Issue 25-1: Reading John's Gospel


“For God so loved the world . . . ” LOGIA readers will recognize that passage from John’s Gospel; many of them have known it since their earliest days of devotions at home or Sunday School. Perhaps they have sung it in hymns or anthems. It is a foundational passage that shapes even the most carefully constructed statements on the Trinity, Christology, and justification. 

John’s Gospel is different from the Synoptics. He presents the person and words of Jesus Christ in a manner that has inspired the church to represent him with the symbol of the eagle, soaring “close to the sun,” with an eye that sees with the greatest clarity. Luther, in his 1522 Preface to the New Testament, extols the Fourth Gospel: 

If I had to do without one or the other—either the works or the preaching of Christ—I would rather do without the works than without his preaching. For the works do not help me, but his words give life, as he himself says (John 6:63). Now John writes very little about the works of Christ, but very much about his preaching, while the other evangelists write much about his works and little about his preaching. Therefore John’s Gospel is the one, fine, true, and chief gospel, and is far, far to be preferred over the other three and placed high above them. (LW 35:362) 

In Eric Chafe’s study, J. S. Bach’s Johannine Theology: e St. John Passion and the Cantatas for Spring 1725, the author suggests that Luther may have been drawn to the qualities that lend this Gospel “a spiritual, meditative, even mystical quality, as opposed to the narrative character of the Synoptic Gospels” (p. 110). These qualities continue to engage the reader, and the reader’s imagination. Those who wrote by inspiration opened our eyes to eternal mysteries, but they did not write works that need a secret mystical key for our understanding. They used human words that can be understood by humanity, despite the passage of centuries. Still, we continue to ask, what do the words mean? What did Jesus mean? Why did John record it the way he did? What did John mean? How have others understood these words? Was Luther always correct in his interpretation? Does it matter? 

These questions may seem to border on hermeneutic impertinence or impropriety, but they are increasingly a part of the current conversation when readers, preachers, and scholars en- counter the words of the Fourth Gospel. This issue is, finally, about words and their value and reliability in a time in which we are increasingly led to believe that all meaning is relative and conditioned by personal experience. 

Below, Armand Boehme leads us through a study of John 6. Here we have an example of what has been called the “historical-grammatical” approach to exegesis. Boehme encourages the reader to look at the words using this Renaissance methodology, which has been the bedrock for the Lutheran understanding of Scripture for centuries. 

Patrick James Bayens presents an overview of John based on the literary key of the concluding verses. In this essay the author suggests that the entire Gospel is best understood in light of John 20:30–31 and John 21:24–25. These verses, along with the Evangelist’s eyewitness testimony, John 19:34–35, are taken to indicate John’s desire to draw his readers into the present and abiding life offered by the risen Christ in the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Eucharist. 

In “Educational Horizons in Wilhelm Löhe” author Wolfhart Schlichting guides us through Löhe’s homiletical exegesis by an overview of the Epistle Sermons of 1858 and the 1866 sermons on Holy Communion. John 6 is the object of special attention, framed by Löhe’s concern for preaching that would create religious formation (Bildung) through personal application and inward experience. In his preaching Löhe suggests that Luther may have been mistaken in his understanding of the “Bread of Life” chapter, which, to some extent, impoverished Luther’s presentation of the benefits, the spiritual justifying power, of the sacramental eating and drinking. 

Finally, “JDDJ and Its Official Discussion in the Finnish Lutheran Church: A Clarification or an Obscuration?” highlights the issues and challenges presented by the “limits” of language in contemporary theological discourse, especially when words are the pathstones towards “reconciled diversity” in Christian communities that have used the same words to describe differing theologies for generations. Simo Kiviranta and Timo Laato’s essay merits a careful read. How can we behold the glory of the Word made flesh if the syllables which bring that glory to our eyes are more quicksand than foundation stone? 

This issue of LOGIA highlights aspects of that ongoing conversation about the strengths and limitations of human language. Perhaps the reader will consider again the importance of clarity and continuity in exegetical methods and our words about God, especially if we wish to fly on the wings of an eagle into the brilliant light of the Sun of Righteousness. 

Dennis Marzolf 

To purchase this edition of LOGIA, click here.

Rudolf Bultmann: A Biography

Bultmann is inevitable. He was the theological progenitor of many and the bête-noire of still more. Knowledge of his writings is indispensable for understanding twentieth-century exegesis, whether of the synoptic gospels, John, or Paul. His seminar students included everyone from Ernst Käsemann to Hannah Arendt. He was the sometime friend and constant interlocutor of Heidegger and of Barth. Although a confessional Lutheran may bemoan this fact, he is one of the previous century’s most important theologians.

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Who Are Those Witnesses Again?

PROPTER CHRISTUM: Who is a witness?

Words take on different meanings with the passage of time. While this is well-known, it is sometimes surprising to discover one particular word whose meaning has changed without catching our attention. When this transition remains unnoticed, confusion and misunderstanding quickly follow. For such words, understanding what they formerly meant as opposed to what they mean now is crucial for understanding.

The word "witness" falls into this category. Below is an introduction to Rev. Alan Ludwig's careful study of the word and its meaning in Acts. As students of scripture, Lutherans do well to pay careful attention to the definition and use of words. Ludwig's study gives such attention to the word "witness."

The entire essay can be found in the forthcoming festschrift in honor of Daniel Preus: Propter Christum: Christ at the Center. Visit LOGIA's website to reserve your copy. It is being offered at a discounted introductory price of $29.99, and is scheduled to be released in November. Act now to take advantage of the savings!



— Alan Ludwig

Today it is commonplace, and not only in churches of the Baptist-Evangelical persuasion, to hear sermons that exhort the hearers to "go out and witness." Appeal for this is regularly made to Acts 1:8, which reads in part: "And you will be my witnesses, both in Judea and in Jerusalem and in Samaria, and to the end of the earth." How the preacher has made the move from the original disciples to the people in the pew, from those who received these words from the mouth of Jesus to those who hear them from the preacher's lips, seldom receives an explanation. That all Christians are witnesses is assumed as a self-evident truth that needs no apology.

And yet this easy application of Acts 1:8 to all Christians is a relative latecomer on the ecclesiastical scene. Is it warranted? To answer this question it is necessary to take a careful look at a text that we often take for granted. This study then will include a brief survey of the witness word group in the New Testament-the verb μαρτυρέω and its cognates-and after that examine more closely the peculiar Lukan use of these terms, with special regard to Acts 1:8.

Witness in the New Testament

The Witness words are μαρτυρέω, "to bear witness, testify"; μαρτυρία and μαρτύριον, "witness," "testimony"; and μάρτυς, "one who bears witness or testifies." Some of these words also have compound forms.1 For full information the reader is referred to the standard lexicons and theological wordbooks.

The Old Testament Background of Witness

In addition to its usual meaning in Greek, this witness word group is heavily flavored by Old Testament usage. There μάρτυς and its related words usually translate d[eand its Hebrew cognates, which have a firm setting in the legal sphere.2 The witness is generally one who has gained information firsthand through seeing or hearing, and he testifies to what he knows. God, man, and inanimate things may serve as witnesses. The Torah and its individual parts are also called "testimonies" because they provide written attestation to God's salvation and to the divine will.

Witness in General in the New Testament

Virtually all of the Old Testament uses carry over into the New Testament, though not in equal measure. Especially prominent is the Torah's requirement that every word be established at the mouth of two or three witnesses (Deut 19:15). This is not only a feature of Jewish life regulated by the Torah (Matt 26:59-61; John 8:17-18; Heb 10:28) but also extends to life in the church (Matt 18:16), even to the churches of the Gentile mission (2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19; cf. 1 Cor 14:27, 29).

There are two essential characteristics of a witness (μάρτυς): he has gained information, usually by firsthand observation, and he conveys this information to others, often in a formal or legal setting. At the one end of the spectrum, the μάρτυς may be virtually a spectator who observes (Heb 12:1).3 At the other end, the act of testifying and the content of the testimony take precedence over how the testifier came by the information (Rev 12:11, 17). . . .

The Apostolic Witness to Christ

When Jesus tells his disciples that the Paraclete will bear witness concerning him, he goes on to say, "and you also bear witness, because you are with me from the beginning [ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς]" (John 15:26-27; cf. Luke 1:2). The disciples' testimony is the witness of those who have seen and heard firsthand, and it is through this testimony that the Spirit himself will bear witness of Christ (Acts 5:32), just as he has already witnessed to the Messiah through Moses and the Prophets. John states beautifully the role of these eyewitnesses in the opening words of his first epistle:

That which was from the beginning [ἀπ᾿ἀρχῆς],4 which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it [μαρτυροῦμεν] and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us-that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3 ESV)

The "we" here is surely John and his fellow apostles.5 The truth of their testimony is confirmed by their having been present with him "from the beginning" (John 15:27; Acts 1:21-22) and having heard, seen, and touched the Word of Life. . . .


  1. διαμαρτύρομαι, "to give solemn testimony, exhort, warn"; ἐπιμαρτυρέω, "to bear witness, attest"; καταμαρτυρέω, "to testify against"; προμαρτύρομαι, "to bear witness beforehand, predict"; συμμαρτυρέω, "to bear witness with," "support by testimony"; συνεπιμαρτυρέω, "to testify at the same time"; ψευδομαρτυρέω and its noun cognates, "to give false witness," "false witness, false testimony."
  2. ʿēd, "witness"; ʿēdâ, "testimony, witness"; ʿēdôt, "testimonies"; ʿēdût, "testimony"; tě‘ûdâ, "attestation"; and the denominative verb ʿwd, "to bear witness, testify." For a more comprehensive treatment, see C. van Leeuwen, "ēd witness," in Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament, ed. Ernst Jenni and Claus Westermann, trans. Mark E. Biddle (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1997), 2:838-46. Editor's note: For the actual Hebrew terms, please see the book.]
  3. More is involved in the use of μάρτυς in this passage than the righteous men and women of faith who have finished the course "witnessing" us as we run the race. See Harold W. Attridge, The Epistle to the Hebrews, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1989), 354–55.
  4. This ἀπ᾿ἀρχῆς has been taken in various senses, including from the beginning of creation, from the time of the incarnation, or from the time of Jesus' revelation as Son of God at his baptism. If the last of these is right, then there is a link both with John 15:27 and Acts 1:21–22. For the various views and the arguments in favor of this, see Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John, Anchor Bible 30 (New York: Doubleday, 1982), 155–58.
  5. So, for example, Brooke Foss Westcott, The Epistles of St. John (London: Macmillan, 1886), 4, 6, 9; and other traditional commentators. Modern scholars who attribute the authorship of the epistle to a "Johannine school" of course understand it differently (Brown, Epistles of John, 158–61).

Lessons in Typology from Johann Gerhard

—By Roy S. Askins

In studying Johann Gerhard’s Theological Commonplaces: Exegesis IV: On Christ (available here or Kindle here), I read a series of beautiful typological exercises Gerhard works for his readers. He directs them to On the Interpretation of Scripture for a more complete study of the practice, but, alas, this volume has yet to be published in English by Concordia Publishing House. Regardless, Gerhard’s brief foray into typology in On the Person and Office of Christ renders us some helpful principles.

The practice of finding typological connections between the Old and New Testaments seems to me freighted with problems. I tend to approach typology with fear and trepidation over making a “bad” typological interpretation. There’s the persistent fear of overstepping my bounds and stepping into Origin’s errors. I worry about making a connection that isn’t exegetically valid or warranted. And yet, the practice of typology fascinates me, especially as I read the early church fathers, Luther, and others, such as Johann Gerhard. I wonder if the historical critical framework of much scholarly discussion in the last centuries has become so pervasive that even we who hold to the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture hesitate before making connections between biblical authors who wrote in such different times. (For more on the relationship between modern and ancient exegesis, read John J. O’Keefe and R. R. Reno as they try to understand, but refuse to evaluate, early Christian interpretation in Sanctified Vision: An Introduction to Early Christian Interpretation of the Bible, [Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2005].) The doctrine of inspiration, though, almost demands typological interpretation; if the God is behind the entire book, why wouldn’t he deliberately foreshadow the coming Messiah in as many ways as possible so that when the Messiah comes, we would might recognize him?

Regardless of its healthy pedigree, it seems that typological interpretations still lingers on the fringes of exegetical and homiletical practices. You won’t find papers at the Society of Biblical Literature drawing the same connections Gerhard does. A quick skim of Gerhard, however, provides a number of helpful principles for appropriate typological interpretation.

  • The typological and the analogy of faith.

I’m beginning at the end, as Gerhard gives this warning at the end of his typological diversion, but it’s sometimes helpful to begin with the warning. He writes:

Here, however, we must note that when we deal with allegories, we must use special circumspection, lest we put forth anything contrary to the analogy of faith and provide a stumbling block for the weak and material for mockery for our adversaries. ((Johann Gerhard, On the Person and Office of Christ, trans. Richard J. Dinda [St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2009], 33.))

Gerhard warns against excessive or inappropriate allegorical interpretation. The analogy of faith determines at what point the typological interpretation oversteps its theological bounds. He also exhorts us to use allegories and typology as “seasoning” rather than the food. With this warning in mind, here are some of the categories he uses in making typological connections.

  • Types via Linguistic Connections

Gerhard offers these typological expressions when discussing the various synonyms of the name of Christ. Old Testament names provide fertile grounds for typological interpretations of the Scriptures. For instance, “The name ‘Adam’ means ‘red’ because he was formed out of reddish dust (Gen. 2:7). Christ is the one ‘who comes from Edom, in crimsoned garments from Bozrah’ (Isa. 63:10).” ((Gerhard, 31)) In another typological comparison, Gerhard connects the name of Noah, which means comfort, with Christ who is the comforter. ((Gerhard, 32))

Other linguistic connections can also be made, connections that might seem suspect to ears trained by modern exegesis. Once again, without the doctrine of inspiration, the connection between Noah’s name meaning comforter and Jesus who is the comforter cannot be made; it’s merely coincidence. These linguistic connections were commonplace for the early church fathers. In fact, O’Keefe and Reno identify this as one of the primary means of typological interpretation done by the early fathers.

  • Types of Origin

In this category, Gerhard looks at Old Testament figures and compares their origin with the origin of Christ. Adam for instance, was made from “virgin soil” while Christ was born of the “virgin Mary.” Or, in a brilliant analogy of Christ’s two natures, he writes, “Adam’s origin was from heaven and earth because his body was formed out of the earth, but his soul was breathed into him by God (Gen 2:7).” ((Gerhard, 31)) The connection to Christ’s two natures is obvious.

  • Types of Function

Types can also derive from the various functions of Old Testament figures. Just as Adam was the father of the entire human Christ, so also “Christ is the ‘eternal father’ (Isa. 9:6), from whom and through whom we are reborn to eternal life (1 Cor 15:45).” ((Gerhard, 31)) Adam’s purpose was to be the “guardian and colonist of Paradise” while “Christ is the master and guardian of the mystical paradise, which is the Church.” ((Gerhard, 31)) Thus, Christ was typified, in the Old Testament, by the functions of various Old Testament figures. Noah’s ark building becomes a type of Christ’s work in the church. Abel’s shepherding prefigures Christ’s own work as shepherd.

  • Types by virture of Divine Action

In this category, Gerhard sees a type by virtue of similarity of action by God upon an Old Testament figure and upon Christ’s life. My personal favorite is the connection between Adam and Christ:

A rib is taken from the side of the sleeping Adam, and from it a wife was made for him (Gen. 2:21). So also, from the side of Christ, dead on the cross, flowed forth blood and water, the two sacraments of the church of the New Testament, through which the Church is built as the Bride of Christ (John 19:34). ((Gerhard, 32))

God acts upon certain figures in the Old Testament for the purpose of and with the intent to prefigure the Christ. Moses’ life was lived to prefigure the Christ. God acted upon him in certain ways in order to act upon Christ in the same way, thereby further cementing the identity of Christ the prophet greater than Moses.

Studying such typological connections provides fruitful food for thought as well as helpful homiletical illustrations. It requires a deep knowledge of the Scripture and a healthy trust in the Holy Spirit to have inspired the Scripture for a reason—to point to the Christ. When inspiration is sacrificed to fit the Scriptures to various theories of hermenuetical interpretation, then the typological interpretation of Scripture faulters; typology depends on the notion of one source behind the Scriptures, namely God. When used in accordance with the analogy of faith, as Gerhard here suggests, typology adds a liveliness to the text, a depth and breadth that brings the testaments, old and new, to life.


The Rev. Roy S. Askins serves Trinity Lutheran Church, Livingston, Texas.


Quotes from Johann Gerhard’s Theological Commonplaces: Exegesis IV On Christ © 2012 Concordia Publishing House. Used by permission. For ordering information go to

Leviticus for the Christian: Order and Sacrifice

Editor's Note: Pr. Ogrodowicz will be writing a series of articles on Leviticus for the Christian. This is the first, but please stay tuned for more.

—by Ryan Ogrodowicz

Leviticus can frustrate intentions of reading the Bible cover to cover. The minutiae are difficult to grasp. Strict civil punishments and the intricate sacrificial system seem counter to the New Testament message of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. But first impressions aside, Leviticus is still the Word of God to his people and sacred Scripture relevant in many ways to the baptized believer. In fact, it contains many themes and messages continued within and highlighted by the New Testament.

Just a cursory reading reveals Leviticus to be a highly structured and ordered book, a characteristic that speaks a message about our Lord and God: He is a God of order who cares about how his people live and worship. That it begins with the words “the LORD called Moses and spoke to him” (Lev 1:1) reminds us that God is speaking, and so the order within is divinely instituted. It may seem overly legalistic to the more free spirited minds of modern Christians, but order is not necessarily negative or legalistic. Take, for example, the order and instructions pertaining to sacrifices.

The word "sacrifice" conjures up notions of the sinner giving something to God. The sacrificial system of Leviticus certainly entails subjective giving, but it does not preclude the act of God giving objectively to his people. Lest we forget, the sacrificial system was instituted by God through his Word for the benefit of his people.  The benefits imparted through sacrificial worship were God’s gifts to an underserving congregation. Ordered and detailed, yes, but with these various sacrifices the Israelite had the assurance of leaving worship as one right with God. Second, the sacrifice itself was provided by God who gives daily bread to all people. Finally, underlying Leviticus is the initial salvation worked by God alone. The levitical congregation was a group of people graciously saved from Egyptian tyranny and now bestowed the opportunity to offer up sacrifices as holy people redeemed by God and clinging to his Word and promises. It follows then that sacrifices were never intended to be disjointed from the initial act of God saving a people incapable of saving themselves. When the Israelite left after having had the privilege to bring an offering before the Lord, he left with the comfort of knowing he was accepted and right with the God he served in faith.

Yes, faith in Leviticus mattered. Sacrifices weren’t meant to be rote offerings given from hearts devoid of faith. They were intended precisely for a living congregation of believers. The same holds true in Leviticus as it does in the New Testament: faith produces works.  The good tree bears good fruit. By faith the Israelite sacrificed rightly in accord with the very Word of God in which he or she believed. The Psalmist echoes this when he writes “the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise . . . then will you delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on your altar” (Ps 51:17, 19).

Orderly worship centered on God giving to his people who respond accordingly. This theme in Leviticus continues into the New Testament. We worship the God revealed to us in his Word, just like the levitical Israelite. But there is one thing we have they didn’t. As their bloody sacrifices foreshadowed what was to come, we live knowing what God has accomplished—the sacrifice of his only begotten Son for the sins of the world. This is something the blood of bulls and goats can never achieve (Heb 10:4).  Praise be to God for his sacrificial work for us.


The Rev. Ryan Ogrodowicz serves as pastor of Victory in Christ Lutheran Church in Newark, Texas.

Thoughts on NA28

—By Jeffrey Kloha

For the first time in a generation, pastors are confronted with a new edition of the Greek New Testament. Since 1975 the text of the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament and, matching it in 1979, the text of the Nestle-Aland Novum Testamentum Graece have been identical. Subsequent editions updated the apparatuses of the respective editions, but the printed text remained unchanged in spite of new manuscripts discoveries, refined knowledge of patristic and versional witnesses, and significant shifts in methodology. The Nestle-Aland 28th edition (NA28) marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the printing of the Greek New Testament, for the handful of changes made in this edition signal more changes to come throughout the New Testament text over the next decades and a shift from print to digital formats.

Four items will be of immediate interest to pastors. First, the changes to the text: Fifty-one changes have been made to the printed text, all in the Catholic Epistles. These changes reflect decisions made in the production of the Novum Testamentum Graece: Editio Critica Maior (ECM) published 1995–2005. The Catholic Epistles, having by far the fewest numbers of manuscripts and the least complicated textual tradition, were selected as the starting point for this comprehensive critical edition of the entire New Testament. Rather than produce a hand edition with a text that differs from that of the comprehensive edition, the texts of the two editions were brought into parallel. Work continues on the ECM; projections are that John and Acts will be completed in the next couple of years, with work on the rest of the New Testament planned to last until 2030. Given the relative simplicity of the text of the Catholic Epistles and the complexity of the textual tradition of John and Acts, we might anticipate far more changes in those texts, and more substantive changes, than are presented in the Catholic Epistles.

Space allows mention of only one textual decision made in NA28 at Jude 5. In a passage with important Christological implications, NA28 prints Ἰησοῦς as the one who “delivered his people out of Egypt” in place of [ὁ] κύριος in NA27 or ὁ θεός in other witnesses. The ESV has already chosen to depart from the standard text and prints “Jesus” in this passage.

The second item of interest to pastors is the adoption of a new methodology. Previous generations learned to classify manuscripts based on “text-types,” such as “Alexandrian,” “Western,” and “Caesarean.” However, more comprehensive comparison of all readings in all manuscripts, now made possible by computer analysis, shows that these classic divisions (first identified in the early eighteenth century, before the discovery of any papyrus manuscripts) are not meaningful, especially in the period of the greatest variation, the second and third centuries. The method now employed has been labeled the “Coherence-Based Genealogical Method.” Using comprehensive computer databases, the “coherence” of witnesses in their relationships to each other is able to be discerned over an entire book or corpus, so that the researcher can determine rather quickly if decisions made about the “initial text” could have produced the resultant stemma of manuscripts. It is important to note that the databases and software do not determine the “initial text” readings; the researcher, using any method (Reasoned Eclecticism; Thoroughgoing Eclecticism; even Majority Text Theory) determines the “initial text” reading in each place. The software then compiles a stemma based on all those decisions to determine if an accurate stemma results. Individual textual decisions can then be altered, the program run again, and refinements to the text made until a “coherent” stemma of witnesses is produced. This is certainly very different from the “Local Text-Type” theory that most pastors learned in Greek class, a method which, it must be said, fell out of disuse decades ago. Hence the changes to the text.

Third, this edition reflects a shift in assumptions about what the evidence allows one to reconstruct. Where previous generations, emboldened by a confidence in science which was possible only in the Enlightenment, claimed to be able to reproduce the “New Testament in the Original Greek,” late twentieth century scholars have known that extant evidence reaches only back to the second century, and that for only a scattering of passages. There may be nearly 150 years between the original writing/delivery of a New Testament text and the now-preserved manuscripts. Given the strong dependence on a genealogical method, this edition claims only to to reconstruct the “Ausgangstext,” or the “Initial Text,” defined as follows:

“The initial text is the form of a text that stands at the beginning of a textual tradition. The constructed text of an edition represents the hypothetical reconstruction of the initial text.” (ECM 2 Peter, 23)

This edition helpfully acknowledges that reproducing an “autograph” of any New Testament writing is an impossible task, given available evidence. This also leads to a perhaps surprising move by the editors: the removal of any reference to a conjecture in the apparatus. Since the editors claim to reconstruct only the hypothetical text that stands at the head of the manuscript tradition (and not the “autograph”), conjectures are not part of their project. So, for example, the conjecture that 1 Corinthians 14:34–35 is a post-Pauline interpolation has been deleted from the apparatus.

The final item of interest to pastors is a new “bonus” feature: the online version of the NA28. Whereas the new edition somewhat simplifies the apparatus, in particular by removing strings of irrelevant manuscript numbers, the online edition will be comprehensive. Variants not noted in the NA28 apparatus will be available in electronic editions, and in many cases full transcriptions of the manuscripts will be available so that the readings of a given manuscript over a block of text can be easily read. Indeed, the day may soon come when bringing a tablet to class or the study will replace the little blue book that so easily carries about.

Over the next few weeks I will be providing more thorough discussions of the changes and features of the new edition on the Concordia Seminary faculty site. The official website of the Nestle-Aland text is now live, and the digital Nestle-Aland will soon be available here. Other features of the new edition, such as simplifying the apparatus, removing Latin (unfortunately), appendices, and so on, might be welcome and make the edition slightly more user friendly. However, they will likely not persuade a pastor to purchase the new edition. Since the Catholic Epistles are not often then basis of sermons and Bible studies, some pastors may wish to forego purchasing this edition, waiting for the updated texts of John and Acts. But consultation of the electronic edition (when it becomes available) will be a necessary task.

The Greek New Testament was born in the premodern period, copied by hand on papyrus, then on vellum in majuscule and minuscule script, a process which brought with it inevitable errors and alterations. It entered the industrial age in 1516 with production via movable type, followed by lithograph printing methods. This gave the text, for 500 years, an appearance of fixedness and certainty it could not granted in previous generations. Now, in the second decade of the twenty-first century, the Greek New Testament has entered the computer era, with all the benefits and drawbacks of transient, erasable, and alterable dots on screen. Much like our modern translations are changed every few years, in some cases (like the ESV) virtually silently, now our Greek New Testament will enter the realm of instability. For careful students of the New Testament, this is a welcome development, for new discoveries and refinements in methodology can be incorporated immediately, rather than waiting for 35 years for a new edition. For pastors who serve people concerned “about changes to the Bible,” it is time to reacquaint yourself with your little blue texts so that you can point people to the locus of confidence, the Word.


The Rev. Dr. Jeffrey Kloha is associate professor of exegetical theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.