Oscar Cullmann (25 February 1902, Strasbourg – 16 January 1999, Chamonix) was a Christian theologian in the Lutheran tradition. He is best known for his work in the ecumenical movement and was partly responsible for the establishment of dialogue between the Lutheran and Roman Catholic traditions. Because of his intense ecumenical work, Cullmann's Basel colleague Karl Barth joked with him that his tombstone would bear the inscription "advisor to three popes."
Cullmann was born in Strasbourg (then in Germany) and studied classical philology and theology at the seminary there. In 1926, he accepted an assistant professorship, a position previously held by Albert Schweitzer.
In 1930, he was awarded a full professorship of New Testament. From 1936, he also taught the history of the early church. In 1938, he began teaching both subjects at Basel Reformed Seminary. In 1948 Cullmann accepted a position teaching theology in Paris at the Sorbonne while he continued at Basel. He retired from both in 1972.
Cullmann's studies on Christian eschatology and Christology drove him to propose a third position over against the popular positions of C. H. Dodd and Albert Schweitzer, known as "redemptive history" or "inaugurated eschatology". He wrote that Jesus Christ was the midpoint of sacred history, which informs general history and runs linearly from creation to consummation. He stressed the objective reality of sacred history against the existentialist interpretation of Rudolf Bultmann, a fellow German theologian. Cullmann suggested the analogy of D-Day and VE-Day to illustrate the relationship between Jesus' death and resurrection on the one hand, and his parousia on the other.
Upon his death at 96, the World Council of Churches issued a special tribute to Cullmann to honour his ecumenical work.
Among Cullmann's important works are:
- Baptism in the New Testament
- Christ and Time
- Peter: Disciple, Apostle and Martyr
- The Christology of the New Testament
- Early Christian Worship
- Salvation in History
- The Immortality of the Soul or the Resurrection of the Body: The Witness of the New Testament (available online)
- Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005, article Cullmann, Oscar
- C. Marvin Pate, The End of the Age Has Come: The Theology of Paul, p. 33.
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