Vednesdays with Westermann Veek I

I haven’t been able to find the time to put something of worth on my blog lately. My class load this semester has been a bit heavy at times, but I am planning on blogging through Claus Westermann’s book Roots of Wisdom: The Oldest Proverbs of Israel and Other Peoples. This was a book that I purchased, which came from James Crenshaw’s personal library. I have been meaning to read this title since the summer, but other books caught my interest first. So before I begin blogging through the book, it may be helpful to provide some orientating data to Westermann, the scholar.

Claus Westermann (1909-2000)

Westermann, a prolific Old Testament scholar, studied theology at three universities Tubingen, Marburg, and Berlin. He worked under the likes of Rudolph Bultmann and Walther Zimmerli as a student.

Despite his act of protest (leaving a university because “students were urged to join the pro-Nazi German Christians”⁠1⁠) he was drafted into the German army and saw combat with Russian forces (eventually being captured as a POW). He was in the service to the German army from 1940-1945. Westermann regarded this time as an extremely profound pedagogical experience when he stated the following:

“After the German defeat, I became a prisoner of the Russians. I need not mention that this was even a harder school; I still don’t know how I emerged from it alive…. I thought about the psalms and tried to relate my own wartime thoughts to the Psalter. In doing so, I sat on a block of wood and wrote on a board held my by knees. Sometimes I traded bread for paper. This was the origin of my book, The Praise of God in the Psalms, with no Hebrew text; in fact, with no books at all. The war made me encounter the psalms in a totally unacademic and unscientific way, and it became very important for me to see that the people who gave rise to the psalter were simple and ordinary; they were not what we would call highly intellectual or cultivated, but folks who had rather simple ideas, who earned their living with their hands, and who, as a result, were close to the earth, the stars, and all creatures — as the psalms make clear. My thinking about those things was the same as that of the women and men in the Psalter, and that has remained with me until this day”2

Westermann’s story is inspirational and the tangible evidence of his faith is felt in everything that I have ever read of his (sadly I have only read a few things, his OTL commentary on Isaiah 40-66, parts of his 3 volume Genesis Commentary, and Prophetic Oracles of the Old Testament). However, I am hoping to rectify this by reading more of his works, possibly during winter break.

I look forward to interacting with Westermann’s thoughts in this book, and I also look forward to any dialog that this may create…so welcome to the first post of Vednesdays with Westermann (I couldn’t resist the title).

1James Limburg, “Claus Westermann,” in Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters (ed. Donald K. McKim; Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 1044.

2Ibid., 1044

No comments yet to Vednesdays with Westermann Veek I

  • I’d never seen that Westermann quote before. Quite profound. I need to pick up some more of what he’s written.

  • parkersmood

    I thought so too. There is another quote in this Dictionary entry that was equally profound (written to his daughter, while a POW. I will have to type it out and post it tonight.
    His perspective is even more impressive given his life-story and the historical and geographical context in which he found himself.

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