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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 March 2021
This paper seeks to examine Barth's ontology of holy scripture by appropriating the latest nomenclatural analysis of Barth's usage of Wesen and Sein. Given the difference between the Wesen and the Sein of the Bible, and the claim that the Sein-in-becoming of the Bible is determined by its Wesen-in-act, it follows that for Barth the Bible is ontologically the Word of God in the sense of Wesen, which underlies the Bible's becoming the Word of God in the sense of Sein. In short, the Bible ontologically becomes the Word of God in the sense of Sein because the Bible is the Word of God in the sense of Wesen.
1 For example, Mueller, David L., Karl Barth, ed. Patterson, Bob E. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2016), p. 125Google Scholar.
2 Watson, Francis, ‘The Bible’, in Webster, John (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Karl Barth (Cambridge: CUP, 2000), pp. 60–1Google Scholar.
4 Vanhoozer, Kevin J., ‘A Person of the Book? Barth on Biblical Authority and Interpretation’, in Chung, Sung Wook (ed.), Karl Barth and Evangelical Theology: Convergences and Divergences (Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2006), pp. 56–9Google Scholar; Wolterstorff, Nicholas, Divine Discourse: Philosophical Reflections on the Claim that God Speaks (Cambridge: CUP, 1995), p. 72CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
5 It should be noted here that this assertion is not oblivious to the development of Barth's theology of scripture, which started from his break with Protestant liberalism. On this, see Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ‘The Authority of Scripture in Karl Barth’, in Carson, D. A. and Woodbridge, John D. (eds), Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon (Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2005), pp. 271–94Google Scholar; Rhodes, Ben, ‘Barth's Theology of Scripture in Dogmatic Perspective’, in Rhodes, Ben and Westerholm, Martin (eds), Freedom under the Word: Karl Barth's Theological Exegesis (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019), pp. 44–5Google Scholar; Martin Westerholm, ‘Barth's Theology of Scripture in Developmental Perspective’, in Freedom under the Word, pp. 9–33.
6 McCormack, Bruce L, ‘The Being of Holy Scripture is in Becoming: Karl Barth in Conversation with American Evangelical Criticism’, in Bacote, Vincent, Miguelez, Laura C. and Okholm, Dennis L. (eds), Evangelicals and Scripture: Tradition, Authority and Hermeneutics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004), p. 66Google Scholar.
7 Bruce McCormack, ‘Grace and Being: The Role of God's Gracious Election in Karl Barth's Theological Ontology’, in Webster, Cambridge Companion to Barth, pp. 92–110.
8 Hunsinger, George, Reading Barth with Charity: A Hermeneutical Proposal (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2015), p. 10Google Scholar.
9 Ibid., p. 2. It is striking that Gockel's critique of Hunsinger's challenge to revisionists is oblivious to Hunsinger's terminological disambiguation; see Gockel, Matthias, ‘How to Read Karl Barth with Charity: A Critical Reply to George Hunsinger’, Modern Theology 32/2 (2016), pp. 259–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar.
10 Hunsinger, Reading Barth with Charity, p. 4.
11 Tseng, Shao Kai, Barth's Ontology of Sin and Grace: Variations on a Theme of Augustine (London: Routledge, 2019), p. 2Google Scholar.
13 Ibid., p. 10. In this regard, one may recall Wilfried Härle's reminder that for Barth the construal of God's being as an act is applicable initially to the revealed being of God, which means God's being is revealed to and recognisable to humans as his being-in-action (Sein in der Tat); then, this actualism can be applied to the intra-trinitarian being because, for Barth, the word ‘event’ (or ‘act’) is the last word to describe God's being. Cf. Härle, Wilfried, Sein und Gnade: Die Ontologie in Karl Barths kirchlicher Dogmatik (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1975), pp. 47–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics [hereafter CD], 5 vols, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley and Thomas F. Torrance (London: T&T Clark, 2004), II/1, p. 263.
14 Tseng, Barth's Ontology of Sin and Grace, 14.
15 Ibid., p. 15. Tseng reminds us that Barth dissociates God's Sein from Schein, whereas the association between Sein and Schein is applicable to creatures only.
17 CD I/1, p. 110; Karl Barth, Die kirchliche Dogmatik [hereafter KD] (Zürich: Theologischer Verlag Zürich, 1980), I/1, p. 113.
18 CD I/1, p. 321; KD I/1, p. 338.
19 CD I/1, p. 312.
20 McCormack, ‘Being of Holy Scripture’, p. 64.
21 CD I/1, p. 320; KD I/1, p. 338. According to Barth, hiddenness is a major predication of the God in the Bible: ‘But inscrutability, hiddenness, is of the very essence of Him who is called God in the Bible’ (CD I/1, p. 320).
22 CD I/1, p. 321.
23 CD II/1, p. 50; KD II/1, p. 54.
24 Watson, ‘The Bible’, pp. 60–1.
25 CD I/2, p. 463.
26 CD I/2, p. 457.
27 CD I/2, p. 463.
28 Kenneth Kantzer contends that this point is Barth's contribution to evangelical theology. Kenneth S. Kantzer, ‘Biblical Authority: Where Both Fundamentalists and Neoevangelicals are Right’, Christianity Today 27 (7 Oct. 1983), p. 11.
29 CD I/2, p. 466.
30 Wells, Paul, ‘The Doctrine of Scripture: Only a Human Problem’, in Johnson, Gary L. W. and Gleanson, Ronald N. (eds), Reforming or Conforming? Post-Conversative Evangelicals and the Emerging Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), p. 35Google Scholar.
31 CD I/2, pp. 468–9.
32 CD I/2, p. 462; KD I/2, pp. 510–11; revised translation.
33 CD I/1, p. 110.
34 By arguing that ‘Barth's famous actualistic notion of “being-in-act” is “Sein in der Tat” and never “Wesen”’, Tseng seems to neglect this exceptional usage of actualistic language in Barth's Church Dogmatics. See Tseng, Barth's Ontology of Sin and Grace, p. 15.
36 CD I/2, p. 461.
37 CD I/2, p. 469.
38 CD I/2, p. 470.
39 CD I/2, p. 471.
40 Barth, Karl, The Epistle to the Ephesians, trans. Wright, Ross M., ed. Nelson, R. David (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2017), p. 108Google Scholar.
41 Barth, Karl, The Theology of the Reformed Confessions, trans. Guder, Darrell L. and Guder, Judith J. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2005), pp. 48–9Google Scholar.
42 Webster, John, ‘Barth's Lectures on the Gospel of John’, in Thy Word is Truth: Barth on Scripture, ed. Hunsinger, George (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2012), p. 131Google Scholar.
43 CD I/2, p. 471.
44 Hunsinger, George, How to Read Karl Barth: The Shape of his Theology (Oxford: OUP, 1991), p. 283Google Scholar.
45 CD I/2, p. 471; emphasis added.
46 CD I/2, p. 472.
47 Westerholm, ‘Barth's Theology of Scripture in Developmental Perspective’, p. 25. Richard Burnett notes that for Barth ‘[h]istoricism and psychologism, the two main tools in modernity to reduce theological claims to matters of mere history or psychology, has not only reduced Paul to his historical context and/or his psychological parts but made him unintelligible on his own terms’; Richard Burnett, ‘Barth and Theological Exegesis’, in George Hunsinger and Keith L. Johnson (eds), Barth in Dialogue, vol. 2 of The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Karl Barth (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2020), p. 732.
48 CD I/2, p. 473.
49 CD I/2, pp. 473–81.
50 KD I/2, p. 538; cf. CD I/2, p. 485; revised translation.
51 CD I/1, p. 120.
52 McCormack, ‘Being of Holy Scripture’, pp. 58–9.
53 CD I/2, p. 512.
57 CD IV/3.1, p. 101.
58 CD I/2, p. 473.
59 Gibson, David, ‘The Answering Speech of Men: Karl Barth on Holy Scripture’, in Carson, D. A. (ed.), The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans 2016), p. 270Google Scholar.
60 Sonderegger, Katherine, ‘Barth on Holy Scripture’, in Hunsinger, George and Johnson, Keith L. (eds), Barth and Dogmatics, vol. 1 of The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Karl Barth (Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2019), p. 77Google Scholar.
61 Bloesch, Donald G., Jesus is Victor! Karl Barth's Doctrine of Salvation (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2001), pp. 89–90Google Scholar.
62 Barth, Karl, Barth in Conversation, vol. 1, 1959–1962, trans. The Translation Fellows of the Center for Barth Studies, ed. Busch, Eberhard (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2017), p. 179Google Scholar; emphasis added.
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