Archive for the ‘Realized Eschatology’ Tag

Feast of C. H. Dodd (September 22)   Leave a comment

Above:  C. H. Dodd

Image Scanned from The Parables of the Kingdom, 2d. ed. (1961)

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CHARLES HAROLD DODD (APRIL 7, 1884-SEPTEMBER 21, 1973)

Welsh Congregationalist Minister, Theologian, and Biblical Scholar

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But the Gospels do not offer us in the first place tales to point a moral.  They interpret life to us, by initiating s into a situation in which, as Christians believe, the eternal was uniquely manifested in time, a situation which is both historical and contemporary in the deepest possible sense.

–C. H. Dodd, The Parables of the Kingdom, 2d. ed. (1961), x

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The Epistle to the Romans is the first great work of Christian theology.  From the time of Augustine it had immense influence on the thought of the West, not only in theology, but also in philosophy and even in politics, all through the Middle Ages.  At the Reformation its teaching provided the chief intellectual expression for the new spirit in religion.  For us men of Western Christendom there is probably no other single writing so deeply embedded in our heritage and thought.

–C. H. Dodd, in the beginning to the Introduction to The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (1932)

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C. H. Dodd, a proponent of Realized Eschatology, comes to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via the Biblical Studies section of my library.

Charles Harold Dodd, born in Wrexham, Denbighshire, North Wales, on April 7, 1884, was a great and influential scholar.  He studied at University College, Oxford, from 1902 to 1906, graduating with his B. A. degree and first class honors.  In 1907-1911 our saint engaged in research about the Roman Empire and the Early Church at the University of Berlin then at Magdalen College, Oxford.  While at Magdalen College Dodd also engaged in theological studies at Mansfield College, Oxford.  Our saint, ordained a minister in the former Congregational Union in England and Wales (which merged into The United Reformed Church in 1972) in 1912, served as pastor of just one church, at Warwick, from 1912 to 1915.

Dodd had an impressive academic career.  He was the Yates Lecturer (later Professor) of New Testament Greek and Exegesis, Mansfield College, Oxford, from 1915 to 1930.  Next Dodd was the Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis, the University of Manchester, for five years.  Then, from 1935 to 1949, when he retired, our saint was the Norris-Hulse Professor of Divinity, Cambridge.  He was the first non-Anglican to hold the theological chair at Cambridge University.  In addition, he was a lecturer at various elite seminaries and universities in the United States and the United Kingdom from 1927 until late in his life, with some gaps.  Dodd also became a Fellow of the British Academy in 1946.  In 1949-1950 he was the Visiting Professor in Biblical Theology, Union Theological Seminary, New York, New York.

Dodd remained active in retirement.  In 1950 he returned to the British Isles and became the Vice-Chairman and Director of The New English Bible (New Testament, 1961; complete Bible, 1970).  In the Preface to the finished translation, Donald Ebor, Chairman of the Joint Committee, wrote:

As Vice-Chairman and Director, Dr. C. H. Dodd has from start to finish given outstanding leadership and guidance to the project, bringing to the work scholarship, sensitivity, and an ever watchful eye.

–vii

Dodd, author of about 70 reviews, lectures, essays, and articles, as well as more than more than 20 books, was, depending on more than one’s perspective, too liberal, too conservative, or about right.  He was undoubtedly influential.

Perhaps Realized Eschatology was the major theme in Dodd’s ouevre.  As he wrote in The Founder of Christianity (1970):

God the eternal, the omnipotent, can hardly be said to be nearer or farther off at this time than at that.  If he is king at all, he is king always and everywhere.  In what sense his kingdom does not come; it is.  But human experience takes place within a framework of time and space.  It has varying degrees of intensity.  There are particular moments in the lives of men and in the history of mankind when what is permanently true (if largely unrecognized) becomes manifestly and effectively true.  Such a moment is reflected in the gospels.  The presence of God with man, a truth for all times and places, became an effective truth.

–56-57

Dodd, while recognizing the achievements of German Liberal theology and its students in filling in the details of the Hellenistic background of early Christianity, criticized them for their flight from dogma.  They were mistaken, he argued, in their assumption that they could discover the Historical Jesus via secular historical methods.  Furthermore, Rudolf Bultmann was mistaken when he rejected the possibility of any reliable historical understanding of Jesus, Dodd wrote.  Furthermore, according to Dodd, Karl Barth was mistaken when he wrote in his commentary (1918) on the Epistle to the Romans that the Historical Jesus was irrelevant to the Christ of faith.  Dodd, writing in The Meaning of Paul for Today (1920), argued that the Historical Jesus was germane to and essential for the Christ of faith.  Our saint’s attitude toward the Bible was evident in The Founder of Christianity (1970), in which most of the source citations were simply scriptural citations.

…Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, though the forbearance of God,….

–Romans 3:25, Authorized Version

…whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith.  This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins;….

–Romans 3:25, Revised Standard Version

For God designed him to be the means of expiating sin by his sacrificial death, effective through faith.  God meant by this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had overlooked the sins of the past….

–Romans 3:25, The New English Bible and The Revised English Bible

…whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.  He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed;….

–Romans 3:25, The New Revised Standard Version 

Dodd rejected Penal Substitutionary Atonement, one of three theories of the atonement dating to the Patristic Era.  In The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (1932) Dodd, referring to the Greek word hilasterion in Romans 3:25, rejected the traditional “propitiation” in favor of “expiation.”

“Expiation” indicates the cancellation of a debt.  So does “propitiation,” but the suffix “pro-” indicates Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  In Dodd’s words:

In accordance with biblical usage, therefore, the substantive (hilasterion) would mean, not propitiation, but ‘a means by which guilt is annulled’; if a man is the agent, the meaning would be ‘a means of expiation’; if God, ‘a means by which sin is forgiven.’  Biblical usage is determinative for Paul.  The rendering propitiation is therefore misleading, for it suggests the placating of an angry God, and although this would be in accord with pagan usage, it is foreign to biblical usage.  In the present passage it is God who puts forward the means whereby the guilt of sin is removed, by sending Christ.  The sending of Christ, therefore, is the divine method of forgiveness.

The Epistle of Paul to the Romans (1932); reprint, 1959; 78-79

I could not have said it better.  I have been making a similar, albeit less scholarly, case based on what I have called the “gangster God” of Penal Substitutionary Atonement, since a time before I read Dodd’s case.  I grew up learning Penal Substitutionary Atonement yet have come to prefer the Classic Theory of the Atonement, or Christus Victor, among the three theories of the atonement dating to the Patristic Era.

Dodd’s description of the God of Penal Substitutionary Atonement is that such a deity is, in Dodd’s words, one who requires placation.  That is not the God of my faith.  That is not a God worthy of love, adoration, and loyalty.  No, that is a God in the presence of whom one should stand in stark terror.  That is a God with much in common with the frequently dangerous ancient Mesopotamian deities.  One of the main ideas in the rewritten creation mythology in Genesis 1:1-2:4a is that YHWH is different from those gods.

Many still hold Dodd’s rejection of Penal Substitutionary Atonement against him, of course.

Dodd died in Goring-on-Thames, England, on September 21, 1973.  He was 89 years old.

I am a Biblical and theological nerd.  I belong to a reading group that gathers monthly to discuss works in the fields of the Historical Jesus and the early Church.  As I ponder Dodd’s theology, I recognize his influences in the works of subsequent, major scholars, whom I have read.  I can also name certain contemporary scholars with whom Dodd would argue respectfully.

Dodd was correct more often than he was incorrect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 26, 2018 COMMON ERA

PROPER 16:  THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK WILLIAM HERZBERGER, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEVKADIA HARASYMIV, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC NUN, AND MARTYR, 1952

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUIGI BELTRAME QUATTROCCHI AND MARIA CORSINI BELTRAME QUATTROCCHI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC HUMANITARIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF JESUS, JORNEY Y IBARS, CATALAN ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND CONFOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE ABANDONED ELDERLY

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O God, you have endowed us with memory, reason, and skill.

We thank you for the faithful legacy of [C. H. Dodd and all others]

who have dedicated their lives to you and to the intellectual pursuits.

May we, like them, respect your gift of intelligence fully and to your glory.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Psalm 103

Philippians 4:8-9

Mark 12:28-34

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHRODEGANG OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDMUND KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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