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Rudolf Karl Bultmann (1884 1976) Essay

5619 words - 22 pages

Rudolf Karl Bultmann (1884-1976)

Rudolf Karl Bultmann (1884-1976) was born on August 20th in
Wiefelstede, in (what was then known as) the grand duchy of Oldenburg.
His father, Arthur Bultmann, was an Evangelical-Lutheran pastor, his
paternal grandfather a missionary to Africa, and his maternal
grandfather a pastor of the pietistic tradition. Thus, young Rudolf
came from a family line heavily invested in the theological milieu of
his time. This family's gradual move toward Protestant
liberalism-especially on the part of his father-would prove to have a
significant impact on this young theologian-to-be.

Rudolf's education began at the humanistic Gymnasium at Oldenburg;
incidentally, he studied concurrently with the philosopher-to-be, Karl
Jaspers, who was only a few grades ahead of young Bultmann. Following
his graduation, he studied theology at the Universities of Tübingen,
Berlin, and Marburg, respectively. It is important to note that all
three of these institutions were heavily committed to liberal
theology. His greatest influence came from Marburg, including the
systematic and liberal theologian Wilhelm Hermann and New Testament
scholars Johannes Weiss and Wilhelm Heitmüller of the
history-of-religions school.

Bultmann received his doctorate in 1910 from Marburg and, two years
later, qualified as an instructor at his alma mater. In 1916, he
accepted an assistant professorship at Breslau, where he married and
had two daughters. Four years later he went to Giessen for his first
full professorship. Only one year later, however, he returned to
Marburg where he accepted his last full professorship, succeeding
Heitmüller as the chair of New Testament. Among the colleagues
Bultmann encountered there were Rudolph Otto (who succeeded Hermann)
and Martin Heidegger (who was at Marburg from 1922-1928). In addition,
both Karl Barth and Friedrich Gogarten lectured at Marburg. All four
of these would influence Bultmann's ensuing theology, each in his own
way.

It is important to note that-barring his dissertation and a myriad of
theological and related book reviews-Bultmann failed to publish any
significant theological works until the mid-twenties. Walter
Schmithals suggests that this is because his dissatisfaction with
liberal theology prevented him from making a serious contribution to
the theology of his time; moreover, he had not developed a
sufficiently independent position from which to critique the theology
of his teachers. This premonition is supported by the fact that, while
Bultmann counted himself a member of the liberal theology camp, four
years later-at the advent of his flood of publications-Bultmann counts
himself among those critiquing and moving beyond Protestant
liberalism.

{The following categories are derived from Roger Johnson, 1991.}

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