Jesus' Speech, God's Word: An Introduction to Eberhard Jungel

By Webster, John | The Christian Century, December 6, 1995 | Go to article overview

Jesus' Speech, God's Word: An Introduction to Eberhard Jungel


Webster, John, The Christian Century


Reading Eberhard Jungel's work is a delight and a frustration--usually about equal doses of each. Of all contemporary Protestant thinkers in Germany, he is at once the most invigorating and the most demanding. He is also seriously underappreciated. Unlike his near-contemporaries Jurgen Moltmann and Wolfhart Pannenberg, he is little known in North America, though the work of translators and interpreters in the 1980s has improved the situation. Even in Germany, where students flock to hear him lecture and preach, he remains a somewhat tangential figure in the theological establishment.

Why the neglect? Partly it is because he has consciously distanced himself from intellectual fashion, partly because he has not established anything like a school (he abhors the notion of having disciples). Moreover, many of his basic theological commitments--his strict Christocentrism, his repudiation of modern understandings of selfhood and of Marxist-oriented political theology, and above all his awe in face of the mystery of divine speech--isolate him from the dominant theological agenda in Germany and abroad. Whereas Pannenberg appeals to the residual positivism of North American Christianity (especially of the conservative brand) and Moltmann to its ethical and ecological agenda, Jungel lacks an obvious point of contact.

To this has to be added the sheer difficulty of Jungel's writing. He is fearfully elliptical, combining detailed analysis with a strongly prescriptive tone. He tends to excel in writing short, dense essays, often in the form of commentary and reflection on classical theological and philosophical texts--texts which are themselves largely closed to modern readers. All of this combines to make him a rather forbidding figure: abstract, austerely professional, critical and often controversial, "the thorn in the flesh of Protestant theology," as he once described himself (not without a hint of overstatement).

Yet disciplined study of his work pays rich dividends. Simply following the workings of an astonishingly purposeful Christian mind is its reward. More than that, Jungel's work offers astute guidance to believers trying to make sense of the theological, philosophical and cultural traditions of modernity. More than most contemporaries, he has worked hard at disentangling Christian faith from its misalliance with the metaphysics and cultural practices of subjectivity, and to recover the public significance of authentic and distinctive Christian habits of thought and speech about God and the human world. If his chosen idiom appears distant to mainstream North American Christians, as it surely does, it may be because he is struggling to speak again the forgotten languages of Zion, Wittenberg and Basel.

Born in Magdeburg in 1934, Jungel was brought up in the bleak Stalinist culture of the German Democratic Republic. His experiences as a believer under East German socialism, which included being expelled from high school, not only gave him a permanent interest in atheism but also led him to think of the church as "the one place within a Stalinist society where one could speak the truth without being penalized." He studied with some of the leading figures in German theology in the 1950s--Karl Barth, Gerhard Ebeling, Heinrich Vogel, and Ernst Fuchs, under whom he wrote a brilliant doctoral dissertation. Shortly after the building of the Berlin wall, he began his teaching career as a seminary professor at the Kirchliche Hochschule in the East. From there he moved to the more colorful world of Zurich in 1966 before taking up his present position in 1969 as professor of systematic theology and philosophy of religion in the Protestant faculty at Tubingen, where he is also head of the seminary. He is a prolific author, and has written major contributions on New Testament studies, the theologies of Luther and Barth, classical philosophy, theory of language, philosophy of religion and Christian dogmatics. Alongside this, he has published many books of sermons and more popular addresses on issues of faith, church and society.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Jesus' Speech, God's Word: An Introduction to Eberhard Jungel
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.