that Martin!

I am reading an e-book translation of Martin Luther’s letter to a friend on translation. You can find it here: An Open Letter on Translating. The style is certainly Luther, in full bombast mode. To our ears, it sounds alternately crude, rude, and hilarious. Here is a paragraph I read to my wife, it should give you a flavor…

Now when the angel greets Mary, he says: “Greetings to you, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Well up to this point, this has simply been translated from the simple Latin, but tell me is that good German? Since when does a German speak like that—being "full of grace"? One would have to think about a keg "full of" beer or a purse "full of" money. So I translated it: "You gracious one". This way a German can at last think about what the angel meant by his greeting. Yet the papists rant about me corrupting the angelic greeting—and I still have not used the most satisfactory German translation. What if I had used the most satisfactory German and translated the salutation: "God says hello, Mary dear" (for that is what the angel was intending to say and what he would have said had he even been German!). If I had, I believe that they would  have hanged themselves out of their great devotion to dear Mary and because I have destroyed the greeting.

Bro. Martin is arguing against a charge that he mistranslated Rm 3.28 by adding in the word ‘alone’ to modify ‘faith’ where it says:

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.

Martin’s point is that in translating, getting the meaning is more important than seeking a word-for-word correspondence. (He also says something to this effect, ‘If the papists don’t like my translation, let them write one of their own.’ He says this in a characteristically Martin-esque way.)

His letter is instructive and something that all of us concerned with the Bible and its translation should bear in mind. And it is entertaining to read at certain points!


contend for the faith – quotable (2)

“Again: Hippolytus refers to the action of the suburbicarian bishops in provincial council. And here is the place to express dissatisfaction with the apologetic tone of some writers, who seem to think Hippolytus too severe, etc. As if, in dealing with such ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing,’ this faithful leader could show himself a true shepherd without emphasis and words of abhorrence. Hippolytus has left to the Church the impress of his character as ‘superlatively sweet and amiable.’ Such was St. John, the beloved disciple; but he was not less a ‘son of thunder.’ Our Divine Master was ‘the Lamb,’ and ‘the Lion;’ the author of the Beatitudes, and the author of those terrific woes; the ‘meek and gentle friend of publicans and sinners,’ and the ‘lash of small cords’ upon the backs of those who made His Father’s house a ‘den of thieves.’ Such was Chrysostom, such was Athanasius, such was St. Paul, and such have ever been the noblest of mankind; tender and considerate, gentle and full of compassion; but not less resolute, in the crises of history, in withstanding iniquity in the persons of arch-enemies of truth, and setting the brand upon their foreheads. Good men, who hate strife, and love study and quiet, and to be friendly with others; men who never permit themselves to indulge a personal enmity, or to resent a personal affront; men who forgive injuries to the last farthing when they only are concerned, – may yet crucify their natures in withstanding evil when they are protecting Christ’s flock, or fulfilling the command to ‘contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.’ What the Christian Church owes to the loving spirit of Hippolytus in the awful emergencies of his times, protecting the poor sheep, and grappling with wolves for their sake, the Last Day will fully declare. But let us who know nothing of such warfare concede nothing, in judging of his spirit, to the spirit of our unbelieving age, which has no censures except for the defenders of truth: –

“‘Eternal smiles its emptiness betray,
As shallow streams run dimpling all the way.’”

A. Cleveland Coxe, “Elucidations on ‘The Refutation of All Heresies’ by Hippolytus,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, vol. 5, electronic ed. (Garland, TX: Galaxie Software, 2000), 12.


contend for the faith – quotable (1)

I’ve been doing a little research on the phrase ‘the faith once delivered’. In the process I’ve found a few gems. Here’s the first:

“Justification by faith, I have said, is a fundamental doctrine of the gospel. It is vital. It is ‘the faith once delivered to the saints.’ No system from which it is excluded, can ever be justly regarded as embodying the religion of Christ. It was taught by the apostles, and early ministers, constantly, forcibly, emphatically. It was cherished by the primitive churches as a priceless truth. How can we account for its abandonment by the professed followers of Jesus Christ? There is, I answer, an inherent tendency in human nature, renewed though it may be, to pass from the substance to the forms of religion. The transition is so easy that it can only be prevented by perpetual vigilance. The influence of this propensity the early churches did not very long escape. Among the first of the corruptions they admitted and embraced, was the undue importance which became attached to religious ceremonials. They gradually exalted the rites above the doctrines of Christianity, while both were perverted and misapplied. Baptism, especially, was imagined to possess great and peculiar virtues. Thus justification through grace by faith, was ultimately displaced by justification through grace by baptism. Popery was the result, the doctrine of which, on this subject, is thus expressed by the Council of Trent: — ‘Justification is by means of the sacraments, either originally infused into us, or subsequently increased, or when lost, again restored.’ Thus the Christian world was plunged into darkness, which remained unbroken for a thousand years.”

R. B. C. Howell, Evils of Infant Baptism (Roger Williams Heritage Archives, 1851), 102-103.

A few points to highlight:

  • The inherent tendency to pass from the substance to the forms of religion. A very pernicious trait.
  • The first of the corruptions was the undue emphasis attached to religious ceremonials. Desiring the subjective experience more than exercising faith? The charismatic impulse?
  • From forms to popery. A slippery slide? The fact that the slippery slide slips slowly doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.


what does 2011 mean?

It means the monumental King James Version of the Bible is 400 years old.

My genius son sent me some links of interest on the subject. First is a site marking the anniversary with documentaries, events, and many other bits of information.

The King James Bible Trust

And there is a film coming out… you can watch the trailer here and sign up to be notified when the DVD is available.

KJB: the Book that Changed the World

Every believer ought to celebrate this anniversary, regardless of your view of the versions. The King James Version really was the book that changed the world.

new methods in a spiritual wilderness

A few weeks ago I posted an article highlighting something I found in the book The Scotch-Irish: A Social History by James G. Leyburn. Today I want to post an extended quotation from the book and make a few observations.

I am in the section of the book that deals with Scotch-Irish immigration to America. The chapter is “The Presbyterian Church”. The first point made is about the lack of churches among many (most) of these immigrants. Two reasons are cited: First, the lack of trained ministers. The Presbyterians insisted on a classical education for their clergy, something in short supply on the frontier. Trained ministers from the Old Country were rarely found among the immigrants.

But an even greater problem afflicted the re-establishment of the church among these immigrants, all of them Presbyterian in their native country. That problem was a general spiritual malaise that affected all the major denominations at the time, according to Leyburn. My lengthy quotation follows (including the quote in our little ‘identify’ the person and time game a few days ago). The quotation comes from pp. 277-279.

[Read more…]

who and when

Ran across this in my reading:

“Conservatives were contemptuous of [his] pulpit pyrotechnics, dubious of the validity of the sudden conversions he achieved, and sure that the church would degrade itself by diluting its message and making religion ‘easy’ for the common man.”

So… who is the preacher I mask by ‘[his]’ and when is the historical setting?

No Googling!


are we anabaptists?

A very interesting discussion on names and terminology in the 17th century is going on here. Would the first Baptists have embraced the term ‘anabaptist’? Apparently not.

Apparently labels matter (or mattered) to some.


a little eclectica

I am in the midst of rebuilding my lawn after having a new $eptic $y$tem installed, so I am too busy for blogging. But let me note a few things of interest to me lately…

Nasa is Taking Shots at the Moon

There are places on the Moon where the sun hasn’t shined for millions of years [sic]. Dark polar craters too deep for sunlight to penetrate are luna incognita, the realm of the unknown, and in their inky depths, researchers believe, may lie a treasure of great value.

NASA is about to light one up.

For Church History Buffs
  • Christianity Today’s Liveblog provices a list of favorite Church history sites. Two I knew about, but three are new and look promising.
So, what do you think of Video Games?
  • The Canadian Christianity site has an article that raises some concerns about the addiction of many to gaming. A real concern, I think, but a typically too weak response in our child-centered era. (I think every branch of conservative Christianity is too weak on this, including Fundamentalism.)

And last, for now…

What gives with this Muslim-Christian conference?
  • And did the Christians involved give away too much in the process? And what should a prominent Minnesota Baptist pastor say to another prominent Minnesota Baptist pastor this time? [Probably he should say more than he will say, I reckon.]


characteristics of revival

A bit more from my Church History notes. We were nearing the end of the semester when we discussed revival and revivalists. The heading of this lecture is the subject line of this post, “Characteristics of Revival”. Here they are:

  • Interdenominational (but not undistinguished cooperation between infidelity and fidelity)
  • Prominence of prayer

[Read more…]

a brief history of the wcc

In an earlier post, ‘stages in the history of visible church unity‘, I left off on the point noting the emergence of the World Council of Churches on the one hand and the International Council of Christian Churches on the other. What follows is a bit of an expansion on that, again from my 28 year old Church History class notes.

Edinburgh 1910 – World Missionary Conference

  • Turning point towards WCC
  • International Missionary Council

[From this also flowed two conferences…]

[Read more…]