Monday, October 6, 2014

Happy Birthday Markus Barth!

Markus Barth, perhaps one of the most underrated of the great New Testament scholars of the 20th century, no doubt due in no small part by the shadow cast by his father, Karl Barth, would have turned 99 today.

Markus Barth with wife, Rose Marie, ca. 1947
Markus Barth was born on October 6, 1915 in Safenwil, Switzerland. In 1947, he received his PhD in NT from the University of Göttingen and in 1953, accepted his first post in the United States, as he was invited to become visiting professor of New Testament at the Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa. From there, Barth moved to the Federated Theological Faculty at the University of Chicago in 1955. In 1963, Barth moved once again, this time to become the professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. Eleven years later, 1973, Barth was called back to his native Switzerland, where he served as professor of NT at the University of Basel until his passing in 1994.

M.Barth is probably best known for his magisterial two-volume commentary on Ephesians in the Anchor series. However, Barth also produced two other major commentaries that were published posthumously, both rounded off by Helmut Blanke, those of Colossians (Anchor) and Philemon (ECC). In addition, Barth, perhaps more than any other NT scholar of his generation, took great pains to foster conversation between Christians and Jews. His seminal articles, "What can a Jew Believe about Jesus--and Still Remain a Jew?"(1965) and "Was Paul an Anti-Semite?" (1968), both appearing in the Journal of Eumenical Studies, were born out of lectures Barth delivered in Jewish synagogues. 

For more biographical information on M. Barth, click here and here

I will leave with this quote from M. Barth's Ephesians 1-3 on his role of interpreter:

To interpret part of the Bible is to have a conversation with its author--whether or not his name his known--and to participate in the dialogues which informed him and stirred up by him. An exegete listens and responds above all to the Bible itself. He realizes that this voice also reflects whispers and thunders heard in the culture of the ancient world and that it has produced many echoes during the almost two thousand-year history of the synagogue and church. In turn, the expositor is surrounded and influenced by noises and sounds produced in his own time. While he tries carefully to listen to the past, he also has to respond daringly in terms of the present world (Preface; ix).

P.S. Here is a post I wrote 4 years ago that feature M. Barth audio resources from 1970.

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