Happy Bultmann’s Birthday

Jim West posted several entries on his blog connected with the fact that today is the anniversary of the birth of Rudolf Bultmann. Although I appreciate his New Testament work, it is his theological work that I value most. Although many have misconceptions about his idea of “demythologization,” what it is, in essence, is an expression of two core convictions: that it is not possible and not necessary to adopt a first-century pre-scientific worldview in order to be a Christian, and that the message of the Christian Gospel – mythology and all – can be translated for people today.

If you have never read anything by him, but only heard people say things about him – or have never heard of him – then today is a good day to rectify that.

I recommend most of all his classic two-part essay in Kerygma and Myth on “The Mythological Element in the Message of the New Testament and the Problem of its Re-interpretation,” which you can read online for free at Religion Online. There are also other things by or about him on the same site.

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  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath
  • Nancy Scott

    Hmmm…Google didn’t make a doodle…

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    “it is his theological work that I value most”

    That explains a lot…

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  • Rafael Rodríguez

    Thanks for sharing these, James. I’ve linked to your blog from within the course website for my Gospel Narratives course.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    Rafael, be sure to warn them about my wrongness about your wrongness, in case they start clicking around. :-)

  • randall.morrison90

    Bultmann was one of those class of Theologians who helped gut Christianity in Germany before World War Two.

    Millions of Christians, being told that Christianity had no answers, left the church and succumbed to the Nazi lies.

    Bultmann remained in Berlin and did quite well.

    Truly, he now has his reward.

    • Ray Rhoads

      Bultmann did not remain in Berlin – he lived and taught almost exclusively in Marburg.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    And Bultmann’s work was largely a response to the “gutting of churches” by Liberal theology that you a referring to. He saw the danger of simply wedding an imagined theological core to the spirit of the age. His response influenced, among other things, American Evangelicalism and its emphasis on personal decision.

    Of course, most American Christians don’t know that because they know very little about the history of the church and have never actually read anything by Bultmann.


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