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Rudolf Bultmann

(1884—1976) German Lutheran theologian


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(1884–1976),

NT scholar and theologian. He was a professor at Marburg from 1921 until he retired in 1951. He carried the methods of form criticism to the point where any historical value in the Synoptic Gospels was called into question. In his Jesus (1926; Eng. tr., Jesus and the Word, 1934), he presented the mission of Jesus as summoning His followers to a decision. Bultmann combined his biblical scholarship with the dialectical theology of K. Barth and the Lutheran doctrine of justification by faith alone to make an almost complete hiatus between history and faith, leaving only the bare fact of Christ crucified as necessary for Christian faith. He regarded St Paul and the author of Jn. as the only genuine theologians of the NT, because they offer an interpretation of human existence and see talk of God, Christ, and salvation, in terms of the individual's changed self-understanding effected by the proclaimed Word or kerygma. Narrowing the theological focus in this way involved criticizing the cosmological elements in the NT as ‘myth’, and it was his programme of demythologizing the NT which made Bultmann notorious in the 1940s and 1950s. Latterly his aim to make the Christian message intelligible in the modern world has been more widely respected.

Subjects: Christianity.


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