To outsiders, the Scandinavian welfare states often appear as birds of a social democratic feather. However, to a Danish immigrant worker in Oslo (such as the author of this essay), the public discourse on social values seems strikingly different. Whereas in Norway national identity is linked to the ideas of ‘justice’ and ‘equality’, it is ‘freedom’ – especially of speech – that characterizes the Danish discourse. In addition, to a scholar of biblical exegesis (again, the present author), the different national values appear to be the products of two interpretive communities. Taking its starting point in everyday life experiences, the essay traces the roots of this difference to the interaction between national history and biblical interpretation. In Europe, the national identities took shape during the 19th century. In this period, the Norwegians received their country from the Danish (1814) and later Swedish (1905) rulers. Denmark, however, lost an even bigger part of the area once within its power. Whereas the Norwegian constitution was inspired by the French understanding of the state as (the will of) the nation, Denmark stuck to the Prussian model of the enlightened Obrigkeitstaat. In Norway, the historical Jesus and his alleged establishment of God’s kingdom played an important role in the formation of the national identity. However, in Denmark exegetes joined the Pauline chorus: they only knew of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Consequently, the two neighbors sided with each their aspect of the exegetical distinction between the already-not yet. Norwegian political theology was – and remains – characterized by the already. In Denmark, the not yet gained the upper hand, and the Danes remained in this evil world in need of redemption. Whereas Liberal Theology appealed to a nation in the making, the Dialectical Theology with its Kierkegaardian roots suited a nation marked by trauma. In its final part, the essay demonstrates the interaction between biblical interpretation and national values in the recent history of the two countries.

The essay was written before 7/22 2011.

Keywords: National identity, Interpretive communities, The historical Jesus