Mark C. Mattes, ed., Twentieth-Century Lutheran Theologians (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht), 2013.

Assembled here are essays describing the lives and works of Lutheranism’s most important biblical and systematic theologians of the 20th century. Pieper, and Koehler, and Holl; Hallesby and Elert and Althaus; Sasse and Iwand and Schlink join Bonhoeffer and Käsemann, Thielicke, Wingren and Ebeling in nothing less than a theologians hall of fame. Each receives the thorough description vis-à-vis their contributions to the field that they deserve. Various readers will be drawn, by their own interests, like moths to a flame, to the various chapters. This reviewer was drawn principally to Roy A. Harrisville’s engaging and effulgent chapter on Ernst Käsemann. And I learned so very much there that I can scarcely, I must confess, contain my enthusiasm for this collection. Harrisville first gives readers a tour of Käsemann’s life by means of a short biography which includes such facts as that Käsemann … contracted an infection requiring extraction of his fingernails (p. 251) whilst a soldier conscripted in the service of the Wehrmacht in 1940. And that his daughter Elisabeth was killed by terrorists in South America- terrorists in service of the CIA backed mercenaries of Argentina.

And that he studied with Erik Peterson and Rudolf Bultmann (which we all knew) and Adolf Schlatter. And that from these three he drew, and learned, and rebelled. And that all the while he struggled mightily to embody the Gospel of the Crucified Lord in every aspect of his life and work. His fiery disposition and his unyielding singlemindedness landed him in hot water with the Nazis, with the German Christians, and with the faculties of the various schools at which he taught. Following his retirement in 1971, those colleagues invited him to their Arbeitsgemeinschaft, a monthly meeting of members of the university’s Catholic and Protestant faculties, and which featured monthly presentation of scholarly papers and responses. According to Käsemann, the invitation contained the proviso that he remain silent throughout (p. 265). All of this led him to … leave the Evangelical Church, and [he] applied to the Methodists for membership. He was refused. As he said, “they didn’t want me” (p. 265). Towards the end of his life (in the early 1990’s) he entered into a robust debate with other scholars in the pages of Evangelische Theologie about the Church and its connection to Judaism. The discussion became, at times, quite robust (and you are urged to see for yourself by reading EvTh 51 (1991) and most especially EvTh 52/2 (1992), pp. 177-178. Even then and thereafter he was never the recipient of the respect he clearly deserved. In a volume dedicated to the theological institutions of the Third Reich, the only reference to Pastor Ernst Käsemann of Gelesenkirchen, is to his being passed over … for the position of New Testament instructor at the theological school in Bethel. Apparently, Käsemann’s resistance to Nazism does not deserve the exposure of that of a Bonhoeffer, for example, since it ended only in pain and suffering, not in death (p. 268). At his funeral, on 25 February 1998, he was finally properly eulogized. Now, Ernst and Margrit, his wife of sixty-three years, lie in the Lustnau cemetery with Elisabeth… (p. 269). What Harrisville does for Käsemann the other contributors do for the objects of their studies: they fill in the blanks and offer readers enough details about their lives and works that a large window is opened and light fully exposes not only what they taught, but who

they were. Even Bonhoeffer, that wicked plotting murderer, comes off more worthily than he heretofore deserved. This volume cannot be evaluated too highly and students of theology cannot be urged too forcefully to read it. It must be taken in hand. It must be read. It must of necessity be digested.

Jim West Quartz Hill School of Theology

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