Baker Academic

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christine Jacobi’s "Jesusüberlieferung bei Paulus?" reviewed in RBL—Chris Keith

Congratulations to Jesus Blogger Christine Jacobi on receiving an excellent review of her Jesusueberlieferung bei Paulus? in the Review of Biblical Literature! The reviewer is Kari Syreeni, who not only treats the details of the monograph but also the significance of Jacobi's study as an application of the so-called "memory approach" to Pauline studies.  (The Jesus Blog actually gets a mention toward the end!)

I include the closing of the review here.  I'll let Christine respond to the rest, but I appreciate Syreeni's closing interrogative, as I think he has perceptively noted what this methodological shift can entail.  He's actually entirely right that Jacobi's conclusions are open to different interpretations, because what one considers "maximalist" or "minimalist" is entirely based on what one is after in the first place.

"All in all, the book contains a series of meticulous analyses of Paul’s use, or nonuse, of
Jesus traditions. Both the merits and the problems of the book depend on its presentic,
contextual concept of memory. What we have here is nothing less than a new paradigm in
the study of Paul and Jesus traditions. This paradigm offers no easy routes from Jesus to
Paul. The proponents of a maximalist view may not find the new paradigm persuasive, yet they would do well to reconsider the concept of Jesus tradition. Not all early Christian
tradition is Jesus tradition, and not all use of traditional motifs and topoi is tantamount to
transmitting fixed traditions.

However, the new paradigm may not be quite so new after all. The reader may be left
wondering whether this is essentially much else than the Bultmannian line of reasoning.
At the same time, it seems that the paradigm is open to quite contrary hermeneutical
assessments. The back cover text articulates the minimalist conclusion straightforwardly:
“Im Licht des Christusgeschehens entwickeln Paulus und das frühe Christentum ethische
Überzeugungen, die später in den Evangelien als Worte Jesu weitergegeben werden.” By
contrast, the Jesus blog welcomes Jacobi as their new contributor by describing her book
as follows: “In this study, Jacobi argues that restricting consideration of Paul’s knowledge
of the Jesus tradition to mining his epistles for words and sayings of Jesus from the Synoptics is ill-conceived. One must, according to Jacobi, be more attuned to Paul’s own conceptualization of Jesus and the Jesus tradition. Focusing particularly on his usage of ‘in the Lord,’ she demonstrates that Paul ‘receives’ ‘Jesus’ as more of a hermeneutical sphere or orientation toward the past than anything else, and thus his reception of Jesus and Jesus tradition amounts to much more than simply repeating some words that Jesus may have said” ( Perhaps, then, less is more?"

Congrats Christine!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Chris! And of course, many thanks to Kari Syreeni!

    I would like to take up the question about Bultmann in this review. Is my argument essentially much else than the Bultmannian line of reasoning?

    I remember – although it was a stressful situation and my recollection might be distorted on that point ;-) – that somebody asked a similar question during the defense of my thesis.

    I admire Bultmann for his distinction between “synoptic tradition” and “Jesus tradition”, thus opening our eyes for a productive, creative period within early Christianity. I disagree (like many scholars) with his conception of how the synoptic tradition developed. I am not convinced that the tradition existed in strata or layers that can be uncovered again by modern scholarship. This criticism is not new.

    But how can we actually envisage the development of the Jesus (or rather: synoptic) tradition? To me it seems plausible that during an early phase of orientation the followers of Jesus and early Christians started to interpret the whole “Jesus event” as such. They referred to his earthly activity, his death and his appearance as the risen Lord in expressions like "in the Lord", "in Christ" etc., and they used the Christ event like a hermeneutical key for common, already well-known and accepted ethical and “religious” convictions. The “Christ event” shed new light on shared values and traditions. This phenomenon is what I would label with the term “memory”: A creative, flexible way of processing tradition, material, motifs and ideas by new experiences. Thus, “Jesus tradition” in a strict sense (the words and deeds of Jesus) is on the one hand something that was remembered and handed down, and on the other hand something that was absorbed into a new, unique “Christian” perspective.