“Kyrios Christos”: New Reprint Edition
In today’s post I was pleased to find copies of the reprint edition of the English translation of the classic work by Wilhelm Bousset, Kyrios Christos: A History of the Belief in Christ from the Beginnings of Christianity to Irenaeus (trans. John E. Steely; Waco: Baylor University Press, 2013). The German first edition appeared in 1913, a revised edition in 1921, the English translation in 1970 (Abingdon Press). This Baylor edition is a reprint of the 1970 translation (thus preserving page numbers of the 1970 edition).
For this reprint edition, I was invited to provide a new Introduction (p. v-xx), in which I briefly describe the scholarly and historical context in which Bousset worked, and the scholarly reception and critique of Kyrios Christos (both in response to the German edition and the English translation). In addition, I note some major matters on which Bousset is now widely judged to have erred; but I also underscore features of Kyrios Christos that make it still instructive.
Since my own first reading of the book shortly after the publication of the English translation (while a graduate student in the USA), I have continued to regard it as one of the most stimulating works I have ever studied. It is also certainly one of the most influential works in history of scholarship on the New Testament and Christian Origins. I’m glad that this English translation is again in print, and I commend careful study of the book to all serious students. I think Bousset was wrong on some key matters (indeed, on several matters that he regarded as his essential emphases). But in his aim to approach earliest devotion to Jesus as a historical problem to be investigated, his insistence that it must be seen within its historical setting, and his emphasis on earliest Christian worship of Jesus as perhaps the most striking and important religious development in the young religious movement, I regard him as correct.
You can find the book in the Baylor catalogue here.
As I mentioned in an earlier posting here, at this year’s annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature there will be a special session observing this centenary year of the original publication of Kyrios Christos.