Rolf Rendtorff

Old Testament scholar, Rolf Rendtorff turns 85 today, Wednesday 10 May. Alles Gute zum Geburtstag, Herr Professor!!

Rolf Rendtorff is probably most well known for his book Das überlieferungsgeschichtliche Problem des Pentateuch , 1977 (translated into English as The Problem of the Process of Transmission in the Pentateuch). In this book, Rendtorff demonstrated that the traditio-historical approach of Gerhard von Rad and Martin Noth which had been developed in the early twentieth century (which examined large complexes of tradition stretching throughout the first five or six books of the Hebew Bible, such as the Exodus tradition, the Desert wandering tradition, the Sinai tradition, and the Patriarchal tradition) was fundamentally inconsistent with the documentary source critical method championed by Julius Wellhausen in the previous century – even though in practice von Rad and Noth had continued to pursue a form of documentary source analysis side-by-side with their new traditio-historical criticism. Rendtorff’s finding that the various traditio-historical complexes of tradition were largely independent at a late stage before their integration ruled out the documentary hypothesis in its classical form, requiring, as it would, continuous sources interweaving each of the traditions. Together with other challenges to the documentary hypothesis which emerged in the same decade, Rendtorff’s book opened up the way for a closer study of the development of the narrative traditions, unrestrained by the assumptions of the documentary hypothesis. To a large extent, and here lies the challenge, the necessarily radical project which he outlined remains to be carried out by subsequent scholars.

Rolf Rendtorff shares a birthday with Barth and Bono.