Sunday, May 12, 2013

Robert W. Jenson - The Knowledge of Things Hoped For

Go to the old record bins.  Flip through the back issues. 

Because you need to get Robert W. Jenson's old work.

Admittedly, you need to read his new work, too.  As well as the recent stuff.  And the older mid-80s material when he experimented with nu-wave pop.

That actually didn't happen.

There's lots of old gems.  Not all of them are available through reprint publishers. 

One of the best is The Knowledge of Things Hoped For:  The Sense of Theological Discourse.  Published by Oxford University Press in 1969, this book is out of print!  From my correspondence with Wipf & Stock, Oxford will not permit reprinting so you'll have to find it in libraries or used.

The joy of this book is Jenson's engagement with still-important concerns:  semiotics with Origen, analogy with Thomas, ordinary-language issues with the analytical types, and narrative/hermeneutics with the Bultmann folk and history with Pannenberg and Moltmann.

All of this stuff is in the background in the systematic theology.  He references it a few times and is really the lengthy discussion of history and hermeneutics that many would have liked to see in the first volume.  Not that it would answer all the questions they would lodge against Jenson.

Even though the books he wrote before this one on Karl Barth (Alpha & Omega) and after it on Karl Barth (God After God) are obviously Barth-driven, this one is incredibly less so.  Rudolf Bultmann is the main instigator here -- and it is mainly about hermeneutics and history. 

This is hardly a review or an engagement with his work.  There is much I would argue with but since I read it so early in my theological formation I imagine my arguments with it stem from the book itself.  


  1. I imagine that Story and Promise is locked up in the same kind of copyright prison.

  2. I have an old republished copy of Story and Promise from Sigler Press, which reprinted Fortress stuff for a while. Jens wrote a new preface to that volume for the reprint.

    I don't know if Wipf and Stock could get that one back into print.