the weblog of Alan Knox

Theology, Jesus, and Bultmann

Posted by on Dec 16, 2009 in biblical theology | 6 comments

The message of Jesus is a presupposition for the theology of the New Testament rather than a part of that theology itself. For New Testament theology consists in the unfolding of those ideas by means of which Christian faith makes sure of its own object, basis, and consequences. But Christian faith did not exist until there was a Christian kerygma; i.e., a kerygma proclaiming Jesus Christ – specifically Jesus Christ the Crucified and Risen One – to be God’s eschatological act of salvation. He was first so proclaimed in the kerygma of the earliest Church, not in the message of the historical Jesus, even though that Church frequently introduced into its account of Jesus’ message, motifs of its own proclamation. Thus, theological thinking – the theology of the New Testament – begins with the kerygma of the earliest Church and not before. But the fact that Jesus had appeared and the message which he had proclaimed were, of course, among its historical presuppositions; and for this reason Jesus’ message cannot be omitted from the delineation of New Testament theology. (Rudolf Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament; translated by Kendrick Grobel; Waco: Baylor University Press, 2007, pg 3) – italics in translation.

Provocative, eh? What do you think? Agree, disagree? Partially, wholly?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 12-16-2009

    I have a question, not so much a comment or contribution: Can we really separate the historical Jesus from the Jesus of faith or, in Bultmann’s words, the NT kerygma?

  2. 12-17-2009


    Apparently Bultmann and others can. 🙂

    Of course, Bultmann did this by recreating what he considered the “original text” before the early church (through editors) got in and messed everything up. So, the parts that he accepted as “original” described “historical Jesus” for him.


  3. 12-17-2009

    I suspect this plays better with those for whom Paul is already heavily theologized, and for whom Pauline “thought” has become incredibly specialized. Furthermore, I wonder if Bultmann’s influence will wane if, as Jesus and Paul both continue to become “more Jewish”, we begin to see less of a contrast between both their messages.

    What do you think, Alan? Am I musing aimlessly or might I be closet to on target here?

  4. 12-17-2009


    I suspect you’re right. Plus, I think many were rejecting commonly held interpretations of Paul, which seemed to contradict the gospels in places.


  5. 12-17-2009

    Dear friend, I am a relative to Rudolf Bultmann and at University in Oldenburg Germany a guest-listener to lectures on R.B. on his 125th birthday. Twitter is new for me. Today is my 1st day. Perhaps we may contact later again.
    Regards Klaus Bultmann Born 1938

  6. 12-17-2009


    I’m honored that you commented on my blog on your first day of Tweeting.