Saturday, August 09, 2008

ESV with Apocrypha


Here is an interesting and informative blog post reporting that Oxford University Press will be publishing the English Standard Version of the Bible (ESV) with the Apocrypha in February 2009.

In the last century, we English-speaking Lutherans have been largely denied a good bit of our own biblical heritage since our congregations switched from German to English. Older German Bibles (typically based on Luther's translation) included the Apocrypha between the Old and New Testaments. When Lutherans began buying English language Bibles, they were published by various Protestant publishers, and the Apocryphal books largely vanished from our usage.

In fact, most Lutherans are somewhat shocked to find that these "Catholic" books were originally part of the Bibles their grandfathers and grandmothers used in their churches and read at home.

However, even to this day, traditional liturgical texts do continue to make use of passages from the Apocrypha (such as some of our Introits and Graduals) - as well as some of our hymnody (including the Christmas carol It Came Upon a Midnight Clear and the beloved Lutheran hymn Now Thank We All Our God. Most such references in the Lutheran Service Book materials do not acknowledge the Apocrypha, but rather read "liturgical verse" or some such. However, some of our Introits and Graduals are word for word quotes from books such as the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus, and the Song of the Three Young Men - which one is not likely to find in his or her Bible.

Like the early Church, we Lutherans do not establish doctrine on the sole witness of the Apocrypha (which interestingly places the Apocryphal books in the same category as the New Testament books that were disputed by the early Church fathers, known collectively as the antilegomena (of which James, Jude, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Hebrews, and Revelation are universally treated as canonical today - though Lutherans traditionally make a distinction between these and the other never-questioned books (homologoumena) - and thus do not establish doctrine based solely on their testimony).

Hopefully, the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod's near-endorsement of ESV, combined with this coming new edition with the Apocrypha will result in a resurgence of appreciation for and study of the Apocryphal books in our churches.

9 comments:

Denver said...

A couple questions from an ex-LCMS commissioned minister who has since concluded that the reformers were in error:

What's the putative 3rd Epistle of St. Peter?

Can you cite homologoumena for the entirety of the Quicunque vult? Or at least for these bits:
- "Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. "; and
- "And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal."

Thank you, kind sir!
Gregg the Obscure

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Obscure Gregg of Denver:

There's no 3 Peter, putative, imputative, or computative :-) (I goofed up keyboarding: "2 Peter and 2 and 3 John"). FTFY.

I'm not real big on theology by isolated proof text. But the three ecumenical creeds are not LCMS inventions. In fact, the Quicumque Vult precedes the reformers by some nine centuries! If it is in error, or the early fathers who first drew distinctions between the authority of the homolegoumena and the antilegomena were in error - this has nothing to do with the reformers. It sounds like your beef is really with the ancient Church.

The ecumenical creeds are the property of the whole church, and the entire Christian Church condemns the false doctrine that denies the Trinity and/or the Incarnation - both of which are confessed forcefully by the Quicumque.

The creeds are conclusions drawn from the whole of Scripture - not merely select quotes chip-chopped and reprocessed like McNuggets.

Having said that, here are some citations from the homologoumena dealing with the two points you raise: Gal 1:6-8, 2 Cor 11:3-4, Col 2:4, 8; 1 Tim 4:1, 6:3, 20, 21, 1 John 4:3; 2 Tim 2:15, Matt 28:19, 2 Cor 13:14, 1 Pet 1:1-2, James 2:9, Matt 3:16-17, Rom 15:15, 16, 30; Eph 4:4-6, John 14:16-23; 15:26; Deut 6:4, Mark 12:29, 1 Cor 8:4.

All those exclude the Apocrypha and the Antilegomena.

I hope this helps! Thanks for writing.

Past Elder said...

Do you know if there are any plans to release a "Concordia Edition" of the ESV with Apocrypha?

If so, it might just replace the current Concordia Edition ESV as my primary Bible.

Funny how some are concerned about us losing Lutheranism by becoming too Catholic, when we are still recovering Lutheranism here in America from having been too Protestant.

Speaking of which, and in conjunction with the flap over a female pastor from Texas at an LCMS gathering, I hope you will forgive me a rascal's chuckle on reading this week about another Texas female pastor -- co-pastor, I guess, with her best-selling husband -- that I am sure Mrs H is much better behaved on airplanes and Father H needs no follow-up visits to lawyers!

DRB said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
DRB said...

Nice post! A quibble: James 2:9 is from the antilegomena.

I added more information on the homologoumena to my blog.

[The link was broken in my last comment.]

Denver said...

Thank you, Rev. Beane, for your reply. Glad there isn't some spurious III Peter floating around out there!

Since you are clearly someone who seeks to follow Christ with integrity, intelligence and education -- as is true for your friend Rev. Weedon through whom I became acquainted with you -- I am compelled to speak up when you make a statement that appears to be inaccurate.

Your citations amply demonstrate the existence of the Holy Spirit, but I don't concede that those verses - individually or collectively -- are sufficient to establish either the Holy Spirit's personhood or divinity. I subscribe without reservation to the ecumenical creeds. I simply dispute that they can be said to originate solely from homologoumena or, even solely from scripture. I don't see how any of the citations support "keep whole" as they refer only to accretions to the faith but not to omissions.

Gregg the Obscure

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Elder:

I have no idea what CPH is up to. I would ask Pr. McCain if he knows anything. I would imagine he would lobby for CPH to sell the ESV+A, but I don't want to speak for him on this matter.

I generally lean in the direction of the NKJV instead of the ESV, but if we can get an ESV with the apocrypha, it might be worth changing over.

Like the British Navy and cannibalism, we now have the problem of Mrs. H accosting airline personnel "relatively under control" (thank you, Monty Python). ;-)

Father Hollywood said...

Dear DRB:

Thank you, and it isn't a quibble at all, but a genuine oversight! Thanks for the link.

Father Hollywood said...

Dear Gregg:

Thank you for your way-too kind words. You are far too generous in your assessment of me.

Again, I don't have a "proof text" for you that says exactly what you seem to be looking for, but it would be strange indeed for our Lord to tell us to "make disciples" by baptizing *in the name of* (Ha Shem from the Old Testament) two divine persons and one additional vestigial entity that is neither divine nor a person.

Similarly, Paul's benediction "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you" doesn't make any sense at all outside of the Most Holy Trinity - which explains why the Fathers concluded *based on Scripture* (none of them claimed a direct divine revelation of the Holy Spirit or of the Trinity - in fact, rejecting such claims in groups such as the Montanists) the creeds of the Church.

I would not say that all of the doctrines of the Church "originate" from the homologoumena (for example, the question of which books are canonical and which are not does not "originate" from the homologoumena), but rather that we, like the fathers, do not establish dogma based solely on the Apocrypha and/or the antilegomena - but require such doctrine to be confessed in the homologoumena - being the Word of God, undisputed by all Christians of every time and place.

I hope this helps clear up where I'm coming from even if we disagree.