Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Bultmann on history

Bultmann's essay, "Is Exegesis Without Presuppositions Possible?" is a very helpful essay for understanding Bultmann's theology. You might imagine that the title question has one obvious response: "Of course not!", but our man Bulty makes things much more interesting than that! I have been thinking on one point he makes at the beginning:
"Historical method includes the presupposition that history is a unity in the sense of a closed continuum in which individual events are connected by the succession of cause and effect". 
What do you think of that? To me there seems to be so many questionable assumptions even in this one sentence that it made me realise that writing a history needs to appreciate the history of the writing of history! My own work on Paul has not really engaged with history in the sense Bultmann expresses (in some ways, my research was more an exercise in exegesis in terms of epistemology and ontology), and yet I want to develop the skills of a historian in potential later work relating Pauline Christology to "the historical Jesus". Collingwood here I come? I might just stick with John Burrow's A History of Histories for now...

7 Comments:

At 9/06/2011 1:42 AM, Blogger k said...

Brings to mind the Bertrand Russel quote:

"A man without bias cannot write interesting history -- if, indeed, such a man exists."

 
At 9/06/2011 1:46 AM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Yes, a point Bultmann would thoroughly endorse! Hence, he will add, we must engage in existential readings and demythologising.

 
At 9/06/2011 3:52 AM, Blogger Dr. Evangelicus said...

**"Historical method includes the presupposition that history is a unity in the sense of a closed continuum in which individual events are connected by the succession of cause and effect".
What do you think of that? To me there seems to be so many questionable assumptions even in this one sentence **

Which questionable assumptions? Isn't he only saying (in a very stuffy, affectatious manner) that history is one damn thing after another?

 
At 9/06/2011 6:26 AM, OpenID onedaringjew said...

"Science includes the presupposition that science is unity in the sense of a closed continuum in which individual events are connected by the succession of cause and effect". 

 
At 9/06/2011 10:27 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Dr, thanks for your amusing comment. Perhaps I am scared of phantoms, but my concerns can perhaps be expressed via some questions: 1) is history a closed continuum and how do we define that? 2) what is an "individual event", and could we not apply some kind of Zeno's paradox to complicate matters? 3) cause and effect can mean different things and is even nonsense in some areas of reality, so how can we use it with regards history?

Thanks onedaringjew! Great name! Do you think this is a claim quantum scientists or chaos theorists would endorse? Certainly some scientific disciplines would, but all? (I am out of my depth in that field though, so my question is not rhetorical!)

 
At 9/09/2011 10:27 PM, Blogger Jeff Marx said...

I would toss out that history is about causeS and effectS, said effects then becoming contributors to the next effects.
Is it a copout to say whether it is closed would depend on how one defines closed?

I am really glad you are writing again. This is an awesome blog!

 
At 9/11/2011 4:43 PM, Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Thanks, jeff!

 

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