St. Matthew Passion is Hans Blumenberg's sustained and devastating meditation on Jesus's anguished cry on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Why did this abandonment happen, what does it mean within the logic of the Gospels, how have believers and nonbelievers understood it, and how does it live on in art? With rare philological acuity and vast historical learning, Blumenberg unfolds context upon context in which this cry has reverberated, from early Christian apologetics and heretics to twentieth-century literature and philosophy.
Blumenberg's guide through this unending story of divine abandonment is Johann Sebastian Bach's monumental Matthäuspassion, the parabolic mirror that bundled eighteen hundred years of reflection on the fate of the crucified and the only available medium that allows us post-Christian listeners to feel the anguish of those who witnessed the events of the Passion. With interspersed references to writers such as Goethe, Rilke, Kafka, Freud, and Benjamin, Blumenberg gathers evidence to raise the singular question that, in his view, Christian theology has not been able to answer: How can an omnipotent God be so offended by his creatures that he must sacrifice and abandon his own Son?