WMLTblog — Latest from CPH: The What?

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As a child attending Lutheran school, I remember our annual parading outside the school building on October 31, all children, pastors, and staff lining up on the west side of the building (facing the Roman Catholic church four blocks away) and singing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” very loudly. It was an example of how we felt about things “Catholic” in those days. I guess we were hoping that our voices would carry those four blocks to their church and school in some meaningful way.

This aversion to things “Catholic” included the Bible they used. It included “extra books” that didn’t belong there, and we children knew better than ever to touch one of those Bibles, much less open it and read from it, lest our attention wander over to “those books.” At least such was my take from those childhood days.

I mention this to demonstrate how things have changed. Over the years, our attitude has softened considerably toward the Roman church. Not always, of course, as when key doctrinal differences are considered. But with a number of other important issues (e.g., abortion, homosexuality), we often recognize a closer affinity with the Roman Catholic Church than with those who share our name “Lutheran.”

And now, courtesy of Concordia Publishing House with its recent release of The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition With Notes, another old fence has come down. I was pleased to be asked to provide a review of this Lutheran publication of ”those books” and did so from the perspective of one who has watched 60 years pass since singing as loud as I could every October 31 outside our Lutheran school.

This publication by CPH is far more than yet another sign of the softening of inter-church attitudes. This bold bringing of these intertestamental writings out of the shadows is a major gift to the Lutheran and Protestant world. It not only signals that these writings, rightly understood, are okay to read. It makes available to both clergy and laity alike an important aid for the study of the Bible itself. It provides a first-hand look into the historical context that God Himself regarded as “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4).

In his introduction to the publication, LCMS 3rd Vice-President Paul Maier writes, “Not only does [The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition With Notes] offer an unfailingly accurate translation of the various texts involved, via the English Standard Version, but it is also replete with scholarly notes and commentary to assist the reader–lay or professional–in every way possible….Simply put, this book belongs in every serious library, be that collection Evangelical, Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, or Jewish. Why? No reply could be better than the introduction to the Apocrypha in the German Lutheran Bible: ‘Apocrypha, that is, books which are not held equal to the sacred Scriptures, and nevertheless are useful and good to read.’”

We are truly blessed as a Synod to have a publishing house in our corner of our Lord’s kingdom to provide a host of materials that we can confidently use to do the work of His Church on earth. And we are blessed with CPH leadership that looks continually for opportunities to provide helpful resources, such as The Apocrypha: The Lutheran Edition with Notes.

Raymond Hartwig

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, LCMSsermons.com, 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 KNFA.net.


WMLTblog — Latest from CPH: The What? — 17 Comments

  1. The students in that benighted school may not have known that the Apocrypha were in their Grandfather’s “Luther Bibel” but the Pastor and staff should have.

    If that’s what you all learned in Lutheran school, I’m glad we didn’t have one!
    Our fathers may have been leary about things which appeared to them “Katolisch” but they certainly never allowed us to pick on the lone Catholic in the public school class in “celebration” of Reformation!

    I’ve heard stories like that, but never thought I’d see one published on the official LCMS web site!

  2. It is really quite a remarkable study in how rapidly a Church can come loose from its own traditions and heritage when you hear/read stories like the one told by Dr. Hartwig.

    The anti-German attitudes in America reached a fever pitch during World War I and took their toll on the German-speaking Missouri Synod.

    My mother was told during her confirmation instruction in the late thirties/early forties, that the Apocryphal books were “the Devil’s books.” So, consider the fact that in only a couple generations this sentiment developed, when previously Lutherans of all times understood the proper use of the Apocrypha.

    By the way, Helen, I read Dr. Hartwig’s article again carefully and I do not see where he said that they picked on the lone Catholic in their public school class. Maybe I am not reading it carefully enough?

  3. The German Bibles belonging to my great-grandparents, one of which was published by the “Concordia Verlag,” of course included the Apocrypha. The omission of these books from English Bibles is yet another sad piece of evidence of the most unfortunate influence of Reformed Protestantism on our Synod once we had abandoned the use of the German language. It would be instructive to know when and why our own Concordia Publishing House omitted the Apocrypha from its English Bibles. It is interesting to note that, although the Apocrypha was never read aloud in church, the large Bibles (in the Authorized Version of 1611, the so-called “King James Version”) which rested on the pulpit and lectern of my home parish, old Martini Church in Baltimore, did in fact include the Apocrypha.

  4. Sorry, I don’t read the Bible while sitting at a desk. Trying to curl up on the couch with the hard cover Lutheran Study Bible on my lap has been painful. I would gladly buy The Apocrypha and a second copy of the Lutheran Study Bible IF those books were to have a fake leather or real leather soft cover binding.

    Any soft-cover versions planned for release, Paul?

  5. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #2
    I do not see where he said that they picked on the lone Catholic in their public school class. Maybe I am not reading it carefully enough?

    Sorry not to make myself crystal clear: WE in our school did not consider the Reformation an excuse to pick on our Roman classmate.
    (I have heard such stories here in Texas.)

    I think the story Hartwig did tell is inappropriate for the official LCMS web site.

  6. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #2
    My mother was told during her confirmation instruction in the late thirties/early forties, that the Apocryphal books were “the Devil’s books.”

    But that has nothing to do with anti-German sentiment. As written above, the original (English) KJV had the Apocrypha (until about 1825)

    The LCMS must have had some really strange Pastors in the 30’s-40’s!
    Someone of that vintage told me her confirmation class were only allowed to read the Bible sections assigned by the Pastor! Wonder how he enforced that! And why?

    [She grew up on the Iowa side about 30 miles (and another world!) from me.]

  7. Re. the movement toward the English Bible in The LCMS. Given the fact, at the time, that the KJV was the de-facto universal English translation, it was understandable that CPH simply offered it. I am not sure if the Synod’s theologians were up to producing an English translation equal to it, at the time. By the late 1800s and early 1900s the Bible societies producing the KJV had removed the Apocrypha, though it hung on in some editions. The reason was the, for lack of better way of putting, “Calvinistification” of the Church of England when it came to the KJV. Of course, the first editions of the KJV included the Apocrypha, but even within decades a strident anti-all-things Rome took hold and it was seen removed in editions of the KJV already in the 17th century, but the removal later by the various English Bible societies sealed its fate.

    As for anti-German sentiments influencing the Synod, this is simply a reality, and in a desire to “fit in” more with the prevailing American protestant ethos any number of things slipped away in the life of many LCMS congregations that had been there previously.

    That’s a very quick thumbnail look.

  8. Spend a couple of years in a foreign country where the native language is not English. Learn how to speak, read, and write in that language. Language is not simply a different kind of noise. When learning a second language, the brain rewires itself.

    Interest in the pre-WW 1 past of Lutheranism is only now slowly returning. Let the LCMS “Great awakening” of the sleeping giant begin!

  9. Just received my copy and looking forward to reading it(provided I find the time). I have always wondered why it disappeared when the transition was made from German to English (although a sister congregation has their old English Altar Bible with the Apocrypha in it), but considering that change was made very quickly in many cases I’m sure they scrambled to take what English materials they could get.

    My home congregation’s records go back to the mid 1870’s, everything 1917 back is in German and all the meeting records from 1918 to present are in English(gee, ya wonder why???).

  10. Nowadays, the members of a traditional LCMS congregation could face the Willow Creek LCMS church (the church that no longer uses a hymnal nor a catechism) four blocks away and sing “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” very loudly.

  11. The Evangelical and Refomed hostility toward the Roman Catholic church has always puzzled me. Luther came to reform, but the Catholics rejected him. If Luther was ignored, then what makes the Evangelicals and the Calvinists think that Rome will listen to them?

    I am glad that the confessionals within the LCMS are no longer wasting precious time imitating the Evangelicals in criticizing the Catholics. Why should the “missionals” within the LCMS continue to be concerned. Shouldn’t the missionals be worried that they are “too Evangelical.” Time to shake the dust off your sandals and move on…..

    Isn’t the Lutheran church the Roman Catholic church minus the non-biblical doctrine that Luther removed. Uh, oh…..here it comes. “Catholic lite” is supposed to be an insult lobbed at Lutherans by Evangelicals. Good question, though. How much Roman Catholic doctrine did Luther remove when he started a new church? How “lite” is the Lutheran church once it split from the Catholic church?

    I think there is a lot of confusion (and mischaracterization) regarding how much or how little the Lutheran church resembles the Roman Catholic church. Has the LCMS ever explained the Lutheran position in a way that curious non-Lutheran laymen would understand? The LCMS website seems to lack this component.

  12. Here’s the way I’d suggest we understand the situation.

    What is genuinely and truly “catholic,” in a Biblical sense, is not necessarily “Roman.” And what is uniquely “Roman” Catholic, is not “catholic.”

    I highly recommend Charles Porterfield Krauth’s masterpiece: “The Conservative Reformation.”

    The Lutheran Reformation was not a deformation of the Church, as was Calvin’s program.

    Reformation, not deformation. Reformation, not revolution.

  13. @Rev. Paul T. McCain #15

    All well and good for someone who is already familiar with the topic and would like to “dig deep,” but how should the LCMS capture the interest of the average, non-Lutheran layman?

    Lutheranism suffers from an image problem, for sure.

  14. @Lumpenkönig #16
    Lutheranism suffers from an image problem, for sure.

    So much of what the media recognize as “Lutheran” isn’t.
    A good deal of what our own members think isn’t Lutheran.

    Luther said, “Pray the catechism”. If every Lutheran read it, with Scripture, regularly, it would help. Learning was once assumed, but I’m assured that even the very bright “can’t memorize” the SC or Scripture in this generation.

    It’s amazing how fast they can absorb all the nuances of the latest i-phone, though! 🙁

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