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Theologisches Seminar | Theologische und Religionswissenschaftliche Fakultät 16th Century Exegesis of Paul

16th Century Exegesis of Paul

In the 16th century, numerous commentaries on the Pauline Epistles were composed. They strongly influenced the development of biblical interpretation and theology in different denominations. Modern research on Paul has increasingly distanced itself from this tradition since the 1980s, but relatively few commentaries by well-known reformers such as Luther or Melanchthon serve as the negative point of reference. The remaining writings from the early modern period are poorly indexed and little studied.

In this project, for the first time, all commentaries on the Pauline Epistles published between 1520 and 1600 in the area of the Swiss Reformation are systematically recorded in a database. In this geographical area, different cultural and confessional currents met: humanism, Wittenberg, Zurich and Geneva Reformation, spiritualists, Anabaptists and Catholic reform. One subproject is developing innovative digital methods to evaluate the text corpus. A second subproject examines what knowledge the 16th century-interpreters had about Paul’s historical and cultural background and how they used it to understand his letters. Two others analyze samples from the corpus in contrast to modern interpretations of the letters. Three conferences will illuminate the medieval background of 16th century-exegesis, its persistence in the 17th-19th centuries, and its relationship to contemporary theology.

Scientific progress results from breaks and deliberate demarcations. Nevertheless, this bears the danger of a schematic juxtaposition of “old” and “new” research paradigms. The aim of the project is a historically contextualized and differentiated picture of an important and prolific theological practice of the early modern period in its relations to contemporary research.


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