Friday, 18 November 2005

Gerhard Ebeling and the problem of history

There has been some discussion of the problem of faith and history over at the Jürgen Moltmann List. I sent in the following comment on Gerhard Ebeling’s approach to the problem of history:

Gerhard Ebeling’s The Problem of Historicity in the Church and Its Proclamation (1967) is one of my favourite little books. Ebeling was one of Rudolf Bultmann’s pupils, and his conception of faith and history is essentially Bultmannian, with the added refinement of Ebeling’s concept of the “word-event.”

Ebeling views the problem of history as a problem of understanding, and so he sees the solution in hermeneutical terms: the church’s task is to interpret and translate the kerygma. But his main emphasis is not on the “content” of the Christian kerygma, but on the “word-character” of the kerygma, i.e., on the “word-event” which takes place through this message. Thus for Ebeling the task of Christian faith is to translate the primitive Christian message in such a way that the original word-event takes place afresh in each new historical situation.

3 Comments:

Deep Furrows said...

I wonder if there is any relationship between understanding and that of Vermittlung addressed in this article. Mayhap someone could offer some elaboration so that I could get a better sense of this hermeneutical approach.

Ben Myers said...

This is a very interesting question, Fred. I don't know the answer, although I read the article with great interest. Offhand, I would think that Ebeling might have been uncomfortable with the term Vermittlung in reference to the hermeneutic task; but it seems possible that there are underlying parallels.

Incidentally, Karl Barth also criticised the hermeneutics of the Bultmann school for trying to fulfil a kind of mediatorial role. (For Barth, this was unacceptable, because the knowability of revelation is included in revelation itself, and is not something that we have to supply for ourselves.)

fogonchannel said...

Thank you for that vey succinct definition of the role of the Sprach-ereignis in theological hermeneutics __and Ebeling's distinctive contribution to Bultmann's theory of the reception of Scriptural texts.
This is all very much in the idiom of (as in 'compatible with') Gadamer's 'Truth and Method' wouldn't you agree?

Though it should be aded that the Sprach-ereignis can also be construed as (or expanded into) a model for the experience of epiphany in general as a 'moment of grace'.

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