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Ostmeyer on “Communication with God and Christ” in the NT

September 21, 2011

To my knowledge, the most recent major study of prayer in the NT is this one:

Karl-Heinrich Ostmeyer, Kommunikation mitt Gott und Christus: Sprache und Theologie des Gebetes im Neuen Testament, WUNT, 197 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006).

After a review of previous scholarship (not quite complete; e.g., no reference to A. Klawek, Das Gebet zu Jesus [Muenster:  Aschendorff, 1921]), in successive chapters Ostmeyer surveys the terminology and texts pertaining to prayer in the uncontested Pauline letters, the “deutero-Paulines” and Hebrews, the Catholic Epistles, the Synoptics and Acts, the Johannine literature, and Revelation.  In a final chapter, he gathers up larger observations.

Citing Hamman’s complaint (in 1959) about the dearth of scholarly publications on prayer in the NT over the preceding 50 years, Ostmeyer notes the few subsequent studies that have appeared since Hamman.  But we’re still not exactly over-run on the topic! 

There’s not space here to do justice to all that Ostmeyer provides, but a few tid-bits (my translation):   “Praise of God unconnected to the confession of Christ as the Lord is for Paul unthinkable” (p. 87).  “It is indisputable that Paul was familiar with communication with [the risen] Jesus.  . . . . [For Paul] The relationship of people to God differs from the relationship to Jesus; the manner of communication of Christians with both is not exchangeable” (98).  “God and Christ are not addressed in the same way.  God alone is addressed in thanks and worship.  Christ is the one through whose saving work is opened the possibility of thanks to and worship of God” (115).  (Although Ostmeyer notes that direct prayer-appeal to Christ is attested in 2 Cor 12:8, and also in the “maranatha” in 1 Cor. 16:22 and in other texts.)

Some of his views will likely elicit some critical responses, e.g., his attempt to argue that in Revelation 5:9-14 the worship (proskynesan) in v. 14 is directed solely to “the one on the throne” and not jointly to God and the Lamb (351-52; but note that on p. 353 he judges that it is “unklar” whether the Lamb is a joint-recipient of the worship).  But this work underscores the continuing need to work up our German if we want to be NT scholars.

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3 Comments
  1. Dave Lincicum permalink

    This isn’t quite itself a ‘major study of prayer in the NT’ in the sense of being a coherent monograph, but you might also have seen the 2009 multi-author volume Das Gebet im Neuen Testament (WUNT 249), edited by H. Klein, V. Mihoc, and Karl-Wilhelm Niebuhr, which includes, inter alia, a 52pp essay on Fuerbittendes Gebet im Neuen Testament by Urs von Arx and V. Mihoc’s ‘Prayer to Jesus in the NT’.

  2. Thank you for these comments. I’m assuming you’re aware of David Crump’s work on prayer with regards to Jesus, and then also petitionary prayer in the New Testament? Although at times it’s of a more theological nature, he does make some apt comments that may be useful to you.

    Then, I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of any work (in English) on prayer in the Apostolic Fathers? Thanks.

    • Yes, Crump’s book is on my radar screen. I mentioned Ostmeyer because it surveys the whole of the NT and all putative forms of “communication” with God and/or Christ.
      As to the Apostolic Fathers, I’d again start with Hamman’s book mentioned in my posting yesterday about French-language works. His two volumes address Christian texts down through the pre-Nicene period.

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