Bultmann, Rudolf


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Bultmann, Rudolf

 

Born Aug. 20, 1884, in Oldenburg. German Protestant theologian, philosopher, and historian of religion. Professor of theology at the University of Marburg from 1921 to 1951.

Bultmann’s theology verges on dialectical theology. His works in the 1920’s started the trend of the so-called school of historical form criticism in the study of religion. In the early 1940’s, Bultmann tried to resolve the internal duality of his theoretical tendencies (inclination toward the ideas of S. Kierkegaard on the one hand and toward the rationalist methodology of liberal Protestantism on the other hand) by urging that faith be “demythologized.” He proposed that a strict distinction be made within the body of Christian tradition between its transient mythological system of symbols and its permanent “message,” directed to man’s conscience and placing him in a life situation in which he has a choice; the myth is subject to rationalist criticism, but the message undergoes existentialist interpretation. This conception of Bultmann received sensational publicity but was criticized by the leaders of official Protestantism, who were displeased with the elimination of a large part of the substance of religious teaching, and by historians, who pointed to the arbitrariness of Bultmann’s approach to historical occurrences. K. Jaspers, who was closest to Bultmann, sharply criticized him for mixing theology with existentialist philosophy.

WORKS

Die Frage der Entmythologisierung. Munich [1954]. (With K. Jaspers.)
Glauben und Verstehen: Gesammelte Aufsätze, vols. 1-3. Tübingen, 1958-62.
Das Evangelium des Johannes, 17th ed. Göttingen, 1962.

REFERENCES

Barth, K. R. Bultmann, 2nd ed. Zurich, 1953.
Malet, A. Mythos et logos: La Pensée de R. Bultmann. Geneva, 1962.
Schmithals, W. Die Theologie R. Bultmanns. Tübingen, 1966.

S. S. AVERINTSEV