you ever have.

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 Bultmann Handbook is Now Published

Details here.

Let’s go ahead and call it what it is: THE DEFINITIVE volume on the life and thought of Bultmann.

Survey of contents
A. Orientierung
I. Johannes Beck: Bultmanns Werke: Einzelausgaben, Aufsatzbände, Editionen
II. Johannes Beck: Bultmannforschung: Hilfsmittel, Institutionen und gegenwärtige Forschung

B. Person
I. Konrad Hammann: Biographisches Umfeld und Vita

II. Traditionen
Christine Axt-Piscalar: Augustin, Luther und das Luthertum – Claudia Welz: Kierkegaard – Johannes Beck: Schleiermacher, Dilthey – Christina Kuß: Historisch-kritische Tradition – Christoph Herbst: Religionsgeschichtliche Schule und “Liberale Theologie”

III. Beziehungen
Alexander Heit: Bultmann und Martin Rade – Ernst Baasland: Bultmann und Hermann Gunkel – Alexander Heit: Bultmann und Friedrich Gogarten – Alexander Heit: Bultmann, Karl Barth und die Dialektische Theologie – Andreas Großmann: Bultmann und Martin Heidegger – Andreas Großmann: Bultmann und Karl Jaspers – Wolfram Kinzig: Bultmann und Hans von Soden – Arnulf von Scheliha: Bultmann und Emanuel Hirsch – Andreas Großmann: Bultmann und Rudolf Otto – Andreas Großmann: Bultmann und Marburger Kollegen – Christina Kuß: Bultmann und Heinrich Schlier – Konrad Hammann: Bultmann und Hans Jonas – Friederike Portenhauser: Bultmann und Ernst Käsemann – Albrecht Beutel: Bultmann und Gerhard Ebeling – Oliver Pilnei: Bultmann und Ernst Fuchs – Werner Zager: Bultmann, Günther Bornkamm, Herbert Braun, Hans Conzelmann, Walter Schmithals – Andreas Großmann: Bultmann, Hans-Georg Gadamer, Gerhard Krüger, Karl Löwith, Wilhelm Anz

IV. Politisch-gesellschaftliche Beziehungen
Hans-Peter Großhans: Bultmann und die Kirche – Christian Polke: Bultmann und die Politik – Konrad Hammann: Bultmann und das Judentum – Thomas Dörken-Kucharz: Bultmann und die Kultur

C. Werk I. Gattungen
Christina Kuß: Monographien und Kommentare – Johannes Beck: Vorträge und Aufsätze – Matthias Dreher: Rezensionen und Forschungsberichte – Martin Bauspieß: Lexikonartikel – Eberhard Hauschildt: Predigten – Christina Kuß/Friederike Portenhauser: Briefe

II. Strukturen
Elisabeth Gräb-Schmidt: Sünde und Rechtfertigung – Hans Weder: Glauben und Verstehen – Christof Landmesser: Selbstverständnis und Weltverständnis – Karin Scheiber: Freiheit und Gehorsam, Freiheit und Bindung

III. Themen
Andreas Lindemann: Religionsgeschichtliches Umfeld des Neuen Testaments (Hellenismus, Judentum, Urchristentum) – Enno Edzard Popkes: Gnosis – Paul-Gerhard Klumbies: Die synoptische Überlieferung – Michael Theobald: Jesus – Christof Landmesser: Paulus – Michael Labahn: Johannes/Johanneische Theologie – Christof Landmesser: Theologie des Neuen Testaments – Manfred Oeming: Bultmann und das Alte Testament – Birgit Weyel: Religion – Martin Bauspieß: Geschichte – Folkart Wittekind: Eschatologie – Christof Landmesser: Anthropologie – Christoph Seibert: Glaube – Elisabeth Gräb-Schmidt: Ethik – Martin Wendte: Der Begriff der Offenbarung – Ulrich H. J. Körtner: Wort-Gottes-Theologie – Ulrich H. J. Körtner: Enzyklopädische Theologie – Christof Landmesser: Hermeneutik und existentiale Interpretation – Paul-Gerhard Klumbies: Mythos und Entmythologisierung – Martin Bauspieß: Frühkirchliche Entwicklungen – Hartmut Rosenau: Theologie und Philosophie

D. Wirkung und Rezeption
I. Andreas Lindemann: Bultmannschule

II. Stephan Schaede: Entmythologisierungsdebatte

III. Michael Theobald: Bultmannrezeption in der Jesusforschung

IV. Andreas Lindemann: Bultmannrezeption in der Paulusforschung

V. Udo Schnelle: Bultmannrezeption in der Johannesforschung

VI. Enno Edzard Popkes/Hartmut Rosenau: Bultmannrezeption in der Systematischen Theologie und in der neueren religionsgeschichtlichen Debatte

VII. Stephan Grätzel: Bultmannrezeption in der Philosophie

VIII. Francis Watson: Bultmannrezeption im englischsprachigen Raum

IX. Ernst Baasland: Bultmannrezeption in Skandinavien

Rudolf Bultmann: Briefwechsel mit Götz Harbsmeier und Ernst Wolf 1933–1976

Die Briefwechsel Rudolf Bultmanns mit dem Praktischen Theologen Götz Harbsmeier sowie dem Kirchenhistoriker und späteren Systematiker Ernst Wolf werden in einer gemeinsamen Edition zugänglich gemacht. Schließlich berühren sich die beiden Korrespondenzen nicht nur vielfach inhaltlich, sondern nehmen auch aufeinander Bezug. Somit wird eine facettenreiche und differenzierte Wahrnehmung der verhandelten Themen möglich, denen nicht nur eine theologiegeschichtliche Bedeutung, sondern auch eine hohe Relevanz für Theologie und Kirche in der Gegenwart zukommt. Die Themenpalette reicht dabei von der Entmythologisierungsdebatte, über die Schuldfrage und den Neuanfang in Kirche und Gesellschaft nach 1945, die Verhältnisbestimmung von Bekennender Kirche und liberalem Protestantismus, bis hin zum Problem der politischen Aktivität innerhalb der Kirche. Die Briefwechsel sind eindrucksvolle Zeugnisse theologischer und persönlicher Weggenossenschaft.

The one aspect of Rudolf Bultmann’s life with which too many are unfamiliar is his amazing collegiality.  Here at hand in the present volume one discovers the richness and fullness of that collegiality as Bultmann corresponds with a Pastor and a Philosopher.  The volume begins with an impressive introduction, a table listing all of the correspondence included in the book, a list of abbreviations, and various photographs and facsimilies.

The first half of the volume is then comprised of letters between Bultmann and Harbsmeier (126 in all) and a series of appendices which consist of letters from Karl Barth to Harbsmeier, a series of theses by H., a bit of correspondence between Wolf and H., and other important historical documents.  There are 11 of these appendices in the first half of the entire collection.

The second half of the book is the correspondence between Wolf and Bultmann (70 in all) and then again a series of 10 appendices included a brief biography of Wolf, a bit of Thielicke correspondence, a brilliant, brilliant essay by Bultmann titled ‘For Christian Freedom’ (1949) which really ought to be widely read in our own troubled times, and other equally engaging historical documents.

The volume concludes with a bibliography, biblical index, institution index, periodical index, an index of places, people, and subjects.  So, for instance, if one wishes to read about the ‘wrath of God’, the places where that concept is discussed is easily discoverable.  Even Zwingli is included (!) (on page 569).

The most delightful aspect of the collection is, however, the amazing information we discover in the letters themselves.  on 17 October, 1969, for instance, we learn that Bultmann’s wife had been very sick for some weeks and was hospitalized and that Bultmann’s eyes were giving him trouble.

24 August, 1936 finds us reading over Bultmann’s shoulder as he writes in the most straightforward terms concerning the German Christians.   He signs the letter quite formally, and authoritatively ‘D. Rudolf Bultmann, o. Professor der Theologie’.  Bultmann was unafraid to speak out as one of the leading authorities in German theology on the issues of the day, even as others feared reprisal or expulsion.

There is, as I’ve mentioned before, so much to learn from the personal correspondence of the great.  Sometimes we learn more from letters than we do formal essays or books.  Letters open up lives.  Students of Bultmann or just students of Church history will find this volume to be amazingly engaging.  It is certainly, then, most heartily recommended.

Ad fontes!

Fun Facts… Again

bultmann22When asked, after a lecture given in 1950 at Princeton, if he believed the tomb of Jesus had been emptied of its dead, Rudolf Karl Bultmann replied ‘that is an archaeological question, and I am not an archaeologist’.  #YouveGotToBeInsaneNotToLoveTheGuy

Peter Berger: On Bultmann and Pentecostalism and Bultmann’s Sudden Relevance, Again

Thanks to the Eerdmans folk on Facebook for mentioning this essay (which I nonetheless had no knowledge of) – Some Theologians Never Die—They Just Wait to be Googled.

Berger actually does a fair job. Or, as I remark there, it’s nice to see that Bultmann isn’t misrepresented. And it’s nice to know that he is relevant; not again, but still. And it’s also very remarkable that it’s the Pentecostals who seem to be rediscovering him for exactly the reason which Berger highlights-

Stripped of his mistaken empirical view of modern man and of his implausible fascination with Heidegger’s obscure existentialism, Bultmann can be seen again as posing a suddenly urgent question: Is the mythological worldview of the New Testament a necessary ingredient of the Christian faith? The question becomes even more interesting as Jews and Muslims, in their own way, must raise similar questions as well. Put differently: What are the prospects of supernaturalism in the modern world? My own hunch is that the prospects are pretty good.

Read the whole essay, it really is done quite well.

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.

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.

Bultmann Was A Giant Long Before He Died

Der Spiegel carried this report about the great man and those who were in 1966 protesting him!

RUDOLF BULTMANN ist neben Karl Barth der bedeutendste und zugleich der umstrittenste Theologe der Gegenwart. Die Schüler und Anhänger des 81jährigen Marburger Protestanten vergleichen seine Arbeiten mit denen Luthers, Kants und Kierkegaards, seine Gegner halten ihn für einen “Irrlehrer” und fordern von der evangelischen Kirche, daß sie zum erstenmal in ihrer Geschichte einen ihrer führenden Wissenschaftler verketzert.

Für und wider Bultmann wurden Hunderte von Büchern und Broschüren sowie Tausende von Aufsätzen-geschrieben. In diesem Jahr griff die Auseinandersetzung auch auf die Gemeinde über. Seit im März 1966 in der Dortmunder Westfalenhalle 22 000 “Protestanten an einer Protestkundgebung gegen Bultmann teilgenommen haben, breitet sich in der Bundesrepublik eine “Bekenntnisbewegung” gegen die von dem Marburger Gelehrten geprägte moderne Theologie aus. In Braunschweig unterschrieben Hunderte von Pfarrern eine Resolution, in der etwa 70 angebliche “Irrlehren” Bultmanns verurteilt werden. Bis vor die Synode – das Parlament und höchste Organ der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland – wurde der Streit um Bultmann bereits getragen.

Silly people.  Silly, and silly.  Read the rest of the essay on this, the birth-iversary of the 20th century’s greatest exegete.

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.


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.