#50-2-Follow: 50 NT Scholars to Read and Follow—Volker Rabens

#50-2-Follow: 50 NT Scholars to Read and Follow—Volker Rabens February 29, 2020

This blog series spotlights 50 NT scholars and their research. The goal of this series is to introduce readers to a wider circle of scholarship than they have encountered. The majority of people on this list are early or mid-career NT scholars who are doing great research and writing. 

Explain why you love teaching and/or writing, and why it brings you vocational satisfaction.

I’m an enthusiastic Neutestamentler (student of the New Testament). The ways in which biblical texts reflect on people’s experiences of life, the world and God inspire me to think more deeply about these issues myself. Reading and dialoging with other readers are a continuous means of broadening one’s horizon, and this is what I love passing on and doing together with my students. I have the privilege of teaching in a university of applied sciences that offers double majors in theology and social work, and my hope is that this transformative reading in community empowers our students to engage in transformative work in the world.

What is one “big idea,” emphasis, or theme in your scholarship that you hope impacts the way students and scholars read and understand the NT?

As readers of the New Testament, we need to understand the context of the New Testament and that of our own. In both cases it is necessary to beware of false dichotomies. I think it is important to move beyond the “Judaism-Hellenism divide” when it comes to interpreting the New Testament in its cultural and religious contexts. And we ourselves need to make sure we don’t get absorbed by one or the other traditional or modern school of interpretation of the text. I’ve had the privilege of studying theology in an international context in London as well as working in several German universities. In this way I’ve come to benefit from a broad array of Anglo-American and German perspectives on New Testament studies. I appreciate these contexts of interpretation and hope to foster the dialogue between them.

Who is your academic hero and why?

Several people have inspired me in the way I approach the New Testament. Among the early influences was my NT lecturer Prof. Max Turner who would later become my Doktorvater (doctoral supervisor). He combined academic rigor and exegetical thoroughness with questions of theological and spiritual significance (such as his engagement with Pentecostal scholarship on Luke-Acts). Right in my first year of research he invited me to join him for the British New Testament Conference. These annual conferences became an important source of inspiration during my time as a (part-time) PhD student. One of the things that I enjoyed in particular is the egalitarian ethos of the British New Testament Society that transcends academic hierarchies. Even as a PhD student I was welcomed as a discussion partner among established researchers. A leading scholar who has embodied this spirit for me in an impressive way is Prof. John Barclay.

Name a few academic books that were formative for you as a student.

Alan Culpepper, Anatomy of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Literary Design (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983)

Peter Cotterell and Max Turner, Linguistics and Biblical Interpretation (Downers Grove: IVP, 1989).


Max Turner, The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts – Then and Now (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2005, 2nd ed.).

 Read Rabens’ Books

The Holy Spirit and Ethics in Paul: Transformation and Empowering for Religious-Ethical Life (WUNT II/283; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010; 2nd rev. ed. 2013; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2014).
The Spirit and Christ in the New Testament and Christian Theology: Essays in Honor of Max Turner (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), edited together with I. Howard Marshall and Cornelis Bennema.
Religions and Trade. Religious Formation, Transformation and Cross-Cultural Exchange between East and West (Dynamics in the History of Religions 5; Leiden: Brill, 2014) edited together with Peter Wick.
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If you ran into me at SBL, and you didn’t want to talk about New Testament studies, what would you want to talk about?

Well, we could talk about music – I play the drums. Or we could talk about sports – I enjoy trail running. Apart from that, as a family we are fond of international cuisines, e.g., in the Ethiopian restaurant “Addis Ababa” around the corner of our home in Jena.

What is a research/writing project you are working on right now that you are excited about?

I have several writing projects that I am involved in. These include a book on the theology of the Pastoral Epistles (Cambridge University Press) and a biblical-theological volume on the Holy Spirit (for Mohr Siebeck’s TOBITH-series, together with Torsten Uhlig who will write the part on the Hebrew Bible).
Also, I have a co-edited book currently under review with a publisher:
Key Approaches to Biblical Ethics: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue, edited together with Jacqueline Grey, and Mariam Kamell Kovalishyn (currently in peer review; with contributions by Richard S. Briggs, Richard A. Burridge, Charles Cosgrove, Eryl W. Davies, Christian Frevel, John Goldingay, Jacqueline Grey, David P. Gushee, David G. Horrell, Mariam Kamell Kovalishyn, Brian Matz, Volker Rabens, Jan van der Watt, Oda Wischmeyer, Markus Zehnder, and Ruben Zimmermann).

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