Bonhoeffer’s Discipleship

Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Welcome to our book study series on “Discipleship” by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. This seminal work, written in the late 1930’s, represents Bonhoeffer’s critique of popular Christianity in Germany under the growing influence of the Nationalist Socialist Party. His views put him in the minority within the German church and placed him at odds with the political system. For where the ethical work of the church had increasingly become the justification of and conformation to nationalist policies and the broader German culture, “for Bonhoeffer, the primary challenge of ethical thinking [was] how to conform one’s life to the teaching of Jesus and the patterns of his life lived in obedience to his father’s will.”[1]

Bonhoeffer’s writing is deeply rooted in the context of his time and his country, and it remains fresh and pertinent to us, three-quarters of a century later. Wherever the church is found, it is challenged by the human tendency to seek the path of least resistance, and must make a choice. It will either choose the tempting and easy path of becoming a church of the world, a church that embraces the world and its ways. Or it will choose the difficult path of becoming Christ’s church, a church that embraces Christ and pursues after Christ. This was true in the year 500, in the year 1937, and in the year 2022.

The schedule of our sessions is listed below. To aid your reading, a companion guide is provided for each chapter with some key themes, reflection questions, and other helpful information.

About the Translations

You will need to have a copy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s, “Discipleship.” If you need assistance procuring a copy, please contact the church office. There are several translations of the original German text. The recommended version is Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works – Reader’s Edition, pub. 2015 Fortress Press, ISBN 978-1-5064-0270-3 (or in eBook format).

Available at:
Hager Books
Parasource
Amazon
Kobo eBook

In addition, the following translations are also acceptable:

  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, trans. Barbara Green & Reinhard Krauss, ed. Geffrey B. Kelly & John D. Godsey, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 4 (Minneapolis MN:  Fortress Press, 2001). ISBN 0-8006-8324-2 (paperback), 0-8006-8304-8 (hardcover)

This is the same text/translation as the “readers edition” listed above.  The Reader’s Edition is a less expensive volume that does not include the extensive academic footnotes and page references to the German edition that are included in this second listing.

  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, trans. R. H. Fuller, rev. Irmgard Booth, ©1959 SCM Press Ltd., and republished many times since, including the 1995 Touchstone Edition that is widely available.

Note that this 1950s-era translation, while widely available and the only English translation of the work until the DBW edition came out in 2001, is not quite as “literal” or “accurate” to Bonhoeffer’s German original.  It’s probably a matter of personal opinion/preference as to which of the two translations is “easier” to read.

Please note that the chapter breaks between the newer translation by Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (DBW) do not match exactly with the chapter breaks in the older translation (Touchstone). The reading assignments each week will indicate the chapters from the DBW edition, and will also note the corresponding chapters in the Touchstone edition.

Session Schedule

The following syllabus breaks out the chapters of the book that we will be covering in each session. In addition, links are provided for the chapter companion guides to assist in your reading. Our sessions will meet from 6-7:15pm, in person or online over Zoom. If you are joining over Zoom, you will find the details to the right.

Meeting ID: 280 033 1497
Passcode: 1947

March 8: Preface, Costly Grace, The Call to Discipleship

Please read before our first session the Preface, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2 (Touchstone edition: Preface, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2).

March 15: Simple Obedience, Discipleship and the Cross, Discipleship and the Individual

Please read before our second session Chapter 3, Chapter 4, and Chapter 5 (Touchstone edition: Chapter 3, Chapter 4, and Chapter 5).

March 22: The Sermon on the Mount, Part 1

Please read before our third session the first half of Chapter 6, through approximately p. 140 (Touchstone edition: Chapters 6-17).

March 29: The Sermon on the Mount, Part 2, The Messengers

Please read before our fourth session the second half of Chapter 6 and Chapter 7 (Touchstone edition: Chapters 18-26). The split between Sessions 3 and 4 is a bit flexible: our goal will be to talk about the whole of the Sermon on the Mount section of the book across the 2 sessions, wherever we leave off at the end of session 3 is where we’ll pick things back up at the beginning of session 4.

April 5: Preliminary Questions, Baptism, The Body of Christ

Please read before our fifth session Chapter 8, Chapter 9, and Chapter 10 (Touchstone edition: Chapters 27-29).

April 12: The Visible Church Community, The Saints, The Image of Christ

Please read before our sixth and final session, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, and Chapter 13 (Touchstone edition: Chapters 30-32).


[1] p. 21