Used and Abused: Bonhoeffer for All Causes (10th Annual Bonhoeffer Conference, 31st July – 1st August 2014)

I have posted details of this conference before. But today I sent off the details of the paper that I will be giving.

‘Present-ing’ the Word: The Use and Abuse of Bonhoeffer on the Bible

Recent Bonhoeffer scholarship has shown a welcome concern for the significance of the Bible and biblical interpretation for any understanding of Bonhoeffer’s theology. In particular, Bonhoeffer’s name is now often associated with the call for a form of theological hermeneutics marked by the relativization of—and sometimes outright hostility to—more obviously historically orientated modes of exegesis.

Building on earlier studies of Bonhoeffer’s early and late reflections on biblical interpretation, this paper looks in detail at the material that emerges from Bonhoeffer’s time as Director at Finkenwalde (DBWE 14) as it relates to these issues. Bonhoeffer’s well known lecture on the ‘Present-ation’ (Vergegenwärtigung) of New Testament Texts will be the focus of enquiry. In exploring this material I will pay special attention to the way in which Bonhoeffer describes the work of the interpreter in relation to the biblical text and the contemporary context. In contrast to studies that use Bonhoeffer in support of models of interpretation that downplay the work of interpretation, I argue that Bonhoeffer, like Barth before him, affirms the human work of the interpreter as a part of what it means to make the New Testament ‘present’ to the world today.

The paper closes with some reflections on how Bonhoeffer’s understanding of the work of interpretation helps us to think through important questions about biblical interpretation in the church and the academy today.