God’s Failure. The “Childlike” Theology of Hans Blumenberg’s St Matthew Passion

Tadeusz Zatorski

The aim of this article is to analyse and interpret Hans Blumenberg’s book St Matthew Passion, which appeared in 1998. Contrary to what the title might suggest, thiswide-ranging essay is not a commentary on Bach’s famous work, though it quite frequently alludes to it. Blumenberg’s Passion seems rather to be a kind of theological treatise dealing with the voluntary death of God. Paul Behrenberg has summarized very succinctly the essenceof the book: “Creation, understood as the Fall of God, involves necessarily the Passion of the Son, in the course of which the Father is also destroyed”. Blumenberg constructs a “final theology”, the goal of which is to arrange the funeral of the Christian God and of European Christianity. He follows in the footsteps of Franz Overbeck, a thinker who evidently influenced him (he refers to him also in The Legitimacy of the Modern Age) and whose understanding of the role of theology was similarly defined. In this context, it would not seem right to interpret Blumenberg’s Passion in terms of Freudian categories of “mourning and grieving”, as many commentators do. For even though the book is written in the style of a conventional theological treatise, it can be regarded – because of its clearly perceptible irony – rather as a parody of theological treatises.


Keywords: Blumenberg · St Matthew Passion · Overbeck · theology · death of God

Tadeusz Zatorski – Ph.D., German philologist, translator (he translated among other works Georg Christoph Lichtenberg’s Scrapbooks and Ernst Cassirer’s The Philosophy of Enlightenment). 2011 he published a volume, entitled The Lesser-Known Goethe, containingthe Polish version of a selection of Goethe’s writing along with ten essays about Goethe’spoetry and philosophy.   »  

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