Thursday, April 06, 2006

Markus Barth

One author I've enjoyed in recent times is Barth, no not Karl, his son Markus.

His Bio is available at the centre of Barth Studies at Princeton. I include here a small summary:

Markus Barth (b. October 6, 1915 – d. July 1, 1994) studied Protestant theology in Bern, Basel, Berlin, and Edinburgh. From 1940 to 1953 he was pastor in Bubendorf near Basel. In 1947 he received a doctorate in New Testament from the University of Göttingen. Between 1953 and 1972 he held professorships in New Testament at theological schools in Dubuque (Iowa), Chicago, and Pittsburgh. From 1973 to 1985 he was professor of New Testament in Basel.

Since 1940, Markus Barth was married to Rose Marie Barth-Oswald (b. November 19, 1913 – d. September 2, 1993). The couple had five children: Peter, Anna, Ruth, Lukas, and Rose Marie, who all live in Europe.

Among a variety of theological interests, three issues were of special importance to Barth:

First, the understanding of the “sacraments” Baptism and Lord’s Supper, to which he devoted two major books: “Die Taufe - ein Sakrament?” (1951), which offers a close look at the New Testament texts on Baptism; and “Das Mahl des Herrn. Gemeinschaft mit Israel, mit Christus und unter den Gästen” (1987, abbreviated English version: “Rediscovering the Lord’s Supper”, 1988), which offers a study of Pauline and Johannine texts and reconsiders the meaning of the Lord’s Supper with attention to its original social and religious context.

Second, the theology of the Pauline and Deutero-Pauline Epistles, which he often taught in class and which he discussed extensively in three major commentaries: Ephesians (1974), Colossians (1994), and Philemon (2000, posthumously); since he regards both Colossians and Ephesians as authentic Pauline letters, these commentaries can be read as a comprehensive presentation of his theology of Paul.

Third, the Jewish-Christian dialogue, which for him included reflection about religious as well as political matters, for example, the theological importance of Judaism for Christianity (and vice versa) or the achievements and failures of Zionism. Two of his writings on this subject are: “Israel and the Church” (1969) and “The People of God” (1983).

He also published a comprehensive study about the meaning of the Apostolate (“Der Augenzeuge”, 1945) and a brief “narration with wonder and admiration” on “Justification” (1971) as well as numerous articles in books and journals.

Significant Works

His most significant works (for me) include:

- His commentaries on Colossians and Ephesians in the Anchor Bible series. He in fact defends Pauline authorship for what it's worth.

- His volume on resurrection with Verne H. Fletcher, Acquittal by Resurrection (New York: Holt, Rinehard and Winston, 1964).

"The legal ground of justification – and the reason to praise God as the justifier of the wicked lies in Jesus Christ exclusively . . . It lies in his death and resurrection, not in his teaching, or in our obedience to it. Man’s faith has a part in that legal ground only in as much as it is faith in Jesus Christ." (p. 94)


- A little known but thought provoking article: “Jews and Gentiles: The Social Character of Justification in Paul,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 5 (1968): 241-67. Barth, yes a Barthian, launched the New Perspective years before Sanders or Dunn. Read this quote:

"A careful analysis of Galatians 2:15-21 indicates that no one can claim God's jutice for himself - God's impartial judgment through the death of Jesus Christ involves Jews and Gentiles. Justification is a social event. It ties man to man together. Justification by works would segregate men because each person selects his own arbitrary criterion of good works. Justification by grace, however, brings people together in reconciliation, even those of alien background, like the Jews and Gentiles." (p. 241)

"For Paul one's justification is closely related to the question of Jewish-Gentile unity." (p. 242)

"For the two themes, justification by faith and unity of Jew and Gentile in Christ, are for him obviously not only inseparable but in teh last analysis identical." (p. 258)

"Sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the means of justification: only in Christ's death and resurrection is the new man created. But this new man is not any individual, this one or that one: he is created from at least two: a Jew and a Greek, a man and a woman, a slave and a free man, etc." (p. 259).

Interesting stuff in terms of how it foreshadows guys like Sanders, Wright and Dunn.

3 comments:

Brandon Wason said...

I have his two-volume(!) commentary on Ephesians and use it from time to time. It seems that his commentaries tend to run long (e.g., Philemon).

Jason Goroncy said...

Michael. Thanks for the intro to Marcus Barth. I've always appreciated his work, not least his little essay on Forsyth. I've also found his commentary on Ephesians monumental, although I wonder if at times he isn't more faithful to his father than he is to Paul. Any thoughts on this? Also, how are you settling into HTC? I've been meaning to get up there for some time now. It's still on my things to do list.

thunderbeard said...

thanks for the insight on the younger barth. i haven't enjoyed his works nearly as much as i would like.