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Narrating the Singular Event: Karl Barth and the Scriptural Story

BAKER, PETER,WILLIAM (2021) Narrating the Singular Event: Karl Barth and the Scriptural Story. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 08 October 2024.


Karl Barth’s theological expositions of biblical narratives in the later volumes of the Church Dogmatics have helped to catalyse recent interest in Barth as a reader of Scripture and to generate the widely-held perception that the reading of biblical narrative plays a central role in his mature theological construction. Focusing on Barth’s concrete exegetical practice, this study argues that, while Barth does address himself to biblical narratives, he finds narrative as such theologically intractable. Barth is not a narrative theologian. Notwithstanding the significant development of Barth’s thinking regarding the historicity of divine grace, his stress on the singularity of the divine action in Jesus Christ and his difficult negotiations with the temporally-sequential and cumulative dimensions of biblical narrative offer a significant and underappreciated line of continuity between his biblical interpretation in his mature dogmatic work and his biblical expositions of the Römerbrief period. Barth’s reticence to make theological use of narrative also extends beyond the literary particularities of specific texts. His christological interpretation of the Old Testament, unlike traditional typological interpretation mediated by a single overarching biblical story integrating the narratives of specific Old Testament texts and that of the central figure of Jesus Christ, treats biblical narratives as a collection of free-floating parables which independently testify to a single shared subject matter. This mode of interpretation threatens to erode the particular integrity of biblical narratives, and risks distorting the dynamic relationship of mutual intelligibility in the canon of Christian Scripture between the Old Testament and the Christ of the New Testament. The opening of the first canonical Gospel offers an alternative approach to interpretative christocentrism, suggesting one avenue for a critical appropriation of Barth’s theology.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Karl Barth; Barth; theology; development; hermeneutics; interpretation; exegesis; christocentrism; typology; narrative; Bible; dogmatics; theological interpretation; TIS; narrative theology; parable; Hans Frei; Church Dogmatics; Scripture
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2021
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:11 Oct 2021 10:38

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