Adolf Deissmann

1866-1937. German NT scholar. He taught in Heidelberg (1895-1908) and Berlin (1908-34). In the light of secular Greek inscriptions and papyri, first intensively studied in the late nineteenth century, he showed NT language to be popular rather than classical, and held that the writings, especially the epistles, were unliterary. He gave a picture of primitive Christianity as a “popular cult,” growing from mystical personal reaction to Jesus; it was not therefore to be explained in terms of the coherence of the development of “doctrine.” For him, Paul was not a theologian but a man of the people responding to the impact of the Damascus road encounter. Deissmann focused scholarly attention on the Pauline concept “in Christ” (1892), by suggesting that Christ and Spirit were interchangeable and by using the analogy of man's being in air, as the air also was in man. Deissmann was both scholar and popularizer. He was deeply concerned for the relation between the church and contemporary culture, and was active in the early ecumenical movement.