Breeze

 

About the Author

I was born in a small town in the southwestern part of Germany, not far away from Tübingen (famous university) and Stuttgart (famous car industry with Mercedes-Benz and Porsche).

I undertook my theological education in Switzerland and Germany in the 1980s and then started to work at the University of Tübingen as a research assistant for Prof Martin Hengel. During this time I also did some modules in the faculty of History of Religion (In Germany, theological faculties are separate from History of Religion) and Archaeology. The latter is close to my heart ever since. In 1990/91 I had the opportunity to spend a year as Postgraduate Research Student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Studying Judaism in the past and present as well as the archaeology of the Holy Land have been the two big agendas during this year (aside of the first Gulf war which happened to happen while we, that is my wife and me, were there; so we learnt something about preparing for gas attacks as well). Back in Tübingen I wrote my first book (as a prequel to my PhD) dealing with the historical background of the Gospel of John and how Jewish archaeological findings (in particular stone vessels, a typical archaeological finding) from the first century can help us to understand more of the historical context and the theological meaning of the Fourth Gospel. and what can be learned from them for the interpretation of Jewish and Christian texts from around the same time.

My PhD, and subsequently my second book, was on the history of scholarship on the Pharisees in the 19th and 20th century. It helped me to understand how institutional, political, social and religious contexts shape our reading of the sources and the formulation of our results. Objectivity in historical research has to accept its ongoing perspectivity and this means that we need to use our critical faculties not only when we examine ancient sources but also in our reading of scholarship done on these sources. Hardly any texts we study or use in our studies were written without a wider agenda, either consciously or unconsciously, in the background. This is a fascinating topic and a lot of work still needs to be done and I welcome research proposals in the field of history of scholarship and reception history. For most of the time of my doctorate (1995-1997) I worked as a curate in a small village. At the end of my curateship I got ordained as a minister in the Lutheran Church of Württemberg. Subsequently, the German Protestant Churches offered me a further year in Jerusalem as assistant of Prof Volkmar Fritz, who was then the director of the German Protestant Institute for Archaeology in Jerusalem. During this time I had the privilege and pleasure to do some archaeological fieldwork on Tell Kinneret, located at the shore of the Sea of Galilee, and also to do some writing and research to prepare my next major project. Most importantly, however, during this year our son Rouven was born in Jerusalem.

Back in Germany I worked at the University of Tübingen for a while before I received a scholarship to finish my habilitation (a further academic qualification after a PhD; a very German thing). The result is my monograph on the Gospel of Matthew and its understanding of the interrelation of the Law (Torah), the Messiah (Jesus) and righteousness as the ultimate necessity of human existence before God. This monograph has a strong biblical-theological focus in line with the heritage of my training in Tübingen under the great Biblical Theology theologians Martin Hengel, Peter Stuhlmacher and Hartmut Gese. The second part of this monograph is actually an exercise in reading Jewish Scripture with a New Testament perspective.

Unfortunately, so far all my monographs are in thick, theological German and not an easy read for non-natives, but increasingly English articles make some of the content more easily accessible for the English speaking world, and in November 2013 a collection of selected articles appears under the title Acts of God in History: Studies Towards Recovering a Theological Historiography (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck).

My recent research projects include work on the Letter of James in its Jewish-hellenistic context, a small monograph on the historical James, the (older?/younger?) brother of Jesus and the related question of what we know about the religious and cultural background of the Jesus family (to which, according to the New Testament, belongs–besides the author of the Letter of James–also John the Baptist and his parents, and the author of Jude). At some point I also hope to start earnestly on writing a commentary on Matthew’s Gospel for which I am contracted. Two other research interests are producing first fruits at the moment as well, namely the question of poverty in the world of the New Testament and Jesus’ attitude to it, and, secondly, the question of what characterizes a text that at some point turned into (Holy) Scripture (see e.g. my article, “What is Scripture?” in the forth-coming collecting). This latter question is related to a topic I have only just started to work on, namely how the divine (or, to use the description of my former Nottingham colleague Anthony Thiselton, “transempirical realities”) made itself discernible within the world, how it was experienced, understood, and then transmitted (which brings the question of Scripture writing back into the foreground as I am working at the moment with a definition of “Scripture as deposit of experienced revelation”). As one can see, my major monographs and my studies in Basel, Tübingen, and Jerusalem, as well as my teaching and lecturing in many different places around the world (in summer 2013 I give my first paper in Australia, which means I have lectured now on all continents besides Africa) prepared the way for my interlaced historical and theological interests. I am convinced that good theology can only be grounded on solid philological and historical exegesis. If the Christian conviction is true that God plays an active part in history then theologically motivated history needs to reason with God. History is too important to leave only to the historians.

With my research students I try to foster a kind of intellectual partnership, helping them to mature in their theological thinking while at the same time they provide new insights and challenge my long held opinions. My first PhD student to complete his work, Chris Ochs, whose PhD will appear as a thick monograph (luckily in English) this autumn, worked on the reception of Matthew’s Gospel in medieval Jewish sources, a topic in which I still have a lot of interest. Research students with excellent Hebrew skills would find a lot of unexplored territory here. My other research students work on poverty discourses in the New Testament world, the interrelation of Matthew and Paul with regard to sin and forgiveness, and the role of wisdom in ‘making history’ in Jewish sources. I am very interested in having more students doing work related to my outlined research interests, but with a challenging topic I am easily lured into a related field. I am also open for topics which touch on two sides, e.g. History of biblical research and Historical Theology / Church history, or the question of Scripture in relation to Systematic Theology. The Nottingham Department is big enough to offer a wide range of specialists and small enough to foster close cooperation between staff and research students across the disciplines.