Sunday, 15 June 2008

Ursprung und Ziel: Erhoffte Vergangenheit, errinerte Zukunft - a hoped for past and a remembered future

I have been a fan of the German Old Testament theologian Jürgen Ebach's work ever since hearing him speak on a lecture tour in former East Germany, about a month before the Berlin wall came down. He's active in the steering committee of the German Protestant Kirchentag and has in recent years been very involved in the translation and defence of the Bibel in Gerechter Sprache. I always try to treat myself to at least one of his Bible studies at the Kirchentag. He's a brilliant communicator of the depths, contexts and meanings of ancient texts, I love sitting in a huge hall with over 3,000 people in it just listening to him and studying the text together.
This evening I've been thinking once again of the wonderful title of a book of essays, stories and bibical exegesis he wrote in 1986 called Ursprung und Ziel: Erhoffte Vergangenheit, errinerte Zukunft. He turns the idea of a hoped for future and a remembered past on its head by talking about a hoped for past and a remembered future. When I first saw the title it just clicked with me as a wonderful way of summing up a liberating path into ancient multilayered texts which have been retold and rewritten in contexts far away from mine. It offers a playful but profound paradigm and communicates something of the everchanging perspectives we deal with when translating texts with deep meaning for our own time.
But these thoughts have been provoked more prosaicly this evening by watching television, as I played catch up on the two episodes of Dr Who I've missed while on my recent travels. There was a wonderful line in episode nine about "nostalgia for the future" - very theological. Perhaps that is what the biblical prophets of old were trying to inspire - a nostalgia for a better future, that would be a fitting goal and source for the meaning of our human storytelling.
(And OK I admit Dr Who is desperately culturally specific to Brits - though it would seem that the new Dr Who is being shown in France. I don't care if bits of episodes 8 and 9 were rather inspired by Audrey Niffenegger's wonderful The Time Traveller's Wife, it was still very satisfying and I just loved the idea of a library computer saving people as well as books onto the hard disk.)