Parables for our time? : rereading New Testament scholarship after the Holocaust / Tania Oldenhage
Includes bibliographical references (p. 314-324)
This dissertation argues that Christian parable scholarship is a useful site in which to raise questions about Holocaust remembrance in Germany and the United States. Discussing the ways in which Christian canonical texts such as the parables of Jesus have been reconfigured and reclaimed in New Testament scholarship after 1945, I pay particular attention to parable scholars' turn from historical criticism to literary theory in the 1970s. This “literary turn”, I propose, is a postwar/post-Holocaust phenomenon. Offering a history of post-Holocaust parable scholarship, I closely read four central works. I begin by focusing on Joachim Jeremias's historical-critical classic The Parables of Jesus (1947) and argue that the emergence of anti-Jewish rhetoric in Jeremias's work is symptomatic for a more general German inability to respond to Nazi atrocities immediately after the war. Turning to Paul Ricoeur's essay “Biblical Hermeneutics”, published in America in the mid 1970s, I analyze specific ways in which the Holocaust resonates in Ricoeur's interpretation of the parables as disclosures of human limit-experiences. I then offer a close reading of John Dominic Crossan's book Raid on the Articulate (1976) and its comparison between Jesus' stories and twentieth-century literature. I posit that many of the texts Crossan deploys are highly charged in reference to the Holocaust and I explicate how this legacy effects Crossan's project. The fourth text which occupies me also provides the frame for the entire dissertation. Engaging Wolfgang Harnisch's Die Gleichniserzählungen Jesu, published in Germany in the mid 1980s, I focus specifically on his deployment of German postwar poetry and offer a critical analysis of Harnisch's citation of a poem by German writer Marie Luise Kaschnitz about memories of Nazi crimes. My dissertation argues that Ricoeur's, Crossan's and Harnisch's turn to literature and literary theory is motivated by a desire to reanimate Christian Scripture “after Auschwitz”. This effort to turn New Testament parables into “parables for our time”, into literature that is meaningful in a post-Holocaust world is, however, has neither been explicitly acknowledged by these authors nor has it been explicated in the scholarly reception of these works.
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