J. Haberer u.a. (Hrsg.): Die Nähe des Heils

Medialität, Unmittelbarkeit, Präsenz. Die Nähe des Heils im Verständnis der Reformation

Haberer, Johanna; Hamm, Berndt
Spätmittelalter, Humanismus, Reformation 70
Tübingen 2012: Mohr Siebeck
Anzahl Seiten
X, 390 S.
€ 99,00
Rezensiert für H-Soz-Kult von
Lee Palmer Wandel, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison

This volume contains papers, now lengthened, from a conference held at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg in 2010. The conference was organized to address three „gravierende Schwächen“: „1. Das Reformationszeitalter wird zu stark vom Spätmittelalter abgekoppelt und damit in einseitig-überzogener Weise als Medienrevolution stilisiert. 2. Die Wahrnehmung der Medienvielfalt wird zu stark auf die Druckphänomene eingeengt. 3. Die auf die Medialität einwirkende, impulsgebende Dynamik von Theologie, Frömmigkeit und Kirchlichkeit, also die medienverändernde Kraft religiöser Inhalte wird unterschätzt.“ The volume, the editors state, works against these „reduktionistische Sichtweisen“ as it „1. Spätmittelalter, Renaissance-Humanismus und frühneuzeitliche Reformation medienthematisch zueinander in Beziehung setzt; 2. durch die Fächerung der Themen und die Auswahl der Verfasser/Verfasserinnen die gedruckte, handschriftliche, mündliche und aktionale Medienvielfalt präsentiert; 3. dem Wechselspiel von medientechnischen, religiösen, sozialen, institutionellen, ökonomischen und politischen Faktoren gerecht zu werden versucht“ (p. VI).

Had this volume been published in 1980, this characterization of the field might have been just and the strategies innovative. But none of these caricatures are just, much less accurate, and the first is all the more startling, because Berndt Hamm’s own Doktorvater, Heiko Oberman, founded two institutes and trained generations of scholars whose work traverses precisely that periodization and that problematic the preface posits; and this is volume 70 in a series, „Spätmittelalter, Humanismus, Reformation.“ Elizabeth Eisenstein’s claim for a „revolution“ caused by printing provoked two decades of debate, most famously with Adrian Johns, and was revisited in a 2002 forum in the American Historical Review. There is a separate body of work, of which Johns’s The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making (1998) is one line of argument, interrogating the relationship of print to knowledge itself, which, most recently, has taken up the ways in which graphic illustration shaped scientific knowledge. There are dozens of studies of preaching, architecture, music, and drama as „media“ of and mediating theology. Thirty years ago, Bob Scribner published his study of the ways in which printed images communicated theology. Scholars such as Ralph Dekoninck, Pierre-Antoine Faber, Reindert Falkenburg, Christine Göttler, Agnes Guideroni-Brusle, Jeffrey Hamburger, Niklaus Largier, and Michel Weemans, to name just a few, in a variety of departments – art history, history, rhetoric, literature – have been exploring what can no longer be characterized as a single „relationship“ of theology and images engraved, painted, carved, sculpted. None of this work is reflected in the formulation of the volume’s organizing thesis, in the individual essays’ arguments, or in the notes.

The theme of the volume, according to the preface, is „Spannungsverhältnisse zwischen Medialität und Unmittelbarkeit“, which applies specifically to „reformatorische Verständnisweisen von Gnadennähe, Heilspräsenz und Vergegenwärtigung des Transzendenten in der Abkehr von spezifisch katholischen Medienkonzeptionen und -praktiken sakraler Vergegenwärtigungen (wie Kultbilder, Reliquien, Sakramente, Sakramentalien, Ablässe, heilige Personen, Räume, Rituale und Materialien)“ (pp. VI-VII). This characterization of Catholic and Lutheran, unfortunately, laces through the volume. Itself rooted in Reformation polemics, it posits an antithesis – „Catholics“ had relics, rituals, images; Protestants had a transcendent theology that left all these things, materialities behind – that scholarship of the past thirty years has substantially dismantled. Scribner’s work on the „Incombustible Luther“, the broad arguments of „confessionalization“ for essential similarities across confessional divides, Seeing Beyond the Word and a burgeoning body of work on Reformed images, music, and aesthetics – none appears in this volume.

Only the very last essay in the volume, Martin Ohst‘s, directly interrogates Hamm’s concept of „Nähe“: what is nearness? Is it a physical proximity, as Hamm’s correlate of „mediation“ implies? Or is it psychological? As Ohst points out, to conceive of God as „near“ has as its necessary counterpart aconsciousness of God’s distance; both, Ohst argues, were psychological for Luther, not material. Ohst’s article offers a succinct and persuasive analysis of this dialectic in Luther’s theology, the simultaneous consciousness of God’s choice to move close even as God remains, because human beings are essentially sinners, essentially other, distant not physically, but psychologically and spiritually. The essay should have appeared first in the volume, interrogating, as it does, the terms that the preface takes as clear and consistent in their meaning for diverse theologians: „Präsenz“, „Unmittelbarkeit“, „Nähe“.

In a second essay, Volker Leppin problematizes the notion of „Unmittelbarkeit.“ „Immediatisierung“, as Leppin formulates it, is a process. Leppin, moreover, applies the concept not to things, but to persons: Luther’s call for a priesthood of all believers, as Leppin argues, effectively removes a medieval group who had mediated God’s power. As Andreas Zecherle argues in his article, that „Immediatisierung“ also had implications for civil authority, as the Nürnberger Georg Frölich and Lazarus Spengler pursued divergently.

In addition to Zecherle, three essays apply Hamm’s notion of „Nähe“ to specific cases: Matthieu Arnold, to the correspondence between Martin Luther and Martin Bucer, with specific reference to conceptualizations of God’s agency in the world; Ronald Rittger, with specific regard to a notion of suffering as articulated in Lazarus Spengler’s pamphlet, Eine tröstliche christliche Anweisung und Arznei in allen Widerwärtigkeiten (1521); Reinhold Friedrich, Melanchthon’s particular understanding of education as a medium of salvation.

If Ohst problematizes any universal application of a notion of „Nähe“ – as an analytic term of consistent content – Thomas Kaufmann takes up another assumed constant in Hamm’s construction: „sense“ or the senses. But then Kaufmann argues for that rupture that Weber has so deeply inscribed in conceptualizations of the Reformation, between late medieval and Reformation, not simply in terms of soteriology, but in terms of „the senses“: „Die These einer Entsinnlichung der Heilsaneignung im Zuge der Reformation dürfte in Bezug auf den reformierten Protestantismus eine gewisse Plausibilität besitzen.“ (p. 43)

Despite the preface’s call for attention to other media, only one essay takes up directly a medium other than print: Suzanne Wegmann’s article belongs to a growing body of work on Luther and images upon the altar. She brings to that body attention to „the frame“ and to epigraphs on altars, arguing, „Die Bilder spiegeln hier nichts anderes als die ‚konfessionsinterne Pluralität im lutherischen Protestantismus‘“ (p. 210). In her essay, Christine Magin takes up painted words, but her emphasis, again, is that trope of Protestant verbal culture.

A number of essays take up various print media. Only one, Sabine Griese, „Der ‚Herzmahner‘ – ein gedrucktes Andachts- und Gebetbüchlein“, explores the sensuality of the printed page, the ways printed pages sought to become incorporated in the praxis of piety – and raises the question, whether the „medium“ can be separated from, in this case, the reader (or viewer or listener). In so doing, Griese offers a far richer conceptualization of „Medialität“, challenging any simple notion of „medium“ as a thing apart from the person who holds, views, reads, hears, or touches it.

The conceptual model set forth in the preface makes a number of assumptions that some thirty years of scholarship has called – I would argue effectively – into question. Can we treat books as autonomous of their readers? Can we treat readers as a uniform group? Are „media“ „material“? In choosing to speak, as Sven Grosse addresses directly in his essay, God chose to mediate – not simply to blur any categorical distinction between „immediacy“ and „mediality“, but to reveal himself in forms visible, audible, sensible. In any doctrine of the Incarnation, the human body is implicated, not as something material, but as the means of revelation as well as sacrifice and atonement. Late medieval and early modern Christians may well have distinguished a transcendent God, but they also spoke of two „Books“, in which that God reveals himself. That way of speaking challenges any simple notion of „medium“ as well as „book“.

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