Oscar Cullmann (1902-1999) was born in Straussburg, Germany. He studied classical philology and theology at Strassburg seminary. In 1926 he accepted an assistant professorship at Strausburg Thomasstift, a position previously held by Albert Schweitzer. In 1930 he was awarded a full professorship of New Testament, and in 1936 he began to teach the primitive church history as well. An offer from the world-famous Basel Reformed Seminary in 1938 gave him the opportunity to combine those two fields of interests more closely. In 1948 he accepted a position teaching theology in Paris while he continued at Basel. He retired from both in 1972, becoming a member of the Institute of France, where he continued to be a prolific theological writer.
Cullmann's legacy will be as a leading figure for the cause of ecumenicity. He was influential in opening and establishing dialogue between Catholics and Lutherans long before the time of popular ecumenicity movements. Karl Barth joked with him that his tombstone would bear the inscription "advisor to three popes." He presided over several ecumenical discourses and participated in several others. Without compromising his Lutheran heritage, Cullmann was able to open lines of dialogue long closed by centuries of malice and misunderstanding. A winsome personality and a charismatic speaker, Cullman used his theology and his gifts for the sake of the church.
Perhaps more than any other non-Reformed theologian of the twentieth century, Cullmann stands as the most influential in for Reformed Biblical Theology. His studies on New Testament eschatology and Christology drove him to propose a third position over against the popular positions of C. H. Dodd and Albert Schweitzer. That position was Heilsgeschichte (redemptive history). "With the life, death, and resurrection of Christ the eschaton has already begun as the presence of the congregation of glory is defined by the power of redemption. The absolute-cosmic consummation of redemption however stands still in the future. The resulting tension between 'already fulfilled' and 'not yet consummated' Cullman understood to be the critical and decisive factor, the unique "overlapping" dimension of an eschatological between-time which begins with Christ and ends with His parousia." 1 [translation mine]
Among Cullmann's important works are:
"The Immortality of the Soul or the Resurrection of the Body: The Witness of the New Testament"
"Peter: Disciple, Apostle, Martyr"
"Konigsherrschaft Christi Und Kirche Im Neuen Testament"
Christ and Time
Salvation in History
Baptism in the New Testament
The Christology of the New Testament
The Johannine Circle
Early Christian Worship (Urchristentum und Gottesdienst)
Jesus and the Revolutionaries
"Mit dem Leben, Sterben und Auferstehen Christi ist das Eschaton als die die Gegenwart der Gemeinde bestimmende Heilsmacht bereits angebrochen. Die universale Vollendung des Heils aber steht noch aus. Die sich daraus ergebende Spannung zwischen 'schon erfüllt' und 'noch nicht vollendet' wird von Cullmann als entscheidende, das Individuum übergreifende Dimension einer endzeitlichen Zwischenzeit verstanden, die mit Christus beginnt und mit seiner Parusie endet."