Walther on Johann Gerhard
You might remember that a number of years ago I sent out a question to various e-mail lists asking if you would be willing, ready and able to purchase the English translation of the magnum opus by the famous Lutheran orthdox dogmatician, Johann Gerhard, his Loci Theologici. The response was very positive. I wanted to update you on the project and where things are. Two volumes have been released, the first On the Nature of Theology and Scripture and the second On the Nature of God and the Trinity. The third volume in the works now is On Christ.
I can not emphasize enough how significant this publication project is. It is the first time that this monumental work of Lutheran theology has ever been translated into English. Rev. Benjamin Mayes, the editor for the series has done simply an outstanding job on this translation, supplementing it with many useful resources. Here is how he describes his work:
We have carefully compared the English translation to the original Latin and added annotations, a glossary, indices, a list of the works cited, and other typographical improvements. In addition, Gerhard’s two dedicatory epistles, included in the first volume of Preuss’s edition of the Loci Theologici, have been translated by the Rev. Heath R. Curtis and included here.
With this message, I’m reminding you once again about this series and encouraging you to purchase these volumes, or, have the congrgation you serve purchase these books for you, as part of your continuing education. No, they are not inexpensive. They are priced at $54.99. Professional church workers receive a 20% discount from this price, roughly $11 or so off each volume. I believe it is a sound investment in your theological growth and education. Not light reading, to be sure, but a treasure-trove indeed, incomparable in its scope and depth.
Here are the volumes in production and in the works. We are releasing one a year and will be increasing that to two a year when this is possible. This is, and will be, the most thorough Lutheran dogmatics in the English language:
On the Nature of Theology and Scripture
On the Nature of God and on the Trinity
On Creation, Predestination, and Sin
On the Law and the Gospel
On Good Works and the Sacraments
On Holy Baptism
On the Holy Supper
On the Church
On the Ecclesiastical Ministry
On Political Magistracy
On Marriage and Celibacy
On the Resurrection and Judgment
On Eternal Death and Eternal Life
Let me conclude with the words of Dr. C.F.W. Walther as he describes the importance of Johann Gerhard’s Loci Theologici:
Among the works that deal with dogmatics in detail, one can ask which one is first and foremost just as little as one can ask which star outshines all the others. Just as in the latter question one can only speak of the sun, so in the former question one can only speak of Johann Gerhard’s Theological Commonplaces. . . . The proofs from Scripture are everywhere clear and exhaustive. The refutation of opponents is pervaded and pulses just as much with the spirit of love toward them as with the love of the truth; it seeks out the opponents in all their hiding places and always robs them of their last supports, so that no further contradiction seems possible. The application of the whole as well as of the particular is simple, illuminating, clearly arranged. Free from destructive fragmentation—at times an error of the later dogmaticians—the entire development of the doctrine flows along briskly with its linguistic, historical, and antithetical excursus like one great stream that describes pleasant bends in the river. Everything is all of a piece. Ethics here are not yet separated from dogmatics; the former appear here like grapes growing from a ripe vine. Biblical isagogics, hermeneutics, exegesis, history of dogmas, patristics, and polemics are added here not like a merely worthwhile appendage, but are organically woven into the whole like necessary beams, like adornments in this architectural marvel. The expression and style are so certain and thereby so simple and brisk; the development of topics, even with its exhaustive precision, goes forward without burdensome repetition so swiftly; even the most dry and subtle subjects are discussed with such exceptional freshness and facility; everything is handled with such holy seriousness; and the words are soaked with such devout meaning that the reader, being taken away by the speech of this precious man, does not know whether he has before him a work for the promotion of Christian erudition or a devotional book. One does not tire of it as long as he reads it and notes how light and warmth go forth from this speech of noble simplicity and true depth of spirit. In sum, in our opinion this work of dogmatics is, in content and form, the most glorious, most complete work in this field that has ever been achieved within Christendom, and until the Last Day it will probably remain the model for all who labor in this field.
Source for Walther quote:
C. F. W. Walther, “Lutherisch-theologische Pfarrers-Bibliothek,” Lehre und Wehre 1 (1855): 300–301. Translation by Benjamin Mayes.