All Things Wireless & Letterpress

All Things Wireless & Letterpress

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Ephesians, through the Lens of Luther : A Unique Language, History & Bible Study.


Some time ago I mentioned doing a Niche study of Ephesians.  Niche, because the purpose is to do some very specific things.  This study, if I can sustain it, should, hopefully:

1. Enrich the Saint, I mean, hey, we're studying Scripture, here.  The Living and Breathing Word of God.  Meaningless to the World, unapprehended by this Aeon, yet very Bread to the Holy Ones.

2. Exposure to German Literature.  Did you know that of all the uber-rich literary history that belong to the German speaking peoples, Martin Luther's Heilige Schrifft ranks number one?  This is a classic piece of literature that literally altered the course of European history, and created a perspective on the relationship between the Creator and the Saint hithertofore unknown... or illegal.  This Bible almost single handedly codified the German Language, and set the standard for speech, grammar, and for those who followed after Luther into the Reformation, theology.  Luther's Bible was not a transcription of the Latin versions then extant.  It was a ground-up translation from the oldest existing Koine Greek codexes and Hebrew codexes and commentaries then available.  Of course, former translations were also consulted.  It set the model for both the Geneva and the much later King James Authorized version.  Luther also directly advised and consulted with Tyndale in his Englishe Newe Testament, for which he (Tyndale) was executed at St. Paul's Cross.

The Luther Bible started the Reformation ball a'rolling.

3.  Exposure to German vocabulary and grammar.  All languages change over the centuries, but I am impressed at how very readable German from the 15th and 16th centuries still is.  There are spelling changes and grammatical archaic-isms, but German, being what it is, is almost a self explanatory language where context and compound noun deconstruction reveals meaning and usage.  So while the German spoken in this work is not what you would speak 'auf der Strasse', it is nonetheless what is burned into the German National Psyche when "Bible Speak" is undertaken.  Just as the KJV verses are still memorized and venerated in English today.  If you share the Gospel with a German, knowing the German Classic scripture can be an advantage. .

 4. Exposure to a unique aspect of German cultural history.  I hope in this study, eventually, to get into the "Kunst und Kultur" involved in the printing and general execution of the book arts surrounding Luther's day, because this Bible is also regarded as a groundbreaking Printing and Bookmaking milestone. Even the very lettering used, the Fraktur and Textur, has historic signifigance in German history and culture leading up to this very day.

So, here we go!   Lass uns anfangen!

The format I will follow is loosely based on the good Doktor's own study method: read one or two verses at a time, and pontificate over it... or them.... before the Throne of Grace. Permit the mind to wander as the Holy Spirit guides and directs.  Daydream in the Spirit, if you will.  

In our study I will identify words and phrases that I most likely will need to remember, and ascertain why certain cases and tenses are employed,discovering the various anachronisms in use which may not be commonly used today.  All this, in bite-sized chunks.

Epheser 1

1:1 Paulus, ein Apostel Jesu Christi durch den Willen Gottes, den Heiligen zu Ephesus und Gläubigen an Christum Jesum:


der Gläubige - the believer (s)
die Gläubigen - believers (pl)

der Heilige -  the Saint  (this is a case where the 'e' at the end of the noun does not indicate a feminine noun.  It's masculine.
die Heiligen - the Saints.  Literally, "the Holy".   

I wish believers and saints were called "the Holy" in English.  It would remind us what and how God sees us, the Bride of Christ, what He calls us (holy ones!), and what He call us to (holiness!) to live up to.  Holiness.  We are the houshold of The Holy Ones of God.

der Wille Gottes - (Nom)  //  den Willen Gottes - (Akus) - The Will of God.  This is a very interesting phrase to me, grammatically.  It's what I might call a grammatically nested phrase, as far as I can tell by it's use.  What we have is a Dative Phrase (Will of God, Wille Gottes), but the phrase itself is treated as an object, a thing, a Noun.  It is assigned the masculine gender in German, hence der Wille Gottes.   What Luther does is sort of put a "Klammer" (parenthesis) around "Will of God".  We see it mentally, not written.  In German it's called a "Wortklammer".  Thus the phrase is seen as der (Wille Gottes), and in this useage, as a direct object or in the accusative case, der becomes den, so we find den (Willen Gottes).  This is a case where German grammar demands a noun ending to match the article ending.  I'm sure there's a rule in there somewhere, hey, it's German!  At this point, just remember how this is used in Dr. Luther's day.  This is what we are essentially  studying, the German of Saxon Anhalt, of 1520.

Finally, let's take a look at the very last "klammer",  'an Christum Jesum '.  

Today, the German would read "an Christus Jesus". It's pretty obvious the phrase translates "on Christ Jesus".  Note that in both cases the ending of the names match, um and us. .  Such matchings of connected nouns is a very German thing. Why? I believe it's done for continuity. I think we also see a little vestigial Latin popping in there, too.  

Again, this is a phrase to memorize as the good Doktor used it.  It will come in handy later as we get used to seeing it. 

So, putting it all together, we have as literally translated,:

"Paul, and Apostle of Jesus Christ through the Will of God, (to) the Holies to (Holy Ones at) Ephesus and believers on Christ Jesus:" 

This part of Paul's Letter to the Ephesians is called the Salutation.  He indicates that this letter is intended not only for the Holy Ones at Ephesus, but to all who trust upon the Name of Jesus.  Those who lean on Him for very life itself.  Those who Trust upon the very Name.

Wow.  I don't know about you, but that was quite a bit coming from just one verse!  So, to sum things up:


1.  der Gläubige  (always ALWAYS memorize the article with the nominative nown!)

2.  Die Gläubigen  (plural, pl)

3.  der Heilige

4.  die Heiligen (pl) .   In the future I will use standard plural notation ( ,-n), 

      Remember, the plural nominative article is always assumed to be "die".

5.  der Wille Gottes (nominativ)

6.  den Willen Gottes (akusativ)

7.  an Christum Jesum 

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