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BY-NC-ND 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2022

Barth (1919–1922) and the Power of the Gospel (Romans 1:16–17)

From the book Karl Barth’s Epistle to the Romans

  • Mark W. Elliott


The verses (Romans 1:16-17) which speak of the power of the gospel are arguably programmatic in Paul’s letter and for his theology as a whole, and even more so for Barth’s Römerbrief commentary, in its essentially two very different editions. Something of the road from the 1919 to the 1922 editions needs to and will be said, but perhaps focusing in detail on Barth’s exegesis of these two verses will allow one to see how a theological shift in a doctrine of revelation towards a ‘negative’ theology was preceded by establishing that the Gospel is about power rather than words (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:20, correspondingly about the Kingdom). Reading the two editions synoptically or ‘binoptically’ might allow for a less abstract view of the gospel and one rooted in the Incarnation itself than if Romans II were allowed simply to supersede Romans I, even if the remaining appeal to ‘experience’ in the earlier version is understandably to come under suspicion and require a certain ‘distancing’.

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