Friday, January 11, 2008

C.H. Dodd on Theology vs. what God has done for *me*

If even Paul, who does in his letters so "unlock his heart," found a securer basis than his own "experience" for the theology he taught, still more is this true of other New Testament writers, whose experience in any case has to be conjectured, since they say nothing about it. This was not what early Christian preachers talked about. On the day of Pentecost, we are informed, their theme was not the amazing experience of being possessed by the Holy Spirit: it was "the mighty works of God" (τὰ μεγαλεῖα τοῦ θεοῦ, Acts ii.11). Similarly, in the First Epistle of Peter, those whom God has "called out of darkness into his marvellous light" do not talk about the experience of enlightenment, but about "the victorious achievements" (ἀρεταί) of God (I Pet. ii. 9).
C.H. Dodd is responding to earlier attempts to discover the origins of Christian theology in the experience of the New Testament writers, but the point still bears repeating.

The quotation is from the conclusion to According to the Scriptures: The Sub-Structure of New Testament Theology (London: Nisbet, 1953), which is available online at, I hope.

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