Saturday, 23 February 2008

A Remarkable Exchange of Roles

Ernst Käsemann in his report on the problems of NT scholarship in Germany [*] points out a remarkable exchange of roles in the history of NT research:

'This began about two hundred years ago with the intention of freeing the historical Jesus from the fetters of dogmatics. Now this attempt ends with the confession, made by its most radical representatives ,that the Easter faith is the Church's foundation and the sole means of access to the historical jesus Himself. In order that this spectacle, so interesting to those who understand, should not be altogether lacking in human comedy, a new orthodoxy (or what is considered such) is, at the same time, endeavouring to show that, both as regards method and intrinsic necessity, the only way out of the difficulty is to recover the life of the historical Jesus, and out of the Gospels is accordingly making factual reports. The critics have become dogmatic and the orthodox liberal. Now the fight is being waged the other way round.'” But there remains a genuine problem: “in what relation the faith, doctrine and preaching of the Church stand to the historical Jesus.”

[*] “Probleme der Neutestamentlichen Arbeit in Deutschland,” in Die Freiheit des Evangeliums und die Ordnung der Gesellschaft, 1952: 138. Cited in H. Diem, Dogmatics, 1959: 82]

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