Karl Barth’s Exegesis of Ephesians at Gottingen, 1921-22.


It is heartening to see that Ross Wright’s painstaking translation of Barth’s cycle of exegetical lectures on Paul’s letter to the Ephesians from Barth’s handwritten notes from the Karl Barth Archive in Basel, are now going to be made available to a wider public ten years after he presented his thesis at St Andrews. Baker Academic are to be congratulated.

In his doctoral thesis Ross maintained that “The Academic Lectures on Ephesians are the product of Barth’s transition from pastor to academic theologian. The exposition shares the dialectical theology of Romans II. At the same time, it displays a shift toward the theological objectivity which distinguishes the Göttingen period (A discussion of what Barth means by “theological objectivity” must await….. However, to offer a preliminary definition, the concept refers to the knowledge of God as the basis for the divine-human relationship)…….With the Academic Lectures on Ephesians, Barth began a practice which he continued throughout the Göttingen and Münster period, namely, offering a biblical exposition alongside his major lecture. During the next 14 years, he systematically worked his way through nearly one third of the Pauline epistles, most of the general epistles, and a substantial portion of the gospels. Barth’s theology emerged from this continual exegesis of the biblical text. Herein lies the ultimate significance of the Ephesians lectures and all of the early biblical courses. The expository lectures are the foundation for the Church Dogmatics.”

The contents are:

Editor’s Introduction R. David Nelson
Translating Barth’s Ephesians Lectures Ross M. Wright
Barth, Ephesians, and the Practice of Theological Exegesis Francis Watson
“A Relation Beyond All Relations”: God and Creatures in Barth’s Lectures on Ephesians, 1921-22 John Webster
Exposition of Ephesians, Winter Semester 1921-22 Karl Barth
Ephesians 1:1-2
Ephesians 1:3-14
Ephesians 1:15-23
Ephesians 2-6
For Further Reading

Christopher Asprey of the Institut Catholique de Paris gave a talk entitled Remarks concerning Barth’s Ephesians lectures in Göttingen (1921/22) in which he said that “Barth’s course on Ephesians was the fruit of something of an obsession with this text over three years of pastoral ministry, before his appointment in Göttingen. He taught the epistle to his confirmands, preached a series of sermons on it, led a Sunday evening Bible group on it, translated it and wrote a brief interpretative commentary on it. This earlier commentary would subsequently serve as the basis for the Erklärung of Ephesians Barth attempted in Göttingen“.

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