Rudolf Bultmann (1884-1976) was a German theologian of Lutheran origin who tried to strip away the mythic and ambiguous aspects of the Bible. Bultmann hoped to provide a universal representation of Christ. He believed that trying to pin down the historical details of Christ’s life, including specific teachings by word and example, didn’t really matter.¹ What mattered for Bultmann was that Christ lived, taught and died by crucifixion.²
Perhaps part of the reason Bultmann is not exactly a household name is due to C. G. Jung‘s observation that mankind usually needs myth and symbolic images to fill in the gaps and point to higher realities in ways that dry, intellectual theology cannot.
Hindus, too, recognize the importance of stories and sentimental imagery for many believers. Rather than looking down on this as some kind of childish crutch, those sympathetic to the many ways that religious believers connect with their God see the mythic aspect of religion as indispensable tools. After all, not everyone is attracted to books and intellectual theories. Some people just want to be close to their God. And they’ll naturally do this in a way that suits them best. So, if mythic stories and pretty pictures do it, then so be it.
On the other hand, Bultmann probably appeals to those who see themselves as intellectuals. And also to those who are appalled at how some fundamentalists cherry pick certain stories from religious texts and uphold them as truth—and, as it usually follows, uphold them as alleged proof that certain beliefs and behaviors are unnatural or evil.
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- Twitter Theology that Makes me Sigh: The Student Who Didn’t Know Bultmann’s Birthday (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- Rudolf Bultmann (year13philosophers.wordpress.com)
- Only Folk Who Have Never Read Bultmann Are Surprised At How Brilliant He Is (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- In Appreciation: A Brief Piece on Bultmann (and von Rad) On the Anniversary of the Former’s Birth (zwingliusredivivus.wordpress.com)
- Miracles (bensmart92.wordpress.com)
- Hermeneutics and Interpreting the New Testament Through Embracing the Historical-critical Method (studyingthehumanities.wordpress.com)