As I near completion of a revision of the English translation of Walther's Church and Office, I've explained to the reader what I've done. Here's what's coming in the new edition of Kirche und Amt.
1. The reader may well find the constant inclusion of German, Latin and occasional Greek terms in brackets in the text to be an aggravant. Why are they included? It is because the doctrines of church and ministry have been a continuing challenge for Lutherans, and particularly for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Walther made use of precise terminology, as did the writers of the Book of Concord, Luther and the great orthodox theologians, quoted so abundantly in the following pages. Preciseness in matters of Christian doctrine is a hallmark of confessional Lutheranism, all for the sake of the gospel. Walther's Church and Office is a precisely and meticulously arranged document. Translators all have their own biases – realized or not. J.T. Mueller made many more or less justifiable decisions to render "church" [Kirche] as "congregation" in his translation. Many specific theological terms were lost in the translation. I have taken Mueller's otherwise excellent translation, and attempted to restore all technical terms, translated literally, with the original term in brackets. The goal was to put as exactly as possible, Walther's own text before the reader's eyes, but in English, and allow the reader to make the judgement on the meaning of the word in context. The issue of church and office is too often a muddle among us, and Walther can be most helpful if he is allowed to speak with the precision he intended.
2. The rendering of Gemeine as "community," Gemeinde as "congregation" and "kirche" as church, may appear pedantic, and indeed is. All three terms often are simply used for congregation or church (both local and trans-local). On the one hand, Gemeinde is simply an updated version of the older more common word used by Luther (Gemeine). So the St. Louis edition of Luther often updates the German from "Gemeine" to "Gemeinde." Luther often uses the term for the Greek "ecclesia." "Tell it to the Gemeine." But this matter becomes significant when in the American context, with self-governing and largely autonomous congregations, the understanding of what it means to be church is pulled very strongly toward the local congregation. We see this in Walther's rendering and application of texts, and especially in J.T. Mueller's rendering of "kirche" as "congregation." Gemeine (updated as Gemeinde) often means something broader than a single congregation in Luther and the Lutheran confessions, such as the several parishes of a city (not unlike C.F.W. Walther's own Gesamtgemeinde in St. Louis, consisting of four congregations over which Walther was Pfarrherr, or senior pastor. Gemeine may mean an entire regional church, church of an entire state or territory (i.e. the Church of Saxony). But in Missourian tradition "Gemeinde" became synonymous with "congregation." I've included the original word in brackets where it occurs so the reader may carefully consider the word in its context.
3. J.T. Mueller often rendered various technical terms for the office of the ministry as simply "ministry," so the essential element of the preaching office as an office [Amt] is mitigated, tilting heavily (albeit unintentially) toward the view that the office of the ministry is less office and more merely function. Virtually all technical terms for the office of the ministry and the church have been translated literally with the original term in brackets. Thus preaching office [Predigtamt], Pfarramt [Office of parish pastor], parish pastor [Pfarrherr], minister of the church [Kirchendiener] etc.
4. Where J.T. Mueller's translation has de-catholocized the original, the original has been restored. Thus for instance where Luther states "the priest says the mass" is restored where Mueller translated "the minister conducts the service." In other places Mueller removed references to private confession, or made changes in other texts he evidently regarded as too Catholic. This tends to mitigate the conviction of Luther and Walther that the orthodox Lutheran Church is simply the catholic church gone right.
5. While Walther sometimes renders the orthodox fathers' references to "ecclesia" or "church" as "Gemeinde" or congregation, Mueller repeatedly translates references in Walther's text which refer to "church" [Kirche] as "congregation." Walther of course was taking texts from the Lutheran tradition which were not precisely applicable to the American congregational context. Mueller as it were, hyper-congregationalizes Walther's original. So where the original states "the keys have been given to the entire church [ganzen kirchen]," Mueller will render "the keys have been given to the entire congregation." I have noted many such instances. In Walther's original text he footnoted many original Latin and Greek texts. I have translated Walther's German translation of the Latin original and not attempted to render the original Latin. We are, after all, most interested in Walther's text, and his translation of texts is itself instructive. In significant cases the Latin or Greek original has been noted.
6. Throughout his translation Mueller did not distinguish between the German terms "power" [Macht], and "authority" [Gewalt], or "mandate" [Befehl] and "command" [Gebot]. While the original texts often refer to the "power" of the office or church, the term "authority" is more prevalent and accords with the preaching office carrying out its tasks as an office "authorized" by Christ and the church. And "mandate," a term Mueller rarely uses for "Befehl" (which he translates "command") has the meaning of something "given over" to, and so is more consistent with the office as a gospel gift to be exercised on behalf of Christ.
7. The Mueller translation did not provide the careful emphasis on specific words and phrases which was provided by Walther's original. This revision restores all Walther's emphasized texts in bold font. Walther occasionally uses a double bold as it were, and such emphasis is made in the text, accordingly.
8. The revision carefully restores words and phrases of the original occasionally omitted by Mueller's translation, which is excellent, aside from the problems noted above.
9. The revision makes use of the English Standard Version of the Bible. Where the text uses Luther's German Bible and this is significant for the meaning of the text, I have followed Luther's Bible and generally noted the fact.
10. Mueller used the Triglotta for texts from the Lutheran Confessions, which occasionally likewise render "church" [Kirche] as "congregation." Such references have been corrected, retaining the Triglotta text overall.
11. The revision throughout provides references to Luther's writings in the standard critical edition (Weimar Ausgabe: WA). References are also provided in all instances for the original Walch (often called the Halle) edition (ca. 1725), originally used by Walther, and for the revision of the Walch edition by Concordia Publishing House, known as Walch2 or the St. Louis Edition. I have made extensive use of Aland's Hilfsbuch zum Lutherstudium, without which this task would have been exceedingly more difficult. Aland's reference number to each Luther document has been provided for further study for zealous students.
12. An attempt has been made to provide updated references for quotations from the early church fathers. I've used Lake's edition of the Apostolic Fathers while trying not to loose nuances of Walther's rendering of these original Latin or Greek texts into German.
13. While this revision is surely not a "critical edition" of Walther, I have added numerous, hopefully elucidating footnotes. Wherever notes have been added I've marked them with "M.H." Walther's footnotes are marked "C.F.W.", J.T. Mueller's notes with "J.T.M."
14. Walther's Altenburg Theses are provided in the appendix and represent seminal contextual material for his views on the church and the office of the ministry, later fully developed. I've also appended Graubau's Hirtenbrief and the initial response of Walther and his fellow Saxons as invaluable context from which Walther's magisterial treatment was born. I thank Rev. Dr. Wil Schumacher for the use of his translations of the Grabau material. Loehe's 1853 letter to Grossmann has been appended to this volume because in it Loehe briefly explains what he believes are the strengths and shortcomings of Walther's work. It also demonstrates Walther's contention that Loehe held a quatenus view of the Lutheran Confessions, and that our great and beloved co-founder of the Missouri Synod – despite his glorious strengths - specifically and knowingly rejected Luther's view of the office of the ministry at key points. I have edited all these documents lightly to bring them into conformity with the entire volume.
15. In order to make the book more user friendly, Walther's method of listing the name of the author only in the first of a series of quotations by the same author has been changed so that the author is referenced at the head of each quotation.
16. As I perused The Catechism of the Catholic Church for contemporary documentation of positions of the Roman Catholic Church which come up in Walther's book, and are the object of Lutheran polemics, I noted a number of places where there is a remarkable convergence of Lutheran and Roman Catholic doctrine on the office of the ministry. While we must reject what is false, we can also joyously note what is right about Roman Catholic teaching on the office. It would be a worthwhile study to evaluate Kirche und Amt from the perspective of Lutheran – Catholic dialogue.
Assistant Pastor, Village Lutheran Church, Ladue, Missouri
President, The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod