Hamman, Rudolf Bultmann: A Biography
Hamman, Rudolf Bultmann: A Biography

I spent some time reading Konrad Hamman’s Rudolf Bultmann: a Biography today. In Chapter I. “Formative Years”I learned some interesting things about Bultmann:

  • On both his father’s and mother’s side there were many clergy.
  • Bultmann’s father, a pastor himself, shifted toward a more liberal theology later in life. This cost him socially. Hamman writes, “Arthur Kennedy Bultmann’s theological adoption of liberal positions led to a mutually painful alienation from his former friends and even caused tensions within his own household, for Helene Bultmann was not ready to follow her husband and give up her pietistic religiousness.” [1]
  • Bultmann’s brother, Peter, died in a Nazi concentration camp. Bultmann outlived all his siblings.
  • Bultmann held dear him homeland in northern Germany and he griped a bit about cities he didn’t enjoy like Berlin. This made me feel better about my obsession with northern California.
  • One of Bultmann’s closest friends — Leonhard Frank — was Jewish and while Bultmann advocated for their assimilation into German culture he did not think they should have to forsake their religious identity to be accepted as German: “…while…the young Bultmann recommended the acculturation of the Jews, he characteristically repudiated the condition that Jews give up their religious identity through baptism but rather declared himself in favor of their ethnic and social acculturation.” [2]
  • Bultmann wrote poetry when he was younger. 
  • Bultmann’s early teaching experience included first through fifth grade of secondary school (I think this is eleven through fifteen years old) teaching the German language, history, and geography. Eventually he added religious instruction to his courses.

There is a lot more in this chapter, especially on Bultmann’s relationships with and assessment of his teacher and his successes as a student. I’m interested to see what becomes of his friendship with Leonhard Frank and his position of Jewish identity in Germany. Obviously, his educational development will be the focus of much of this book.


[1] Konrad, Hammann (2013-01-16). Rudolf Bultmann: a Biography (Kindle Locations 164-166). Polebridge Press. Kindle Edition.

[2] Ibid (Kindle Locations 313-315).