The Possibility of Rhyming “Clod” and “God”

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Moltmann is fond of quoting a couplet penned by Robert Browning in the nineteenth century. It reads:

For the loving worm within its clod
Were diviner than a loveless God

The first time I read this, however, I was confused. In what world do clod and God rhyme? Possibly in the world of nineteenth century England, and likely in living dialects today. For example, I noticed last night when my wife was watching “Call the Midwife,” in season six which is set in the sixties, that one of the characters pronounced God with the same vowel sound as that of clod. The OED lists the vowel sounds in each as identical: in British and American /klɒd/ and /klɑd/, and /ɡɒd/ and /ɡɑd/.

But in the NZ English I know and love, this is not the case. A related difference is recognised by the US Merriam Webster, which has \ˈkläd\ and then  \ˈgäd\, but also \ˈgȯd\ as a secondary pronunciation. According to their pronunciation guide, ä designates the bother and cot vowel, whereas ȯ the saw, gnaw, and caught vowel. But neither does this apply to NZ English, expect in cases where “gawd” is used, which if anything indicates a pronunciation not typical in NZ English. While I don’t have any formal linguistic training–so that my interpretation might not be spot on here–I understand the difference in clod and God in NZ English to be one of vowel length. The vowel is slightly longer in God in the same sense as park is not pronounced identical to puk. A better example:

Don’t put the spanner beside the bonnet;
Put it on it.

The vowel sound in bonnet and on is the same as that of clod in NZ English. Yet because I have added italics for emphasis in this couplet, a couplet that would otherwise likely rhyme, the vowel sound in bonnet differs from that of on. The latter is lengthened, similar to the way that clod differs in pronunciation from God in NZ English. There are other words like this too. As far as my ears are concerned, Todd and rod, body and shoddy, lot and bot, rock and hock, doff and Hasselhoff, dodge and lodge, for example, take the short vowel, whereas hog and bog, and scone (as a noun but not as a verb) take the long vowel. The special significance of clod and God is that they share the same final consonant but differ in their vowel length.

Some questions follow:

  1. Is this the NZ English that you know and love, or does Browning’s couplet rhyme for you? If you are not a speaker of NZ English and they yet don’t rhyme then I would especially love to hear from you.
  2. Under what historical circumstances did this change take place? My guess is that liturgical or everyday reverential pronunciation of God contributed to the lengthening of its vowel sound. But that’s just a guess. In reality I have no idea. It is notable that the plural gods for me does not either rhyme with clods. If the liturgical thesis is correct then the pronunciation of the singular God would have been transferred to the plural as well.

The Best Secondary Works in English for Getting a Handle on Moltmann’s Theology

There is a lot of secondary literature available on Moltmann’s theology, as can already be seen in the large list of dissertations and theses that you can find on this blog. I thought I would provide a short list of what I think are the best book-length secondary works for getting an overview of Moltmann’s theology.

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1. Geiko Müller-Fahrenholz, The Kingdom and the Power: The Theology of Jürgen Moltmann, trans. by John Bowden (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress, 2001).

In my opinion, The Kingdom and the Power is the best currently available work exploring the major themes of Moltmann’s theology. The book begins with two biographical chapters and is then structured around each of Moltmann’s major works from Theology of Hope to The Coming of God, engaging to some extent with other works and essays written over this time. (The book was published in German before Müller-Fahrenholz could attend to Moltmann’s final major work, Experiences in Theology, and other important works such as Ethics of Hope). Two summary chapters outline key characteristics of and themes in Moltmann’s theology. Müller-Fahrenholz also provides short comment throughout on critical issues in Moltmann’s theology, such as his relationship to Ernst Bloch and the feminist critique of Moltmann’s presentation of a “sado-machistic” God. As far as I am aware, the book is still in print. A Kindle and a paperback version are available, and at a good price too. If your library doesn’t have any secondary literature available on Moltmann, this would be the first one for them to buy.

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2. Richard Bauckham, Moltmann: Messianic Theology in the Making (Hants, UK: Marshall Pickering, 1987); The Theology of Jürgen Moltmann (London: T&T Clark, 1995).

Richard Bauckham is still the best Moltmann scholar in both the English and the German world. Besides these two works, he has edited a volume on Moltmann’s eschatology, supervised doctoral dissertations on Moltmann, and engaged with various other aspects of Moltmann’s theology throughout his extensive corpus. The first of these works is unfortunately out of print. You might be lucky to pick up a secondhand copy online, though I can’t guarantee that it would be cheap, or you could request a reprinting, which I think would be a fair request! The book engages Moltmann’s Theology of Hope, his political theology of the late sixties and early seventies, his Crucified God, and his Church in the Power of the Spirit. Before this final chapter, however, Bauckham has also included a chapter on the development of Moltmann’s doctrine of the Trinity leading up to the publication of The Trinity and the Kingdom. The second work is still available on Amazon and other retailers (I’m not sure if it’s still in print), though it might be a bit expensive for the student or general reader. It provides an overview of Moltmann’s theology, including key themes; another chapter on Theology of Hope, this time attending especially to Moltmann’s approach to the resurrection; a chapter on divine suffering; on theodicy, discussing Moltmann in the context of Dostoevsky, Camus, and Elie Wiesel; on political theology, engaging with Moltmann’s later works; on ecclesiology; on the Holy Spirit; on human freedom; on creation and evolution; on Moltmann’s messianic christology in The Way of Jesus Christ; and on mysticism. The book concludes with a bibliography of primary and secondary works, though if you have access to Wakefield’s bibliography you might want to look there first as it is later and more comprehensive. Bauckham is widely read and has great critical insights to share. His work might go beyond the interests of the general reader, but for the student of Moltmann it should not be overlooked.

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3. Ryan A. Neal, Theology as Hope: On the Ground and Implications of Jürgen Moltmann’s Doctrine of Hope (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2008).

In Theology as Hope, Neal argues that the central theme of Moltmann’s theology is hope. He investigates Moltmann’s work on this basis, engaging with a wide range of primary and secondary sources, offering his own critical comments too. For example, he argues against the assumption that The Crucified God is a natural development of Theology of Hope, something widely taken for granted in the secondary literature. While Neal’s work does not have the same scope as that of Müller-Fahrenholz or Bauckham, it is one of the best monographs on Moltmann’s work that I have encountered and its being relatively recent makes it all the more valuable. A paperback is available, as well as an affordable Kindle version.

4. Joy Ann McDougall, Pilgrimage of Love: Moltmann on the Trinity and Christian Life (Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005).

In the published edition of her doctoral dissertation, McDougall attends to the theme of love in Moltmann’s theology, not the first theme that comes to mind when thinking of what characterises Moltmann’s theology but, as McDougall shows, a prominent one nonetheless. This is another great monograph, proceeding through Moltmann’s major works while being guided by the theme of love. Although McDougall’s engagement with the literature on Moltmann is not as extensive as Neal’s, the quality of her writing makes up for it. She, too, offers her own critical comments, such as in regard to Moltmann’s apparent lack of attention given to sin. There are Kindle and hardcover editions available, though unfortunately they tend to be quite expensive. Make sure you take a look to see if your library has a copy!

I have attended here to what I think are the top 5 book-length works for getting a handle on Moltmann’s overall theology. Is there anything that you’d add? Let me know in the comments.

Moltmann on Distinguishing between Liberal and Political Theology

I just read this today. It’s helpful for clarifying some of the key differences Moltmann sees between himself and his contemporaries:

Political theology is not the same as ‘progressive’ theology, whether this be liberal Protestant theology or modernist Catholic theology. The differences and conflicts between the conservative Protestant Wolfhart Pannenberg and myself, or between the political theologian Johann Baptist Metz and the progressive post-modernist Hans Küng, are obvious. These others have never taken part in our initiatives and conflicts. On the contrary, they have often fought against us. Liberal theology was, and still is, the theology of the established middle classes. Political theology has its Protestant roots in Karl Barth’s anti-bourgeois theology, and in the experiences of the Confessing Church in its resistance to National Socialism. In the early peace movement of the 1950s, we always looked in vain for Bultmann and his liberal followers. As I see it, political theology is the true dialectical theology: a theology of contradiction and hope, of negation of the negative, and the utopia of the positive.

God for a Secular Society, 57.

Note that Küng is a close friend of Moltmann’s, and the two have worked together on various projects, notably various editions of Concilium. For the personal side, see the index and relevant sections in Moltmann’s autobiography. Also helpful here is Moltmann’s “Personal Recollections of Wolfhart Pannenberg,” trans. by Steffen Lösel, ed. by Jeania Ree Moore, Theology Today 72:1 (2015): 11-14. Finally, David Congdon’s The Mission of Demythologizing, the best currently available secondary work on Bultmann, has a section on Moltmann’s relationship to Bultmann and his critique of Bultmann’s politics (see the index). While I don’t agree with Congdon’s attempted defence of Bultmann’s politics, the short exposition is helpful.


Self-Hate and the Enjoyment of God

Today I have been reading through Kazoh Kitamori’s Theology of the Pain of God, originally written in Japanese in 1946 and first translated into English in 1965. The book exercised some influence on Moltmann in writing The Crucified God. See Moltmann’s A Broad Place, 177-8, 192. I have been trying to trace similarities and differences between the two theologians. One thing I noticed is that wrath and sin are a lot more at the forefront of Kitamori’s theology than they are in Moltmann’s! Here’s a sample:

“We should never forget to ‘hate ourselves’ even in the very moment of our enjoyment of God, choked by tears at the thought of our being loved so surpassingly by him.”

Theology of the Pain of God, 76. Kitamori adopts the idea of hating yourself from Luther.

Richard Hays on Scripture and the Citation Formula in the Gospel of Matthew

Dear readers, I have been quietly squirrelling away at the page of Moltmann’s works in English, having almost finished what is to my knowledge a pretty complete list of books of Moltmann’s available in English, along with contents pages, which are often not available on the Internet. I have also included as many articles and chapters as I have been able to find published in English after 2002, the year of Wakefield’s reasonably comprehensive bibliography of Moltmann’s works. I have also added pieces that I have found written before 2002 that do not appear in Wakefield, such as the odd foreword, as well as a few that also appear in Wakefield. I have not gotten around to doing any much more than that at the moment, however, and I would recommend that those who have access to Wakefield would make use of him, or if not, then try convince your library to purchase it!

In my spare time I have begun reading Richard Hays’s Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels. I was struck by the size of his task in these introductory comments to the Gospel of Matthew, which has gotten me wondering just how I’m going to start looking at the role of Scripture in Moltmann’s theology (I have started, by the way, looking at the methodological presupposition that guides much of his exegesis, the distinction between Greek philosophical and Hebrew biblical thought). For now, here is Hays:

We must reckon with a Matthean hermeneutical program considerably more comprehensive than a collection of a dozen or so prooftexts…. There are at least sixty explicit Old Testament quotations in the Gospel. That means that the formula quotations constitute, even by the most generous estimate, only one-fifth of Matthew’s total. And that does not even begin to reckon with the hundreds of more indirect Old Testament allusions in the story.
Above and beyond the question of citations of particular texts, we must reckon also with Matthew’s use of figuration, his deft narration of ‘shadow stories from the Old Testament.’ Through this narrative device, with or without explicit citation, Matthew encourages the reader to see Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament precursors, particularly Moses, David, and Isaiah’s Servant figure. And at a level still deeper than these narrative figurations, Matthew’s language and imagery are from start to finish soaked in Scripture; he constantly presupposes the social and symbolic world rendered by the stories, songs, prophecies, laws, and wisdom teachings of Israel’s sacred texts.

Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2016), 109.

Moltmann on Ernst Käsemann

I enjoy reading biographies as the figures whose theology I have read or read is put in a new light. This is certainly the case with Moltmann’s remarks on Ernst Käsemann in his autobiography:

Käsemann and his* wife became close friends. Their daughter Elisabeth went to Argentina in order to put into practice what her father had talked about and, after having been cruelly tortured, was shot by the military junta in 1977. Astonishingly enough, her body was released. I had to take the funeral, and Käsemann had impressed on me, “The sermon: no more than 10 sentences!” In his lectures and seminars Käsemann continued the struggle of the Confessing Church, which he had carried on in Gelsenkirchen with a congregation of miners. Unfortunately, during the war he had acquired a sergeant-major’s voice, which was not to the liking of every student. The maxim of his life was the old pirate saying: “the friend of God and the enemy of the whole world”. For truth’s sake, he broke off old friendships, first with Bultmann, then with Fuchs, then with Ebeling, finally, alas, with me, too, because he did not like my dialogue with Judaism. But our ways already began to drift apart a little when I replace his “new obedience” in faith by “liberty in the breadth of the Holy Spirit”. His interpretations of the Epistle to the Hebrews (written in prison) and of the Epistle to the Romans–his great work–were always theological. As a result he roused the criticism of historical scholars in the English-speaking world, who sought for an answer to “the new question about Paul”. As a Christian, Käsemann felt himself to be a “partisan” in a country occupied by foreign forces. He had a powerful theology of the cross, but he had problems with Christ’s resurrection. He was buried with the text of Isaiah 26.13: ‘O LORD our God, other lords besides thee have ruled over us, but thy name alone we acknowledge.” And that characterizes his theology of resistance in the Babylonian captivity of Christianity in this world, its alienation from God.

A Broad Place, 149-50.

*It is unclear whether Moltmann is referring to Käsemann’s wife or the wife of Otto Michel from the previous paragraph. Please comment if you have anything to add.

Theses and Dissertations Updated

Thanks to Prof. Dr. Klaus Dietz, from the University of Tübingen, I have added some 20 new items to the list of theses and dissertations. Klaus Dietz is a friend and neighbour of Moltmann’s and provided him with the updated list of theses and dissertations. He informs me that Moltmann knew of around 200, having been notified throughout the years by the authors of the respective dissertations, but had no idea that the list was so large!

Moltmann’s Dependence on Georg Picht

I am currently looking at the role Georg Picht plays in the development of Moltmann’s theology. The most important aspect is Moltmann’s concept “the epiphany of the eternal present/presence of being” (die Epiphanie der ewigen Gegenwart des Seins), which is taken from Picht. The other seems to be his tracing of the, according to him, Hellenistic staticity of modern theology (Bultmann and Barth) to Parmenides. Below is what I think is the most important paragraph for Moltmann, demonstrating Parmenides’s influence on Kant and Plato:

Ist aber die bleibende und unwandelbare Zeit, deren innerstes Wesen ewige Gegenwart ist, die Zeit der Geschichte? Wir können diese Frage nur beantworten, wenn wir noch einmal uns der Griechen erinnern. Denn wenn Kant die Zeit durch die Substanz vorstellt, die er als reine Identität und als die Negation alles Wechsels überhaupt begreift, so verweist er uns, ohne sich dessen bewußt zu sein, auf das unwandelbare Sein des Parmenides. Wir müssen es uns versagen, durch eine Auslegung des Parmenides zu zeigen, wie hier im Ansatz der griechischen Ontologie bereits der Entwurf vorgezeichnet ist, in dem sich das Denken von Kant bewegt, sondern erinnern nur an die parmenideischen Seinsprädikate. Das Sein ist ungeworden und unvergänglich (ἀγένητον καὶ ἀνώλεθρον), es ist ohne Ziel (ἀτέλεστον), es war niemals noch wird es jemals sein, da es jetzt ist zumal als Ganzes (οὐδέ ποτ’ ἦν οὐδ’ ἔσται, ἐπεὶ νῦν ἔστιν ὁμοῦ πᾶν,), es ist Eins (ἕν) und zusammenhängend (συνεχές. Von hier aus hat Zenon, der Schüler des Parmenides, die Paradoxien des Kontinuums entwickelt). Wir treffen hier also das ganze Gefüge von ontologischen Prädikaten, das Kant aus der theologischen Metaphysik des Christentums vertraut war; die Epiphanie der ewigen Gegenwart des Seins verstellt bis heute die eschatologische Offenbarung Gottes. Und nur diese Epiphanie ist bei Parmenides Wahrheit, ἀλήθεια. Die Vergänglichkeit, die Vielheit und der Wandel in der Zeit hingegen ist δόξα, ist Erscheinung, in der für den Wissenden doch stets nur das Eine ständig gleiche Sein erscheinen kann. Auf dem Boden der Ontologie des Parmenides hat Platon einen Zeitbegriff gegeben, der ganz aus der Epiphanie der ewigen Gegenwart gedacht ist. Die Zeit ist nach seiner Definition im Timaios (37 D) „der im Einen verharrenden Ewigkeit nach Zahl fortschreitendes ewigliches Abbild“ (μένοντος αἰῶνος ἐν ἑνὶ κατ’ ἀριθμὸν ἰοῦσα αἰώνιος εἰκών). Sie ist Abbild, [42] weil sie die ewige Praesenz des Seins re-praesentiert. Wenn aber das Wesen der Zeit überhaupt die Re-praesentation des Seins ist, so muß auch das in der Zeit erscheinende zeitlich Seiende ontologisch durch die Repraesentation bestimmt sein. Deshalb ist nach Platon das Sein alles zeitlich Seienden seinem Wesen nach Abbild-Sein. Die Zahl, nach der die repraesentierende Zeit ihren Gang nimmt, ist uns durch die Umläufe der Himmelskörper gegeben; deshalb können wir an der Fixstern-Sphäre das Abbild der ewigen Gegenwart mit Augen sehen. Wie der Tag und das Jahr, so verläuft auch die Zeit im Ganzen in einem zyklischen Umlauf; „die Zeit selbst scheint so etwas wie ein Kreis zu sein“, sagt Aristoteles (Phys. 223 b 29). Auch darin ist sie das Abbild des Einen Seins, von dem Parmenides sagt, es sei „vergleichbar der Masse einer wohlgerundeten Kugel (εὐκύκλου σφαίρης), von der Mitte her gleichgewichtig überall“ (B 8, 43/4).

Georg Picht, Die Erfahrung der Geschichte, 42-3.

For more on Moltmann’s dependence on Picht, see Morse, The Logic of Promise in Moltmann’s Theology, 55-7