While I was at McCormick on Monday, Bob Cathey raised an interesting question related to Margaret’s conversation with me about Bultmann and Barth. “What if,” asked Bob, “the continental philosopher who had so pronounced an influence on New Testament studies had been Wittgenstein, rather than Heidegger?”
It’s an interesting speculative exercise, especially since it’s not outrageously unthinkable. Neither Heidegger nor Wittgenstein was an explicitly theological thinker (though each has found theologically-committed exponents). Both were recognized as extraordinarily important during their lifetimes. Wittgenstein’s position at Cambridge would certainly have situated him propitiously to affect the biblical faculties there (if they had been so inclined).
I’m not cut out for this sort of counterfactual supposition, but were providence to have preferred Wittgenstein to Heidegger as the 20th century’s philosopher-of-choice for biblical studies, the discipline would surely look very different now. (And I might be writing about ways that Heidegger’s philosophy could clarify problems bequeathed to us by Wittgensteinian theological epigones.)