Category Archives: Bultmann

The Anniversary of Rudolf Bultmann’s Death: Jesus and the Word

BultmannOne of Bultmann’s more important books, Jesus and the Word correctly notes that virtually everything we think we know about Jesus stems from documents composed by persons of faith.  We have, it’s fair to say, very scant knowledge of the Jesus of History.  Spend some time today reading this volume.  Free, here.

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.

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…

Rudolf Bultmann’s Advice to all Biblical Scholars

b1In today’s parlance- if you don’t understand it, don’t talk about it.  And if you don’t have first hand familiarity with it, leave it to those who do to explain.

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.

Dear Barthians, A Christmas Card For You


Rudolf Karl Bultmann Answers Your Questions

Instead of RKB answering each question individually, he’s put together a series of prepared responses.  Expect to see them at appropriate moments…


Bultmann Says…

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 From Church History

bultmann23For Rudolf Karl Bultmann, the attempt to root faith in historical event springs from nothing other than  unbelief.  #YouKnowHesRight.

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.

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.

That’s How It’s Done

You Know That’s Right – And As it Should Be

Via the instagram of Joel “The Methopapist” Watts-


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.

Tomorrow is the Anniversary of Rudolf Karl Bultmann’s Death

Stay tuned for a day of remembrance.  It is impossible for me to express how important Bultmann has been to me over the course of my life.  He and von Rad were pivotal and critical while I was in grad school and they have both remained insurmountable and indestructible.   Those who haven’t read Bultmann really have no reason to describe themselves as New Testament scholars just as those who have ignored von Rad have no cause to call themselves Old Testament scholars.  They are both that important and that epoch making.


A Review of a New Edition of Bultmann’s Correspondence

Der nun erschienene Briefwechsel Rudolf Bultmanns mit Götz Harbsmeier und Ernst Wolf in den Jahren 1933 bis 1976 ist mehr als ein editorischer Lückenschluss. Wer den Band zur Hand nimmt, bekommt fast alle Fäden in die Hand, die theologiegeschichtlich und kirchenpolitisch Mitte des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts gesponnen wurden, sowie einen bunten Flecken allgemeiner (Nach-)Kriegsgeschichte obendrein. In der Korrespondenz der drei Professoren lässt sich beobachten, wie der deutsche Protestantismus nach 1945 auf jene Gleise gesetzt wurde, auf denen er sich mehr oder minder bis heute bewegt. Die Politisierung der Kirche oder den andauernden Streit über die Bekenntnisfrage – vieles versteht man nach der Lektüre genauer.

Read the rest.  And read about the book here.

Gerechtigkeit verstehen

04916_landmesser_popkes_gerechtigkeitMenschliches Leben kann sich nur dort zum Guten entfalten, wo auch Gerechtigkeit herrscht. Was aber ist Gerechtigkeit? Ganz selbstverständlich fordern wir Gerechtigkeit in allen Bereichen unseres Lebens. Um Gerechtigkeit aber auch zur Geltung zu bringen, ist eine grundsätzliche Verständigung darüber erforderlich, was wir unter Gerechtigkeit verstehen wollen.

Diesem Leitthema widmete sich die 18. Jahrestagung der Rudolf-Bultmann-Gesellschaft für Hermeneutische Theologie e. V., deren Erträge durch den vorliegenden Sammelband dokumentiert werden.

Mit Beiträgen von Hermann Spieckermann, Christof Landmesser, Angelika Neuwirth, Rainer Marten, Tom Kleffmann und Bischof Otfried July.

The papers herein were read at the 2016 Rudolf-Bultmann-Gesellschaft that met in Bad Herrenalb.  In total six essays plus an introduction comprise the substance and each addresses the theological concept of ‘righteousness’ from a particular perspective.  Accordingly, the first, by H. Spickermann is an investigation of the concept in the Old Testament. The second, by Landmesser sees the concept through the lenses of Matthew and Paul. The third steps away from the Bible and thinks about the subject from the point of view of the Koran whilst the fourth widens the vista further by broadly discussing the question of righteousness itself.

In chapter 5, T. Kleffmann returns to a consideration of the subject from a theological perspective- particularly from the point of view of Pauline studies and the last chapter F. July attempts to bring the subject to bear on present churchly practice among the Diaconate.

I am happy to confess the first two chapters are nearer my own interests than the others, which is why I am pleased to have encountered those first two and the latter four, for they broaden the reader’s perspective exponentially. I know virtually nothing of the Koran so that I cannot rightly analyze the contents of that chapter and nonetheless am glad to have read it simply because it is so very instructive. Indeed, perhaps Jewish/ Christian/ and Muslim dialogue should and can begin with a colloquium on the subject of ‘righteousness’.

When the Bultmann-Gesellschaft holds its annual meetings the scholars presenting always bring intriguing and helpful ideas to the table.  The publication of those proceedings by the Evangelische Verlagsanstalt Leipzig should be greeted with appreciation as they allow the entire interested theological public to ‘sit in’ on the sessions even if they cannot do so literally.

Even More Cause For Envy from Aitken



Quote of the Day

English: Rudolf_Bultmann Deutsch: Rudolf_Bultmann

“God is not at the disposal of a seeing that is outside of God, for there is no outside of God. Thus, seeing God cannot be objective. Any seeing of God that would be interested only in the seeing would not be a seeing of God; for a seeing of God that did not see God’s significance, and specifically God’s significance for me as the one doing the seeing, would not be a seeing of God, who cannot be seen at all except as the one who demands and judges, gives and shows mercy, precisely in relation to me” (Bultmann)