Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Karl Barth on Exegesis

“We have been studying cheerfully and seriously. As far as I was concerned it could have continued in that way, and I had already resigned myself to having my grave here by the Rhine! …And now the end has come. So listen to my piece of advice: exegesis, exegesis, and yet more exegesis! Keep to the word, to the scripture that has been given to us.”

Karl Barth on the occasion of his farewell to his students in Bonn prior to his expulsion from Germany in 1935.

4 comments:

Peter Malik said...

cited from Gordon Fee's handbook on NT Exegesis?

Michael F. Bird said...

You guessed right Peter!

Andy Rowell said...

A couple of years ago, I found two versions of the quote. Busch selects part of it for his narrative while Burnett quotes it in full.

Eberhard Busch, Karl Barth: His life from letters and autobiographical texts (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976), 259).
Endnote 236, on p. 531 shows that Busch found this quotation in
Karl Barth, "Das Evangelium in der Gegenwart," Theologisch Existenz heute (ThExh) 25 (1935), 16f.

"The day before [10 February 1935], he had said his formal farewell to his Bonn pupils at a Bible study group for students at Bad Godesberg. He gave an interpretation of Psalm 119.67 and James 4.6 and ended with the words: 'We have been studying cheerfully and seriously. As far as I was concerned it could have continued that way, and I had already resigned myself to having my grave here by the Rhine! I had plans for the future with other colleagues who are either no longer here or have been away for a long time--but there has been a frost on our spring night! And now the end has come. So listen to my last piece of advice: exegesis, exegesis and yet more exegesis! Keep to the Word, to the scripture that has been given us.'"

A fuller version appears in
Richard E. Burnett, Karl Barth's Theological Exegesis: The Hermeneutical Principles of the Romerbrief Period (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 30. in which he quotes from the same article:
Karl Barth, "Das Evangelium in der Gegenwart," Theologisch Existenz heute 25 (1935), p. 17.

"Dear friends, who have listened to me, the main thing you have heard from me is dogmatics. Dogmatics is a high and steep art. I do not want to deny that, humanly as well, I strive after it with a certain love and desire. And I dare say that I have noticed that many of you have been excited about this subject matter as well. If this now for the moment has come to an end, accept this as a signal for you to temporarily begin anew your studies at a different place. Take now my last piece of advice: Exegesis, Exegesis, and once more, Exegesis! If I have become a dogmatician, it is because I long before have endeavored to carry on exegesis. Let the systematic art, which can also make one mad, rest a little and hold on to the Word, to the Scriptures, which is given to us and become perhaps less systematic and more biblical theologians. For then the systematic and dogmatic tasks will certainly be taken care of as well. That is what I wanted to say to you and in this way I wish to be you farewell.
I was glad to be among you. I enjoyed working with you, and will fondly remember the time. In view of this, but much more in view of the Word which called us and held us together and which we once again have heard in this hour I would now like to conclude very encouragingly with the word Jonathan said to David: 'And as for the matter about which you and I have spoken, behold, the Lord is between you and me for ever.'"

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