New edition of the Book of Concord – Henkel German to English translation

As a word or three of introduction, my Mother-in-law, my wife, and I were involved in the project that BJS is promoting below. I cannot tell you the enjoyment that it brought to us as we typed, read, and proofread 30 some-odd pages of the Henkel edition of the Book of Concord of 1854. We were assigned random sections of the book, but it just seems that on every page of the Book of Concord there is understanding of our faith. I’m sure that I’ve read many of these sections in the past, but to actually type or proofread them you gain a further understanding of the faith. It was most definitely a pleasure to be part of this project, and to help perhaps bring this edition to you. I’m going to cut and paste a little in the following from different sources, so I’m sorry if some portions are repeated or don’t read well, but I wanted to bring this information to your attention.

Here are various announcements from Pastor Stefanski and some other pastors about a new digital edition of the Christian Book of Concord. I’ll come back between each section for some more comments.

The Electronic Edition (precursor to the new print edition) of the 2nd Edition Henkel “Christian Book of Concord,” the Confessions of the Lutheran Church, is now available for download.

The Henkel translation is the ONLY complete translation of the GERMAN book of concord into ENGLISH.

This publication is brought to you as *donationware*; we ask you to consider a donation of $12.50 or more to the Holy Trinity Sri Lanka Fund for the training of faithful Lutheran pastors in Sri Lanka.

This first electronic edition will be undergoing some major upgrading as we go along…but you won’t get ‘stung’ by downloading it today, because UPGRADES ARE FREE!

Head over to and donate and download…for yourself, for your pastor, for everyone who has a computer and needs to read the Book of Concord (i.e., *everyone*).

The following is from the Preface to the Electronic Edition:

As the original publishers noted in the well-decayed American Lutheranism of the mid-19th century, so we have in our own time seen the decline in the ability of Lutherans to read the Confessions in their original languages. The Henkels saw that many Germans were reading only English and, thus, needed the German Book of Concord delivered in their new tongue. One would think that, this condition being even more the case in succeeding generations that the Henkel edition would have remained popular (or at least in print!) to this day. Just a few years before the translation was published, though, The German Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States was founded by more recent immigrants, and German was again spoken in the homes and church schools of the Missouri Synod for most of the next century (and required of theological students who went through Missouri’s preparatory and college system), making a translation of the Confessions from German into English unnecessary. Indeed, by the time it became necessary, Missouri had already provided a translation for largely from the Latin—that of Bente and Dau (following Jacobs in translating books based on language originally written in), which appeared in the Triglot Concordia Therefore, no new translation from the German Book of Concord of 1580 has ever come forth.

That, really, is what is special about the Henkel, beside its reminding us of the Tennessee Synod and its fight for orthodoxy (and eventual decline): it is the only full translation of the German Book of Concord into the English language ever published. That is an amazing statement, considering that so many congregations’ constitutions state that they “subscribe to the Book of Concord of 1580,” but that (German) book has neither been seen by most of them in the original, nor in translation. Rather, they read the 1584 Latin in an English translation. Not that there is any doctrinal difference, etc., between them, but it just seems odd.

Wanting to get as much insight into the Confessions as possible, I have long wanted a copy of the Henkel translation, but was without the means of securing one to read (copies going for several hundred dollars, as they do), other than the image files available at [1] and Google Books. In November of 2008, however, this desire and the need to raise money for the training of pastors in Sri Lanka came together in the formation of “The Henkel Project”…the bringing together of over a hundred volunteers to transcribe and proofread image files to produce the searchable Portable Document File that is now before you.

Coordinating this effort was one of the most wonderful experiences of my life, in that I caught a glimpse of what our Lord has worked in these volunteers through the Gospel of Christ: they thanked me for giving them the privilege of helping with the project and were ever hungry to type and read more…and I felt like Tom Sawyer, handing an ever-increasing line of people a brush to do my job of whitewashing the fence! The rejoicing over being engaged to type a section of the Confessions and to go back and read over what had been typed was beyond my expectations; it was, truly, the sort of joy with which the Henkels reported their first edition as meeting. Fathers and sons typed and proofread, as did mothers and daughters, sons and mothers-in-law, and so on, even some whom the devil would have liked to prevent by sickness, but whom the Lord carried through their assignments: one even completed his assignment while in a hospital bed with a narcotic drip, saying, “To God alone be the glory!” What a privilege it has been for me to compile their efforts and to rejoice with them! Thanks be to God for them…and so that you also might thank Him for them, their names will be listed below.

Along with these typists and proofreaders, we wish to thank the Rt. Rev. James Heiser of Repristination Press (and all the pastors of The Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America, for his encouragement in this project and advice towards its eventual print edition; the Rev. Thomas W. Hoyt, who fed my desire for a copy of this work (“What you intended for the coveting of my flesh, the Lord has used for the establishment of the New Man”); and the Rev. John Fehrmann and all involved in The Confessional Lutheran Education Foundation (, both for the support of this transcription project itself and for the dedication to the work of providing faithful Lutheran pastors for the war- and tsunami-ravaged people of Sri Lanka. It is to the memory of the Rev. Susil Priyantha and to the pastors and students of The Lutheran Church in Lanka that this electronic edition is dedicated, and to their education and well-being that the funds donated by those who download it shall be directed.

There will be errors in this edition, as it is but manmade, but we hope to eliminate all such in subsequent editions. (Please note that some typographic conventions will appear, for now, for the sake of the reprint, such as having a space before a semi-colon). As we release this during the Fourth Week of Advent, 2008, we intend our second edition by the end of the Epiphany season in 2009. Any error notices, suggestions, etc., would be greatly appreciated and warmly received at [email protected]

Rev. Eric J. Stefanski
Holy Trinity Evangelical-Lutheran Church, UAC
Harrison, Arkansas

Here is a comment from another Pastor on his spreading the word to his flock on this “new” edition of the Book of Concord.

Most Lutheran folk do not know about the Henkel edition of the Book of Concord. It was first published in the 1850’s by one of the Henkel family (David) from S. Carolina (or was it North?) Anyway, most were pastors and they were appalled by the ignorance of sound doctrine of pastors who claimed to be Lutheran (Schmuckerites abounded among English speaking Lutherans – Look up Samuel Simon Schmucker on Google, if you are unfamiliar with this term) Much as the situation today is the same, in my opinion. I am one of the rare birds as I bought a copy of it off of ebay (occasionally one does go up for auction. Mine sits in my shelf protected and treasured. While it is in good condition, I do not want to damage it. It is one of my prize possessions, to tell the truth. And now, I can have a copy that I do not have to worry about! Wow!

As Pastor Stefanski notes, it is from the German (all the Henkels spoke German) rather than from the Latin. This is unique. Actually there are only six English editions of the Book of Concord to choose from. Henkel’s, Jacob’s, Bente/Dau, Tappert, Wingert/Kolb, and the Concordia Edition. Of course, one should also own an up to date translation, but still in all – to own a copy of the book that kept Lutheranism alive among English speaking folk (and that is what it did) is truly to have a marvelous possession. May in some small measure it do so among the hard-pressed faithful confessional pastors I know.

And in addition, what is it being used for? So that Pastor Stefanski can drive about in a fine new automobile – that thought is farthest from the truth that I can think. No! it will be used to educate pastors of Sri Lanka. You can be certain that it will go for a noble purpose. God bless Pastor Stefanski for his efforts!

May God be pleased to use this edition for noble purposes for many years so that the Gospel is spread throughout our world.

Anyway, for what it is worth – this is my endorsement. I may have more to say later.

Again, thanks for your post.

And finally, from another pastor:

Let us know what you think of the new digital edition. Of course its language will be “archaic” as well. But you know what, maybe that is exactly what we need. Perhaps the newer translations of such works have contributed to the watering and dumbing down of things. Certainly, the translation of the Lutheran fathers from German to English has suffered a lack of precision and gravitas. While we must be able to communicate in the current sitzen leben, our current idiot, er idiom, of the language seems to have succumbed to the Law of Entropy. Rather than talk down, I would submit we need to teach up. That same principal, by the way, would apply to the liturgy.

Thanks for reading! Go on over to to donate to a very good cause and get your own copy of this book! Click on the “Donate by Debit/Credit Card or PayPal” in the left column to fill out information to gauge interest in a printed copy of the book, then donate $12.50 or more to the project, and download your digital copy of the book immediately!

Note that the Pocket edition of the Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions is shipping next Monday (Jan 5th)! Buy 10 for $10.99 each, and get a pocket-sized (4″ by 6.5″) book that is easier to carry to Bible Studies. It won’t have all the extras that your home edition has, but it will have all the text!

Norm Fisher
BJS Technical Director

[1] Click on “Browse by Author”, then scroll down to “Henkel The Christian Book of Concord (1854)” and select “Browse”

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

More of his work can be found at


New edition of the Book of Concord – Henkel German to English translation — 5 Comments

  1. Timothy C. Schenks wrote: “It’s almost to the point where we can get the BOC in every household.”

    Yep! And that is a good thing if people will read it. I remember handling a 1580 copy of the Book of Concord (that was an original) It was in pristine condition (to me it was like touching the Holy Grail). Seems that someone had bought a copy (not an inexpensive thing back then, I suppose) and what did (s)he do with it? Put it on the shelf and apparently it stayed their until it was in the possession of the Concordia Historical Institute. What a shame that was all that was done with it! Now, ANYBODY can read and peruse the BoC to their hearts delight. Now for a mere pittance (donation of 12-20 dollars is fine, I’m told) you can have an online copy of the first English translation of the BoC (Henkel) downloaded to your computer, or a full size hard copy, (Henkel, Tappert, or Kolb/Wingert editions, a pocket copy and if you pay attention to occasional books on ebay you might even snatch one of the older Henkel, Jacobs, or Bente/Dau editions.

    As confessional Lutheranism is under increasing attack by a new brand of Schmuckerites that neither knows Lutheran theology nor cares to know it, what better way to preserve “Luther’s doctrine pure” than by buying multiple copies of the BoC and using them and presenting them as gifts.

  2. BTW…the Electronic Henkel should end up ‘pocket-sized’, too, as once we’ve got the kinks worked out, it should end up in a searchable format for Palm devices, etc. (Not that you shouldn’t buy the CPH pocket edition–I plan to–but that this is, as Elnathan pointed out, a time of increasing access, and we intend to increase the accessibility (and functionality), as well.)

    BTW2, if y’all would help get the word out wrt the Henkel (posting to various elists, blogs, discussion boards, and so forth), the Lankans and I would surely appreciate it. If another 150 people donate in the next few days, we may be able to pay for them to have another class before Lent. (The Sri Lankan pastors don’t have the resources to gather for classes–the only one with a vehicle [smallish motorbike] died when he was hit by a truck last spring, and some have to come all the way across the island, in and out of war zones several times–so we pay for their transportation, food, and lodging for the classes. They are very faithful students, though, even when the formal classes are not in session, as they take the difficulties of travel, etc., in stride and gather all of the pastors in the church body together once a month for study of Scripture [in Sinhala and Tamil] and the Confessions [in Sinhala, in spite of half of the pastors having Tamil as their first language…they’re just thrilled that the Lord brought the Rev. John Temple into contact with Ranjith Fernando, who would become the first president of their church body and the translator of the Book of Concord into Sinhala].) I would like to think that at least a thousand pastors (and double that many laymen) would like to have this resource, of only they knew about it.

    Thank you,


  3. Many thanks to all who have donated to the Sri Lanka Project and downloaded the Henkel Electronic Edition as a “thank you”; enough has been gained so far that classes will be provided for the Sri Lankan pastors and students before Lent! They will have the opportunity to study ‘Bible difficulties’, as well as the Heidelberg Disputation and Luther’s ‘Theology of the Cross’, the latter being something that is always good for us to study and the former a special need because of a recently published Buddhist work that attempts to gainsay Holy Scripture based on alleged contradictions.

    God willing, the second electronic edition will be done by the end of this month; if not, editing it will fill the evenings of Pre-Lent, so that it will be ready before Ash Wednesday.


  4. It’s great that the Henkel edition is going to be in print.

    Users will want to know however that the translation in Henkel is a tad rough and clunky at times, typical of 19th century American English, but, truly, not anywhere near as obtuse in presentation as, say, Krauth’s writing.

    And, one more word of caution. While it is true that it presents the German text of each document, one should not think that the German edition of the BOC was the “most authoritative” edition, necessarily. The Latin BOC was, in fact, the authoritative text of the BOC used in all schools, universities and seminaries throughout orthodox Lutheranism from 1584 through the end of the age of Orthodoxy. Our great dogmaticians all worked with the Latin and cite it somewhat exclusively, simply because Latin was the language of scholarship, etc.

    So, while it is truly wonderful to have an old English translation of the German BOC, it is also important not to assume that this edition is somehow “better” or “superior to” or “more authoritative” than the Latin text.

    Both the German and Latin texts, the 1580 and the 1584, editions are for our Church the authoritative texts of the Lutheran Confessions.

    Frankly, I would not wish for a mission church to be dependent only on the Henkel, but would highly recommend instead the reader/study edition: Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions as the most appropriate text for study and seminary education. I think putting the Henkel in the hands of the Lankans only, is not doing them the best service possible. CPH would be happy to work with anyone who wishes to place a group order of “Concordia” editions for mission use overseas, as we have in many places around the world.

    The Henkel edition would make a nice supplemental text for anyone/everyone to have. I’ve picked up several copies of the Henkel over the years, my latest copy, an 1854, in excellent condition, I picked up on E-Bay for $80.

    Kudos and thanks to all those who worked to get the Henkel in more easily accessible form.

    PT McCain

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