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Language, Hermeneutic, and History: Theology after Barth and Bultmann; Jesus: According to the Earliest Witness.

Language, Hermeneutic, and History: Theology after Barth and Bultmann. By James M. Robinson. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2008. vii and 249 pages. Paper. $29.00.

Jesus: According to the Earliest Witness. By James M. Robinson. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007. v and 258 pages. Paper. $20.00.

Robinson, emeritus Professor of New Testament at Claremont Graduate University, is known as an expert interpreter of Continental theology. The work on Language reflects Robinson's involvement in German studies. He and John B. Cobb produced a series entitled New Frontiers in Theology: Discussions among Continental and American Theologians. Three volumes were published: The Later Heidegger and Theology (1963); The New Hermeneutic (1964); and Theology as History (1967). This volume is a reprint of Robinson's contributions to that series. In the "Later Heidegger" he discusses how Heidegger shifted his understanding of Dasein in relation to metaphysics and how that affected German theology. In "New Hermeneutic" Robinson helpfully describes several uses of the term hermeneutic such as interpretation, translation or commentary. The Barthian revolution reverses these definitions. The text is now the subject and the reader the object. In "Theology" Robinson centers on the work of Pannenberg, who maintains that God's self-revelation occurred through God's acts in history. This stands in contrast to existential revelation as found in Bultmann.

The work on Jesus also contains reprints of prior essays, first written as early as 1982 and then published in a lengthy tome, The Sayings Gospel Q: Collected Essays (Leuven: Peeters, 2005). The articles in this book offer readers a more immediate access to some of those found in the larger volume. Leaving his interest in continental hermeneutics (see above), Robinson shifted to a study of the Nag Hammadi documents. In 1985, by organizing The International Q Project, he turned (or returned) to a critical analysis of Q. As indicated by the subtitle, Robinson was interersted in the earliest witness to Jesus. In his first essay he begins with the affirmation that "Q is certainly the most important source for reconstructing the teaching of Jesus." It is in the earliest or archaic collections imbedded in Q that one finds material originating from the historical Jesus.

Robinson has more than an academic interest in Q. He tries to show that the Q teaching of Jesus calls for a reign of God (in our time) that includes sharing, nonviolent responses, healing, and hospitality. The most interesting chapter in the book, for some of us, is his theological autobiography in which he describes his own life journey as well as contacts with his colleagues. In a final appendix he presents his edition of Q in English.

Graydon F. Snyder


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Author:Snyder, Graydon F.
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2009
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