Luther Christmas Sermons to Press!

The bad news: I have removed Martin Luther’s five sermons on Isaiah’s six names for Jesus from this blog.

The good news: I have removed them as a result of a contract with Northwestern Publishing House (NPH), who will, God willing, publish them in connection with the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. The plan at this point is to publish them as an Advent/Christmas devotional.

This 1531 Christmas sermon series by Luther is not only thoroughly scriptural and edifying, but is also of historical value. It provides a good glimpse into Luther the man – his sense of humor, his past experiences in the Roman Church, his experience with the German Peasants’ War, and his down-to-earth manner of communicating God’s word.

Please watch for this book from NPH in 2017, and thanks for your continued support of Red Brick Parsonage Printing!

Luther the Matchmaker?

The following Luther story is often quoted in Luther biographies when talking about how Luther not only tolerated the note- and quote-takers in his house, but sometimes even encouraged them. However, the only English translation I’ve seen polishes Luther up (definitely not the first time that’s happened).

In my opinion, being faithful to Luther’s original rawness not only shows historical and factual integrity, but it also helps people to be more circumspect analysts of Luther – admiring only the admirable (of which there is plenty) and rejecting the reprehensible (which is also not lacking). In other words, it helps to keep Lutherans from being Lutherans for the wrong reasons. Presenting the original, raw Luther does not mean that one approves of him that way.

However, in this particular case, I really don’t see why the original was cleaned up. The original bares Luther’s heart better and is more entertaining.

I translated this story from the Weimar edition (WA) of Luther’s Works (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1913), TR 2:123, #1525. It was recorded by Johann Schlaginhaufen (his Latinized name is Turbicida – tur-bi-CHEE-dah) between May 7 and 13, 1532. Schlaginhaufen had been a student at the University of Wittenberg (enrolled in 1520) and was a regular guest in Luther’s home from late 1531 to 1532, when he became a pastor in the village of Zahna near Wittenberg.

After the doctor [Luther] had climbed into his bed, a man came to the door, sent by a widow of a pastor in Belgern to ask for a husband. Luther said to the messenger, “Give me a break! She is not seven years old any more! She’s the one who must look for a man she can take; I do not have any man to give her.” When the messenger had left, he laughed and said to me, “For God’s sake, Turbicida, I beg you, write that one down! Isn’t it a nuisance? Am I really their first option for getting husbands for the women too? I think that they must take me for a brothel keeper! Phooey on you, you dumb world! Friend, write it and note it!”

Prudentius’ Holy Innocents Hymn

“All Hail! You Infant Martyr Flowers”
By Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348-c. 413), sts. 1-4,6,7; Peter M. Prange, st. 5
Translated by Peter M. Prange

Translator’s Preface

As you prepare to celebrate the Festival of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs, on Sunday, December 28, consider making use of Prudentius’ hymn below, translated by Pastor Peter Prange. Regarding his translation, Pastor Prange shares the following:

The original Latin stanzas of Prudentius’ hymn can be found here. The entire hymn can be found here, along with other hymns of Prudentius.

I produced this translation in 2008 when the congregation I serve (Jerusalem, Morton Grove, IL) was planning to celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents. Stanza five is not part of Prudentius’ original Latin text but an original, additional stanza that I authored in order to include Matthew’s point that this event happened as a fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy.

Pastor Prange set the hymn to the tune, “O Heiland, reiss die Himmel auf” (Christian Worship 22).

All Hail! You Infant Martyr Flowers

1. All hail! You infant martyr flow’rs,
Cut off in life’s first dawning hours;
Like rosebuds, snapped in dreadful strife,
When Herod sought our Savior’s life.

2. With terror does the tyrant hear
That God’s own Son to us draws near.
On David’s throne he comes to dwell
And reign as King of Israel.

3. King Herod rages at the Word:
”Go, soldier, with your ruthless sword
To Him, who stands where we have stood,
And stain the Infant-crib with blood!”

4. O, what is gained from this offense?
What profit comes from violence?
The Savior-King survived the day,
As Christ was safely whisked away!

5. A voice is heard in bitter pain,
As Rachel mourns the infants slain,
Refusing comfort – sacred lore –
Because her children are no more!

6. Of you, O little lambs, we sing,
First victims slain for Christ our King:
Beneath the heav’nly altar’s ray
With martyr-palms and crowns you play!

7. To you, the Virgin-born, we raise
Thanksgiving and eternal praise,
Whom with the Father we adore
And Holy Spirit evermore.

Alberus’ Thanksgiving Hymn

“To You, O God, Our Thanks We Give”
Erasmus Alberus (c. 1500-1553), 1537

Translator’s Preface

With this translation, I think I have finally crossed the finish line of my quest for meal-time prayer variety. I translated what follows from August Pieper’s Biblische Hausandachten (Family Meditations from the Bible), 2nd ed. (Milwaukee: NPH, 1912), p. 417.

This one-verse hymn is attributed to Erasmus Alberus, who studied under Luther at the University of Wittenberg and was an active helper in the cause of the Lutheran Reformation. Apart from his hymns, he is probably best known for his satire Der Barfuser Münche Eulenspiegel und Alcoran (Owlglass and Koran of the Franciscans), which ridiculed the Franciscan Order and was published in 1542 with a preface authored by Luther himself. After Luther’s death, Alberus sided with Matthias Flacius and the Gnesio-Lutherans.

Alberus’ thanksgiving hymn appears as hymn 458 in the current Evangelisches Gesangbuch, the official hymnal of the Protestant State Church in Germany. There it is set to an abridged version of the melody for Psalm 105 composed by Pierre Davantès and found in the 1562 Genevan Psalter. (You can hear Alberus’ German hymn sung to this setting here.) That melody is not particularly attractive or memorable, and I’m guessing these lyrics penned by a staunch Lutheran were combined with a melody from the Genevan Psalter, which was created under the supervision of John Calvin, in order to further the union agenda of the Protestant State Church, which seeks to combine the Lutheran and Reformed traditions.

In addition, the original meter – 99 88 88 99 – is quite rare, if not nonexistent, in current Lutheran hymnody. I found it easier to translate the text into 88 88 88 88 meter, but this did not help me in finding a suitable tune. (The only hymn I know with this meter is “The Tree of Life” – Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary 302, Christian Worship Supplement 754).

So this project became a unique one for me, since it prompted me not only to translate German poetry, but also to compose music.

The original German stanza with a literal English translation:

Wir danken Gott für seine Gaben,
Die wir von ihm empfangen haben,
Wir bitten unsern lieben Herrn:
Er woll’ uns hinfort mehr bescher’n,
Er woll’ uns speisen mit sei’m Wort,
Daß wir satt werden hier und dort.
Ach lieber Herr, du wollst uns geben
Nach dieser Welt das ew’ge Leben. Amen.

We thank God for his gifts,
Which we have received from him,
We ask our dear Lord:
He would henceforth bestow more upon us,
He would feed us with his Word,
So that we get satiated here [in time] and there [in eternity].
Ah, dear Lord, [we ask that] you would give us
After this world the eternal life. Amen.

The primary difference between the original hymn and my translation below is the person. In the original, the one praying addresses God in the third person until the last two lines, almost as if the speaker is not actually praying, but rather telling someone else about how he prays after meals. I am familiar with this type of prayer perspective, but I am not a fan. It’s almost as if we are asking God simply to tune in to our recitation, if he likes, and to admire our ability to memorize. So I transformed the entire prayer into a second person address.

Click here for an original two-part setting composed just for this hymn. It is arranged for one party to sing the melody, and another party to sing an alto part, which would work just as well as a bass part when moved an octave lower.

I pray that the Holy Spirit has used this series of meal-prayer translations to aid Christian families in their prayer life and to further their love for music. May the triune God continue to provide for us on earth, body and soul, that we may praise his goodness forever in heaven.

To You, O God, Our Thanks We Give
A Hymn of Thanks After Meals

To you, O God, our thanks we give
For these your gifts we have received.
Since you redeemed us with your blood,
Bestow on us much more than food:
Our souls with your pure gospel feed;
Contentment then shall death exceed.
Dear Lord, when bread no more sustains,
Grant us to dwell in heav’n’s domains. Amen.

Bless These Your Gifts

Anonymous, 1561, Frankfurt an der Oder, st. 1-2; anon., 1660, Bayreuth, st. 3

Translator’s Preface

In the continuing quest for meal-prayer and meal-hymn variety, the following is a translation of hymn #595 in the “Jahreszeiten” (Seasonal) section of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Wisconsin and Other States’ old German hymnal, Evang.-Lutherisches Gesangbuch für Kirche, Schule und Haus (Evangelical Lutheran Hymnal for Church, School, and Home), published by Northwestern Publishing House in Milwaukee.

The hymn is titled, “Geseg’n uns, Herr, die Gaben dein,” and was familiar enough to our German ancestors. For example, August Pieper included the first two stanzas in the “Andre Gebete vor Tisch” (Other Prayers Before Meals) section of his Biblische Hausandachten (Family Meditations from the Bible). A literal translation yields:

Bless for us richly, Lord, your gifts,
Cause (this) food to be our nourishment;
Grant that through it (may) be invigorated
The frail body on this earth.

For this temporal bread alone
Is not able to suffice for us for life,
Your divine Word feeds the soul,
Helps us for life most of all.

Therefore give us both, Lord God,
Help (us) finally also out of every need,
So let us praise your goodness
Here and also there into eternity. Amen.

The suggested tune in the Gesangbuch is “Christ, der du bist der helle Tag,” a quite unfamiliar tune. (Ironically, despite the fact that its tune is suggested, the text of that hymn does not even appear in the Gesangbuch.) Another printed suggestion is “Herr Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht,” a popular Lutheran tune (e.g. Christian Worship 404).

In an effort to resurrect an ancient Latin hymn melody that was converted into a German Lutheran hymn that now seems to be fading from use, I have set the translation below to the tune “Christe, der du bist Tag und Licht,” which setting you can access here. A complete four-part setting of this melody can be found in the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (Evangelical Lutheran Synod, 1996), no. 571.

Regarding the translation itself, the most notable departure from the original occurs in stanza 2. The original stanza begins with an explanatory “For.” In other words, the author is explaining why we are duty-bound to ask God’s blessing on our food. I did not find this connection entirely apparent, nor was I convinced that the thoughts about God’s Word in stanza 2 were parallel to the concept of God’s blessing in stanza 1.

In stanza 1, we are acknowledging that no food would do us any good if God did not also add his word of blessing to it and in effect say to the food, “Nourish this human” – a blessing which God regularly extends even to unbelievers. In stanza 2, we are acknowledging that even if God were to add this blessing to our food for the duration of our lives, but we were unfamiliar with the gospel of Jesus Christ, we would still have no true happiness in this life and in the end we would still perish eternally in hell. In other words, the food would still, in the final analysis, have done us no good whatsoever (though God would have worked our life and its activity to the advantage of his Church).

Therefore I thought that beginning stanza 2 with an adversative “But” would actually lend strength to both stanzas by clearly dividing these separate but related thoughts.

May the triune God promote a spirit of pious thanksgiving among us not only at meal times, but in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Update (11-8-14):  The title of the hymn and the first line of the first stanza were changed from “Bless Now This Food” to “Bless These Your Gifts.” My original translation simply asked God to add his blessing to the food in front of us, but was silent on the question of whence the food came. The updated translation, more closely reflecting the original German, praises God, and reminds us, that the food is there in front of us in the first place because God has graciously given it to us.

Bless These Your Gifts

1. Bless these your gifts, Lord, from on high,
That they may nourish us thereby;
Frail bodies do with strength imbue,
That we our duties well pursue.

2. But earthly bread alone would fail
To make us happy, hearty, hale;
Your Word alone does feed the soul
And make our health complete and whole.

3. So give us both, Lord God, we plead,
And help us out of every need;
Then all your goodness we shall praise
Both here and there, in endless days. Amen.

Martin Luther’s Table Prayers

Translator’s Preface

Every so often I like to translate something familiar that has already been translated. Re-translating it makes me think about the words and appreciate the content all the more.

This time I decided to return to Luther’s Small Catechism, to Luther’s Table Prayers in particular. I consulted the critical edition: Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche (The Confessional Writings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church), 2nd ed. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1955), p. 522-523.

This choice was inspired in part by the fact that my wife and I have been looking for some variety in our table prayers. Although I knew that these prayers existed in Luther’s Small Catechism, they were not something I was taught by my family or in Catechism instruction. (We were simply taught the “common table prayers” – “Come, Lord Jesus,” etc.) The translations in the Catechism used by our synod (Kuske ed.) are somewhat abridged and include none of Luther’s rubrics. The strength of Luther’s prayers lies especially in the Prayer of Thanks, which he uses as an opportunity to teach the children Psalm passages that highlight more general and more important scriptural truths than simply the fact that God is the one who has given them their food.

May God grant that this fresh translation, even if only in a small way, aid the Christian reader in his or her prayer life, for Jesus’ sake.

How the Father, as the Head of the Family, Should Teach His Household to Ask God’s Blessing and to Give Thanks

The Table Blessing1

The children and servants should present themselves before the table with folded hands and good manners and say:

The eyes of all wait upon you, O Lord, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and gratify everything that lives with satisfaction.2 3

Then they should say the Lord’s Prayer and the following prayer:

Lord God, heavenly Father, bless us and these gifts you have given us, which we enjoy from your bountiful goodness, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The Prayer of Thanks4

So too after the meal they should likewise fold their hands and politely say:

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is kind and his goodness endures forever. He gives food to all flesh. He gives the cattle their fodder, and feeds the young ravens who call on him. He does not take delight in the strength of the steed or take pleasure in anyone’s legs. The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him and who wait upon his goodness.5

Then they should say the Lord’s Prayer and the following prayer:

We thank you, Lord God our Father, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, for all the favor you show us, you who live and reign forever. Amen.

Endnotes

1 Borrowed by Luther from the breviary

2 Scholia: Satisfaction means that all animals get enough to eat so that they are glad and in good spirits about it, for worry and greed hinder such satisfaction.

3 Psalm 145:15-16

4 Composed by Luther, leaning on the breviary

5 Psalm 106:1; 136:25; 147:9-11

The Necessity of Being Persecuted

A Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:10-13

By Johann Gerhard, Th. D.

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Adnotationes ad Posteriorem D. Pauli ad Timotheum Epistolam, in Quibus Textus Declaratur, Quaestiones Dubiae Solvuntur, Observationes Eruuntur, & Loca in Speciem Pugnantia quam Brevissime Conciliantur (Commentary on St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, in Which the Text Is Explained, Difficult Questions Are Answered, Observations Are Drawn Out, and Seemingly Contradictory Passages Are Reconciled as Concisely as Possible) by Johann Gerhard, Th.D. (Jena: Steinmann, 1643), pp. 63-65; available from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

This translation was prepared in connection with an exegetical presentation assigned to me for a circuit meeting in Merrill, Wisconsin, on November 3, 2014.

May the Holy Spirit use the example of the apostle Paul, especially his willingness to suffer a multitude and variety of persecutions for the sake of the gospel, to incite and inspire us so that we are willing and able to undergo similar experiences to the triune God’s honor and glory.

2 Timothy 3:10-13

10. Σὺ δὲ παρηκολούθηκάς μου τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ, τῇ ἀγωγῇ, τῇ προθέσει, τῇ πίστει, τῇ μακροθυμίᾳ, τῇ ἀγάπῃ, τῇ ὑπομονῇ

Tu autem adsecutus es meam doctrinam institutionem propositum fidem longanimitatem dilectionem patientiam

  • Σὺ δὲ παρηκολούθηκάς μου τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ, τῇ ἀγωγῇ, τῇ προθέσει

In contrast to the corrupt teachings and practices of the heretics Paul sets down his own example, and with it he incites Timothy to discharge his office in a steadfast manner. Paraphrase: “But you have eagerly sought to imitate and have sufficiently understood my teaching, instruction, and intention, that is, when you were an inseparable companion on my travels and a partner in my activity. Therefore you are thoroughly familiar and intimately acquainted with everything about me.”

Some take ἀγωγὴν to mean a particular method of instructing, since ἀγωγή, as Aristotle teaches in Book 1 of The Art of Rhetoric, signifies a guiding and understanding of the law that happens when an instructor or professor leads, so to speak, a student who is to be instructed to the understanding of a particular matter.1 Others say it refers to how one acts in day-to-day life and a particular manner of living. Either interpretation works.

By πρόθεσιν Paul means the end and goal of his apostolic activity. That is to say, in all the activity of his ministry he had as his purpose not his own own glory or his own well-being, but the glory of God and the well-being of his neighbor.

  • τῇ πίστει, τῇ μακροθυμίᾳ, τῇ ἀγάπῃ, τῇ ὑπομονῇ

Some take faith to mean steadfastness of the soul, but it is more correctly applied to faith’s πληροφορίᾳ or full assurance, which shows itself through firmness and steadfastness of the soul.

By μακροθυμίαν Paul means tenderness of the soul and restraint toward persecutors and enemies of the truth.

By ἀγάπην he means Christian love toward all people.

By ὑπομονὴν he means endurance in the adversities and persecutions that he had to undergo.

11. τοῖς διωγμοῖς, τοῖς παθήμασι, οἷά μοι ἐγένετο ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ, ἐν Ἰκονίῳ, ἐν Λύστροις, οἵους διωγμοὺς ὑπήνεγκα, καὶ ἐκ πάντων με ἐῤῥύσατο ὁ Κύριος.

persecutiones passiones qualia mihi facta sunt Antiochiae Iconii Lystris quales persecutiones sustinui et ex omnibus me eripuit Dominus

  • τοῖς διωγμοῖς, τοῖς παθήμασι

He recounts the persecutions and afflictions that he has patiently endured for the sake of the gospel, in order that he may incite and inspire Timothy so that he is able and willing to submit to similar experiences.

  • οἷά μοι ἐγένετο ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ, ἐν Ἰκονίῳ, ἐν Λύστροις

He names three cities that were all accessories to his sufferings – Antioch (Pisidian, not Syrian), Iconium, and Lystra. According to Theodoret and Theophylact, Paul recalls these particular cities because Timothy was more familiar with what Paul had suffered in those places, since Timothy was originally from Lystra, a city in the vicinity of the other two.2 Alternatively, he might be recalling these three cities because the persecutions in those places were stirred up against him particularly by the Jews, as is clear from Acts 13 and 14.

  • οἵους διωγμοὺς ὑπήνεγκα

He is thinking of either the persecutions he has endured in the cities just mentioned or other persecutions. After all, Timothy had seen many other persecutions of Paul.

  • καὶ ἐκ πάντων με ἐῤῥύσατο ὁ Κύριος

Paul adds these words for Timothy’s comfort. However, God does not deliver from adversities in just one way. Sometimes he removes them, sometimes he lightens them, he always works patience in the hearts of the pious, and in the end he grants a blessed ἔκβασιν or release, if not in life, then through death.

12. καὶ πάντες δὲ οἱ θέλοντες εὐσεβῶς ζῆν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ διωχθήσονται.

et omnes qui volunt pie vivere in Christo Iesu persecutionem patientur

Paraphrase: “If persecutions and adversities should also fall to your lot, there is no reason that this should seem strange and unusual, because this is common to all those who are truly pious.”

Question: Why does he add “in Christ Jesus,” when no one is able to live piously except in Christ?

Response: He wants to show the only way we are able to live piously, namely in Christ-centered faith.

Gregory says in Book 7, Epistle 30: “I say confidently that you would live less piously if you suffered persecution to a lesser extent.”3

13. πονηροὶ δὲ ἄνθρωποι καὶ γόητες προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον, πλανῶντες καὶ πλανώμενοι.

mali autem homines et seductores proficient in peius errantes et in errorem mittentes

  • πονηροὶ δὲ ἄνθρωποι καὶ γόητες προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον

There is no reason for us to expect that persecution will cease during this age, because wicked people and seducers are always getting worse and worse, from which fact persecutions against the pious originate.

  • γόητες

Γόητες properly signifies enchanters and swindlers, then it is applied more generally to impostors and deceivers.

  • προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον

These words make us think back to what the apostle had said earlier in vs. 9: οὐ προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ πλεῖον, “they will not progress further.” They also send us back to the just judgment of God, on account of which the false teachers and those who listen to them are being struck with blindness (Rom 1:18ff).

  • πλανῶντες καὶ πλανώμενοι

This is an elegant polyptoton4tum seducentes, tum seducti, “both seducing and being seduced.” Erasmus translates: dum & in errorem adducunt [alios], & errant ipsi, “while they are both leading [others] astray and going astray themselves.”5

The translator of the Vulgate has altered the sequence of the words, because in the natural order going astray comes first, rather than leading others astray. But we are not compelled by any necessity to have recourse to πρωθύστερον.6 For the sense is this: While they are seducing others, they themselves, by the just judgment of God, are suffering the punishment of immediately falling into more grievous errors.

Endnotes

1 Rf. Aristotle, The “Art” of Rhetoric, tr. John Henry Freese (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1926), p. 154, 155. The more exact citation would be Book 1, Chapter 15, Section 10, or 1375b. Gerhard seems to have obtained this interpretation of Aristotle’s usage from Henricus Stephanus, Thesaurus Graecae Linguae, vol. 1 (Paris: Henricus Stephanus, 1572), col. 64. That Aristotle was actually using the word this way does not seem to be firmly established.

2 Interpretation of 2 Timothy: “[Paul] left out everything else that happened to him and called to mind only the dangers that he had met with in Pisidia and Lycaonia. For the one to whom he wrote was himself a Lycaonian, so these dangers were more familiar to him than the others” (Theodoret, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 82, Theodoreti Cyrensis Episcopi Opera Omnia [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], pp. 847,848).

Commentary on 2 Timothy: “He means the Antioch that was in Pisidia. Lystra was Timothy’s hometown. This is why he only mentions these places, since they were more familiar to Timothy. It could also be that they were the most recent places Paul visited” (Theophylact, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 125, Theophylacti, Bulgariae Archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani, Opera Quae Reperiri Potuerunt Omnia [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], pp. 121,122).

3 St. Gregory the Great, Patrologia Latina, vol. 77, Sancti Gregorii Papae I, Cognomento Magni, Opera Omnia (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1862), col. 886. The letter was addressed “To Narses, the Religious.” “The Narses here addressed as ‘Religiosus’ was probably the same as the ‘Narses Comes’ of I. 6, and VI. 14, and the ‘Narses Patricius’ of IV. 32. For it is evident from the letters that he was of high rank at Constantinople, and greetings are sent through him to the same persons as in the other letters. He had now, we may suppose, devoted himself to the service of the Church in some capacity” (www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf212.iii.v.vii.xviii.html, note 1710; accessed 3 November 2014).

4 A rhetorical device when several forms or cases of the same word stand together

5 E.g. Novi Testamenti Aeditio Postrema, per Des. Erasmum Roterodamum (Zurich: In Officina Froschoviana, 1541), p. 280. Gerhard incorrectly quotes Erasmus as translating inducunt instead of adducunt, but in this case the two are virtually synonymous.

6 Taking what is last and putting it first

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