Rudolf Karl Bultmann (German: [ˈbʊltman]; 20 August 1884 – 30 July 1976) was a German Lutheran theologian and professor of the New Testament at the University of Marburg. He was one of the major figures of early-20th-century biblical studies. A prominent critic of liberal theology, Bultmann instead argued for an existentialist interpretation of the New Testament. His hermeneutical approach to the New Testament led him to be a proponent of dialectical theology.
Bultmann is known for his belief that the historical analysis of the New Testament is both futile and unnecessary, given that the earliest Christian literature showed little interest in specific locations. Bultmann argued that all that matters is the "thatness", not the "whatness" of Jesus,[a] i.e. only that Jesus existed, preached, and died by crucifixion matters, not what happened throughout his life.
Bultmann relied on demythologization, an approach interpreting the mythological elements in the New Testament existentially. Bultmann contended that only faith in the kerygma, or proclamation, of the New Testament was necessary for Christian faith, not any particular facts regarding the historical Jesus.
Rudolf Karl Bultmann
20 August 1884
|Died||30 July 1976 (aged 91)|
(m. 1917; died 1973)
|Alma mater||University of Marburg|
|Thesis||Der Stil der paulinischen Predigt und die kynisch-stoische Diatribe (1910)|
|Doctoral advisor||Johannes Weiss|
|School or tradition||Dialectical theology|
|Institutions||University of Marburg|
Bultmann was born on 20 August 1884 in Wiefelstede, Oldenburg, the son of Arthur Kennedy Bultmann, a Lutheran minister. He did his Abitur at the Altes Gymnasium in the city of Oldenburg, and studied theology at Tübingen. After three terms, Bultmann went to the University of Berlin for two terms, and finally to Marburg for two more terms. He received his degree in 1910 from Marburg with a dissertation on the Epistles of St Paul, written under the supervision of Johannes Weiss. After submitting a Habilitation two years later, he became a lecturer on the New Testament at Marburg.
After brief lectureships at Breslau and Giessen, Bultmann returned to Marburg in 1921 as a full professor, and stayed there until his retirement in 1951. From autumn 1944 until the end of the Second World War in 1945 he took into his family Uta Ranke-Heinemann, who had fled the bombs and destruction in Essen.
Bultmann was a student of Hermann Gunkel, Johannes Weiss, and Wilhelm Heitmüller. His doctoral students included Hans Jonas, Ernst Käsemann, Günther Bornkamm, Helmut Koester, and Ernst Fuchs. He also taught Hannah Arendt.
He was a member of the Confessing Church and critical towards Nazism. He spoke out against the mistreatment of Jews, against nationalistic excesses and against the dismissal of non-Aryan Christian ministers. He did not, however, speak out against "the antiSemitic[sic] laws which had already been promulgated" and he was philosophically limited in his ability to "repudiate, in a comprehensive manner, the central tenets of Nazi racism and antiSemitism[sic]."
Bultmann became friends with Martin Heidegger who taught at Marburg for five years, and Heidegger's views on existentialism had an influence on Bultmann's thinking. However, Bultmann himself stated that his views could not simply be reduced to thinking in Heideggerian categories, in that "the New Testament is not a doctrine about our nature, about our authentic existence as human beings, but a proclamation of this liberating act of God."
He died on 30 July 1976 in Marburg.
Bultmann's History of the Synoptic Tradition (1921) remains highly influential as a tool for biblical research, even among scholars who reject his analyses of the conventional rhetorical pericopes (narrative units) which comprise the gospels, and the historically-oriented principles of "form criticism" of which Bultmann was the most influential exponet.
According to Bultmann's definition, "[t]he aim of form-criticism [sic] is to determine the original form of a piece of narrative, a dominical saying or a parable. In the process we learn to distinguish secondary additions and forms, and these in turn lead to important results for the history of the tradition."
In 1941 Bultmann applied Form_criticism[b] to the Gospel of John, in which he distinguished the presence of a lost Signs Gospel on which John — alone of the evangelists — depended. His monograph, Das Evangelium des Johannes, highly controversial at the time, became a milestone in research into the historical Jesus. The same year his lecture New Testament and Mythology: The Problem of Demythologizing the New Testament Message called on interpreters to demythologize The New Testament, in particular he argued for replacing supernatural biblical interpretations with temporal and existential categorizations. His argument, in many ways, reflected a hermeneutical adaption of the existentialist thought of his colleague at the time, the philosopher Martin Heidegger. This approach led Bultmann to reject doctrines such as the pre-existence of Christ. Bultmann believed his endeavors in this regard would make accessible to modern audiences — already immersed in science and technology — the significance (or existential quality) of Jesus' teachings. Bultmann thus thought of his endeavor of "demythologizing the New Testament proclamation" as fundamentally an evangelism task, clarifying the kerygma, or gospel proclamation, by stripping it of elements of the first-century "mythical world picture" that had potential to alienate modern people from Christian faith:
It is impossible to repristinate a past world picture by sheer resolve, especially a mythical world picture, now that all of our thinking is irrevocably formed by science. A blind acceptance of New Testament mythology would be simply arbitrariness; to make such acceptance a demand of faith would be to reduce faith to a work.
Bultmann saw theology in existential terms, and maintained that the New Testament was a radical text, worthy of understanding yet questioned in his time because of the prevailing Protestant conviction in a supernatural interpretation. In both the boasting of legalists "who are faithful to the law" and the boasting of the philosophers "who are proud of their wisdom", Bultmann finds a "basic human attitude" of "highhandedness that tries to bring within our own power even the submission that we know to be our authentic being". Standing against all human high-handedness is the New Testament, "which claims that we can in no way free ourselves from our factual fallenness in the world but are freed from it only by an act of God ... the salvation occurrence that is realized in Christ." Bultmann remained convinced that the narratives of the life of Jesus offered theology in story form, teaching lessons in the familiar language of myth. They were not to be excluded, but given explanation so they could be understood for today. Bultmann thought faith should become a present-day reality. To Bultmann, the people of the world appeared to be always in disappointment and turmoil. Faith must be a determined vital act of will, not a culling and extolling of "ancient proofs". Bultmann said about salvation and eternity: "As from now on there are only believers and unbelievers, so there are also now only saved and lost, those who have life and those who are in death."
Bultmann carried Form criticism so far as to call the historical value of the gospels into serious question. Some scholars, such as Craig L. Blomberg, criticized Bultmann and other critics for excessive skepticism regarding the historical reliability of the gospel narratives. The full impact of Bultmann was felt with the English translation of many of his works, notably Kerygma and Mythos (1948).
André Malet (1920-1989) was a French Catholic priest and philosopher who became a Unitarian Protestant. Specialising in Martin Heidegger, he translated Rudolf Bultmann into French. He married Nicole Maya-Malet, another philosopher specialising in Heidegger, who was director of the Revue d'éthique et de théologie morale, published by CERF.Canadian Journal of Theology
The Canadian Journal of Theology was a quarterly academic journal of theology published by the University of Toronto Press that appeared from 1955 to 1970. Notable contributors were Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Tillich, Norman Pittenger, R. B. Y. Scott, Hilda Neatby, Alan Richardson, George C. Pidgeon, John McIntyre, Thomas F. Torrance, Tom Harpur, Godfrey Ridout, George B. Caird, Donald D. Evans, Philip Carrington, Gregory Baum, Robert Dobbie, Eric Lionel Mascall, and Stephen Neill.Demythologization
Demythologization as a hermeneutic approach to religious texts seeks to separate cosmological and historic claims from philosophical, ethical and theological teachings. Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) introduced the term demythologization (in German: Entmythologisierung) in this context,
but the concept has earlier precedents.Ernst Fuchs (theologian)
Ernst Fuchs (11 January 1903 – 15 January 1983) was a German New Testament theologian and a student of Rudolf Bultmann. With Gerhard Ebeling he was a leading proponent of a New Hermeneutic theology in the 20th century.Eta Linnemann
Eta Linnemann (October 19, 1926 in Osnabrück – 9 May 2009 in Leer (Ostfriesland)) was a German Protestant theologian. In her last years, she broke completely with the theology of her teacher Rudolf Bultmann.Form criticism
Form criticism as a method of biblical criticism classifies units of scripture by literary pattern and then attempts to trace each type to its period of oral transmission. Form criticism seeks to determine a unit's original form and the historical context of the literary tradition.Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932), Martin Noth, Gerhard von Rad, and other scholars originally developed form criticism for Old Testament studies; they used it to supplement the documentary hypothesis with reference to its oral foundations. Karl Ludwig Schmidt, Martin Dibelius (1883-1947) and Rudolf Bultmann later applied form criticism to the Gospels.
Over the past few decades, form criticism's emphasis on oral tradition has waned in Old Testament studies. This is largely because scholars are increasingly skeptical about the ability to distinguish the "original" oral traditions from the literary sources that preserve them. As a result, the method as applied to the Old Testament now focuses on the Bible's literary genres, becoming virtually synonymous with genre criticism.Günther Bornkamm
Günther Bornkamm (8 October 1905 – 18 February 1990) was a German New Testament scholar belonging to the school of Rudolf Bultmann and a Professor of New Testament at the University of Heidelberg.
Under Adolf Hitler, he opposed the nazification of the Protestant churches and their unification into the movement of the 'German Christians'. His post-war fame as a scholar rested on his effort to separate fiction from facts in his reconstruction of Jesus' life and in his subsequent treatment of the gospel of Matthew. His brother was the ecclesiastical historian and Luther scholar Heinrich Bornkamm.History of religions school
The history of religions school (German Religionsgeschichtliche Schule) is a term applied to a group of German Protestant theologians associated with the University of Göttingen in the 1890s.Honest to God
Honest to God is a book written by the Anglican Bishop of Woolwich John A.T. Robinson, criticising traditional Christian theology. It aroused a storm of controversy on its original publication by SCM Press in 1963. Robinson had already achieved notoriety by his defence of the publication of Lady Chatterley's Lover.
Robinson's own evaluation of Honest to God, found in his subsequent book Exploration into God (1967), stated that the chief contribution of this book was its successful synthesis of the work of seemingly opposed theologians Paul Tillich, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Rudolf Bultmann.Jan Adrian Łata
Jan Adrian Łata (born 7 March 1944 in Tarnów, Poland) was ordained in 1969. He is a Polish Catholic priest, theologian, and philosopher.
Łata wrote his thesis about Paul Tillich.
With his thesis and with numerous translations of books of Paul Tillich he helped to spread the ideas of protestantic Paul Tillich, Karl Barth, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Rudolf Bultmann in catholic Poland.
Today (2013) Łata works in the little village Weiding, Germany, as a priest and writes books about the situation of modern Christians.Klaus Heinrich
Klaus Heinrich (born September 23, 1927) is a German philosopher of religion. In 2002, he was awarded the Sigmund Freud Prize by the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung.
At the Freie Universität in Berlin, founded in 1948, a chair in "the study of religion on the basis of the philosophy of religion" was created for Heinrich. Michael Stausberg, historian of the study of religion, says this of him:
“Heinrich became famous in Berlin and beyond for his skills as an orator—being a speaker rather than a writer, many of his publications are reconstructed on the basis of recordings and notes of his students—, his teaching style, his immense learning and his political commitment to the ideals of a ‘free’ university. His work, which adopts key-elements from Tillich (‘origins’) and Freud (‘repression’), moves in the borderland between Greek mythology (Oedipus!) and philosophy. Many of his texts provide a philosophical-psychoanalytical exegesis of myths that takes visual culture (modern arts, the Renaissance) as its point of departure. Heinrich’s dense style, often difficult to follow for the non-initiates, won him the prestigious Sigmund Freud-Award for Scientific Prose in 2002. Heinrich’s approach to the study of religion is too unique and personal to be copied by others, but he had many students who were fascinated by his charisma.”See also Irion, U. “Religiosität ohne Religion. Rudolf Otto, Rudolf Bultmann, Klaus Heinrich, Mircea Eliade.” In Kemper, P., ed. Macht des Mythos—Ohnmacht der Vernunft? Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch, 1989. 289-309. (Heinrich is discussed on 298-302.)Ky-Chun So
Ky-Chun So(Hangul: 소기천; born 10 June 1958) is a South Korean theologian and is the Kwang Jang Chair Professor of the New Testament, Early Christianity, and the Nag Hammadi Library at Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary in Seoul. At Claremont School of Theology and the Claremont Graduate University, California, USA, he studied New Testament theology, Nag Hammadi texts and Gospels from James M. Robinson, a disciple of Rudolf Bultmann.Martin Dibelius
Martin Franz Dibelius (September 14, 1883 – November 11, 1947) was a German academic theologian and New Testament professor at the University of Heidelberg.
Dibelius was born in Dresden, Germany, in 1883. Along with Rudolf Bultmann he helped define a period in research about the historical Jesus characterized by skepticism toward the possibility of describing Jesus with historical certainty. In this capacity he is often regarded as an early pioneer of New Testament form criticism, a highly analytical review of literary forms within the New Testament. After studying at multiple universities, he eventually ended up as a teacher of New Testament exegesis and criticism at Heidelberg University. He is well known for portraying Jesus' Sermon on the Mount as reflecting ideals that are impossible to live up to in what he considered a fallen world. He died in Heidelberg in 1947.New Testament and Mythology
New Testament and Mythology: The Problem of Demythologizing the New Testament Message, often shortened to New Testament and Mythology, is an influential and controversial theological essay by Rudolf Bultmann, published in 1941. The essay is generally considered one of the defining theological works of the 20th century. In it, Bultmann stresses the need to understand the New Testament, particularly the Gospels and their account of Christ, as being mythological in nature.New hermeneutic
New hermeneutic is the theory and methodology of interpretation (hermeneutics) to understand biblical texts through existentialism. The essence of new hermeneutic emphasizes not only the existence of language but also the fact that language is eventualized in the history of individual life. This is called the event of language. Ernst Fuchs, Gerhard Ebeling, and James M. Robinson are the scholars who represent the new hermeneutics. And it is said that language event (German: Sprachereignis, the word event) occurs continuously, not that the interpreter insists on the text, but the text continually asserts the interpreter. Fuchs' concern is not to ask for the meaning of the text, but to learn how to listen to unobtrusive language about human beings' existence according to the hermeneutical help given with the texts itself. Fuchs' achievement lay in bringing the insights of Karl Barth, Rudolf Bultmann, and Martin Heidegger into fruitful conjunction. He sought to bridge Barth's Calvinist emphasis on the revealed Word of God with Rudolf Bultmann's Lutheran emphasis on the nature of human existence before God by employing a phenomenology of language derived in part from Heidegger's later position, arguing that both human existence and the bring of God are ultimately linguistic-made available in language - and that theology is thus properly "faith's doctrine of language"(Sprachlehre des Glaubens). Theology's task is essentially hermeneutical, i.t., theology translates Scripture into contemporary terms and contemporary existence into scriptural terms. Fuchs' interests is language event with existential philosophy. Conversely, the reality of God's love is verbalized in Jesus' word and deeds recorded in the Gospels and is thus preserved as language gain (Sprachgewinn). In the freedom of proclamation God's presence in the gospel and the "Yes of love: happens again - that is, comes to be as language, opening up the future to authentic existence (faith, hope, and love).Richard August Reitzenstein
Richard August Reitzenstein (2 April 1861, Breslau – 23 March 1931, Göttingen) was a German classical philologist and scholar of Ancient Greek religion, hermetism and Gnosticism. He is described by Kurt Rudolph as “one of the most stimulating Gnostic scholars.” With Wilhelm Bousset, he was one of the major figures of the Religionsgeschichtliche Schule (history of religions school).His Poimandres: Studien zur Griechisch-Ägyptischen und frühchristlichen Literatur of 1904 was a pioneer scholarly study of the Poimandres, which he compared to the Shepherd of Hermas.In collaboration with the German Egyptologist Wilhelm Spiegelberg, Richard August Reitzenstein founded a famous collection of Greek and Egyptian papyri, purchased during an expedition in Egypt in 1898/99.Bousset, then Reitzenstein along with Rudolf Bultmann, were notable for promoting theories of pre-Christian gnosticism, and the influence of gnosticism on the New Testament. Modern scholars now reject these theories, while acknowledging that many of the features of later Christian gnosticism can be drawn from pre-Christian Jewish and Hellenistic roots.Signs Gospel
The Signs Gospel or the semeia source is a hypothetical gospel account of the life of Jesus Christ which some scholars have suggested could have been a primary source document for the Gospel of John. This theory has its basis in source criticism. Since the commentary of Rudolf Bultmann was published in 1941, the hypothesis of a semeia (sign or miracle) source has gained some acceptance.Situational ethics
Situational ethics or situation ethics takes into account the particular context of an act when evaluating it ethically, rather than judging it according to absolute moral standards. With the intent to have a fair basis for judgments or action, one looks to personal ideals of what is appropriate to guide them, rather than an unchanging universal code of conduct, such as Biblical law under divine command theory or the Kantian categorical imperative. Proponents of situational approaches to ethics include existentialist philosophers Sartre, de Beauvoir, Jaspers, and Heidegger.Specifically Christian forms of situational ethics placing love above all particular principles or rules were proposed in the first half of the twentieth century by liberal theologians Rudolf Bultmann, John A. T. Robinson, and Joseph Fletcher. These theologians point specifically to agapē, or unconditional love, as the highest end. Other theologians who advocated situational ethics include Josef Fuchs, Reinhold Niebuhr, Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Paul Tillich. Tillich, for example, declared that "Love is the ultimate law."Fletcher, who became prominently associated with this approach in the English-speaking world due to his book (Situation Ethics), stated that "all laws and rules and principles and ideals and norms, are only contingent, only valid if they happen to serve love" in the particular situation, and thus may be broken or ignored if another course of action would achieve a more loving outcome. Fletcher has sometimes been identified as the founder of situation ethics, but he himself refers his readers to the active debate over the theme that preceded his own work.Wilhelm Herrmann
Johann Georg Wilhelm Herrmann (6 December 1846 – 2 January 1922) was a Lutheran German theologian.
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