Ernst Käsemann


Ernst Käsemann

Ernst Käsemann, (Bochum, 12 July 1906 – 17 February 1998 in Tübingen), was a Lutheran theologian and professor of New Testament in Mainz (1946-1951), Göttingen (1951-1959) and Tübingen (1959-1971).

tudy and work

Käsemann obtained his PhD in New Testament at the University of Marburg in 1931, having written a dissertation on Pauline ecclesiology, with Rudolf Bultmann as his doctoral supervisor. Käsemann was one of Bultmann's more well-known politically left-of-centre 'pupils'.

Käsemann joined the Confessing Church movement in 1933; in the same year, he was appointed pastor in Gelsenkirchen, in a district mainly populated by miners. In the autumn of 1937 he spent a few weeks in Gestapo detention for openly supporting communist miners.

In 1939, he completed his habilitation, which qualified him to teach at German universities; his dissertation was on the New Testament Epistle to the Hebrews.

Käsemann was later drafted into the army. He returned to his theological work in 1946 after several years in the army and as a prisoner of war.

Käsemann was involved with what is known as the 'second quest for the historical Jesus', a new phase of scholarly interest in working out what could possibly be ascertained historically about Jesus. Käsemann effectively started this phase when he published his famous article "The Problem of the Historical Jesus" in 1954, originally his inaugural lecture as Professor in Göttingen.

Käsemann developed what became known as the double criterion of difference in evaluating the historical reliability of the synoptic gospels. Put simply, what is historically reliable about Jesus can be deduced from material about Jesus which is neither plausible in a first-century Jewish nor an early Christian context. In addition to this, he proposed additional criteria, such as multiple attestation (does a particular story or saying of Jesus appear in independent traditions?) and coherence with other material already found to be reliable historical traditions about Jesus. Only the recent 'third quest' for the historical Jesus, which began in the later 1980s, began to question the absolute validity of these criteria.

Käsemann also began to take Jewish apocalypticism more seriously than most of his contemporary colleagues and thought it to be of vital significance for a reading of Paul. Indeed, he famously described apocalypticism as "the mother of Christian theology". Käsemann's commentary on Paul's Epistle to the Romans, first published in 1973, became a standard work for that generation.

His daughter, Elisabeth Käsemann, was abducted by security forces in Argentina during the military dicatorship and subsequently 'disappeared'. It is thought that she was murdered around March 24, 1977. Ernst Käsemann's subsequent theological writings acquired a more radical, often bitter edge after his daughter's murder.

Ernst Käsemann received honorary doctorates from the universities of Marburg, Durham, Edinburgh, Oslo and Yale.

Books by Ernst Käsemann (in English)

*"Essays on New Testament themes". London, SCM, 1964.
*"New Testament questions of today". London, SCM, 1969.
*"Jesus means freedom: a polemical survey of the New Testament". London, SCM, 1969.
*"Perspectives on Paul". London, SCM, 1971.
*"Commentary on Romans". London, SCM, 1980.
*"The Wandering People of God". Minneapolis, Augsburg, 1984.

Literature about Ernst Käsemann

*Way, D V 1991. "The Lordship of Christ: Ernst Käsemann's Interpretation of Paul's Theology". Oxford.
*Martin, R P 1998. Käsemann, Ernst. In: McKim, D K (ed) "Historical Handbook of Major Biblical Interpreters". Downers Grove: IVP, pages 500-505
*Osborn, E F 1999. Käsemann, Ernst. In: Hayes, J H (ed) "Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation" Vol. 2, Nashville: Abingdon, pages 14-16.
*Harrisville, R A & Sundberg, W. Käsemann, Ernst. In: "The Bible in Modern Culture: Theology and Historical Critical Method from Spinoza to Käsemann". Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pages 238-261.

ee also

*Rudolf Bultmann
*Günther Bornkamm
*Michael Lattke
*

External links

* [http://www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermons/c-or19-keeping.php Sermon drawing on Käsemann's life and work]
* [http://www.econi.org/LionLamb/022/church3.html Magazine article on Käsemann and the Nazis]
* [http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3818/is_199807/ai_n8797467/print Article/obituary in "Anglican Theological Review"]
* [http://www.menschenrechte.org/Menschenrechte/Koalition/hintergrundinfo.htm Information about the murder of Elisabeth Käsemann (in German)]


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