- Born 1 August 1890 in Germany; Died 20 May 1978 in Switzerland
Education & Career
- 1915 received doctorate from University of Heidelberg
- 1922-1960 taught at Old Testament and History of Religion at University of Basel
His Theological Method
- Emphasized the concept of covenant (understood under the tripartitite rubric of God’s relationship with his people, the world, and man) as the central theme of the OT.
- Argued that we should study the OT via synchronic cross-sections that reveal the inner dynamics of Israelite faith.
- Avoided organizing his theology around categories drawn from dogmatic theology (systematic theology), choosing instead to draw the categories right out of the OT itself.
- Made extensive use of the results of historical research.
- Sought to understand the OT in connection with other ANE religions (i.e., he interpreted the OT in light of its cultural context).
- Understood the OT and NT as dependent upon one another in order to properly understand either and when studying a particular OT text he looked forward to see the end result in the NT (i.e., he interpreted the OT in light of its biblical context).
His Contribution to Old Testament Theology
- Regarding biblical studies, he demonstrated the importance of emphasizing the Bible’s theological message rather than merely its religious history. In this way, he helped establish OT theology in its normative aspect for believers today.
- He nevertheless showed how it was possible to use the results of historical-critical methods in order to understand the essence of the Old Testament’s theological message.
- He legitimized the use of typological exegesis as an appropriate method of exegesis and explained way it was valuable in biblical theology for maintaining a close relationship and unity between the OT and NT.
Some Problems with His Method
- The assumption that Israelite faith (and the covenant for that matter) does not evolve over time is questionable.
- To identify the concept of covenant, or anything else, as the center of the OT does not do justice to the diversity of Scripture (e.g., where is the concept of covenant to be found in the Wisdom literature?).
- So much focus on the Mosaic Covenant with the result that Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants are neglected by comparison (not to mention other themes that might be within the OT).
- Some found fault in his attempt to combine the study of the history of Israel’s religion with OT theology, claiming that these two belong in distinct and separate disciplines.
His Writings Available in English
“Covenant and Law.” Interpretation 20, no. 3 (1966): 302-321.
Ezekiel: A Commentary. Old Testament Library, trans. Cosslett Quinn (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1970).
“In the Beginning” in Israel’s Prophetic Heritage, eds. B. W. Anderson and W. Harrelson (London: SCM Press, 1962): 1-10.
“Is Typological Exegesis and Appropriate Method?” in Essays on Old Testament Hermenuetics, ed. Claus Westermann (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1963): 224-245.
“Law and The Gospel: Meaning of the Ten Commandments in Israel and For Us.” Interpretation 11, no. 1 (1957): 23-40.
Man in the Old Testament, trans. K. and R. Gregory Smith. Studies in Biblical Theology, no. 4 (London: SCM Press, 1961).
“Prophet and Covenant: Observations on the Exegesis of Isaiah” in Proclamation and Presence (Richmond, VA: John Knox Press, 1970): 167-188.
“Right Interpretation of the Old Testament: A Study of Jeremiah 7:1-15.” Theology Today 7, no. 1 (1950): 15-25.
Theology of the Old Testament, 5th revised edition, 2 vols, trans. J. A. Baker (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1961-1967).