Bultmann – Jesus Christ and Mythology

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This short work is a collection of lectures Bultmann gave in 1951 at various US theological seminaries. A couple of talking points:

1) Demythologization – The aim of Bultmann’s project is not to “eliminate mythological statements but to interpret them” (18). I suspect my readers are familiar with Bultmann’s revolutionary hermeneutical method. I believe his attempt is necessary for the modern reader, but the question remains whether existentialism is the appropriate conversation partner for Biblical hermeneutics. I’m not convinced it is the appropriate partner. Although Bultmann believes existential philosophy with its emphasis on authenticity and responsibility is already latent in the ethic of Jesus, we should also remember that those individuals in the base communities developed their own liberationist reading. Clearly Bultmann is correct when he argues we must interpret scripture for the modern world, but I believe he fails to do justice to the political nature of Jesus’ ministry.

2) Openness to the Future – Bultmann writes, “the deeper meaning of the mythological preaching of Jesus – to be open to God’s future which is really imminent for every one of us; to be prepared for this future which can come as a thief in the night when we do not expect it” (31). The coming Reign of God demands that one be constantly vigilant ready to make a decision and reliant on God for strength and support.

3) Theology and Existentialism – Existential philosophy fails to recognize the relationship between man and God. From Bultmann’s perspective, we cannot speak about God by looking inward. It is impossible to speak objectively. God sets the terms and conditions for any possible God-talk. Bultmann writes, “[m]y personal relation with God can be made real by God only, by the acting God who meets me in His Word” (59). Perhaps I’m being unjust, but I can’t help but point out the privatization of religion in Bultmann’s theology. He completely relegates religion to the individual’s subjectivity. Although I realize Bultmann was not a proper theologian, I’m curious what his ecclesiology would have looked like.

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