Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 23:2 (May 1961)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

GÜnther Bornkamm: Jesus of Nazareth. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1960. 239. 21/-: New York: Harper and Brothers, 1961. $4.00.

This work from the pen of the professor of New Testament in Heidelberg University, which appeared in its first German edition in 1956, has since attracted considerable attention and acclaim. James A. Robinson, the translator, has given prominent recognition to it in his informative and important book entitled, A New Quest of the Historical Jesus (1959). And Amos N. Wilder of Harvard, as the American edition was about to appear early this year, was quoted as saying: “It is now in my opinion much the best presentation of Jesus that we have….his portrait of Jesus…has a rich documentation from tested sources, and the interpretive approach is so positive that the reader and the Christian are more than compensated for the older views abandoned”.

These evaluations reflect in my judgment the significant fact that a disciple of Bultmann, who still largely shares Bultmann’s general theological viewpoint as well as his basic approach to the Gospels, presents an appraisal of Jesus of Nazareth which in important respects is more positive than Bultmann’s own. This positiveness appears in three respects. First of all in a more constructive estimate of the witness of the Gospels as against Bultmann’s extreme agnosticism. Secondly, in a fresh interest in recovering a knowledge of the Jesus of history in contrast to Bultmann’s radical indifference, as expressed in his Jesus and the Word, to the results of this pursuit. And finally in the recognition of significant continuity between the Jesus of this reconstruction and the kerygma of the Christian church in distinction from Bultmann’s disconcerting juxtaposition of (1) the prophet and rabbi Jesus, whose message as reconstructed by Bultmann with the benefit of his form critical method supposedly has contemporaneous validity and (2) the Son of God of the kerygma, which is judged to be mythological and obsolete and yet allows of a demythologizing which supposedly preserves the Christian proclamation.

These positive features of Bornkamm’s position, associated as they are with an essential radicalism, are far from marking a return to orthodox or traditional views. Rather they point up the conclusion that this movement of thought and criticism, while to be sure not simply a return to the

older Liberalism is, as to its basic thrust, indicative of a resurgence of Liberal perspectives and spirit. As such, however, it nevertheless does not appear to involve any significant weakening of the position of preeminence held by Bultmann in present-day theological thinking but a co...

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