Wednesday, March 27, 2013

QOTD: Bonhoeffer

I have a mild interest in Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945), a very fascinating person within modern Christian history. I can't say I know a whole lot right now as I've just begun to scratch the surface in terms of his life, thought, and writings (plus this is just a side hobby, I'm not sure if this contributes anything to my studies as a NT PhD student... still interesting though.) I have read a couple biographies about him (here and here) and that was very helpful in introducing me to Bonhoeffer beyond my initial exposure in college to his famous book, Nachfolge (Eng.: The Cost of Discipleship). I find him so interesting given his impeccable educational background (Bonhoeffer earned his doctorate at the University of Berlin, studying under the likes of people such as Adolf von Harnack) along with his familiarity with Karl Barth, that provided for him a kind of balance between liberal theology and the more "conservative" thought that lie within dogmatics. All this of course is all mixed up with his involvement in the plot to assassinate Hitler, which is yet another fascinating part of Bonhoeffer's legacy.

I recently picked up his Letters and Papers from Prison (DBWE, vol. 8) and today I came across his letter sent to his parents on Easter Sunday, about 70 years ago (marked Apr. 25, 1943). As Easter 2013 is approaching this Sunday, I thought it appropriate to quote just a few lines from this letter:

My dear Parents,
Today ten days have finally passed, and I am allowed to write to you once again. I would really like to let you know that I am celebrating a happy Easter here. What is so liberating about Good Friday and Easter is the fact that our thoughts are pulled far beyond our personal circumstances to the ultimate meaning of all life, suffering, and indeed everything that happens, and this gives us great hope. Since yesterday it has become wonderfully quiet throughout the building. One could hear many people call out "Happy Easter" to each other, and, without envy, one wishes that everyone who carries out their difficult duty in here be granted the fulfillment of that wish. In the silence I now also hear your Easter greetings as you are gathered together today with my brothers and sisters and are thinking of me...

I continue to be well, I am healthy, permitted to be outside for a half hour every day; and now that I am again allowed to smoke, I sometimes even forget briefly where I actually am! I am treated well and read a lot, besides the newspaper and novels especially the Bible. I don't yet have the concentration to work properly. However, during this Holy Week I was finally able to intensively study a section of the Passion Narrative, Jesus's high priestly prayer, in which I have had a long-standing strong interest as you know. I even managed to do an exegesis of several chapters of Paul's ethics for myself. This was very important for me. Thus I must still be very grateful...

Surprisingly, the days are passing by quickly in here. It seems incredible to me that I have already been here for three weeks. I enjoy going to bed at 8:00 p.m. -- supper is at 4:00 p.m.! -- and I look forward to my dreams. In the past I never knew what a delightful gift they are. I dream every night, and they are always pleasant. Until I fall asleep, I recite the verse I memorized during the day. Then at six in the morning, I enjoy reading psalms and hymns, thinking of you, and knowing that you are thinking of me too...

And now farewell. Please forgive all the worries I am causing you! Greet all my brothers and sisters and their children. Yours with all my heart, full of gratitude and love,


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Rudolf Bultmann

One of my hobbies is reading biographies and it just so happened that I came across a recently translated biography1 of a NT scholar from the early 20th century, so in this particular case, I get to double-dip in terms of my interest in NT studies but also my hobby in reading biographies. The person I am talking about is none other than Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976). He is arguably the most influential NT scholar of the 20th century; among others he has published books on the development of the synoptic tradition (rigorously applying form-criticism),2 theology of the NT,3 and a commentary on the Gospel of John,4 that still remain as important books for students of NT studies. I have worked through some of his commentary for a paper I wrote a while ago for a seminar on John, and while I sort of understood his well-known program of 'demythologizing' and his pioneering work in form-criticism, the biography does a good job filling out the portrait of a real human being who wrestled hard with questions posed by the text and the experiences of a person living in the world. Though keep in mind, much of what he has written and reacting against are issues that were at the foreground spurred on by the pains of modernity during the early-mid 20th century, but I think his writings are still interesting nonetheless. I will just quote one little snippet of something he wrote:

"The object of theology is God, and the reproach to liberal theology is that it has dealt not with God, but with human beings. God signifies the radical negation and cancellation of the human being; theology whose object is God, can on this account have only the λογος του σταυρου [message of the cross] as its content; but this is a σκανδαλον [stumbling-block] for the human being. Accordingly, the accusation against liberal theology is that it has sought to evade this σκανδαλον or to soften it."5

I'm only about 1/3 done (the biography is 536 pages!) but so far the book has done a great job opening up the mind and world of this fascinating figure of the early 20th century.

1 Konrad Hammann, Rudolf Bultmann: A Biography (trans. Philip E. Devenish; Salem, Or.: Polebridge Press, 2013).
2 Rudolf Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition.
3 Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament.
4 Rudolf Bultmann, The Gospel of John: A Commentary.
5 Rudolf Bultmann, "Die liberale Theologie," GuV, vol. 1, 2.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Say it ain't so!

Google Reader is coming to an end! It has been my go-to website to read all the blogs I subscribe to as an RSS-feed reader... What other programs are out there that are worth using??


Read and watch

I wanted to give a heads-up to all my readers to a book and a lecture published/released recently by one of my teachers, Luke Timothy Johnson. He's been a terrific mentor thus far and every time I get to learn from him has been a real treat in scholarship, laughter, and collegiality. For others who are interested in his work, there's a couple things I want to mention.

First, check out this book, fresh off the press:

This is a collection of 35 essays that Luke has published over the decades of his amazing career divided into five categories that show just how widely he has worked in NT studies: (1) Jesus and the Gospels; (2) Luke-Acts; (3) Paul; (4) Other NT Compositions; and (5)  Issues in Christian Origins.

Unfortunately, Brill volumes are wonderful but also extremely pricy (their website lists this volume at an amazingly low... $297). Though if you have access to a good library, I'm sure they will purchase this book in the very near future, as it just came out.

Second, one of the chapters in the book is titled, "Jesus among the Philosophers," which is a paper he presented at a conference at Yale on happiness. And recently, Luke also gave that talk here at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University:

The video-clip length is about 50-minutes and it is well worth watching.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Book Giveaway

Interested in a book giveaway? The winner gets Candida Moss' new book, The Myth of Persecution.

Go to Zwinglius Redivivus here to enter.