Tuesday 15 April 2008

Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: the new digital edition

“Dogmatics has no more exalted and profound word – essentially, it has no other word – than this: that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” If you want to know what Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics is all about, then the whole 9,000-page work is summed up in that single sentence.

The 14 volumes of the existing English edition of the Church Dogmatics were published between 1936 and 1975, and there has never been a new edition until now. Thanks to T&T Clark, a new print edition will be released in September – and thanks to Logos, there is now a highly sophisticated and remarkably user-friendly digitisation of this edition. The digital edition will be released on 21 April (retailing at $699) – but until 20 April, you can pick up a copy at the pre-publication price of $499. (It runs on software called Libronix, a digital library system for Windows-based computers. Fortunately for Mac users, a Mac version of the software is currently in public beta testing – it’s available for download here, and it runs very nicely.)

I’m very grateful to Logos for sending me an advance review copy of this new edition. I use the German and English print editions of the Church Dogmatics on an almost daily basis. And I have to say that, for sheer elegance, efficiency and ease of use, this new digital edition is absolutely unsurpassed. The new edition retains the original pagination, but it is presented in a format that is far more readable and more accessible than any of the previous German or English editions (the digital edition also displays the corresponding German pagination, which is extremely helpful). Barth’s numerous Greek and Latin passages are now rendered both in the original and in a new English translation – not only the extended quotes, but every Greek and Latin word or phrase is also translated. In the digital text you just hover over the asterisk following a passage of Latin or Greek, and the translation appears as a pop-up, as illustrated here:

The digitisation has also created many excellent additional features. Particularly valuable is the ability to mark up the text and to create your own annotations – this feature will be a great help both to general readers and to scholars doing close work on the CD. Further, the digital text integrates with all other Libronix resources (Logos kindly sent me a complimentary copy of the Scholar’s Gold Library, so I’ve been using this as a base library), and this produces a whole range of wonderful features. For example, the CD is instantly linked to any Bible version of your choice. I’ve made the RSV my default Bible, so that any time I come across a biblical reference in Barth’s text, I can just hover over the reference and the full passage appears as an RSV pop-up (or, if you prefer, you can use a Greek edition such as the Nestle-Aland).

This system of biblical referencing is also integrated with all commentaries in your Libronix library. So if I want to analyse Barth’s exegesis of 1 Corinthians 15 in his doctrine of reconciliation (CD IV), I can easily move back and forth between Barth’s text, a critical edition of the NT text, and various commentaries (such as Bruce Metzger’s Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament and Anthony Thiselton’s massive NIGTC commentary on 1 Corinthians). And if I’m puzzling over a particular Pauline term in Barth’s exegesis, I can also jump to exegetical resources such as Kittel’s TDNT or the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament). I only wish I’d been able to do all this when I was writing my recent AAR/SBL paper on Barth’s exegesis of Paul! In any case, I’m convinced that Barth’s theological exegesis is one of the most fruitful avenues for future research on the Church Dogmatics – so the integration of this digital edition with so many biblical and exegetical resources should be a major boon to such research.

The text is seamlessly integrated with many other resources as well. Double-clicking any word executes a keylink to your other Libronix resources. For example, if Barth mentions an obscure topic like “J. G. Herder” or “supralapsarianism”, I can just double-click the word in order to find the related entries in a reference work such as The Encyclopedia of Christianity. For this keylinking, you can set up and prioritise which resources to use for the various data types (e.g. English, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, etc.).

Further, many major historical texts are linked directly to Barth’s text – so whenever Barth cites the Apostolic Fathers, or Augustine’s Confessions, or Calvin’s Institutes, or Kittel’s TDNT, or various creeds and confessions, the citation links directly to the relevant passage in those texts. For instance, when Barth cites Calvin’s Institutes, you can directly move back and forth between Barth and the passage in the Institutes. And if you’re doing a close study of Barth’s interpretation of Calvin, you can do all sorts of advanced searches as well – you could, for example, find every place where Barth refers to a specific book or chapter of the Institutes (as illustrated here).

And of course the whole text of the CD is searchable as well – so if you want to locate every time Barth uses a certain word or phrase (e.g. “Bultmann” or “fundamentalists” or “imago Dei”) or biblical passage (e.g. John 1:14 or Genesis 1:1-2:4), then the digital search function provides a much more efficient, more flexible and more reliable resource than the old index volume. You can search for any word – a quick search of “reprobation” instantly gets you 69 hits (based on the root); or you can search for any phrase – “in Christ” brings up 725 hits. You could also quickly search Barth to find all the places where he mentions a certain reference in the Apostolic Fathers or Calvin or TDNT, etc. This kind of very specific information would be nearly impossible to find any other way.

You can also search other portions of your digital library for references to the CD. I’ve often thought about writing something on Cornelius Van Til’s interpretation of Barth. If I’ve got Van Til’s works in my Libronix collection, then I can search for every time he refers to Barth’s CD (over 6,000 references). Since the digitisation recognises the pagination of Barth’s German, this search function works equally for references to Barth’s German or English edition. And this function will be constantly evolving as well, since new Logos books which cite Barth will also be linked to the CD.

Okay, let me mention just one more nice feature. If you also like to use Barth’s CD as a resource for preaching, then you can add it to your list of preferred commentaries and exegetical resources. So if I’m preparing a sermon on Galatians 5:1-15, I can just run a quick commentary search for Gal. 5:1-15, and my list of results will immediately include all Barth’s references to that passage, alongside the standard commentaries, etc. Here’s an illustration:

(Oops, it looks as though John MacArthur has turned up in the results as well – but I can easily omit him from my future searches.) In the same way, I can use the CD as a basic reference work: if I’m doing a search on some church-historical topic, then Barth’s discussions of that topic can be displayed alongside reference works like the 3-volume The Encyclopedia of Christianity.

In sum, this is a wonderfully rich and delightfully user-friendly resource both for general theological readers and for students of Barth. The new digital edition will certainly be a tremendous help in my own future research! With its accessible format, enhanced search capabilities and seamless integration with so many other texts, it will no doubt establish itself as an indispensable resource for the next generation of Barth scholars, and for the wider community of pastors, theologians and students.

If you’re thinking of getting a copy, don’t forget that the reduced pre-publication price will be available until 20 April. And thanks to the kind folk at Logos, if you’re interested in picking up one of their base libraries, you can also get a 25% discount by visiting this page, or by entering the coupon code FAITH-THEOLOGY.


Anonymous said...

$699!!!!!? No wonder you are grateful for the review copy from Logos.

Ben Myers said...

Hi Tim — well, the print edition will cost a good deal more...

Anonymous said...

Henceforth the author will be known as Karl Byte.

Anonymous said...

How is 'supralapsarianism' an 'obscure topic'? That's like the first word we learn in Scottish universities...

Ben Myers said...

Good point, Jon! Scottish readers could substitute a word like "bishop" or "Eucharist"...


Mark Stevens said...

Ben, I am considering buying the Original Languages edition so your deal is very timely & especially because the $Aus is strong against the $US. Anyway, I use a Mac and I recall you mentioning that you use Logos via Boot Camp. Can you tell me,
1) Do you run Windows as well, or can you simply run logos using BC?
2) What edition are you using with the alpha release? And, does it work well?
3) Are you aware if there it will cost to upgrade once the Mac edition is released?
4) How long will the F&T Logos special be available?

Sorry for all of the questions. I think it is important we make you work for your free copy of the Dogmatics ;-)

By the way it is a pity the 25% doesn't apply to the CD!



Jordan Barrett said...

Why the cheap shot at MacArthur? I'm all up for humor, but I'm beginning to notice a pattern of mockery towards conservative evangelicals on this blog.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if its mockery to not want John MacArthur to show up in your logos searches. I know I sure wouldn't!

And I'm not entirely sure that people with views like MacArthur's shouldn't be mocked a bit anyway. : )

Anonymous said...

Wow, a Johnny Mac reference. I never thought that I'd hear him mentioned around here. Funny thing is, I happen to be the facilities supervisor at his church in LA while I'm going to school. What's his reputation like here (as negative as it seems?)?

Ben Myers said...

Hi Jordan: I apologise for any offence. I wasn't meaning to mock John MacArthur personally — I'm sure he's a nice guy, but my point was just that I wouldn't use his books as a resource for exegetical study, etc.

In any case, I'm sorry if this blog takes occasional swipes at conservatives — if it's any consolation, we take many more and much bigger swipes at liberals!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the detailed review. This sounds wonderful!

Jordan Barrett said...

Ben - no offense was taken. I appreciate you taking the time to clarify things.

Halden - I hear what you're saying. Perhaps it is simply a personal issue for me since I've seen my family greatly benefit from a few of his books. Then I see him quickly dismissed as though he has nothing to contribute to a discussion. I certainly don't ascribe to everything MacArthur says, and there are times that I scratch my head at things he says. Anyways, I'll leave it at that...

Staying on topic - Ben, thanks for taking the time to fill us in on the details about this software.

Mark Stevens said...

Sorry Ben, I have just re-read the article and noticed that you are using the Gold Ed.

I found this quote interesting and it lies at the heart of some of my struggles with Barth, "I’m convinced that Barth’s theological exegesis is one of the most fruitful avenues for future research on the Church Dogmatics". I have noted only more than one occasion that Barth's exegesis is seemingly subjective and lacking in much historical basis. I have also noticed that Wright seems to quite critical of Barth and Barthians for their poor use of scripture. It almost seems at times as though Barth turns to the text and fits it with what he saying as opposed to allowing scripture to form his theology. Does that make sense?



Rhett Smith said...

wow..I am jealous!

Ben Myers said...

Hi Mark: sorry for the slow reply to your queries. I'm not sure whether there will be a cost to upgrade when the Mac version is released — I'll check with the folk at Logos and get back to you. To answer your other queries:

1) Boot Camp is a program that runs Windows (or Vista) directly on your Mac. So if you use this program, you'll be running it in Windows (not in the Mac version). A similar program is Parallels — but I haven't used this myself, since Boot Camp is already included as part of OS X Leopard. Obviously you wouldn't need to use either of these programs if you're running the Mac version.

2) The Mac alpha version has only been out for a couple of weeks, and it's already in its third release. I've experienced a few bugs (and apparently there are some features that haven't yet been added to the Mac version). But on the whole, it seems to run very nicely — I myself much prefer this version over the Windows version.

4) The F&T discount will continue indefinitely: 25% off any base product.

Finally, as to your query whether "Barth turns to the text and fits it with what he is saying as opposed to allowing scripture to form his theology" — all I can say is I think this is a drastic misunderstanding! To get an idea of his approach to exegesis, I'd definitely encourage you to read the preface to his commentary on Romans. And his lasting influence on Pauline exegesis is also a testament to the seriousness and insight with which Barth wrestled with the biblical text. (The fundamental approaches of major biblical interpreters like Ernst Käsemann, Brevard Childs, J. Louis Martyn and Richard Hays would be quite inconceivable without Barth!)

Anyway, I hope all that helps!

Ben Myers said...

Mark, I asked Logos about the cost of upgrading when the Mac version is released. Here's their answer:

"There will be some cost involved in switching to the Mac version of Libronix when it finally ships, but you will pay that cost either way as it will be factored into the pricing for the Mac base collections. The bottom line is that there's really no savings if you wait to purchase Logos later."

Mark Stevens said...

Thanks for that Ben. There is so much discrimination against is MAC users ;-) I have just purchased the Original Languages edition via the F&T special. I will have to make do with my print edition of Dogmatics for now.

I have read Barth's Romans commentary and found it quite unhelpful exegetically. However, it is a great read. Wright is very critical of Barth and his exegesis. Would you say this is warranted? Or, is it only warranted if you use Wright's approach? (HE seems to almost hold him in disdain) I find myself asking where Barth sources his arguments; I understand it is 'in Christ' but the approach seems subjective. There appears to be little accountability to the text. It is almost a spiritual exegesis as opposed to a historical or literary exegesis.

I also find it ironic that Barth wrote for the Parson yet his Dogmatics are so large that none of us have time to read them! I guess I am wrestling with what Barth is saying and some of it seems so far removed from the realm of Parish ministry (of which I am involved). However, when I read WGWM I see that it was the pulpit that compelled his theological journey. I had better go and prepare for the pulpit! Thanks for following up the questions.

Mark Stevens.

Anonymous said...

Stay concrete is my advice as a parishoner and not a theologian. You know, when a priest tries to explain 'theosis' to a congregation they go blank and generally get nothing from it. We don't see stories where the main characters are 'Truth', 'Beauty' and 'Wisdom' except maybe in theology - and maybe it's only the theologian who knows that's what they are doing.
I think more about how Jesus consistently used parables - stories about people and what a certain person did - it engages the general populace at a level that theology does not because the concrete carries the weight of emotion to a depth that the abstract does not (althought I do know some PhDs of math who get tears in their eyes at the sigh of certain math propositions).
Ok so I'm being rather plebian here on purpose - but a lot of you all here ARE ministera also - and no doubt know a great deal more about writing persuasive sermons than do I - but I am a person with one foot in both world and I do see how the concrete in that context carries so much significance.
This is not intended as a criticism of theology - just a comment triggered by seeing a very valuable cross pollination between this site and the pulpit and validating the perspective that theological language is sometimes a challenge to translate. I love the beginning quote about Dogmatics being about what God is doing to reconcile the world (and all that implies). So what is the concrete story for that? The whole NT?

Erin said...

Ben, I would love to hear your response (and others') to Mark's question :) -just think, you could turn it into a conference: "In Defense of Barth's Exegesis". The opening lecture could "reframe the discussion" to be about interpretations of Barth, not Barth's interpretation....

Anyways, having read Romans but not all the CD (or even most,..really just a very little..) I am disappointed in the exegesis I see. Coming from an evangelical (?) background and finding profound insight in Barth, it's hard to turn it around in the pulpit, when I'm just trying to get people to read the Bible in the first place.

And let's be honest, some of the Red pastor of Safenwill's sermons would bore us to tears on a Sunday. Anyways, always a joy to read here!

Mark Stevens said...

I must admit I wouldn't normally turn to Barth when preparing a sermon (I will from time to time read what he has to say on a passage or topic). I see the CD's as something that keep me accountable for what I say about God revealed in Jesus Christ. It is part of the tension between my historical exegesis and theological exegesis. I am trying as best as I can to proclaim Christ and who we are as the people of God as seen in scripture. I don't want to proclaim Barth! I don't think Barth would want that. I am frustrated because to understand what Barth is saying takes so long! For someone who wrote with the parson in mind it seems as though his work has become the realm of academics because they are the only ones who have the time to read it!


Anonymous said...

For many years as a pastor and preacher, I read Barth regularly. Though the fruits of this discipline were not always clear to me (nor, I suspect, to my congregation!) I am quite sure that the spirit of God shone through his work and was slowly but surely softening my heart's stony ground in ways I was only dimly aware. Why, Mark, should we want theology to work quickly, like an over the counter medication? God's ways are not our ways, eternity not our time, and Barth, more than so many, knew this. Now as a pastor with many responsibilities, I did indeed feel the pressure not to take the time to feed my mind, spirit, and heart, but this restlessness is, I am convinced (in great part, of course, due to the influence of the great Basel pastor!) of the devil, and not of God. Sermons take time, and good ones require us to labor deep in the soil, being patient with our superficiality as we grow in love of Christ. Barth's love of Christ is undeniable, and the Dogmatics a rather remarkable labor of patient, humorous, overwhelming love.
And his exegesis, if daring, and it is, is as patient and subtle as it is bold, and many, many times I have found, upon returning to Barth after having preached certain texts over and over, that indeed, he had seen into the glorious depths of the written word of God more deeply than I had believed or imagined.
And then again, wonder of wonders, he is often wrong, a fact he would have been only too happy to admit! No shame in his game on that front, and if, after spending as much time meditating on God's word, you or I can advance beyond Barth's achievement, it will only be, I suspect, when we have become as humble as the great Swiss preacher of God's convicting word. As for me, I am not nearly so humble...I still think I could tie rings around him!

Anonymous said...

Barth would be delighted to know that we read his exegesis - but dismayed if it does not send us back to the Bible it exegetes. He said: "The dearest habits and best insights that I have - I must give them all up before listening. I must not use them to protect myself against the breakthrough that derives from scripture. Again and again I must let myself be contradicted. I must let myself be loosened up. I must be able to surrender everything."

Importantly, Barth also said that "preaching is exposition, not exegesis. It follows the text but moves on from it to the preacher's own heart and to the congregation."

As for the Red Pastor at Safenwil, when Barth's parishoners understood his sermons (some are gathered in the collection Come Holy Spirit (1934), and I can imagine not a few puzzled looks and stifled snores), they were often put off by them (many were politically charged, and Barth preached so much on the First World War that one woman came up to him and begged him to stop. "If I wanted to be liked," he said, "I would keep quiet"). In later years Barth felt that his pulpit ministry in Safenwil was a failure, and that he had let his people down.

On the other hand, the sermons collected in Deliverance to the Captives (1961), almost all preached in Basel Prison (Barth's pulpit from his late sixties: he joked that you had to commit a crime to hear him preach!), are as simple as Simon and sweet as pie.

Anonymous said...

This is a great portrait of Barth as preacher, KIm. Thank you for your labors--I too have felt that I let my parishioners down in my role as pastor--glad to know that even Barth felt that way!

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to share my excitement with everyone, I just won a whole set of the Church Dogmatics in a silent auction for $175. Hardcover, mint condition. Ah, the benefits of attending a Catholic divinity school...Whoopee!

Mark Stevens said...

Thank you Ben, Ann, Erin, Kim and Saint E for your thoughts. Last night I picked up the index of CD and read through the section summaries. What I began to notice (and I could be wrong) is that Barth is first and foremost a 'practical' theologian. That is, he writes from the view point of the minister and the specific situations and events that continually confront the minister week in week out.

When I read Barth, on the one hand I hear a critique of what I am saying about God and on the other I reflect on ministry praxis in the light of Christ's ongoing ministry of reconciliation in the world. To turn to Barth for historical or even literary exegesis is secondary and probably not necessary at all. Barth doesn't directly help me with Biblical studies however, he does help me become a better Biblical theologian and minister.

As I continue my wrestle with what Barth is saying I find myself struggling on two fronts. The first is practically. Where do I find the time? Balancing work/family and then balancing the ongoing nature of parish work with the need for personal reflection is an ongoing source of frustration; especially when there is so much to read! this is where I see Barth studies have become the realm of Academics. Is there room for a more reflective/devotional reading of Barth? Secondly, and there is probably not much I can do about this, when Barth makes an argument I often find myself agreeing with what he says or at least thinking about it deeply. However, where does his argument come from? What has lead him to a particular conclusion? Is it his own thoughts and reflections in the light of his ministry and academic experience? Or, is it developed as part of his overall Biblical/Systematic theology? I suspect that it comes from a truly robust biblical theology. Not only grounded in one specific text but in the overall biblical narrative. Maybe I like to see how and why and argument is put forward and with Barth, although he does engage with the text and others, primarily this will remain a mystery. My concern is that although what he is saying sounds correct, is it really?

Ben, and others, thanks for letting me explore some of these issues here and for the dialogue,


Anonymous said...

Hi Mark,

What observant and wise comments, and the interrogative tentativeness of it all is lovely. Thanks for it.

My kneejerk reactions (hardly scientific!) to your last question - Is what Barth says correct? - were two. How could anything so beautiful not be true? Or more facetiously: if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and waddles like a duck, it's probably a duck.

Anonymous said...


I'm a poor undergraduate studying philosophy (and English), but I love theology (and am debating what I'll be doing in graduate school). I dearly want to begin studying Barth with some seriousness, but buying the CD is far beyond my resources. So, I have two questions.

1. Do you think the older set will decrease in price once the new one comes out?

2. Will it be worth it to buy the older translation (e.g. both in terms of its quality and being able to, potentially, cite it in later research)?

Ben Myers said...

Hi Samuel — yes, you could certainly still try to get a used set. This is just an improved and enhanced edition of the same English translation — the old sets still have exactly the same translation. Unfortunately, used copies still tend to be very expensive (I doubt the price will go down much either, since the supply-and-demand dynamic is probably fairly stable). But anyway, it's well worth getting a second-hand set if you can (Abebooks.com and eBay would be good places to look).

Anonymous said...

Just a quick question, how many volumes are in the older version? For some reason my new set only came with twelve. I seem to be missing the second half of Book IV.3. My set ends with book IV.4 which apparently consists of fragments. Am I missing something here?

Ben Myers said...

Hi R.O. You should definitely have 14 volumes, not 12. There are two big parts of IV.3, then the little fragment IV.4 (one of my favourite parts), then the index volume.

Perhaps they're planning to ship those other two volumes separately...?

Anonymous said...

My word (no pun intended)...

Look at all of those books. It's terrifying. :P

Anonymous said...

Thanks for responding. Shoot. No, I actually bought the "set" for $175 at a silent auction. Hard cover, mint condition. So, they didn't include the index or the second half of IV.3. Okay, thanks.

Ben Myers said...

That's a shame, R.O. — but it's still an absolutely astonishing bargain, especially for hardcovers in mint condition.

Anyway, if you get busy reading now, by the time you get to IV/3 you'll have saved up enough money for the rest of the set...

tchittom said...

There are so many comments here that it is hard to know--but does anyone else think there is something terrible about the price of Barth's dogmatics? It is one thing to be paid a proper penny for honest work, but quite another to price theology into an ivory box--and this getting close to near a century since the Dogmatics were begun! If Barth were alive, I wonder how he would feel about their abnormally high cost? What is theology if it cannot be read? If one cannot afford to take it into the wilderness or onto the beach or to bed for fear of damaging it? I harbor a thought that, if Barth were alive, he'd scan the whole thing and put it on the Internet for free--damn the presses! Pretty soon, people will read von Balthasar's Herrlichkeit simply because they can afford to get it used on eBay and no one will have read the Church Dogmatics, but there will be rumors that there are people alive who have, in fact, read portions of the CD. We'll have a situation similar to the way the Summae exists today--few really read or own the whole thing. Or perhaps we'll have something similar to the Loci Communes. Anyone own a copy of that one?

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