Monday, July 24, 2006

Klaus Berger critiques Bultmann’s hermeneutic

The following is a selective and shortened summary of Berger’s treatment in Hermeneutik des Neuen Testaments (Franke: Tübingen, 1999), p 21f.

1. Is demythologising even possible? The most modern textual critics question if it is possible to divide between the expressions of the text itself, and that which lies ‘behind’ the text (cf. Bultmann’s Kern und Schale picture)

2. Is demythologising even necessary? Does one have to accept the uniform worldview of Bultmann? Plenty of others seem happy accepting the biblical mythic stories at face value.

3. Is radical abstinence from historical experience, the divorcing of things so cleanly from history into the personal-invisible, really healthy?

4. What happens to ethics when history is emphasised simply as simply an illustration of human potential?

5. The relation between seeing and believing, as Bultmann understood it, is, in the most recent NT research, challenged and perhaps even refuted. And that is not all, but other aspects that once seemed to confirm Bultmann’s scheme, are now very doubtful.


At 7/25/2006 1:20 PM, Anonymous Carl W. Conrad said...

Chris, I think the exchange between Bultmann and Jaspers years ago on the question of "demythologization" is worth pointing to here. Jaspers then argued that myth cannot be converted into philosophy or dispensed with but can only be supplanted by a superior or more generally acceptable myth (as is achieved by Aeschylus in the Oresteia where he supplants the older myth of the Erinyes with the newer myth of Athena and Olympian jutice.

At 7/25/2006 1:46 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thanks, Carl. I must say, I find something attractive about not wanting to turn 'myth' into an existential, or whatever, philosophical statement - because it then tends to loose something of its soul. Jaspers' suggestion is fascinating!

At 7/26/2006 7:38 AM, Anonymous Strider said...

Tell us more!

At 7/26/2006 11:02 AM, Anonymous Ben Myers said...

Thanks for this, Chris. I think points 1 and 2 are spot on, and really get to the heart of the whole question.

But I'm not so sure that point 4 is helpful, since it's really a "straw man" depiction of Bultmann's view. Bultmann had no interest at all in any "illustration of human potential" -- and he certainly didn't want to reduce "history" to "human potential"!

At 7/26/2006 11:54 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Pontificator.
Well, I have some more Berger critique to offer of Barth's hermeneutics.

Thanks, Ben, for pointing that out. I must say, surely you are correct. This won't be the first time Berger has created a straw man.


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