Karl Rahner and the Bible

This project is a research on the famous theologian Karl Rahner (1904-1984) and his relationship to the Bible. Some years after his death the accusations arose, that Rahner would not have been interested in the Bible itself, but exaggerated it philosophically. Others say he was not at all interested in the Jewish religion and therefore rarely in Old Testament theology. On the other hand there are clear references, that Rahner was personally engaged in New Testament research. Besides he used the Bible regularly in his pastoral work, e.g. in his sermons. In March of 2018 the last volume of Rahner’s collected works (“Sämtliche Werke”) will be released. This serial for the first time allows a widespread study on this area of his work. Beginning with these observations, the following aspects of Rahner’s life and work will be researched.

It is assumed that Rahner’s approach to the Bible and its hermeneutics is more differentiated than has previously been shown. It is expected that the results of the research at hand will modify or falsify the criticism. Therefore three sectors need to be investigated: (1) How does Rahner use the Bible in what way does he interpret it? (2) Which biographical resp. academic approach(es) does he have? (3) What are the contexts of his interpretations and in what coincidence are they to his work in general? Furthermore phases of his biblical approach need to be detected.

At first his own writings on the Bible, on interpretation and revelation will be analyzed. Then his Bible quotes, which are listed in ‘Sämtliche Werke’ will be read, checked and organized in categories. This step shows in the end, if and to what extent Rahner’s theory and “praxis” converge. It will also be noted in which contexts he used the Bible, when she is used as origin or as assistance for his work.

Another part is the analysis of his academic career and formative encounters. Important questions for his intellectual and biographical background are: With whom did Rahner communicate? From whom did he learn? Which books has he read? A third point will be the contextualization of his attitude towards the Bible in his complete work by using the gained knowledge. This knowledge comes from the reading, recherché in archives and discussions in Europe and overseas. This contextualization will be done at an international conference in 2021 at the University of Innsbruck and it will be published afterwards.

The innovative potential of this study lies in the interdisciplinary concatenation of dogmatic hermeneutics with biblical theology. To analyze the combination of Rahner’s academic and non-primary academic aspects on the other hand brings a new way of gaining knowledge in Humanities.


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