With the experience of two World Wars, the German-speaking world began to turn "anti-Old Testament". Disturbed by this, Rad turned to the study of the Old Testament and gradually started to bring back its message.
His lively papers achieved a renewal of interest and research in Old Testament studies. Along with Martin Noth, he applied research into the Pentateuch's oral tradition to the explanation of its origin.
Gerhard von Rad was born in Nuremberg, Kingdom of Bavaria, to Lutheran parents, and was educated at the University of Erlangen and at the University of Tübingen.
In 1925 he became a curate in the Lutheran Landeskirche (i.e. the church in the federal state) of Bavaria.
Later, he taught at the University of Erlangen in 1929 as tutor. In 1930 he was a privatdozent at the University of Leipzig.
From 1934 to 1945 he served as a professor at the University of Jena and later at the University of Göttingen from 1945 to 1949.
After that, he became Professor of Old Testament at the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg in the state of Baden-Württemberg and taught there until his death in 1971.
He was conferred honorary doctorates from the University of Lund, Sweden and the University of Wales, United Kingdom.
Oral tradition and the PentateuchAlong with Martin Noth, von Rad applied form criticism, originated by Hermann Gunkel, to the documentary hypothesis.
Appraisal by other biblical scholars (sorry, the alignments were rebellious)
Victor Premasagar, a Cambridge tripos and past Principal of the Andhra Christian Theological College, Secunderabad, India in introducing critical methods and tools used in Biblical interpretation writes about von Rad as:
Prof. Premasagar concludes by saying that
“…the Bible for von Rad, in the final analysis, is neither history nor literature, but rather the confessions of a community.
“...a number of von Rad's innovative papers prepared the way for the blossoming of Old Testament studies in Germany during the first decennia after the Second World War.”
“A new methodological approach for OT theology, one that deserves to be put in a class by itself, is that of Gerhard von Rad. His OT theology needs to be understood as the theology of the historical and prophetic traditions.”
“In his theology, with its challenge of previous methodologies and with its new proposals, von Rad (1901-71) inaugurated a new epoch in the study of Old Testament theology. He argued against any organization of Old Testament theology along the lines of central concepts, pervasive topics, assumed structures of Israelite thought or world of faith, or systematic theological categories which had been characteristic, in one way or another, of all the theologies of the twentieth century since this was to impose an alien structure on the material.”
“Gerhard Von Rad has been a regular contributor to Old Testament studies since 1929, although his main works were published between 1947 and 1960. His major writings include his studies on Deuteronomy; his commentary on Genesis; his two volumes of Theology of the Old Testament and a representative selection of his essays, extending from 1931 through 1964, which were translated and published as The Problem of the Hexateuch and other Essays in 1966, though the bulk of these were written in the late 1940s.”
Bibliography of some of the writings of von Rad
- The Problem of the Hexateuch and other essays ISBN 0-334-01310-0
- Genesis: A Commentary (Old Testament Library) ISBN 0-664-20957-2
- Deuteronomy: A Commentary (Old Testament Library) ISBN 0-664-20734-0
- Studies in Deuteronomy (Studies in Biblical theology) ASIN B0007JWYNA
- Old Testament Theology ISBN 0-334-01182-5
- Old Testament Theology, One-Volume Edition ISBN 1-56563-652-X
- The Message of the Prophets: Old Testament Theology ISBN 0-334-01005-5
- Holy War in Ancient Israel ISBN 0-85244-208-4
- Das Alte Testament Deutsch (ATD), Tlbd.2/4, Das erste Buch Mose, Genesis ISBN 3-525-51112-4 (This textbook series of detailed theological commentaries on individual books of the bible translates as "The Old Testament [in] German"; the volume is on the book of Genesis)
- God at work in Israel ISBN 0-687-14960-6
- Biblical interpretations in preaching ISBN 0-687-03444-2
- Gottes Wirken in Israel: Vorträge zum Alten Testament ISBN 3-7887-0404-7 ("God's acting in Israel: [public] lectures on the Old Testament")
- Wisdom in Israel ISBN 0-687-45756-4 (translation of the German book below ?)
- The message of the prophets ASIN B0006C6BA0
- Weisheit in Israel ASIN B000E1Q3CY ("Wisdom in Israel")
- Theologie des Alten Testaments (Einführung in die evangelische Theologie) ASIN B0007JBBTI ("Theology of the Old Testament"/ series title: "Introduction into 'evangelisch'[e] theology" ["evangelisch" in German is used in a similar sense as "Protestant" in English, but has other connotations; hence it is not directly translatable; it usually refers to lutheran or closely related faith and theology, or Christians adhering to it)
- Basileia (Bible Key Words from Gerhard Kittel's Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament) ASIN B000BGT0RW
- Theologie des Alten Testaments, Bd. 2. ISBN 3-579-05003-6 (vol.2 of the title above)
- Kaiser Taschenbücher, Bd.1, Theologie des Alten Testaments. Die Theologie der geschichtlichen Überlieferungen Israels. ISBN 3-579-05002-8 ("Kaiser [publisher's name] pocketbooks, vol.1, "Theology of the Old Testament. Theology of the historical tradition of Israel")
- Das Alte Testament Deutsch (ATD), Tlbd.8 : Das fünfte Buch Mose (Deuteronomium) ISBN 3-525-51136-1 (the volume on the book Deuteronomium of the series mentioned above)
- Erinnerungen aus der Kriegsgefangenschaft, Frühjahr 1945 ISBN 3-7887-0507-8 ("Memories of a prisoner of war, spring 1945")
- Predigt-Meditationen ISBN 3-525-60237-5 ("Sermon meditations")
- Eirene (Pocket crammer series) ASIN B0007FP9LI
- Origin of the concept of the day of Yahweh ASIN B0007JF2HA
- From Genesis to Chronicles: Explorations in Old Testament Theology ISBN 0-8006-3718-6 (review)
- Book of Deuteronomy
- Biblical Criticism, Form Criticism
- Martin Noth
- Deuteronomistic History and Deuteronomist
- Dr. Klaus Koch, D.D., Professor Emeritus of Old Testament and History of the Ancient near East Religions at the University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany
- Andhra Christian Theological College, Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India
- Books of Chronicles
- University of Heidelberg (2001). Leben und Werk des Alttestamentlers Gerhard von Rad.
- Encyclopedia of World Bibliography (2005–2006). Gerhard von Rad Biography.
- Raymond F. Surburg in Concordia Theological Quarterly (April - July 1982). Justification as a Doctrine of the Old Testament 46 (23).
- Bernard M. Levinson and Douglas Dance in Recht und Ethik im Alten Testament, Münster/London: LIT Verlag (2004). The Metamorphosis of Law into Gospel: Gerhard von Rad's Attempt to Reclaim the Old Testament for the Church (in Recht und Ethik im Alten Testament, Münster/London: LIT Verlag, p. 83–110.).
- Bernard M. Levinson and Tina Sherman in Review of Biblical Literature (2010). Essay review of Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologian and the Bible in Nazi Germany.
- Manfred Oeming, "Gerhard von Rad as a Theologian of the Church" p. 229
- Martin Hauger, "On the Significance of Preaching in the Theology and Work of Gerhard von Rad" p. 278
- Bernard M. Levinson, "Reading the Bible in Nazi Germany: Gerhard von Rad's Attempt to Reclaim the Old Testament for the Church" p. 238