Karl Barth on Romans

Tim Gorringe

in The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible

Published in print January 2011 | ISBN: 9780199204540
Published online May 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Karl Barth on Romans

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This article focuses on Barth's two commentaries on Romans. Preparing the first commentary, Barth did his homework: he used the most recent historical critical commentaries by Zahn and Jülicher; he read Kutter's ‘Romans as Catechism’ and his book on Justification, which was an exposition of Romans 1-8; he read his father's lecture notes on Romans; he read older commentators like Bengel and Tholuck; but two commentaries clearly stood out — Luther's, and that of J. T. Beck, which provided him with the organic metaphor which was the main exegetical key to this edition. Introducing the second commentary, Barth noted that: ‘A wide reading of contemporary secular literature — especially newspapers! — is recommended to any one desirous of understanding the Epistle to the Romans’, and this is more obvious in the first than in the second commentary. Barth wrote as someone who had internalized the great German literary tradition. Jülicher noted ironically in review that Schiller was quoted more often than was quite necessary, but Goethe was cited more than twice as often, and Barth had obviously been deeply struck by Spitteler's Olympian Spring, which won its author the Nobel Prize for literature in the year Barth's commentary appeared. The commentary is honeycombed with literary, historical, artistic, and political allusions.

Keywords: Romans; Karl Barth; Goethe; Olympian Spring; Kutter

Article.  8711 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Christianity ; Philosophy of Religion ; Religious Studies

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