Heiko Oberman on the Historical Luther

This post is part of our series on the Historical Luther. Today’s post examines the perspective of Heiko Oberman.

 

Martin Luther
Martin Luther

Heiko Oberman (d. 2001), in his book Luther: Man between God and the Devil, posits that “To understand Luther, we must read the history of his life from an unconventional perspective… in the light of eternity; not in the mild glow of constant progress toward Heaven, but in the shadow of the chaos of the Last Days and the imminence of eternity.”[1]  Oberman writes this biography of Luther with several key ideas in mind. First, he writes Luther on the assumption that “the Reformer can only be understood as a late medieval man for whom Satan is as real as God and mammon.”[2] Second, Oberman seeks to understand Luther in his contextual totality: “The crucial point is to grasp the man in his totality—with head and heart, in and out of tune with the temper of his time.”[3] An overview of Oberman’s work will demonstrate that he does indeed demonstrate the eternal direction of Luther’s life, his medieval political and religious context, and Luther’s’ belief in the reality of Satan.Continue reading “Heiko Oberman on the Historical Luther”

The Historical Martin Luther

Martin Luther
Martin Luther

It has been said that Martin Luther has been written about more than any other single person apart from Jesus Christ. Theologians, historians, sociologists, psychologists, academics, and scholars of all stripes have read, studied, and written about the man who, by most accounts, began the Protestant Reformation when he posted his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church in 1517. Luther was a prolific writer throughout his career and the ongoing translation of his writings into English attests to his massive scholarly and pastoral output.[1] The ideas of Luther, both theological and otherwise, continue to provide scholars and students with useful material for study and intellectual formulation, nearly 500 years after his “reformation breakthrough.” Recent scholars seek to understand Lutheran[2] theology in light of his historical context and influences, and it is these factors that we will consider here over the course of the next two weeks.

Given Luther’s prominence within Western culture, it remains unsurprising that there are a plethora of biographies detailing his life and thought. During this series on the Historical Luther, we will examine three of the most influential recent treatments of Luther’s theology and life: Heiko Oberman’s Luther: Man between God and the Devil,[3] Scott Hendrix’s Abingdon Pillars of Theology: Luther,[4] and Robert Kolb’s Martin Luther: Confessor of the Faith.[5] Each of these works presents a unique prospect on the life and theology of Martin Luther, adds to the scholarly conversation concerning his theology and work, and highlights a specific perspective on Luther and his historical context. This series will demonstrate that while Oberman, Hendrix, and Kolb all provide distinctly different viewpoints on Luther, they all ultimately contribute evidence of a man who sought both a merciful and gracious God opposed to the Devil and a Christ centered theology that impacted the everyday Christian.Continue reading “The Historical Martin Luther”

Book Review: Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (Crossan)

Jesus - A Revolutionary BiographyIn Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, John Dominic Crossan writes what he calls a “startling account of what we can know about the life of Jesus.” [1] Crossan, who currently holds a Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies position at DePaul University in Chicago, was co-chair of the Jesus Seminar from 1985 until 1996, and has written over twenty-five books on the historical Jesus and early Christianity. [2] Written for a popular audience, Jesus portrays Crossan’s personal “reconstruction of the historical Jesus derived from twenty-five years of scholarly research.” [3] In this work Crossan seeks to outline the life of the historical Jesus that he believes lay beneath the canonical Gospel accounts in a manner as accurate and intellectually honest as possible. [4] Upon reading this book, the reader will see that Crossan has assembled a variety of interpretations that, when combined with his theological and philosophical presuppositions and understanding of the canonical Gospel narratives, makes for a potentially persuasive and fairly historical narrative of the life of the historical Jesus.

As a part of the Jesus Seminar, Crossan’s name understandably carries with it a certain stigma in certain circles of theology and education. It must be noted that this review attempts to digest and comment upon this particular work from an academic and literary perspective. This review will not provide exegesis of Crossan’s theological or philosophical assumptions and considerations, but will only comment upon the coherency of his arguments as presented in a book intended for popular consumption.[5] Of primary concern for this review will be considering its purposefulness and adherence to such general guidelines of any introductory study of the Gospels, such as those presented by Mark Allan Powell in his work, The Fortress Introduction to the Gospels.[6]Continue reading “Book Review: Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (Crossan)”

Recommended Reading: May 31 – June 6

RainbowBelow are this week’s recommended readings from across the internet. May you find these article interesting and thought-provoking. Cheers, JP

If You Only Read One Article, Read How I Evolved on Gay Marriage by Matthew Schmitz

Theology and Religion

Twenty-Five Myths [About the Christian Faith] by James Emery White

On Chicago’s Muddy Waters by Mike Licona

A Scholar with a Passion for Truth by Timothy George

Does (Visible) Church Unity Really Matter? by Barney Aspray

The Genius of Byzantium: Reflection on a Forgotten Empire by Marcia Christoff-Kurapovna

Biblical Studies and the History of Christianity

Does the New Testament Quote the Old Testament Out of Context? by Craig Keener

The Date of P66 (P. Bodmer II): Nongbri’s New Argument by Larry Hurtado

Why the Rapture Isn’t Biblical… And Why It Matters by Kurt Willems

Ehrman on Jesus: Amendments by Larry Hurtado

Genesis 1-10 as Ideological Critique by RJS

Worldviews and Culture

Our Collective Hatred of Ignorance by Gracy Olmstead

The history of magazines holding 11 or more rounds by David Kopel

A Teaparty for Everyone by Pete Spiliakos

The Paradox of Expertise by Marc E. Fitch

Liberalism and the Empowerment of Ignorance by Daniel Schwindt

KJV Family: Comparison and Conclusions

This post is part of our ongoing series examining the King James family of Bibles. 

KJV BibleHaving examined the translation histories and philosophies of the major KJV family translations, as well as noting their effectiveness, we now turn to a comparison of these versions in their translation of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 (comments about each translations are included in brackets).

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition

19 πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος, 20 διδάσκοντες αὐτοὺς τηρεῖν πάντα ὅσα ἐνετειλάμην ὑμῖν· καὶ ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ μεθ’ ὑμῶν εἰμι πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας ἕως τῆς συντελείας τοῦ αἰῶνος.

 In-Class Translation

19 “Therefore having gone, make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the father and of the son and of the holy spirit, 20 teaching them to guard all which I commanded to you; and behold I am with you all the days until the completion of the age.”

1611 King James Version

19 “Goe ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Sonne, and of the holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to obserue all things, whatsoeuer I haue commanded you: and loe, I am with you alway, euen vnto the end of the world. Amen.” [Comments] Aorist participle translated in simple present tense. Teaching aspects clearly emphasized as μαθητεύσατε is translated as teaching, as is διδάσκοντες. Rendering πάντα as “whatsoever” seems fairly archaic, as is the translating ἰδοὺ as “lo”. “Amen” and “even” have been added to last verse.Continue reading “KJV Family: Comparison and Conclusions”

KJV Family: 1985 KJV, NRSV, and ESV

This post is part of our ongoing series examining the King James Family of Bibles.

1985 King James Version

Here we briefly note another KJV update from the 1980s, the 1985 King James Version, which retains the wording and order of the 1611 KJV while modernizing the spelling of that version. A favorite of many in the “KJV Only” camp, this translation is not so much a new version as it is the latest edition of the 1611 KJV.

New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

NRSVCompleted in 1989, the New Revised Standard Version has become one of the most popular translations for the academic study of the Bible. Intentionally created as both an ecumenical translation and an heir to the legacy and language of the KJV, the NRSV updated the language and grammar of the RSV, while seeking a more accurate and gender-neutral translation (“Introduction”, NRSV). Due in large part to its commitment to gender-neutral language, the NRSV was not well received by more conservative readers of the KJV legacy. Overall, the philosophy of the translation committee was “As literal as possible, as free as necessary,” and this version casts itself as a readable literal translation meant to be read aloud (“Introduction”, NRSV). As an ecumenical work, three major editions of the NRSV have appeared: the Common Edition (OT and NT), the Study Edition with Apocrypha and Dueterocanonical books, and the Catholic Edition with books ordered according to the Vulgate. The effectiveness of the NRSV as a translation builds upon the early successes of the KJV and the RSV, yielding an accessible and accurate translation.

English Standard Version (ESV)

ESVThe newest major member of the KJV family of translations is the English Standard Version, first published in 2001. Like the NRSV, the editors of the ESV sought to create an accurate and ecumenical translation that followed in the legacy of the KJV and RSV (“Preface”, ESV). Unlike the NRSV, however, the ESV took a more literal and traditional approach to the issue of pronoun gender, essentially making the ESV the more conservative alternative to the NRSV. The 1971 edition of the RSV was the starting point for this translation, with updated language and an influx of insights from textual criticism (“Introduction”, ESV). The stated purpose of this new translation was “to retain the depth of meaning and enduring language that have made their indelible mark on the English-speaking world” since the publication of the KJV (“Preface”, ESV). Overall, the overall tone of the ESV provides ready access to the historical patterns of the KJV family, as well as engaging the literal aspects of the Greek more fully than versions such as RSV.

KJV Family: ASV, RSV, and NKJV

This post is part of our ongoing series examining the King James Family of Bibles.

American Standard Version (Revised Version)

ASVThe Revised Version of the KJV was introduced in several stages, with the English Revised Version being completed in the 1885, and the American Standard Version first being published in 1901 (Bruce, 138). This translation sought to edit the KJV based on the textual work of Wescott and Hort, and efforts were made in the margins to note the differences between the Greek texts and English translations, from whence notes reading “Some ancient authorities read…” originate (Bruce, 137). The major differences between the KJV and ASV are spelling and aforementioned marginal notes, as well as an increased static translation style (Kubo, 41). Early reactions to the ASV were anything but positive, as early reviewers labeled the translation “servile” and “pedantic” (Burgon). It would seem that both the prose and the textual apparatus have been surpassed by both the 1611 KJV and more recent translations, making this perhaps the least effective major project in the KJV family.

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

RSVThe Revised Standard Version, completed in 1952, exists as a revision of the Revised Version. It was here that the first major steps were taken to update the English used in translation, moving toward smoother translations of infinitive constructions and genitive absolutes (Bruce, 187). Additionally, the translation committee sought to vary the translations of some Greek terms, moving away from the KJV and RV’s lack of synonyms (Kubo, 44-7). A common criticism this version is that, if the RV went too far in pressing a literal translation of the Greek, the RSV blurred some of the finer distinctions of the NT text (Bruce, 194). While occasionally being criticized as all new translations seem to be, a testament to the effectiveness of this translation, was its long used in academic circles, especially the popular Oxford Annotated edition (Bruce, 201-2). Indeed, it was so popular that two RSV Catholic editions have been published

New King James Version (NKJV)

NKJVPublished in 1982, the New King James Version sought to find “complete equivalence,” that place between the static equivalence of the Revised Version and the dynamic equivalence of the Revised Standard Version, which “seeks to preserve all of the information in the text, while presenting it in good literary form” (Preface, NKJV). Ancient terminology having no modern counterparts, theological terms having long been part of the KJV tradition, and traditional renderings of names were retained in this version, and the translators opted for continued use of the Textus Receptus as their Greek exemplar, though noting major textual divergences such as Matthew 5:44; 17:21; 18:11; and 23:14. In many ways the NKJV seems to correct the over-dynamic translations of the RSV while remaining fairly close to that version. The effectiveness of this translation in the modern context remains difficult to gauge, as many renderings are nearly indistinguishable from those of the RSV, and the later NRSV and ESV.

The King James Version Bible Family

Over the next week, Pursuing Veritas will take a look at one of the most influential “family trees” of English Bible translations, that of the King James Version. As one of the most influential editions of the Bible (ever, but especially in the English language family), the 1611 KJV has spawned countless translation “offspring”, editions and translations of the Biblical text that use the KJV as their starting point. While we cannot examine here every permutation of the KJV family, the translations being compared are as follows: the 1611 King James Version, the American Standard Version, the Revised Standard Version, the 1985 King James Version, the New King James Version, the New Revised Standard Version, and the English Standard Version. Over the next several days we will briefly examine the translation histories and philosophies behind each of these versions, consider the effectiveness of each translation, and then offer a brief comparison of each version’s translation of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20. As a result of this series, we argue that the New Revised Standard Version and English Standard Version are the most effective translations from the KJV family for the modern context.

1611 King James Version (Authorized Version)

1611 KJV Title Page
1611 KJV Title Page

The 1611 edition of the King James Version remains one of the most influential works of literature in the English speaking world over four hundred years after its first publication (Noll). One of King James’ principles of translation for the six teams of scholars who worked on the KJV was that traditional ecclesiastical terms and names such as “church” and “Elijah” be retained and that completion of sense unites be noted in distinct typeface (Brake, 188f; Bruce, 98). Notably, there was some confusion concerning the translation of Jesus’ name was in the 1611 edition, as several versions translated Ἰησους as “Judas” in Matthew 26:36 (Brake, 206). As a translation, the editors of the KJV were driven to present of the truths of scripture and to making the word of God understandable for English readers (Preface, “The Translators to the Reader”). While the stated purpose of the KJV included calls for a translation, “as constant as can be to the original Hebrew and Greek… ” (Bruce, 96), the final version was primarily based upon the 1602 Bishops Bible, and the translators drew upon the translations of Tyndale, Matthew, Coverdale, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible, as well as Greek, Latin, and German manuscripts for their translations (Brake, 190). In the 21st century, the 17th century KJV appears quite antiquated; indeed, it takes some level of skill to interpret the spelling conventions of the 1611 edition within the text. However, the cadence and prose of the KJV remains the default reading for many Christians today, and the impact of the 1611 KJV remains unparalleled in the English speaking world.

Book Review: A People’s History of Christianity, One Volume Student Edition (Ed. Janz)

A People's History of Christianity, Janz
A People’s History of Christianity, Janz

While much of the field of the History of Christianity (and indeed, history in general) focuses on the great people and ideas of the tradition or period being studied, the genre of “people’s history” seeks to raise awareness of the ways in which ordinary people have lived throughout time and space. Admirable as this project sounds, it is not without its problems. In my experience, many “people’s histories” tend to make significant assumptions concerning the materials they are handling, most notably that the great persons/doctrines of a tradition represent the elite (in this case, the upper class and/or clergy) and these persons and practices were neither accepted nor practiced by the everyday Christians. Such accounts thus tend to draw strong distinctions between the received history of doctrine and practice and “the way things really were,” claims which often seem based upon conjecture rather than historical evidence. This is in contrast to a more balanced view which, while admitting that differing people often have distinct nuances to their faith and practice, nonetheless concludes that the great people and doctrines of the Christian Church are indeed great because they were affirmed by the community of the faithful comprising the Christian Church.

With this paradigm in mind, I must admit that I began reading A People’s History of Christianity: One Volume Student Edition (Denis R. Janz, Editor. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2014) with some skepticism. Upon engaging this volume, I found that despite its occasional slips into the rhetoric of “elite clergy versus everyone else,” the contributors nevertheless do an admirable job of offering balanced insights into the lives of everyday Christians throughout the history of the Church that shows their connections with the received Christian tradition. Whereas “standard Church history” will introduce students to the theology and writings of Augustine, a “people’s history” remains more interested in what parishioners listening to Augustine preach in Hippo would have actually believed and how they lived out their Christian faiths. This Student Edition offers selections from the seven-volume Fortress People’s History of Christianity that provide accessible and useful material for engaging a side of Christian faith that is often overlooked. Covering everything from the earliest Jesus Movement to the Twenty-First Century, Ancient Judea and Rome to Latin America and Africa, and topics ranging from baptism to power, this volume encompasses a plethora of materials worthy of study and reflection.Continue reading “Book Review: A People’s History of Christianity, One Volume Student Edition (Ed. Janz)”

Recommended Reading: May 24 -30

Christian-Identity-BannerBelow are this week’s selection of recommended blog posts from across the internet. May you find them thought-provoking and insightful. Cheers, JP

If You Only Read One Article, Read How Jesus Became “God,” per Ehrman by Larry Hurtado

Theology and Religion

Christian Pornography Addiction: A Study in Personhood by Ben Cabe

Who Am I? Henri Nouwen and Christian Identity by Rachel

Voices of Authority and Theological Method by Kate Hanch

On Thinking With the Church by Dale Coulter

How to Weigh Doctrines for Christian Unity by Joe Rigney

Biblical Studies and the History of Christianity

The Current Fissure in Pop-Calvinism by Kevin Davis

Jesus’ Self-Understanding by Dale Allison

Alexandrian Attitudes: A New Source for the “Secret Gospel of Mark” by Philip Jenkins

What Language Did Jesus Speak? by Chris Keith

Irrepressible Culture Wars, Past and Present by Mark Tooley

Worldviews and Culture

Do Homosexuals Change? by Karen Booth

Stop Giving Mass Murderers What They Want by Matt Walsh

How the Climate Debate Was Taken Over by Spin by John Murdock

Random Thoughts by Thomas Sowell

Hijacking a Mass Murder to Boost Self-Esteem by Heather Wilhelm