Friday, August 7, 2009

So You Want to Read Rudolf Bultmann?

The following is a list of readings by Rudolf Bultmann that serves as an introduction to his theology...

1. "This World and Beyond: Marburg Sermons" - The sermon is the heartbeat of Bultmann's theology. In this book you will find a pastoral introduction to his understanding of the kerygma, as well as prime example of demythologizing put into practice.

2. "Primitive Christianity in its Contemporary Setting" - Written later on in Bultmann's Career, this was meant for non-theologians as a comprehensive introduction to his scholarly work.

3. "Essays Philosophical and Theological" - This is a collection of essays that includes the MUST reads: "Christ as the End of the Law" is an expounding of the doctrine of Justification and its relation to the law. "The Question of Natural Revelation" is one of the few articles that clearly demonstrates Bultmann's high view of Revelation. "The Significance of Jewish Old Testament Tradition for the Christian West" explains Bultmann's understanding of the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. Finally "Grace and Freedom" articulates Bultmann's ethic.

4. "The Theology of Rudolph Bultmann" - While not technically written by Bultmann, this is an invaluable resource is a book edited by Charles Kegley. This book boasts articles by Bultmann's students summarizing and critiquing their former teacher. But the gem of this book is found in the final 20 pages or so when Bultmann responds to each of his pupils' criticisms!

5. "Existence and Faith." specifically the essay "Jesus and Paul" - Written in the 1930's after the publication of his two books on Jesus, this essay is meant as a corrective to a misinterpretation of his earlier work by demonstrating the similarity between Jesus and Paul. "A New Approach to the Synoptic Problem" summarizes Bultmann's understanding of Form Criticism. "Paul" sketches the theology and history of the apostle. "The Historicity of Man and Faith" provides and extended discussion on the relationship between philosophy (read: Heidegger) and theology.

6. The two volumes of his "Theology of the New Testament" are Bultmann's crowning achievement. Published just before and after his retirement, they represent Bultmann's complete exegetical work. Volume One is by far much better, as it focuses on Pauline Theology, while Volume Two explores the theology of John.

7. "New Testament and Theology" - features a lecture given by Bultmann that explains his famous demythologizing program. Though a great introduction, true understanding of Bultmann's position must read the Kegley book above and Bultmann's response to John Macquarrie.

8. "Commentary on the Gospel of John"... Widely considered one of the best commentaries in the 20th Century. This demonstrates more specifically the results of form criticism and an existential hermeneutic as applied to John.

9. Finally, "Karl Barth- Rudolf Bultmann Letters: 1922-1966." A fascinating study on the relationship between Barth and Bultmann provides a clear sense of the history of the dialectical theology movement.

NOTE: I have not included "History of the Synoptic Tradition," Bultmann's seminal form critical work on Jesus. This is not due to theological issues, but rather due to the lack of a good translation available. Bultmann's updates in edition two are all place at the end of the book without in-page references!

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