“We have at our disposal no pneuma which is not bound to the word. Exegesis can proceed only from the interpretation of the word. Since exegetical work is work with concepts, and since the word of the text is never the subject matter itself, but its expression, this subject matter becomes available to the exegete only if he understands the word.”– The Problem of a Theological Exegesis of the New Testament (1925)
This is not a new idea on this blog, but it I find it important to begin with basic hermeneutic principles. Our ability (inability really) to do theology out of a New Testament reading is structured and severely limited by our words and the words before us in the text. But because of Bultmann’s statement here, we can see, although he finds much theology problematic, he still holds a high view of Scripture. In essence, he is saying that both theological (and anthropological) interpretation and subsequent possible “revelation” is necessarily bound to the text, namely of the New Testament. Of course, Bultmann’s committment to the text is social and external to Bultmann himself, yet his committment to the text, and to the Church for that matter, must be held in high regard, before we can even begin.