Kerygma and Myth

by Rudolf Bultmann and Five Critics

Rudolf Bultmann is one of the great scholars in the field of New Testament study. He was born in Germany in 1884, studied at Tubingen, Berlin and Marburg. During the time of the Nazi domination, he took active part in the strong opposition which the churches built up. After World War II he spent much time lecturing in the United States. The critics are Ernst Lohmeyer, Julius Schniewind, Helmut Thielicke, and Austin Farrer.

This book, with the exception of the Austin Farrer article, was first published in German by Herbert Reich of Hamburg-Volksdorf, Germany; the English edition, including the Austin Farrer article, was first published in 1953 by S.P.C.K., London, and is here reprinted by arrangement. The English translation has been revised for the Torchbook edition. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


(ENTIRE BOOK) Bultmann’s famous essay, "New Testament and Mythology," is contained here in which the whole controversy over Demythologizing is brought out in miniature. Five critics give there rejoinders along with Bultmann’s response.


  • Forward by H. W. Bartsch

    The New Testament is the Word of God spoken through the words of men, and since the proclamation of the act of God as the incarnate word confronts us in this particular form, it can never be spoken of in direct, straightforward language, and therefore there cannot be in the strictest sense any “assured results”. . We must hearken to the testimony of the New Testament itself. In this problem we are concerned with the right hearing of the New Testament message, of the kerygma of Jesus Christ the Son of God. This right hearing is the decisive presupposition for every interpretation.

  • Translator’s Preface by Reginald H. Fuller

    Dasein has been rendered as "human life", "human Being", or even "Being." Geworfenheit is rendered as "thrownnness". Existentiell is rendered as existential, existential is rendered as existentialist. Geschichtlich is "historic" whereas historisch is "historical" or, sometimes, "past-historical".

  • The Mythological Element in the Message of the New Testament and the Problem of its Re-interpretation Part I

    Does the New Testament embody a truth which is quite independent of its mythical setting? If it does, theology must undertake the task of stripping the Kerygma from its mythical framework, of “demythologizing” it.

  • The Mythological Element in the Message of the New Testament and the Problem of its Re-interpretation Part II

    Redemption is not a miraculous supernatural event, but an historical event wrought out in time and space. For the kerygma maintains that the eschatological emissary of God is a concrete figure of a particular historical past, that his eschatological activity was wrought out in a human fate, and that therefore it is an event whose eschatological character does not admit of a secular proof.

  • A Reply to Bultmann by Julius Schniewind

    Unlike the liberals, Bultmann is not in the least interested in the evolution of religion. What he is interested in is the once-for-allness of the deed, the revelation of God in Christ. So we must ask: what was the ascension? Is the resurrection of the dead capable of description? Does preaching simply mean repeating word for word what the Bible says? Or are we allowed to paraphrase, translate, and change the terminology?

  • A Reply to the Theses of J. Schniewind by Rudolf Bultmann

    Can we ever really dispense with myth? That is an ambiguous question. Much of our ordinary language is based on mythology in any case, and there are certain concepts which are fundamentally mythological, and with which we shall never be able to dispense — e.g. the idea of transcendence. In such cases, however, the original mythological meaning has been lost, and they have become mere metaphors or ciphers. As for mythology in its original sense, not only can we dispense with it, but it is essential to do so.

  • The Right Interpretation of the Mythological by Ernst Lohmeyer

    To have its faith tried and tested in the fires of doubt is of the very essence of Protestant theology. It may freely admit both its strength and its weakness, but it knows that the act of God which is the ground of its own experience is greater than myth, and that it can experience that act more genuinely the more it penetrates behind mythology to the essential core of truth.

  • The Restatement of New Testament Mythology by Helmut Thielicke

    Bultmann has thrown down a serious challenge to the very foundations of the Church, and our investigations have substantiated this contention. Clearly we must risk the dangers of such an undertaking, even the danger of stirring up the ghosts of heresy.(E.g. the dissolution of the historical basis of the kerygma, or the separation of the historical objective genitive, “of Jesus Christ”, from the sola fide.) We therefore owe a debt of gratitude to Bultmann.

  • Can the Event of Jesus Christ be Demythologized? by Friedrich K. Schumann

    No subject has caused such a stir in theological circles in recent years as the debate on "New Testament and Mythology". For this subject is not only of immense practical importance; it also raises the most ultimate and profound issues for the academic theologian.

  • Bultmann Replies to his Critics

    The invisibility of God excludes every myth which tries to make him and his acts visible. Because of this, however, it also excludes every conception of invisibility and mystery which is formulated in terms of objective thought. God withdraws himself from the objective view: he can only be believed upon in defiance of all outward appearance.

  • An English Appreciation by Austin Farrer

    It may be that the real first step of Dr. Bultmann’s whole plea is the exhortation to embrace existentialism or drown, and that everything else is a mere corollary to that. But in fact many of us are not, and are not going to be, existentialists of the Heidegger school, and so we try to see what Bultmann’s position amounts to if we leave the dogmatic existentialism out.