The Press of the Text: Honoring Jim Voelz

Voelz Festschrift 2The Press of the Text. It’s a phrase often used by Dr. Voelz himself to highlight the “direction of fit” (à la Hans Frei), reminding us that we stand under and not over the text. It presses upon us, and as God’s Word, it presses in ways that both condemn and save. Both the opus alienum and the opus proprium are always the work of God upon us, and while we work diligently to translate and understand and teach and proclaim, we are servants of the text and not lords.

Yet it is an impressive list of contributors and contributions that form the substance of this aptly-named Festschrift in honor of James W. Voelz. Many of them were in attendance at our annual “Concordia Reception” at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meeting the weekend before Thanksgiving, this year in Atlanta, where this tribute was announced to the complete surprise of our good friend and colleague.

Twenty-one scholars from seven countries in four continents represent the spectrum of interests that Dr. Voelz has engaged in scholarly and ecclesiastical circles, from Greek language and lexicography, to hermeneutics and translation theory, to interpretation and theology, to contemporary issues in church and world.

There is challenging, thought-provoking substance in these essays, with a range of backgrounds and social and theological perspectives. But these scholars write with a respect that mirrors the same respect and genuine interest that this honoree has consistently demonstrated, whether grounded in confessional agreement or not.

Of course, he wasn’t left speechless. His response was both grateful and most gracious, impressing upon us all his own humility before the Word of God in spite of an extraordinary career marked by close and careful attention to texts and contexts and almost unlimited curiosity, analytical thinking, and energy. This is his 70th year of life, 40th year of ordained ministry, and first year as a bridge Life Master, not to mention three major books, numerous scholarly articles, and interests that stretch from soccer, golf, and tennis to his legendary oenophilia. As his roommate for years of SBL meetings, I know what it is to go to sleep discussing the use of the attributive participle interspersed with analyzing the Packers’ offensive woes and to wake up resolving the socio-economic impact of Obamacare alongside the import of the forthcoming new Handbuch zur Septuaginta.

Last year at SBL we celebrated the first volume of his Mark commentary, which formed the basis of a review panel in the Mark seminar of the conference, something extraordinary in itself. In a coming year we anticipate the second volume. But in this year in between celebrating books by James Voelz, it was an honor and joy to celebrate a book for James Voelz.

FORTHCOMING: The Press of the Text: Biblical Studies in Honor of James W. Voelz. Edited by Andrew Bartelt, Jeffrey Kloha, Paul Raabe. To be published by Wipf and Stock, 2016.

Voelz Festschrift 3

Related posts




Editor's note: this review originally appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of the Concordia Journal. We reprint it here in anticipation of this year's Theological Symposium, "Whatever is Lovely": The Role of Beauty in Theology and Ministry, September 21-22, 2021. For more information and to...

Christ Centered Counseling … and Justification

Christ Centered Counseling ... and Justification

Christ Centered Counseling ... and Justification

Rick Marrs talks with David Loy about the connections between Christian counseling, justification, and the distinction between law and gospel.

How Lutheran Hymns Lost Their Monopoly in the Missouri Synod

How Lutheran Hymns Lost Their Monopoly in the Missouri Synod

How Lutheran Hymns Lost Their Monopoly in the Missouri Synod

An opinion piece by Paul Raabe on what happened to traditional hymns in American Christianity.


  1. Dan Sparling December 29, 2015

    All part of the natural development of the exceptional Greek scholar.

  2. Weldon Leimer January 13, 2016

    Congratulations to a gentleman, an exceptional educator and a God-gifted theologian. After more than 35 years, I still remember his demonstration of the infinitive.

  3. Hubert Dellinger January 13, 2016

    Congratulations my friend! Your knowledge and your capacity to excel in so many areas amaze me.


  4. Bill Carr February 18, 2016

    The motto of the Kerr (Carr) clan is ‘sero sed serio’ (late, but in earnest), and that’s what this post is.
    In the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death–some will remember that he was one of the Dellinger lecturers in the 1990s and 2000s–it’s worth noting that he described himself as an “originalist” in the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. If we could have pursued the conversation further, I wonder whether he might have been willing to acknowledge that “direction of fit” would have been a more apt, if not more appropriate, description of his Constitutional hermeneutics. I am delighted to see that my friend and colleague and golf partner will be celebrated with the forthcoming Festschrift.

    • Jim Voelz March 19, 2016

      That’s a great observation, Bill. “Direction of fit” is the overall issue. There is a narrowness to a very strict “originalist” approach that Frei’s insight helps to handle. Thanks!

Leave a comment