Christian culture 基督教文化学刊

Aesthetic Distance from Reality: Hans Blumenberg’s Reading of J. S. Bach’s Matthäuspassion

Author: Hu Jihua, Professor, The Institute for Transcultural Studies, Beijing International Studies University



This paper explores the Hans Blumenberg’s philosophical effort in the post-enlightenment context of the “Death of God” by focusing on his reading and interpretation of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Matthäuspassion. As one of the greatest classical scholars and intellectual thinkers of 20th century Germany, Hans Blumenberg developed his speculative “theory of aesthetic distance” through bringing some great musical works into the field of the tension between modernity and Christianity. For him, Bach’s Passion music invests the event of Jesus Christ’s passion on the cross with a mythological significance and tragic character; in the dialogue between Christianity and the modern age, he reproduces reality artistically and musically, keeping a distance from reality, so as to use aesthetics to overcome the “absolutism of reality,” giving the history of salvation a poetic form. Amid the strong tensions between modernity and tragedy, myth and dogma, philosophy and music, Blumenberg attempts to overcome the challenges that Gnostic dualism brought to Christianity and then go beyond this to excavate the hidden theology in music, giving legitimacy to modernity.



Matthäuspassion, absolutism of reality, aesthetic distance, Gnosticism, theology in music


Full Text (International Version):

HU Jihua​SCN JSCC.pdf


Full Text (Simplified Chinese Version): 

HU Jihua​SCN JSCC.pdf