Tuesday, September 13, 2011

From our Synodical President...

President Harrison is at work completing the new translation of C.F.W. Walther's Church and Office (Ministry in the old edition).  He is painstakingly working to make the translation both transparent and accurate -- without bowing to the conventions that J.T. Mueller found necessary to "de-catholicize" the vocabulary and tone of Walther's words.  I cannot wait to read it.

As an example, I point to this from Pres. Harrison's website:

Where J.T. Mueller’s translation has de-catholocized the original, the original has been restored. Thus for instance where Luther states “the priest says the mass” is restored where Mueller translated “the minister conducts the service.” In other places Mueller removed references to private confession, or made changes in other texts he evidently regarded as too Catholic. This tends to mitigate the conviction of Luther and Walther that the orthodox Lutheran Church is simply the catholic church gone right.

I was reminded of a great and well published theologian who listened as someone was characterizing his theological position.  At the end of it all, the theologian addressed the man who had summarized him with this:  "And who is this man of whom you speak?"  Walther, like Luther, often suffers at the hands of his interpreters.  In the end, the man no longer recognizes himself in the characterizations of his position and theology.  Harrison has worked to distance the translator from such characterizations and let Walther be Walther.  He put it this way:

The issue of church and office is too often a muddle among us, and Walther can be most helpful if he is allowed to speak with the precision he intended.

Any clarity that can be brought to bear upon the muddle of church and ministry among Lutherans, especially Missouri Synod Lutherans, is welcome at a time when it seems so much of what we face, so much of what the Koinonia Project will have to cover, and so much what divides us are issues of church and ministry.

We in Missouri have laid claim to Walther (for good or bad) and it is high time we heard him in his own words.  Interestingly, at a recent Ft. Wayne Seminary Symposia, I heard a Wisconsin Synod teacher claim that their Synod was the rightful heir of the Walther legacy.  So it is high time we had a nuanced translation that will assist us in finding out what Walther said, so we can determine what he meant, and how it bears upon what we say and mean today as a Synod!


Anonymous said...

It is easy to trash J.T. Mueller but
his 1962 translation sold like
hotcakes after a Synodical convention
in the 1990's. Now a certain CPH
honcho is slamming J.T. Mueller as
they prepare to sell the Harrison
edition. God bless President Matt
Harrison and his language abilities
but please do not degrade J.T.

Carl Vehse said...

"J.T. Mueller found necessary to "de-catholicize" the vocabulary and tone of Walther's words.... Walther, like Luther, often suffers at the hands of his interpreters. In the end, the man no longer recognizes himself in the characterizations of his position and theology."

Oh, puh-leeeze! Let's not become pathetically maudlin. Instead - let's take a look. BTW, the correct descriptive (whether or not the claim is true) should be "de-romanize," and not de-catholicize (i.e., de-universalize).

Regarding Martin Luther stating, “the priest says the mass,” in his Thesis VII on the Ministry, C.F.W. Walther does include (3rd Ed., p. 324) the quote from Luther: "Ihr selbst saget allesammt, daß der Priester Messe halte und das Brod gebenedeie nicht in seiner, sondern der ganzen Kirchen Person;..." ("Antwort auf das überchristliche: c. Buch Emsers", vom Jahre 1521. XVIII, 1576. 77),

Prof. Mueller translates (p. 276 ): "You yourselves [you papists] declare with one accord that a priest reads the mass and blesses the bread not in his own name but in the name of the whole congregation." [The bracketed phrase is Mueller's; the bold emphasis was added]

Mueller does use the phrase, "conducted the divine service" in his translation of a quote from Martin Luther (Thesis VI on the Ministry, p. 256): "... but I declare that even if the devil himself should come (if he were so pious that he could or would do this), and I would find out later that the devil had sneaked into the ministry [Amt] or let himself be called to the pastoral office [Pfarramt] as human being and had public preached the Gospel in the church and had baptized, conducted the divine service [Messe gehalten], absolved, and administered this office and Sacrament as a pastor according to the command and institution of Christ, we must certainly admit that the sacraments were legitimate, that we had received true Baptism and had taken the true sacrament of Christ's body and blood." [Bracketed phrases added]

The translation is of Walther's quote from Luther (3rd Ed., p. 298): "Wenn gleich der Teufel selbst käme (wenn er so fromm wäre, daß er's thun wollte oder könnte), aber ich setze, daß ich's hernach erführe, daß der Teufel so herein in das Amt geschlichen wäre, oder hätte sich gleich lassen als in Mannesgestalt berufen zum Pfarramt und öffentlich in der Kirche das Evangelium gepredigt, getauft, Messe gehalten, absolvirt, und solch Amt und Sacrament als ein Pfarrherr geübt und gereicht nach dem Befehl und Ordnung Christi, so müßten wir dennoch bekennen, daß die Sacramente recht wären, wir rechte Taufe empfangen, recht Evangelium gehört, rechte Absolution krieget, recht Sacrament des Leibs und Bluts Christi genommen hätten."

Carl Vehse said...


Regarding the claim of Mueller removing Luther's reference to private confession, in his Thesis VII on the Ministry, Walther does include (3rd Ed., p. 323) the quote from Luther: "Denn die Schlüssel werden gezogen auf alles das damit ich meinem Nächsten helfen kann, auf den Trost, den einer dem andern geben kann, auf die öffentliche und heimliche Beichte, auf die Absolution, und was des Dinges mehr ist; aber doch fürnehmlich auf das Predigen." (in Kirchenpostille vom Jahr 1525, XI, 3070, 71)

J.T. Mueller translates (p. 276): The keys to bind and loose are the power to teach, not merely to absolve; for the keys pertain to everything by which I may help my neighbor: to the comfort that one can give to another; to public and private confession [auf die öffentliche und heimliche Beichte], absolution, and whatever else there may be." [Emphasis and bracketed phrase added]

In their contexts these translations of Prof. Mueller do not warrant the descriptive of "de-catholicizing" (i.e. de-romanizing).

Furthermore, in the 1875 (3rd Edition) text of Kirche und Amt nineteen specific instances of katholische were found, ten were translated by Mueller as "catholic," three were translated as "Christian," five were translated as "universal, and one phrase, romisch-katholische Religion, was translated as "Roman Catholic Religion." In several cases the word "catholic" was combined with "or universal" or "[universal]." Thus even a claim that Mueller "de-catholicized" katholische in his translation of Walther is a false claim.

Carl Vehse said...

From Walther's Die Stimme unserer Kirche in der Frage von Kirche und Amt (3rd Ed., 1875), of 15 occurrences of the German word, Messe, Prof. J.T. Mueller translates them 13 times as "Mass," once as "Masses," and once as "divine service" (p. 256, as noted in a previous post). This does not support the notion that Mueller's translation "de-catholicized" (de-romanized) terms from Walther's book he "evidently regarded as too Catholic."