Monday, October 22, 2007

Bultmann on Pride

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Yesterday's post on pride was nothing to boast about since it remained an unfinished meditation, so I'll say a few more things this morning, drawing upon Rudolf Bultmann's entry for "to boast" (καυχαομαι, kauchaomai) in volume 3 of Gerhard Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.

For an abridged version of Kittel, go to the Amazon site for the Kittel volume, search inside the book for "boast," and read the entire entry on pages 423-425, but you may have to click on several items to find the right entry, for the pagination in the item list is incorrect (in my search).

An online source in pdf format can be found here that includes an outline of the information in Kittel's unabridged volume, but be careful, for it has mistranscribed the Greek, using a "xi" (ξ) where a "chi" (χ) is needed in section B, i.e., in "Word Group." Still, the source is useful, for it saves me the trouble of typing a paragraph from Bultmann:
In the OT there are many proverbs against self-glorying or boasting (1 Kings 20:11; Prov. 25:14; 27:1; cf. 20:9), though place is also found for justiable pride (Prov. 16:31; 17:6). Self-glorying, however, is not merely a casual fault. In many passages it is regarded as the basic attitude of the foolish and ungodly man (Psa. 52:1; 74:4; 94:3). For in it we see that man desires to stand on his own feet and not to depend on God, that he builds on that which he himself can accomplish and control. Hence "to boast" (התהלל) can be synonymous with "to trust" (נטח), Psa. 49:7. God, however, is the Almighty before whom all human boasting is to be stilled, Judg. 7:2; 1 Sam. 2:2f.; cf. Jer. 50:11; Ezek. 24:25). Paradoxically there is opposed to self-confident boasting the true boasting which consists in self-humbling before God (Jer. 9:22f.) who is the praise of Israel (Deut. 10:21) and who deals with Israel to His own glory (Deut. 26:19; Jer. 13:11; Zeph. 3:19f.). Hence the righteous, or the cultic community, can boast of acts of divine succour (Ps. 5:11; 32:11; 89:17f.; 1 Chron. 16:27f.; 29:11; Deut. 33:29; Jer. 17:14). Hence "to boast" (καυχασθαι in the LXX) can have the same cultic sense as verbs like "to rejoice," "to exult," with which it is often combined.... But occasionally it also has eschatalogical significance, since this glorying is finally actualised in the time of salvation (Zech. 10:12; Ps. 149:5; 1 Ch. 16:33). A constituent element in all such glorying is that of confidence, joy and thanksgiving, and the paradox is that the one who glories thus looks away from himself, so that his glorying is a confession of God. (Rudolph Bultmann, "καυχαομαι," in Gerhard Kittel, editor, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, translated by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, Volume 3 (Grand Rapids Michigan: W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1965), pages 646-647)
So, given that boasting of oneself is mostly bad, what does Bultmann make of the passage from Galatians that we noted yesterday?
Galatians 6:3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride (καυχημα, kauchama) in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load. (New International Version)
This would fit the Old Testament category of justifiable pride, perhaps, but we're dealing with the New Testament, so what does Bultmann say?
[Paul] warns us in Gl. 6:4 that none can attain to his καυχημα by comparison with others, but only by self-scrutiny, by measuring his achievement in terms of the task which he is set. As the context shows, to do this also implies self-criticism. If, then, occasion is given to glory, this glorying is also thanksgiving.
Bultmann's point seems to be that Paul is not advocating any sort of self-glorification, for one is not supposed to compare one's achievement against the achievements of others in a competition for status. Rather, one is supposed to measure one's achievement against the task that God has set to be done.

To put this in evangelical terms, boasting 'in the spirit' is fine, for then one is taking pride in what God has done, but boasting 'in the flesh' is bad, for then one is taking false pride in what one has supposedly accomplished by one's own power.

In Galatians 6:4, the believer may appear to be taking self-pride but is actually taking pride in God's accomplishment in enabling one to fulfill divine purposes ... or so Paul would seem to mean.

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