Category Archives: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht

Latomus and Luther- The Debate: Is every Good Deed a Sin?

V&R have now published a new work in the Refo500 Academic Series.  And I’m very excited about it because Luther’s ‘Against Latomus’ is one of his very best books.

Who was Jacob Latomus? What did he write in the series of lectures to which Luther penned an answer in 1521, an answer which is now so central to many interpretations of the great reformer? And how is the reading of that answer affected when it is preceded by an interpretation of what Latomus wrote?The study goes through the most important parts of Latomus’ treatise against Luther (1521). The aim is to identify Latomus’ theological convictions and thus to pin down who and what Luther was up against. The second and major part of the book is a reading of Luther’s pamphlet against Latomus (1521). Parallels are drawn with Latomus’ theology in order to facilitate as much as possible an appreciation of the differences between the two.The comparison between the two theologians shows that they speak completely different languages and that their viewpoints do not square at all. Basically their ways depart in their understanding of God’s word and how it is communicated to man. This generates two ways of perceiving the matter of theology, and of speaking theologically –: and prevents mutual understanding. Latomus cannot understand Luther’s view of the autonomy of God’s word and the special character of proclamation, and hence a theology which is incompatible with natural reason. Even though he accepts a division between a natural and a supernatural rationality, and thus admits that natural reason has a limit, he grants the very same natural reason an important role in the ascent of cognition towards revelation. Everything else – such as Luther’s theology – is a dehumanization of the human being. Luther, on the other hand, regards Latomus’ theology as a result of the impulse in sinful man towards ruling and controlling the word of God with his own inadequate natural abilities. In Luther’s eyes that proclamation of Christ, which in the shape of a human being comes to man in contradiction of everything human, here disappears in the twinkling of an eye.

For many it seems that Latomus, the foe of Luther, appeared as though out of no where.  But as is often the case in matters historical, there’s a lead up, a back story, to the events we are familiar with.  To change metaphors, the great historical iceberg called the Latomus affair is mostly submerged and the only part most see is the exposed point rising above the surf where Latomus and Luther enter battle.

The present work is an examination of the backstory, the submerged part, of the history of Latomus.  Beginning with a debate Erasmus was involved in shortly after his arrival in Leuven and moving forward as that debate unfolded (on theological methodology and the investigation of good works and sin) till the arrival of Latomus on the scene, our author sets the stage.  Eventually Luther enters the fray (as was his regular custom; i.e., where there’s a theological fight, Luther wants a piece of it).  And that, as they say, is when the stuff hit the fan.

Latomus was compelled to respond to Luther and he does so in relationship to many of the chief heads of theology.  Surprising no one, then, Luther attacks.  Once Luther has set the ground rules of scriptural interpretation, as he sees those issues, he goes to the heart of the debate:  are good works actually sinful works?  And here we have the central issue addressed:

Here for the first time we see a difference in the understanding of sin in Luther and Latomus. Latomus would never say that the justified man had sin as his everyday companion, as does Luther. That is why he cannot accept the presence of concupiscentia as a sin, but only a punishment. According to him the righteous man is devoid of sin until in concrete cases he is tempted to commit minor sins of commission, the so-called peccata venialia. Even though they are concrete separate sins, they remain nevertheless minor, because they are committed by one who is otherwise righteous, and Latomus would never think of saying that the righteous commit peccata robusta. In his ears that would be a contradiction.

Furthermore, and quite insightfully, we are informed that

The point therefore is that the truly righteous are not justified in themselves by their own goodness or righteousness, but only by Christ’s righteousness, in faith in Him. There is nothing of their own they can abide by and be safe in their relation to God. It is all nothing. No one, to look back briefly at what has been said in this section, is given a gift by the grace of God (acceptum donum gratiae) (WA 8, 79,32–33), which makes him righteous in himself and by nature (cf. WA 8, 69,4–6), and which he can present to God. Nobody has “through the grace of God” (per gratiam dei) (WA 8, 80,6–7), anything he can muster in this life and before God’s judgement, anything by dint of which “we can safely set aside His mercy as well as His judgement”. If we believe we do, we trust in ourself instead of God, and according to Luther that leads to the opposite of true good deeds.

Luther’s argument continues to the end of the work, giving Luther the last word (and the loudest) and thereby making sure that Luther’s viewpoint is the viewpoint which readers too should adopt.

When it comes to debates about faith and good works; sin and evil deeds, and all of the theological subheadings associated with those themes our author makes clear the importance of each.  This is a valuable and useful work.

The volume concludes with a helpful bibliography.  And this review ends with a helpful bit of advice: read this book.  It clarifies more than it obscures and answers more questions than it raises.  And for an academic monograph that’s quite an accomplishment.

From Scribal Error to Rewriting: How Ancient Texts Could and Could Not Be Changed

Coming soon from V&R

How ancient texts could and could not be changed has been in the focus of vibrant scholarly discussions in recent years. The present volume offers contributions from a representative group of prominent scholars from different backgrounds and specialties in the areas of Classical and Biblical studies who were gathered at an interdisciplinary symposium held in May 2015 at the Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University in Tbilisi, Georgia. In the first part of the volume Ancient Scribal and Editorial Practices, the authors approach ancient scribal and editorial techniques in Greek, Latin, and Syriac sources concerning classical and biblical texts, their textual criticism, and editorial history. The second part Textual History of the Hebrew Bible focuses on scribal and editorial aspects of the textual history of the Hebrew Bible. The third part Writing and Rewriting in Translation deals with a variety of writings from the Old Testament, New Testament, Apocrypha, and Patristic texts in various languages (Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Armenian, and Georgian), focusing on issues of textual criticism and translation technique. The volume contains an especially rich assortment of contributions by Georgian textual scholars concerning ancient editorial practices and ancient Georgian translations of biblical and patristic texts. This collection of papers provides insights into a variety of different areas of study that seldom come into contact with each other but are clearly in many ways related.

Paul Althaus, Karl Barth, Emil Brunner: Briefwechsel 1922–1966

This new work arrived last month and I’ve had the chance to work through it, to my great delight.

The volume falls into two major sections: the first, Barth’s correspondence with Althaus, and second, Brunner’s correspondence with Althaus.

Two things stand out in this important collection of personal cards and letters- Barth and Althaus had nothing more than a professional relationship and agreed on very few things.  Meanwhile, the relationship between Althaus and Brunner was collegial, warm, and far more than merely professional.

A few excerpts will serve well to prove the point.

Regarding Barth’s ‘Romans’, Althaus writes

Ob ich viel anderes als A. Schlatter zu Ihrem Paulus sagen kann, ist mir fraglich.

Regarding a greeting that Barth sent via a messenger, Althaus notes

Für den Gruß, den Sie mir durch FräuleinGrell sandten, danke ich Ihnen sehr.

Of Althaus’s early enthusiasm for Hitler, Barth scathingly remarks

Wie kann man so gescheit sein, wie er und auf eine so geist verlassene Angelegenheit wie den Hitlerianismus hereinfallen und in den S.A. das Schema für eine neue Ethik entdecken? Wie kann man Theologe sein und seine Leidenschaft so beharrlich und ausdrücklich bei einer anderen Sache haben?

Turning to the letters exchanged between Althaus and Brunner, the tone is entirely different.  Addressing one another as ‘friend’ (whereas for Althaus and Barth it is always ‘Colleague’), the two men had an authentic appreciation for one another and concern for one another.   They frequently sent each other their latest books and complimented one another on the excellent quality of those works.

One of their common topics was the annoyance of Barth and his Barthians.  So, for instance, Althaus

Karl Barths Ansicht in dieser Sache ist auch mir völlig unmöglich und seine Berufung auf die Formeln der alten Dogma tiker (S. 45 A.19), wie so oft, mehr als gewagt. Ich freue mich Ihrer Sätze zur theol. naturalis und habe Sie vor 8 Tagen feierlich im Kolleg als Kronzeugen zitiert.

Also of concern were the ‘power cliques’ of theologians who strove to silence and marginalize any dissenting voices.  Here’s Brunner in a longish letter with the word ‘Private’ at the beginning-

Die Tatsache Erich Seeberg in Berlin ist ein Skandal für die deutsche Theologie. Und die Geltung, die in gewissen Kreisen, ziemlich weit herum, dieser(handschriftl Zusatz: im Vergleich mit seinem Anspruch!) Hohlkopf und Eisenfresser genießt, ist eine Schande für das Urteilsvermögen weiter Kreise der gelehrten Welt. Weiß man das wirklich in Berlin nicht, wieman außerhalb von Berlin über diese Berliner Clique und die beispiellose Niveausenkung der Berliner Fakultät, die die Wirkung ihrer Tätigkeit und ihres Einflusses ist, denkt? Was für ein Geistesriese ist der alte Reinhold neben diesem seinen Sprößling! Und das will doch ziemlich viel sagen.

Returning later to Barth…  Althaus

… ich habe Barths Anti-Brunner gelesen Journalistisch glänzend, zum z. T. raffiniert; aber auch groß in der Kunst umzubiegen, mißzuverstehen, Konsequenzmacherei zu betreiben u.s.w. Ich bin in der Zuversicht zu der uns beiden gemeinsamen These nirgends erschüttert worden. Einige Wendungen können Sie ev. ändern. – Wie billig und falsch die Verdächtigung Ihres Bekenntnisses zum totus peccator! Als ob der Mensch nicht eben dadurch totus peccator wäre, dass er im Ernste um Gott weiß, wissen muß! Bezeichnend, dass Barth auf diese Begründung Ihrer These (wo keine vorlaufende Offenbarung, da auch keine Sünde) gar nicht eingegangen ist! Mit der Aufklärung und der rationalen Orthodoxie um 1700 soll er uns nicht graulen machen. Johann Gerhard, der klassischer Orthodoxer war, lehrt wie wir. Werden Sie bald antworten? Ich gehe im Kolleg dieser Tage auf die Dinge ein und werde wohl auch einen Aufsatz zur Sache schreiben.

Their friendship was deep.  When, for example, Brunner was hospitalized, his wife sent this note to Althaus-

Da mein Mann gegenwärtig noch im Spital liegt,möchte ich Ihnen vorläufig an seiner Stelle – endlich! – aufs herzlichste danken für Ihren freundlichen Brief vom 15. Juni und die beiden Bände Ihrer „Dogmatik“!  Über beides wird sich mein Mann sehr freuen, wenn er, wie wir hoffen, Ende nächster Woche nach Hause kommen kann.

And of course they could be a bit ‘gossipy’, as when Althaus describes his joy that his students are visiting Zurich to take courses under Brunner instead of going to Basel where the Barth cult reigns:

Daher freuen sich auch meine Schüler, die nach Zürich gehen, immer so sehr Ihres Unterrichtes und
müssen nicht, wie in Basel, eine „Bekehrung“ vollziehen oder ablehnen.  Sie glauben kaum, wie verheerend sich Basel und sein Terror oder seine Suggestion bei uns im „Reichsbruderrate“ auswirkt. Diese Leute sind über haupt nicht mehr fähig zu der Freiheit, eines Ihrer oder meiner Bücher zu studieren. Ein genaues Gegenbild zu dem politischen Exklusivismus und Totalismus.

And one final example, from a letter Althaus wrote to Brunner upon receiving word that Brunner’s son had tragically died:

Mein lieber Freund Brunner!

Durch meinen Schüler Gottfried Hornig höre ich von dem schweren Schlage, der Sie und Ihre Gemahlin getroffen hat, durch den jähen Tod Ihres Sohnes Thomas. Meine Frau und ich sind bewegt von der Nachricht, zumal Sie schon einen anderen geliebten Sohn durch einen Unglücksfall verloren haben. Wir wissen etwas, wie dem Vater und der Mutter bei solchem Geschehen umsHerz ist –unserenÄltesten haben wir 1940 hergebenmüssen – aber was Sie erleben, ist ja viel dunkler und sinnloser.

Wir gedenken Ihrer. Diese Zeilen sollen es Ihnen sagen. Gottes Trösten erweise an Ihnen allen seine starke Kraft! Gott sorgt dafür, dass uns dieses Leben nicht zu lieb wird. Er nimmt uns geliebte Menschen hinauf in seine Ewigkeit – und lockert unsere Erden-Wurzeln. Wir müssen uns ihm auch dabei ganz still anvertrauen – es tut sehr weh, Er tut sehr weh. Aber es ist seine gute Hand.

Treu Ihnen verbunden, mit Ihnen trauernd

Ihr P. Althaus

This volume is worth your time.

The Theology of Heinrich Bullinger

W.P. Stephens’ last work before his untimely death was a volume on the theology of Heinrich Bullinger. This work was virtually fully completed save the chapter on the Lord’s Supper and has been edited by Joe Mock and Jim West at the wishes of the author and presents the theology of Bullinger following the same pattern of presentation as Stpehens utilized in his work on the Theology of Huldrych Zwingli. Each major theological topic is treated and fully described.

Get yourself a copy and get several for your friends.  Get everyone you know one!  It will be the best gift they ever get.

Reformation of the Commonwealth: Thomas Becon and the Politics of Evangelical Change in Tudor England

So, all you souls who tell us you love Bacon, now’s your chance to prove it!

New Works to Watch For

October 7th

That, according to the publisher, is when WP Stephens’ ‘The Theology of Heinrich Bullinger’ will be published.  It’s at the printer’s now.


We have a Cover, and We are Working Through the Final Page Proofs…

So soon, Professor Stephens’ magnum opus will be available to the public.  As soon as there’s a web page for it, you’ll know.

Septuaginta. Band 11,2 Ecclesiastes

Die Herausgabe der großen kritischen Edition des ältesten erreichbaren Septuaginta-Textes ist Ziel des 1908 gegründeten Septuaginta-Unternehmens der Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen. Anspruch und Aufgabe einer solchen Edition ist die auf möglichste Vollständigkeit angelegte Erfassung und transmissionsgeschichtliche Auswertung der handschriftlichen überlieferung, angefangen mit den griechischen vorchristlichen Papyri (3./2. Jh. v.Chr.) bis hin zu den Minuskelhandschriften des 16. Jh. n.Chr., sodann der lateinischen, koptischen, syrischen, äthiopischen und armenischen Tochterübersetzungen, ferner der Septuaginta-Zitate bei den griechischen und lateinischen Kirchenschriftstellern unter Einschluss der sog. Catenenüberlieferung und schließlich aller Druckausgaben der Septuaginta vom 16. bis zum 20. Jh. Erstmals erscheint mit Peter Gentrys Arbeit eine vollständige kritische Edition des Buches »Ecclesiastes«. Der vorliegende Band XI bildet den 2. Band der Gesamtreihe »Septuaginta« und setzt so die Göttinger Editio critica maior fort.

The chief concern for those potentially interested in the acquisition of new editions of biblical texts is ‘how is it different from or an improvement upon earlier editions already in my possession?’ This is especially important to those working with a limited budget or who are trying to make the wisest choices for their personal purchases.

And that is the question that many will wish answered concerning this new edition of Ecclesiastes in the extraordinary Göttingen Septuagint. How is it an improvement upon the edition already at hand in Rahlfs/ Hanhart or BHQ?

The answer to this very basic and yet very central question is fairly simple: yes, it is an improvement on Rahlfs and yes it does offer differences substantial enough to justify its acquisition even for those in possession of BHQ (for those interested in the textual history of Ecclesiastes and working in textual criticism in particular).

The numerous differences between the text of Rahlfs and Göttingen which will be detailed by the author in a separate volume (according to Will Ross). There is, unfortunately, no list provided of such differences in the Introduction to Gentry’s edition herein reviewed. This is something of a shame, as users of the volume are now forced to wait for the list of variations or hunt them down and discover them for themselves.

In the above cited interview the editor also remarks

The Greek Translation has only a dozen places where it differs from MT, and most of these are not serious issues. The differences between MT and LXX were exaggerated by the editor of the BHQ volume on Ecclesiastes.

Curious about this, I posed the question to Adrian Schenker, the Editor in Chief of BHQ, and he replied that the editor of Ecclesiastes for BHQ was not inclined to exaggerations.

To be sure, editors will often see things differently.  Yet there is no evidence within the edition of BHQ itself that its findings have been exaggerated.

A fairly brisk comparison of Rahlfs and Gentry yields the following samplings:


  • Rahlfs- Ῥήματα Ἐκκλησιαστοῦ υἱοῦ Δαυιδ βασιλέως Ισραηλ ἐν Ιερουσαλημ.
  • Gentry- Ῥήματα Ἐκκλησιαστοῦ υἱοῦ Δαυὶδ βασιλέως Ἰσραὴλ ἐν Ἰερουσαλήμ.


  • Rahlfs- Εἶπον ἐγὼ ἐν καρδίᾳ μου Δεῦρο δὴ πειράσω σε ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ, καὶ ἰδὲ ἐν ἀγαθῷ, καὶ ἰδοὺ καί γε τοῦτο ματαιότης.
  • Gentry- Εἶπον ἐγὼ ἐν καρδίᾳ μου Δεῦρο δὴ πειράσω σε ἐν εὐφροσύνῃ, καὶ ἰδὲ ἐν ἀγαθῷ· καὶ ἰδοὺ καί γε τοῦτο ματαιότης.


  • Rahlfs- Οὐκ ἔστιν ἀγαθὸν ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ, ὃ φάγεται καὶ πίεται καὶ δείξει τῇ ψυχῇ αὐτοῦ, ἀγαθὸν ἐν μόχθῳ αὐτοῦ.
  • Gentry- Οὐκ ἔστιν ἀγαθὸν ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ· ὃ φάγεται καὶ πίεται, καὶ δείξει τῇ ψυχῇ αὐτοῦ ἀγαθὸν ἐν μόχθῳ αὐτοῦ.


  • Rahlfs- Καὶ περισσὸν ὅτι ἐγένετο Ἐκκλησιαστὴς σοφός, ἔτι ἐδίδαξεν γνῶσιν σὺν τὸν λαόν, καὶ οὖς ἐξιχνιάσεται κόσμιον παραβολῶν.
  • Gentry- Καὶ περισσὸν ὅτι ἐγένετο Ἐκκλησιαστὴς σοφός, ἔτι ἐδίδαξεν γνῶσιν σὺν τὸν ἄνθρωπον, καὶ οὖς ἐξιχνιάσεται κόσμιον παραβολῶν.

Our third sampling (2:24a) and our fourth (12:9) show slight differences between Rahlfs and Gentry.  Text critics wanting to know the reason for these differences will find amazingly full textual notes and here we arrive at the chief difference between these two editions:  the incredibly thorough textual material brought to bear in witness to the readings provided in the Göttingen Septuagint when compared to the scant and slight materials of the critical apparatus of Rahlfs is astonishing.

The volume’s introduction comprises half of its entire contents and the text of Ecclesiastes barely occupies a fifth of the page whereas the textual notes and other materials take up 4’5ths of each page.

This is a remarkable work which students of Ecclesiastes will absolutely find indispensable (and I do not use that word lightly or carelessly).  Textual critics will make use of it for centuries to come (and I do not say that lightly either).  And finally, students of the Greek text of the Old Testament will need to consult if if they intend to do any serious work on the text of Ecclesiastes.

Gentry may be wrong about the viewpoint of the editor of the BHQ volume on Ecclesiastes, and he may be forgiven for holding off his list of variations between Rahlfs and his own work, but he is to be congratulated for producing an amazingly meticulous text critical masterpiece.

Luther und die Reformation in internationalen Geschichtskulturen: Perspektiven für den Geschichtsunterricht

Available in Open Access.

V&R Have a Whole Raft Coming Soon Of Exegetical Works

You can check out forthcoming volumes and those newly appearing here.

Learn About Calvin

With this.

Der Synergistische Streit (1555–1564)

Im Jahr 1555 hielt der Leipziger Theologieprofessor Johann Pfeffinger eine Disputation über den freien Willen ab. In ihr betonte er, im Anschluss an die Lehre Philipp Melanchthons, dass der menschliche Wille eine Ursache bei der Rechtfertigung des Menschen sei. Diese Position wurde nach der erneuten Publikation dieser Disputation im Jahr 1558 in einem Sammelband, der alle Disputationen Pfeffingers vereinte, heftig bestritten.

Im Zentrum des Synergistischen Streits (1555/58−1564) stand die Frage nach der Möglichkeit eines freien menschlichen Willens und dessen Mitwirkung im Rechtfertigungsgeschehen. Insbesondere war strittig, ob der Mensch sich für den Empfang der göttlichen Gnade vorbereiten könne, oder ob er sich vollständig passiv gegenüber dem rechtfertigenden Handeln Gottes verhalte. Der Gefahr von Spaltungen innerhalb der Gemeinwesen durch die andauernden theologischen Streitigkeiten suchte insbesondere Herzog Johann Friedrich d.M. von Sachsen teils durch Vermittlungsbemühungen, teils auch durch Zwangsmaßnahmen entgegenzuwirken, sodass es schließlich zur Entlassung von Predigern im Herzogtum kam.

Im fünften Band der Edition „Controversia et Confessio“ sind für den Streit bedeutsame Texte von Johann Pfeffinger, Nikolaus von Amsdorf, Victorin Strigel, Matthias Flacius, Nikolaus Gallus und anderen Theologen versammelt. Von besonderer Bedeutung ist die Präsentation des „Weimarer Konfutationsbuchs“ in diesem Zusammenhang.

The volume begins with a description of its aim, as part of a far larger project:

Der hier vorliegende fünfte Band des Mainzer Editionsprojekts „Controversia et Confessio“, dokumentiert den sog. „Synergistischen Streit“, der sich rund um die Frage entzündete, ob und in welcher Weise der menschliche Wille bei der Bekehrung des Menschen mitwirken könne.

This documentation makes possible a far richer, far deeper, far more expansive view of one of the most critical periods of the history of Christianity.

Professor Dingel’s helpful introduction places the period in context and places the chief proponents of the many theological debates of this era within that period.  Following are documents produced by the leading theologians of the period, each introduced and then the text of each provided here- many for the first time.  The works of Johann Pfeffinger, Nikolaus von Amsdorf, Johann Stoltz, Matthias Flacius, Nikolaus Gallus, Simon Musaeus,  and Victorin Strigel.  There are also a number of confessional texts included.  In all there are 18 chapters featuring 18 documents.

The volume also includes the requisite indices and bibliographies.  The chief value, naturally, of the work is the making available of disparate documents representing a wide range of theological viewpoints from the very people who formulated those viewpoints, in their own words.  For instance, of von Amsdorf’s ‘Confession’, the document’s introduction states:

Im Frühjahr 1558 arbeitete Nikolaus von Amsdorf an seinem „Öffentlichen Bekenntnis“, in dem er alle Lehren, die er als falsch ansah, namentlich ver werfen wollte, um so sein theologisches Vermächtnis zu hinterlassen. Während Amsdorf diese Schrift verfasste, veröffentlichte Pfeffinger im März 1558 seine Disputation „De libertate humanae voluntatis quaestiones quinque“ in einem Sammelband aller seiner in Wittenberg gehaltenen Disputationen erneut. Dies wurde zum Anlass eines Streitschriftenwechsels zwischen den beiden. Denn Amsdorf reagierte darauf, indem er Pfeffingers Ansicht von der Möglichkeit zur Mitwirkung des menschlichen Willens an der Rechtfertigung umgehend verurteilte.  Pfeffinger verteidigte sich daraufhin mit seiner „Antwort“, was Amsdorf wiederum zum Anlass nahm, in der hier edierten Schrift Pfeffinger abermals zu attackieren.

The text of the document itself is in German (and Latin) and in it von Amsdorf remarks in due course

Was hab ich nu auff Pfeffinger erdicht oder gelogen? Denn das ist ein mal war, das die jenigen, so der heilige Geist nicht zeuhet vnd doch in die Predigt gehen vnd das Wort horen, konnen aus jren krefften das wort der verheischung nicht annemen noch ergreiffen, dieweil jr wille verderbt vnd dazu vom Teuffel nach seinem willen ge-[C 4r:]fangen.

The texts throughout are in Latin predominantly and German.  Footnotes, thankfully, rather than endnotes lead readers to positively essential details.

Scholars of the Reformation and Post-Reformation owe a great debt of gratitude to Prof. Dingel and to the publisher for this volume.  It places in the hands of the interested material that would otherwise simply not be available.  Indeed, even if one were able to track down these documents on the Post Reformation Digital Library, the very important introductions and notes along with the supplemental material are available nowhere else.

This volume is critically important, therefore, and belongs on the shelf of Reformation scholars everywhere.

Word of God, Words of Men

The book presents many aspects of the phenomenon of translation and commentary work of the Bible in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 16th and 17th centuries. It contains studies of eminent scholars as well as of some young adepts, coming mainly from Poland, but also from Lithuania and Czech Republic. The texts present various aspects of the researches conducted on this phenomenon nowadays. As it was an exceptional movement, extremely varied and long-time lasting, it would be difficult to offer its complete synthesis in one volume. Though, the exhaustive presentation of the historical and linguistic contexts allows the reader to understand the phenomenon. Intensified interest in translations of the Bible is closely connected with the interest in the Polish language, its literary expression as well as its grammatical and orthographic standardisation that occurred just in the same time. The intellectual activity related to the Bible contributed simultaneously to the development of the Polish literary language and even inspired the translations of the sacred texts of other religions present in the country. Moreover, contacts between different languages of Central and Eastern European area, where many attempts of new translations appeared, are very important. A quick rise of the different Reformation movements contributed to a »natural« need for new translations and commentaries to be used by community members. These new currents, first easily accepted and spread in the country, even when suppressed, could not stop this activity, and later new Catholic translations and commentaries of the post-Trident period, both in Polish and Lithuanian, proved it. Big part of study is also dedicated to particular typographical realizations of this activity and an interesting example of the musical expression directly inspired by the biblical translation, is also provided.

This work is extremely specialized and its focus is extraordinarily narrow.  Laser beam narrow.  I think it can be said with confidence that its audience will be a quite specific group of readers; which is a shame, because it is engaging, well written, and informative.

The link above takes readers to the book’s webpage where one finds a ‘leseprobe’.  There readers can sample the table of contents and the front matter.  Please do take a look at some point.

As I suggested above, this volume is quite focused and its chapters are very narrow in scope.  For instance:

Words of God Cut in Wood. Some Remarks about the Illustrations in Polish Renaissance Editions of the Bible.


Calvinist Bibles in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.


The Lexis of the Gdansk Bible’s New Testament (1632) in Comparison to the Brest Bible’s New Testament (1563) and the New Testament of the Jakub Wujek Bible (1599) – in Search of Adequacy of the Translation into Renaissance Polish.

Such essays will be of interest primarily to specialists in the Eastern European Reformation.  Readers outside of that particular field will probably not be drawn by the title to the contents and readers of the contents will probably not be drawn to read the essays by means of the essay titles.  But, again, they should do so.

Although extremely specialized, these essays provide exactly what historians need: details.  They also provide very fine examples of how particularized historical studies should be pursued.

In our day of dilettantes and pseudo-scholars and when there is widespread belief that if you just read a wikipedia article on a topic, you are well informed and competent, such a study reminds us that historical research is complex and complicated and takes years of familiarizing oneself with primary and secondary sources.

This work, in other words, is a very helpful corrective to dilettantism and amateurism. Even if potential readers don’t think this volume is ‘their thing’, they should take a look.  Where else, after all, will you discover

True to the Humanist principle, the Protestants published new versions whose trademark was the claim, on the title page or in the preface, that the translation had been made from the originals. Often these translations were indeed based on the Hebrew and the Greek, but in their concern to fill an urgent need some translators had recourse to other strategies such as basing themselves on other vernacular or Latin versions reputed to be particularly faithful to the originals. The translation method was either philological, if the original was closely followed (as Erasmus did in his Latin version), or inspired, in a tradition going back to Luther (for this use of the terms philological and inspired cf. Schwarz: 1955, 61 ff). Translators representing the philological tradition seek to echo every Hebrew of Greek word as emanating from the Holy Ghost; an inspired translator will render his source text as faithfully as he can while being driven by the concern to make his language sound natural and idiomatic. The difference boils down to a choice between the ad verbum and the ad sensum principles.

This book teaches.  Enjoy learning.

Forthcoming Volumes of Interest

All from V&R.

Reformations in Hungary in the Age of the Ottoman Conquest

Pál Ács discusses various aspects of the cultural and literary history of Hungary during the hundred years that followed the Battle of Mohács (1526) and the onset of the Reformation. The author focuses on the special Ottoman context of the Hungarian Reformation movements including the Protestant and Catholic Reformation and the spiritual reform of Erasmian intellectuals. The author argues that the Ottoman presence in Hungary could mean the co-existence of Ottoman bureaucrats and soldiers with the indigenous population. He explores the culture of occupied areas, the fascinating ways Christians came to terms with Muslim authorities, and the co-existence of Muslims and Christians. Ács treats not only the culture of the Reformation in an Ottoman context but also vice versa the Ottomans in a Protestant framework. As the studies show, the culture of the early modern Hungarian Reformation is extremely manifold and multi-layered. Historical documents such as theological, political and literary works and pieces of art formed an interpretive, unified whole in the self-representation of the era. Two interlinked and unifying ideas define this diversity: on the one hand the idea of European-ness, i. e. the idea of strong ties to a Christian Europe, and on the other the concept of Reformation itself. Despite its constant ideological fragmentation, the Reformation sought universalism in all its branches. As Pál Ács shows, it was re-formatio in the original sense of the word, i. e. restoration, an attempt to restore a bygone perfection imagined to be ideal.

Being a person fairly unfamiliar with the details of the Reformation in Eastern Europe, I found this work to be incredibly interesting.  From the very first section, which describes the influence of Erasmus and other intellectuals on the foundations of Reformation in Hungary, to the cultural context of Hungary (which is so amazingly interesting!) including its book culture and its theological understandings, to the reception and adaptation of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs among Hungarian dissidents, to the arrival and influence of the Ottomans, and the resurgence of the Roman church, every page is a revelation.

Here, for instance, we read –

The Reformation spread more easily and freely in the area under Ottoman occupation and in the Principality of Transylvania (a vassal state of the Porte) than in the Kingdom of Hungary under Habsburg rule. Radical trends of Protestantism, Antitrinitarianism and Szekler Sabbatarianism soon started to flourish in Ottoman-occupied Hungary and Transylvania.

And this genius bit-

I must admit that I love the period I study, and I may tend to idealize life in the 16th and 17th centuries. Of course, I know that this age is not better or worse than any other. These were harsh and cruel times in which chopped heads hung from the walls of Ottoman and Christian fortresses as war trophies, and religious opponents would often describe each other as devils springing straight out of hell. We can nonetheless affirm that people living in the age of the Ottoman period of Hungary were quite receptive of each other. The often cruel and violent debaters – Catholics and Protestants, Christians and Muslims – had studied each other’s works for years and lived close to each other also in a spiritual sense. There were lively and intricate commercial relations between the Christian world and Ottoman Hungary. This was not friendship, but a sense of connection.

The entire collection (and these are previously published in a variety of places) is an eye-opener on a particular slice of Church history.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and I think you will as well.

Tolle, lege!

Radikal-reformatorische Themen im Bild: Druckgrafiken der Reformationszeit (1520–1560)

In den Kernjahren der Reformationszeit bediente sich nicht nur der Kreis um Martin Luther des Mediums Bild, um theologische Positionen unter das Volk zu bringen, sondern auch Theologen dem Bereich der Radikalen Reformation. Die Fragen sind hierbei: Welche religiösen Themen und charakteristischen Denkfiguren fanden einen künstlerischen Widerhall? Mittels welcher Bildmotive wurden die theologischen Vorstellungen visuell und didaktisch erfahrbar gemacht? Die Rahmenbedingungen des Druckwesens im 16. Jahrhundert, Zensur und obrigkeitliche Verfolgung wirkten sich dabei auf die Möglichkeiten von Publikation und Distribution aus und bestimmten deren Handlungsspielräume. Ebenso beeinflusste die eigene Disposition in der Bilderfrage – von Bilderablehnung und Ikonoklasmus bis hin zum Erkennen agitatorischer, lehrhafter und meditativer Bildwerte – die künstlerische Darstellung. Abschließend verdeutlicht Christiane Gruber mit einem Blick auf Grafiken der Opponenten der Radikalen Reformation – Luther und seiner Anhänger – die thematische Vielfalt der Bildmotive als auch die Diskrepanz zwischen Selbstsicht und Fremdeinschätzung. Sie behandelt Titelbilder auf Druckwerken sowie illustrierte Flugblätter von Täufern und Spiritualisten (Karlstadt, Bünderlin, Denck, Hätzer, Hoffman, Münsteraner Täufer, Franck), Porträts von Schwenckfeld in ihrer Rezeptionsgeschichte und Handzeichnungen des Laienpredigers Ziegler. Theologische und ikonographische Ergebnisse bedingen sich hierbei gegenseitig und machen die erarbeiteten Themen interdisziplinär anschlussfähig.

What is this volume about?  The author informs us that

Verstärkt wendete sich die historische Arbeit in den letzten Jahrzehnten den Bildern zu, nicht länger liegt das Augenmerk allein auf Texten als historische Quelle. Wurden Bildmedien lange Zeit nur als Illustration genutzt und ihre geschichtlich-soziale Bedeutung unterschätzt, so gelang es durch diverse Bestrebungen von Historikern, Mediävisten und Kommunikationswissenschaftlern die umfassende, den schriftlichen Medien gleichwertige Aussagekraft von visuellen Produktionen wie Gemälden, Flugblättern, Fotografien, Plakaten und Filmen hervorzuheben. Die Forschung spricht von einem ‚visual / pictoral turn.

At hand, then, is a work that aims to use illustrative artwork as a key to historical interpretation.  To do so, the author assembles 52 images from volumes and broadsheets published in the sixteenth century and which relate to the Radical Reformation.

Art can teach us volumes about how things and movements and people are viewed by persons inhabiting a particular slice of history.   As, indeed, we all learned as children, ‘a picture is worth 1000 words’.

Those pictures may not reflect history ‘as it really happened’, though, because the artist is biased or historically misinformed.  But those pictures do tell us, quite clearly, how those artists, and the people they associated with, viewed particular people and things.

The benefit of the present work is that it helps us to understand how the Radical Reformation was understood and viewed by people much closer to it in time than we are.  And thus, it provides a fresh perspective.

The table of contents can be found here under leseprobe.

After providing all the necessary background information concerning images, the era, and artistic methods, Gruber analyzes the assembled materials in clear and helpful terms and shows the importance of such materials for historical reconstruction.

This book is worth your time.

More Than Luther: The Reformation and the Rise of Pluralism in Europe

This volume contains the plenary papers and a selection of shortpapers from the Seventh Annual RefoRC conference, which was held May 10–12th 2017 in Wittenberg. The contributions concentrate on the effects of Luther´s new theology and draw the lines from Luther´s contemporaries into the early seventeenth century. Developments in art, catholic responses and Calvinistic reception are only some of the topics. The volume reflects the interdisciplinarity and interconfessionality that characterizes present research on the 16th century reformations and underlines the fact that this research has not come to a conclusion in 2017. The papers in this conference volume point to lacunae and will certainly stimulate further research.

Contributors: Wim François, Antonio Gerace, Siegrid Westphal, Edit Szegedi, Maria Lucia Weigel, Graeme Chatfield, Jane Schatkin Hettrick, Marta Quatrale, Aurelio A. García, Jeannette Kreijkes, Csilla Gábor, Gábor Ittzés, Balázs Dávid Magyar, Tomoji Odori, Gregory Soderberg, Herman A. Speelman, Izabela Winiarska-Górska, Erik A. de Boer, Donald Sinnema, Dolf te Velde.

The editors describe the volume as follows:

The Seventh Annnual RefoRC conference, which was held May 10–12th 2017 in Wittenberg, focused on the topic More than Luther: The Reformation and the Rise of Pluralism in Europe. Close to ninety papers on this topic were presented and a selection of these is presented in this volume. Yet this selection reflects the broadness of the conference as well as the interdisciplinarity and interconfessionality that characterizes the Reformation Research Consortium. The conference underlined, once again, the fact that research on the reformations of the sixteenth century has not come to a conclusion in 2017. Quite the contrary, the 500th anniversary of Luther′s decisive action has demonstrated how wide a field of research is still open. The papers in this conference volume point to lacunae and will certainly stimulate further research.

The link above allows access to the table of contents, which do read.  As described above, the collection here published is comprised of papers presented at a conference concerning the Reformation and its intention was to examine the varieties of reformations which sprang up in the 16th century.  These papers do a very good job of precisely that, and their breadth and scope is the great strength of the volume.  So, for instance, in a discussion of the Reformation and marriage we read

It is one of the recognised core statements arising from the historical research done on the Reformation, that the Reformation had a lasting influence on gender relationship (cf. Westphal: 2016; Conrad: 2016). The topic of marriage is a particular focus of interest in this case because it is assumed that the structure it took was altered or renewed completely. Although a clearly defined doctrine on marriage is not actually being spoken about in this case, yet there are – according to the common consensus – topics in relation to numerous individual aspects in reaction to concrete problem areas that have been broached.

And at the conclusion of a very engaging discussion of Calvinism and the rise of pluralism in Europe, which focused especially on the Huguenots, we find these lines:

From 1559 on, the Huguenots began more and more consciously to distance themselves from the ecclesiastical unity in France. Such a situation, in which a church established itself without the involvement of the government, was entirely unique, so that the Huguenots had achieved a point of no return. The familiar, age-old notion of a European Christendom guided by the church, whose pastoral care and rituals structured and disciplined the whole life, as well as the notion of the corpus christianum – all of this was more or less changed in Reformation times, although it had already begun in the time leading up to that.

And of Dort-

The Synod of Dordt, which met for six and a half months from mid-November 1618 to the end of May 1619, was convened primarily to settle the Arminian controversy that had agitated the Netherlands for about twenty years. The synod also considered other discipline cases and made decisions on a variety of other ecclesiastical matters.

After which the author goes into deep detail about the topic.

Each essay contains a very fine bibliography and each is festooned with footnotes pointing to both primary and secondary sources.

This conference volume is very useful and will expand the knowledge of all who read it.

The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective

Frank van der Pol
The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective
Refo500 Academic Studies (R5AS) 51,
ISBN 13: 978-3-525-57070-8

In 11 essays The Doctrine of Election in Reformed Perspective reflect ongoing investigations concerning the doctrine of election, with special focus on the Synod of Dort 1618–19. Important lines of demarcation between different Reformed orthodox groups and denominations find their root divergence, as well as historical concentration point, in relation to this very issue. The ongoing research presented in this collection can open up a fresh field of fertile investigation for theological discussion. Moreover, she may lead to interdisciplinary perspectives and a cooperative approach to research, also beyond the field of theology. For this too is the field of philosophers and historians, those who trace the history of Christianity or are studying early modern Europe.

The volume consists of three sections. In the first Part three essays reflect historical and philosophical issues before the Synod of Dort. Part Two explores aspects of the Synod of Dort itself. The focus in Part Three is on the reception of the Synod of Dort. Finally, the following question is answered: How were the Canons of Dort regarded in the 17th–19th century, and what does the history of their editions tell us?

The editor, Frank van der Pol, was the program leader of the combined research group Early Modern Reformed Theology (EMRT) of the theological universities Apeldoorn and Kampen. In cooperation with the A Lasco Bibliothek Emden the EMRT organized an international conference on Oct. 29 and 30, 2014 about the doctrine of election in reformed perspective. The research group is convinced that the dual line of research on history and theology of the Reformation tradition must continue and be strengthened. On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the Synod of Dort, the researchers, wanting to do their work in a broader context with a wider dialogue, make their proceedings accessible for more people and institutes by publishing them in this volume.

When people think about the doctrine of election they normally, if they think about it at all, link election with predestination and once they begin down that road, they invariably like predestination with the dual notion of predestination to heaven and predestination to hell (the so-called ‘double decree’).  And that has become, in the popular mind, an idea of Calvin.

But all of that is wrong.  Election and predestination are not the same thing and the double decree has absolutely nothing to do with Calvin but instead with his descendants, the hyper-calvinists.  Indeed, Calvin’s own view of predestination was very reserved.

But of course most ‘YRR’ readers and even more of the general populace are completely oblivious concerning the facts of what they profess to believe.

Hence, we arrive at the present volume.  Here, in eleven essays by as ten authors (see the table of contents in the book description at the link above) set readers on the straight and narrow path of a correct understand of the outgrowth of the doctrine’s examination at the Synod of Dort.

In both German and English, the essays in the book take us from the consequences of Dort’s decisions in the Netherlands to the influence of Melanchthon to the towering figure of Calvin to critically important discussions of election at Dort itself to John Cameron’s Universalism and into the first half of the seventeenth century and then onto Remonstrant views of predestination and even further into the views of Schleiermacher on the doctrine of predestination.  We end with a description of the various incarnations of the Canons of Dort from the 17th through the 19th centuries.

Interestingly written and insightfully so, these essays are a much needed corrective to various popular misunderstandings of the Synod of Dort’s presentation of the important doctrine of Election and the reception history (for lack of a better term) of that doctrine post Dort.

Especially intriguing are the contributions of Selderhuis, de Boer (both of his), van Lieburg, Sinnema, and van der Pol.  They were all first presented as papers at a 2014 Conference at the John a Lasco library in Emden.  A conference, I regret, I was unable to attend.  And that’s one of the reasons why the present work (and those like it) which collect and disseminate Conference papers to a much wider audience are so important both for the guild and for scholars as individuals.

The aim of the editors is to

…stimulate further discussion on both this synod and on the doctrine of election.

I think they have succeeded wonderfully.  If Dort or Election are of interest to you, then I cannot but recommend that you read this volume.

Reforming Priesthood in Reformation Zurich: Heinrich Bullinger’s End-Times Agenda

The dramatic task of re-imagining clerical identity proved crucial to the Renaissance and Reformation. Jon Wood brings new light to ways in which that discussion animated reconfigurations of church, state, and early modern populace. End-Times considerations of Christian religion had played a part in upheavals throughout the medieval period, but the Reformation era mobilized that tradition with some new possibilities for understanding institutional leadership. Perceiving dangers of an overweening institution on the one hand and anarchic “priesthood of all believers” on the other hand, early Protestants defended legitimacy of ordained ministry in careful coordination with the state. The early Reformation in Zurich emphatically disestablished traditional priesthood in favour of a state-supported “prophethood” of exegetical-linguistic expertise. The author shows that Heinrich Bullinger’s End-Times worldview led him to reclaim for Protestant Zurich a notion of specifically clerical “priesthood,” albeit neither in terms of statist bureaucracy nor in terms of the traditional sacramental character that his precursor (Huldrych Zwingli) had dismantled. Clerical priesthood was an extraordinarily fraught subject in the sixteenth century, especially in the Swiss Confederation. Heinrich Bullinger’s private manuscripts helpfully supplement his more circumscribed published works on this subject. The argument about reclaiming a modified institutional priesthood of Protestantism also prompts re-assessment of broader Reformation history in areas of church-state coordination and in major theological concepts of “covenant” and “justification” that defined religious/confessional distinctions of that era.

Jon Wood’s lovely little book is a wonderful historical work which demonstrates the ultimate failure of Bullinger’s effort to reform the clergy before the end of all things.  As he states at the end of his work

Bullinger did not successfully chart the course of subsequent eras in terms of clerical identity or church-state relations.

To see how he arrived at this conclusion, readers are led from the general understanding of the end times in chapter one, to the second chapter where clergy and clericalization are the center of attention and then on in chapter three to what Wood titles ‘End-Times Interplay of Doctrine and Lifestyle’.

The fourth chapter is pivotal and describes the transformation of Zurich’s clerics from ‘Prophets’ to ‘Priests’.  Chapter five, which is quite brief, takes us to the question of Justification (although why is not really clear to me).  In an appendix there are diagrams from Bullinger’s Sermones Synodales.  All of this is followed by a list of abbreviations and a bibliography.

This study is a very helpful investigation of the air of eschatology that permeated Switzerland and, indeed, all of Christendom in the 16th century.  In light of that sense of doom and crisis, how the clergy were organized and what their work consisted of was a critically important issue.  Bullinger’s aims and goals, in light of all this, ultimately failed.  Probably, in the view of Wood, because of the stirrings of Enlightenment on the horizon towards the end of his life.

With the increase of human learning, and science, dependence on divine revelation ceased to carry the weight it formerly possessed. And everything changed- including the tasks of Clerics.  Had Bullinger been able to see that future, he may have adapted his clerical ideals towards it.  But since no one can tell the future, Bullinger’s plans came to nothing.

Which, given how well Wood explains those Bullingerian ideals, is quite a shame.  The Reformed tradition would have been much better off if Bullinger’s ideas had prevailed and held sway.

You’ll enjoy this volume.