Monday, June 23, 2008

Lutheran scholastics in English translation

Although English translations of Reformed scholastic theology are readily attained through a number of presses, it can be more difficult to find the theologians of Lutheran scholasticism.

One little-known publisher that has done a wonderful job of providing these resources is Repristination Press. The press (I'm assuming) is named after the repristination theology of the 19th century, a movement which rejected the Prussian Union whereby lutheran and reformed churches were joined by government decree to form the Evangelical Christian Church. The repristinators were also in opposition to the Erlangen School (from which many of the better known 19th century German theologians come), rejecting its constructive interaction with modern methods of inquiry in biblical studies and theology. The repristination movement, and confessional Lutheranism following in its train, are not generally recognized as offering any significant influence to Lutheranism or modern theology as a whole. Some wonderful works of dogmatic theology are there, however, for those willing to investigate. In much the same way as reformed scholasticism has received significant attention, the work of publishers like Repristination Press will hopefully lay the groundwork for more interest in the Lutheran counterparts of Beza, Vermigli, Turretin, and Wollebius. I have their translation of Johann Gerhard's An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ and two pamphlets of Hallgrim Petursson's hymns. The books are very plain (a good thing, in my opinion) and well bound. Repristination items can also be ordered through the Concordia Publishing House website or through Amazon.

...and speaking of Concordia Publishing, there are a number of great resources to be found there as well. The Chemnitz Studies series has been available for some time, but more recently they have begun to translate Johann Gerhard's magisterial Loci Communes, with the first two volumes out so far. The Chemnitz items should be a known quantity, and Buswell Library has recently ordered the Gerhard volumes, so I will be able to take a look at them soon.

I'll offer one more resource for now. Studium Excitare, the journal of confessional language studies at Martin Luther College, has been an impressive quarterly student publication around since 2002. From the website, "Studium Excitare is a quarterly journal dedicated to the translation of Orthodox Confessional Lutheran writings, focusing on the teaching of today's Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod." Apparently the journal was updated a few months ago, and I haven't explored it since that time. Editorial pieces and research articles are provided by the students, but the most exciting part of this journal is the translation work done by the students.


  1. So I'm curious about these repristination theologians... "re-pristine" sounds like a "back to the basics" kind of theology, if that is the root of their name. Do you know anything about why they opposed the Prussian Union? Is there a nice little nugget of political theology in that story, or was it more on doctrinal grounds?

  2. Certainly there was an opposition to the Union on political grounds... we're talking a modern liberal regime enforcing an ecumenical union of churches here. I mean, people talk about Constantinianism as if it is a thing of the medieval or ancient world... but early modern liberalism attempted similar assertions. What distinguishes the repristinators from others that opposed the Union, however, was, as you say, the retrieval project they were engaged in. Not necessarily back to the basics, but back to Lutheran scholasticism (and Luther, in their mind). So there's both a doctrinal and a political story there.

    It's interesting, because if you go to the press it certainly gives that sense... very conservative, confessional boundaries in terms of who they publish and how they talk about other denominations. But these more partisan presses are going to be the ones that are interested in the old manuals and summas, so it's a good resource for finding these people.