Narrative Theology and Hans Frei’s Synthesis of Wittgenstein and Barth
This chapter analyzes Hans Frei’s two major works, The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative and The Identity of Jesus Christ, which shaped the postliberal movement. It describes his attempt to use the later Wittgenstein to carry forward the Barthian program in theology. In doing so, he enlists literary assistance from Erich Auerbach’s Mimesis. The chapter thus describes Auerbach’s identification of the most important aspects of biblical narratives. In The Eclipse, Frei argues that liberal theology distorts these aspects of biblical narratives by taking their meaning to be their reference to some extratextual reality. Frei’s critique is thus sustained by his reliance on Wittgenstein and ordinary language philosophy. The chapter then turns to The Identity of Jesus Christ, Frei’s constructive attempt to remain faithful to the central insights of his mentors. Following Barth, he prioritizes ontology over epistemology, seeking an interpretation of Jesus’ identity that is faithful to Auerbach’s understanding that the biblical texts seek to overcome our reality with their own. This effort utilizes both Wittgenstein and Ryle in an attempt to carry out to the Barthian project described in chapter five.
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