That Dictionary Man, Walter Bauer -- By: Jerry R. Flora

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 06:0 (NA 1973)
Article: That Dictionary Man, Walter Bauer
Author: Jerry R. Flora


That Dictionary Man, Walter Bauer

Jerry R. Flora

Time: about fifteen years ago.

Place: the West German university town of Gottingen.

Protagonists: two internationally-known New Testament scholars, one a young American, the other an elderly German, nearly blind.

The latter, Professor Walter Bauer, commented bitterly about a new development. The monumental New Testament dictionary which he had painfully compiled, only recently translated into English, was already being called by the names of its fine American editors.1 Bauer, fearful of being forgotten, described the lexicon as “my life. I worked on it at least five hours a day, Sundays not excepted, for forty years. And the name of my life is Walter Bauer.”2

Who was this man, and why was he so intent on preserving his name? What right did he have to feel so strongly? The purpose of this article is to describe a remarkable scholar and his sacrificial gift to the world—the finest dictionary of early Christian Greek ever assembled, an indispensable tool at the elbow of every student who takes the New Testament text seriously, whether he be pastor, professor, or seminarian. No other lexicon contains the wealth of material to be found in Bauer’s work.

The Life and Work of Walter Bauer

Walter Felix Bauer was born August 8, 1877, in Konigsburg, the East Prussian city in which Immanuel Kant spent his life. Bauer’s father was a professor in the university there, but the son took his own university training at Marburg, Berlin, and Strasbourg, which at that time was the capital of the German state of Alsace-Lorraine.3

Student and Teacher

At Marburg Bauer studied under Adolf Julicher (1857–1938), who taught New Testament and church history, and under Johannes Weiss (1863–1914), son-in-law of Albrecht Ritschl and professor of New Testament. Wilhelm Hermann, one of the most brilliant followers of Ritschl and Harnack, was teaching theology at Marburg during Bauer’s student years there, and the philosophy faculty was dominated by the neo-Kantianism of Hermann Cohen and Paul Natorp.4

The University of Berlin was distinguished in the nineteenth century by a galaxy of scholars such as Schleiermacher in theology; Hegel in philosophy; Niebuhr, Ranke, and Mommsen in history; Lachmann in philology; and Gunkel in Old Testament. Bauer went to Berlin in order to study under Otto Pfleiderer in New Testament and systematic theology and u...

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