Tasks and History of the Department

From early on, the Department of New Testament Studies participates in the task and implementation of the epistemological development of its field of work. Since the 19th century, the historical-critical procedure has been received with its specific exegetic methods as the newer exegetic approaches (Linguistics, Social History, Religious History etc.) in more recent past. The Department of New Testament Studies has a clearly defined field of work: The interpretation of the 27 scriptures of the New Testament as well as other Early Christian literature (until approx. 150 A.D.) on the basis of the Greek original.

The interpretation takes place against the background of the exploration of ‘world and time of the New Testament’ and is systematised in the disciplines of ‘History of Early Christian literature’, ‘History of Early Christianity’ and especially ‘Theology of the New Testament’. Every exegetic work is being accompanied by hermeneutical endeavours of appropriate understanding.

The cultural-societal task of the department consists of the critical support of church and society by the view upon the origins of the Christian faith. It explores the self-conception of the church in its initial period and its former societal relevance in order to derive differentiated statements for the present. The critical aspect of the department’s work has always had utmost significance in the protestant tradition. Insofar as a church critical (and not only a society critical) momentum is given, the embedding of the department (and theology in general) in the framework of the universitas litterarum is of exceeding importance. Key words such as the question of meaning, dialogue capability, aspects of dominion, solidarity etc. are of highest priority. The department offers discipline-specific activities to further train graduates, church staff and people interested in theology. Furthermore, the department completes various tasks in the press, radio and television. There is also interdisciplinary collaboration from the Faculty of Protestant Theology with all neighbouring disciplines (especially cooperative courses and field trips). Collaboration within faculties takes place with colleagues from the Faculty of Catholic Theology, the Department of Jewish Studies, the Department for Ancient History, Epigraphy and Papyrology as well as the Department for Classic Philology (cooperative research projects, courses, guest lectures, scientific exchange, conferences etc.).

Historical Overview

New Testament Studies have been part of the disciplinary canon of protestant theology since the establishment of the Academy of Protestant Theology in Vienna (the predecessor of the Faculty of Protestant Theology) in 1819. At first, it has not been separated from the Old Testament Studies though. Both Lutheran and reformed exegetes worked side by side, trying to understand both the Old and the New Testament. Only when the faculty was founded in 1850, the two disciplines were separated. After a temporary supervision of the department by the church historian J. C. T. Otto (professor since 1864), C. A. Vogel took over the chair for New Testament Studies as the first disciplinary specialist exegete in 1861 and worked until 1890. Ever since, exegetes with excellent reputations far beyond the frame of the Viennese Faculty have followed him. However, it shall not be concealed that especially New Testament scientists (Kittel, Hoffmann) have contributed to the support and distribution of the ideology from ‘German Christians’ during the time of National Socialism.

  • Paul Ewald (1890-1894)
  • Paul Feine (1894-1907)
  • Rudolf Knopf (1908-1914)
  • Richard Hoffmann (1915-1939 and 1946-1948)
  • Gerhard Kittel (1940-1943)
  • Gustav Stählin (1943-1945)
  • Bo Reicke (1948-1949)
  • Christian Maurer (1949)
  • Gottfried Fitzer (1950-1973)
  • Kurt Niederwimmer (1973-1997) and
  • Wilhelm Pratscher (1998-2012)