Rudolf, Wiefelstede (Oldenburg) 20.8.1884, +Marburg 30.7.1976, dt. ev. Theologe, seit 1921 Prof. in Marburg. B. bemühte sich im Geiste der dialekt. Theologie Barths um eine Verkündigung des Wortes in einer den modernen Menschen amgehenden und zur Entscheidung rufenden Form ('Entmythologisierung'). Werke u.a. 'Jesus' (1926), 'Das Johannes-Evangelium' (1941), 'Das Urchristentum im Rahmen der antiken Religionen' (1949), 'Theologie des NT' (1953), 'Die drei Johannesbriefe' (1957).
(1884-1976) German Lutheran theologian and New Testament scholar. He was a professor at Marburg University 1921–51, and during the Third Reich played a leading role in the Confessing Church, a Protestant anti-Nazi movement. A pioneer of form criticism (the analysis of biblical texts in terms of their literary form), he made the controversial claim that the gospels are largely composed of “myths”, which have to be reinterpreted in existentialist terms if they are to be relevant to contemporary needs.
Born in Oldenburg, Lower Saxony, the son of a Lutheran pastor, Bultmann taught at Breslau and Giessen before becoming professor of New Testament studies at Marburg. In his two central works, History of the Synoptic Gospels 1921, and Jesus 1926, he argues that the gospels are not a reliable guide to life or even to the teachings of Jesus, being not “biographies”, but collections of various 1st-century Christian texts brought together by the evangelists. Many of these texts, he claims, embody mythic forms of thought and expression of the period, which are irrelevant or misleading in a scientific age and hence need to be reinterpreted, or “demythologized”, if their essential meaning—Christ’s call to the spiritual life—is to be recognized. For this reinterpretation, Bultmann draws heavily on the existentialist approach of the German philosopher Martin Heidegger (a colleague at Marburg during the late 1920s), and in effect reaffirms the Lutheran principle of “justification by faith”.
His other major works include Kerygma and Myth 1948, Theology of the New Testament 1948–53, and Essays Philosophical and Theological 1955.