Karl Barth’s 1922 The Epistle to the Romans is one of the most famous, notorious, and influential works in twentieth-century theology and biblical studies. It is also a famously and notoriously difficult and enigmatic work, especially as its historical context becomes more and more foreign. In this book, Kenneth Oakes provides historical background to the writing of The Epistle to the Romans, an introduction and analysis of its main themes and terms, a running commentary on the text itself, and suggestions for further readings from Barth on some of the issues it raises. The volume not only offers orientation and assistance for those reading The Epistle to the Romans for the first time, it also deals with contemporary problems in current Barth scholarship regarding liberalism, dialectics, and analogy.
“Where, then, does the true righteousness of humanity come from? It comes from revelation, the giving of the law, and the divine election that engenders faith.” (Page 53)
“The neighbor is the answer to the question, ‘Who am” (Page 141)
“Barth’s move from his early liberal theology to his dialectical theology of the Word of God” (Page 10)
“simplicity is the mark of divinity’ (a phrase from Blumhardt” (Page 29)
“Barth never stopped being ‘liberal’ in some regards. He never abandoned a variety of tenets of his ‘liberal,’ modern Protestant theological upbringing: the idea that revelation is God’s self-revelation, an act completed by God; a christological emphasis and outlook; the sense that ‘natural theology’ is impossible and even dangerous; a steady emphasis upon the importance of ethics, human subjectivity, and self-determination; an account of the ‘independence’ of faith and religion from other academic disciplines; and the sense that historical-critical methods of interpreting the Bible are necessary and legitimate but limited at certain key points.” (Page 11)
Barth’s Epistle to the Romans is notoriously opaque and challenging; Oakes’ guide is lively, perceptive, and nimble, and will enable readers to approach Barth with confidence and discover for themselves the riches of this classic of twentieth-century theology.
—John Webster, University of Aberdeen
Cleary written and accessible, Reading Karl Barth offers a fascinating and much-needed commentary on Karl Barth’s The Epistle to the Romans. Oakes’ book is a helpful companion for those reading Barth for the first time, and there is also much here for those who have been thinking about Barth’s revolutionary commentary for some time.
—Tom Greggs, University of Aberdeen
Kenneth Oakes is currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Notre Dame, having previously been a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Tubingen. He is the author of Karl Barth on Theology and Philosophy (2012). His articles and reviews have appeared in journals such as Modern Theology, International Journal of Systematic Theology, and The Thomist.