I have been pondering Bonhoeffer's prison theology of late, with a view to developing a paper proposal for the upcoming Melbourne College of Divinity Centenary Conference. The added incentive is that it is doppelgänger week on Facebook, the results of which can be seen if you look at my Profile Page. The MCD 'stream' devoted to things biblical is entitled 'The Word in the World', and the Conference itself should coincide nicely with the publishing of the new Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works edition of what will still be called Letters and Papers from Prison (DBWE Vol. 8).
The prison letters are famous, of course, for raising the question of 'who is Jesus Christ for us today?', a question that, as Gerhard Ebeling noted in a now classic essay, is deeply connected with Bonhoeffer's call for a 'non-religious interpretation of biblical concepts', a way for the church to speak that avoided the 'positivism of revelation' that Bonhoeffer (unfairly perhaps) associated with Barth, and Bultmann's demythologization. Eberhard Bethge and Ernst Feil have both made the point that Anglo-Saxon scholarship has been quick to turn these questions into the search for a 'religionless Christianity, whereas the German tradition has stuck with the fundamental hermeneutical question that Bonhoeffer initially raised.
My question is, what do Bonhoeffer's comments in critique of 'religion' or in favour of 'religionlessness', his account of the nature of the 'world come of age' (now of course outdated), his articulation of the centrality of Christology, the importance of worldliness, the potential of the arcane discipline, the need for silence, have to say about biblical hermeneutics and the interpretation of the Bible per se? What does that mean for those of us who teach others how to interpret the Bible? What kinds of interpretative work do we need to do, and to what ends?
If anyone out there wants to make some suggestions, I would be happy to hear them. And, of course, if anyone from Fortress Press is reading this, and wants to send me a copy of the new Letters and Papers from Prison, so that I can wave it at people here in Melbourne in the first week of July and commend it to them, then please feel free to send an advance copy over to me!