Well, about two years ago I said, “I’ll be back soon,” and I haven’t done a whole lot since then. I usually work on my Theological German over the summer. Two years ago after my father passed away I spent a lot of time with my mother. Since then I’ve spent a lot of time with my grandchildren, partly because I realize how important my dad was to my own kids. I have a little different perspective on the importance of things.
But Bonhoeffer reminds me that even penultimate things have a relative importance in their place. Theological German is one of those penultimate things for me. It is still important to have a broader perspective on theology than an English-only perspective would give.
I agree with those who say “don’t just learn theological German, learn German.” I would say, take a class, visit a German speaking country, or better yet, study at a German or Swiss university. In fact the best thing would be to do what Chris Tilling did: Move to Germany and marry a beautiful German-speaking woman. But if you can’t do that, do what you can.
My other hobby is bicycle riding. I like to watch the Tour de France and imagine myself racing up the mountains in the middle of the peleton, sharing a conversation in German with the rider on my ride and in French with the rider on my left, and saying “Andiamo!” to the slow Italian behind. In wirklichkeit, I can’t go as fast downhill as the pros go up the mountains. I plod along in the picturesque-but-modest-by-alpine-standards flint hills where I live at an average of about 13 mph. Still cycling is good for me, and enjoyable, and the more I engage in it the more I believe in it.
Last week my wife and I watched the Tour de Suisse on TV. The program was in English but the American network got there feed from German language TV, so the captions were in German. The leader was the “Spitze” (point or tip). The king of the mountain prize was the Bergpreis, and the highest mountain climb (hors categorie, excuse the French, but even German TV uses it) was the Glaubenberg.
I teach undergraduate Bible, including Greek and Hebrew, at Manhattan Christian college in Kansas (the “Little Apple). Occasionally I gather two or three students to read some German once a week. I also teach a masters level summer term course on OT Research at Kentucky Christian University. As part of my preparation I just finished reading A Brief History of Old Testament Chriticism: from Benedict Spinoza to Brevard Childs by Mark S. Gignilliat (Zondervan, June, 2012). Major chapters devoted to DeWette, Wellhausen, Gunkel, and von Rad reminds me how important German continues to be for research in Biblical studies.
Four years ago I attended the International Bonhoeffer Congress in Prague. The next quadrennial Congress is about to begin in Sweden. I am not able to attend this year, but a colleague Robert Ford is on his way. If he finds good internet connections, he is going to send me email updates, which I will post here.
Meanwhile I hope to have a few more posts from Schlatter’s study of Glauben. Just arrived in the mail is a copy of von Rad’s Predigt-Meditationem, which I look forward to perusing and posting in the coming weeks. I also have a commentary on Ephesians by Snackenburg that I’m reading in preparation for a fall class on the Prison Epistles. Hopefully I will bring a few posts from that also over the next few weeks.
I am spurred on by Gerhard von Rad’s motto:
“Meine Aufgabe als akademischer Lehrer war und ist: Lesen zu lernen und lesen zu lehren.”