Friday, January 07, 2011

Taylor-made Bultmann

One of my perennial interests concerns the way we have distinguished Judaism from Christianity and the various ways this distinction has affected our historical, exegetical, and theological work. A lot of work in the post-World War II era has gone to expose and/or correct the anti-Judaic tenor of a lot of Christian scholarship, but even here the fundamental disjunction between Judaism and Christianity as separate things is frequently detectable.

Rudolf Bultmann, famously, attributed the creation and transmission of many of the miracle-stories in the gospels to "Hellenistic circles," by which I understand him to mean Greek (= gentile) Christian communities. The transposition of the Jesus tradition from Palestinian (= Jewish?) to Hellenistic circles is, for Bultmann, a major source of the distortion evident between Jesus and the gospels. Here, then, is an excerpt from British NT scholar Vincent Taylor explaining how Bultmann would have considered a parable to have escaped relatively unscathed the distorting effects of Hellenization:
For the parables he [viz., Bultmann] lays down the principle that the best criterion of genuineness is the presence of an opposition to Jewish morality and piety or of the eschatological attitude which characterized the preaching of Jesus, always providing that no specifically Christian details are present (G.S.T. 222). (The Formation of the Gospel Tradition [London: Macmillan and Co., 1933], 28)

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