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!


the first tendency of evil prohibited

Another advantage of the Biblical morality arises from the fact that it lays its prohibition on the first tendency to evil in the heart. It does not wait for the overt act, nor for the half-formed desire. It denounces the slightest parleying with temptation, the entertaining for the briefest moment of a corrupt wish. In its view, the apostasy did not consist in plucking the fruit. The race was ruined, when the first suggestion of the tempter was not instantly repelled. Death eternal hung on a moment’s weakness in the will. All hope was gone when the moral principle wavered. In the estimate of God’s law, the highway robbery is comparatively innocent. The crime was in the covetous glance of the eye-in not instantaneously crushing the avaricious desire. What is called a fraudulent bankruptcy may be venial. The guilt was in the assumption of obligations which there was no reasonable prospect of discharging, or rather it was in the state of mind which first began to elevate riches into a god. The degenerating process began in the idolatry of gold, in the first turning of the feeblest current of the affections in the wrong direction. Men charge the deviation of the youth from the paths of virtue to some overmastering temptation, to some public and astounding offence. But the divine precept laid its finger on the desire, years before, to read a certain book, against which, at the time, conscience remonstrated. Thus the Word of God becomes the discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. No latent desire can evade its searching glance; no recess of the soul is so barred as to exclude it.”-Bibliotheca Sacra, February, 1846.

quoted by Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 100, 399 (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1943), 389.

contend for the faith – quotable (3)

Commenting on Gal 1.8, Vincent of Lerins says:

“‘Even though an angel from heaven preach unto you any other Gospel than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.’ It was not enough for the preservation of the faith once delivered to have referred to man; he must needs comprehend angels also. ‘Though we,’ he says, ‘or an angel from heaven.’ Not that the holy angels of heaven are now capable of sinning. But what he means is: Even if that were to happen which cannot happen, – if any one, be he who he may, attempt to alter the faith once for all delivered, let him be accursed.”

Vincent of Lerins , “A Commonitory For The Antiquity And Universality Of The Catholic Faith Against The Profane Novelties Of All Heresies,” in The Post-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, trans. C. A. Heurtley, electronic ed. (Garland, TX: Galaxie Software, 2000), 8.22.


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.


matthew henry on God’s delight

Matthew Henry’s final sentence on Ps 81.16:

He delights in our serving him, not because he is the better for it, but because we shall be.

Huh… so he doesn’t delight in himself for his own glory? Who’d a thunk it?


an outline worth stealing

My morning sermon this Sunday (8/14) was based on an outline I found in a footnote to William R. Newell’s commentary on Romans 4.14. The footnote was so profound that I thought it shouldn’t lie dormant in the commentary but be fleshed out in a whole sermon.

I thought I’d share the entire footnote with you as well. I’d encourage the preachers in the audience to steal it too. It is well worth preaching.

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the pleasure of anger

I just completed the first volume of The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, a set I picked up a few weeks ago. The set is the first two volumes of three, the third just came out recently in hardback and isn’t yet included in the paperback version. The books are about 1000 pages each, so it is quite a task to read, but I found the reading so fascinating, I couldn’t put it down. Even the early letters,when Lewis was still a boy, reveal keen intellect and interesting insight (and breadth of reading).

The first volume also reveals the mind of a totally lost man. His conversion comes at the end of the first set of letters, but one has to say that he exhibits the pride and malice of a lost man in all his educated sophistication through the years prior to his conversion.

I’ll not debate the quality of his conversion, certainly he uses terms unfamiliar to us. It is quite clear that a real change took place in his life and he left us with many valuable works as a result.

In one of his letters, he makes an interesting observation about the pleasure of anger.

The pleasure of anger — the gnawing attraction which makes one return again and again to its theme — lies, I believe, in the fact that one feels entirely righteous oneself only when one is angry.

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a Mohler interview worth reading

Hugh Hewitt is a talk-show host who I can’t get on my radio anymore. His show used to be available by a distant and scratchy signal from Seattle, but the station changed formats on him and he is no longer carried in the Seattle market (as far as I know). I keep up with his thinking by regular visits to his blog.

The other day, he interviewed Al Mohler on the subject of the changing views of young evangelical types. I think the whole transcript is worth reading, but a few highlights follow:

HH: As you talk with two distinct cohorts, the leadership elites in the Evangelical, with whom you are in daily contact, and your students, what are the reactions in those two groups to the events of November?

AM: Well, I’ll tell you, the older Evangelical leadership is in danger right now of looking really old, and old not just in chronological terms, but more or less, kind of acting as if the game hasn’t changed, as if we’re not looking at a brand new cultural challenge, and a new political reality. And so I would say that the younger Evangelicals that I look at every single day, and they are so deeply committed, so convictional, they’re basically wondering if a lot of the older Evangelical leaders are really looking to the future, or are really just kind of living in the 80s while the 80s are long gone. So I think there’s a crucial credibility issue there.

Hmmm… sound familiar?

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the certainty of uncertainty

That would be the mark of neo-orthodoxy, I think. Or would it be the uncertainty of certainty? One can never tell.

This line illustrates what I mean:

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