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Concordia University Professor Celebrates Translation of Catechism Commentary, Retirement

On April 25, 2012, Concordia University—St. Paul (Minn.) marked the retirement of the Rev. Dr. Thomas H. Trapp after 30 years of teaching. Trapp (Ph.D., University of Heidelberg, 1980) served as parish pastor in Michigan and Minnesota, and as professor at Concordia University, where he taught courses in Bible, theology, and ethics. Honored for his teaching and writing, he is also a distinguished translator who has been involved in major translating projects for religious publishers such as Concordia Publishing House, Eerdmans, and Augsburg Fortress.

His most recent translation is Albrecht Peters, Commentary on Luther’s Catechisms: Baptism and Lord’s Supper. The German edition of Commentary on Luther’s Catechisms has long been the gold standard of research on the catechetical texts of the great reformer. Trapp’s translation makes this research available in English for both the researcher and the catechist. We recently had the opportunity to discuss this with Dr. Trapp; learn more in the following interview.

CPH: In what ways is Peters’ commentary on Luther’s catechism useful to researchers, pastors, and all Christians?
Trapp: Peters’ five volume commentary stands alone today in terms of its breadth and depth. Each volume starts with a history of the development and use of the topic in Church history. So, for example, Peters looks at the history of the development of the Creed and each of the parts. He notes what is particularly accented in terms of its teaching. He develops a thesis about how each part was interpreted at the time of Luther. Luther’s unique contribution in this regard is that that he accentuates the pro me, the pro nobis, that Jesus died for me personally, for us. Peters shows how alternate viewpoints skew the understanding of the Gospel and salvation, leading away from the complete peace that is ours in Christ. It was not enough to be “just” a member of the Church at large. Salvation was personal for him.

CPH: Someone might think, “Luther’s catechism is pretty simple. How much more can really be said about it?” Now that you have translated several volumes of Peters’ great commentary, how would you respond? 
Trapp: Luther remarked that he himself could never comprehend everything taught in the catechism. I have been captivated by how much is there and how my own understanding and perception has grown. The reasoning provided in the commentaries provides a backdrop for Luther’s insights. I personally recommend these volumes for pastors and teachers who want deeper background for teaching young people, but also to enrich the teaching of adults, whether in instruction classes or for ongoing growth in the faith. It may be that such an observer is unaware of how the “simple” is a distillation of revelation that may be anything but simple. Luther has been accused of being simplistic, maybe even advocating a tritheism (Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier). Peters addresses the issue by pointing out that the catechism was fashioned as a starting point for teaching the faith. He notes that in his other sermons and writings, Luther fleshes out the complexities of the relationships among the persons of the Trinity and what that means for salvation.

CPH: Volume 4 of Peters’ commentary deals with the sacraments. What are the strengths of this volume?
Trapp: There are three sections to this volume. An overview of sacramental thinking in general is followed by treatments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper. Peters notes that Luther does not posit a definition of a sacrament and then hunt around for what might fit. Instead, Luther looks for whatever conveys the benefits of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Thus, baptismal water is not consecrated, bread and wine are body and blood in a deep mystery, and, as the final volume will explain, Confession and Absolution/the Office of the Keys uses words pronounced to effect the forgiveness wrought in Christ, which is particularly applicable in private confession, which Luther advocated. None of the two/three “sacraments” exactly fits a common definition. Peters also explains why the topic of the “Lord’s Supper” receives that title rather than “Holy Communion.” He calls for the communal aspect to be celebrated today but points out that the Protestants of Luther’s day used the term “Holy Communion” precisely as a way to deny the real presence: Christians were gathering to celebrate their communion in Christ. There are, of course, many observations about how Baptism and the Lord’s Supper were treated over time and in various settings then and now. 

CPH: Does this volume challenge contemporary views on the sacraments?
Trapp: In addition to what I just mentioned about terminology, the volume certainly clarifies the central role played by the Sacraments in the life of the Church and clarifies how the Lord’s Supper is integral to worship and how Baptism is more than just a right of admission; it is a powerful way in which God applies the benefits of Christ individually to effect the new creation. He notes, as well, that the renunciation of the devil and all his works and ways has been minimized in many Christian liturgies. Surprises and insights come on practically every page.

It is an honor to translate such works and to deepen my own thinking. The volumes will bear much fruit for one who wants to focus on preaching and teaching these vital concepts of the faith and to grow personally.

Contents of the latest volume include:

Luther’s Sacramental Witness: Relationship to the Western Tradition and Internal Development

Luther’s New Beginning: Using Promise and Faith within the Context of the Tradition
The Proper Placement of the Sacraments within the Saving Actions of God on Our Behalf through the Gospel
Reorientation concerning Christ’s Institutions within the Spiritual Realm of God: Definitions and Relationships within Christ’s Institutions

The Sacrament of Holy Baptism

The Nature of Baptism
The Gift of Baptism
The Change that Takes Place in Baptism
The Baptism of Those Who Cannot Speak for Themselves


The Sacrament of the Holy Lord’s Supper
Initial Remarks concerning the Structure and Unique Nature of the Commentary
The Nature of the Lord’s Supper
The Blessing of the Lord’s Supper
Exhortation concerning the Lord’s Supper

What others are saying:
“One of the most insightful interpreters of Luther and the theological tradition of the Lutheran Church in the latter half of the twentieth century, Peters places Luther’s texts before readers in the context of the reformer’s own time and of the catechetical tradition that he inherited, put to use, and transformed. Accessible to a broad audience, this volume will significantly enrich the teaching of all who use it to deepen their understanding of two of the most precious gems from Luther’s pen: the Small and Large Catechism.”
—Robert Kolb, Emeritus Missions Professor of Systematic Theology, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri

New Concordia Commentary on 2 Peter and Jude

CPH is pleased to announce the twenty-second volume in the Concordia Commentary series, which will be released in June, 2012. The new commentary covers both of the biblical books of 2 Peter and Jude. The author, Dr. Curtis Giese, is a professor in the Theology Division of Concordia University Texas, located in Austin. We interviewed Dr. Giese about his new book.

What are some of the unique features of your commentary?
“The commentary discusses noteworthy aspects of these canonical books such as the usage of material from the extrabiblical books of 1 Enoch and the Assumption of Moses, the destruction of the present, corrupted world and introduction of the new creation, the condemnation of the rebellious angels, and the authorship of 2 Peter.”

How will your book impact the life of the church?
“2 Peter and Jude assure first-century Christians that the false teachers in their midst will not prevail but will suffer the dire judgment of evildoers long ago. Similarly, Christians today receive the comfort from these books that all who oppose the Church will ultimately receive divine judgment, and the Church will be vindicated.”

Who will most want to read your book?
“The Concordia Commentary series is intended for pastors, Bible translators, professors, and other teachers of sacred Scripture. Such scholars will want to have this particular volume in the series because it delves into two New Testament books that offer great riches of divine revelation.”

Why will they benefit from your book?
“This commentary contains a thorough study of the Greek text of 2 Peter and Jude, an overview of contemporary scholarship, and a theological exposition that deeply respects these two books as inspired Scripture.”

How did you come to be interested in these particular books of the Bible?
A portion of my Ph.D. studies at Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, concerned Jewish literature of the Second Temple Period. Since Jude uses material from two extra-biblical texts of this genre, I immediately welcomed the opportunity to write a commentary on Jude. Additionally, my longtime admiration of the apostle Peter plus 2 Peter’s connection with Jude made me eager to write on this epistle as well.

What are your thoughts upon the publication of your book?
“I was truly enriched in the research and writing of this commentary. The imminent publication of this volume brings great excitement, knowing that over five years of labor are coming to fruition. I pray that the Word of God in 2 Peter and Jude, which this commentary seeks faithfully to expound, will edify the readers and bring them to a deeper understanding of God’s mercy in Jesus Christ.”

subscribe to the Concordia Commentary series.

Concordia Commentary Editors Meet, Announce New Commentaries

The expected publication of four new commentary volumes in 2012 and 2013 was announced by the editorial board of the Concordia Commentary series, which met March 16 on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. The forthcoming commentaries are on 2 Peter and Jude, by Dr. Curtis P. Giese, slated for publication in June 2012; the Epistles of John (1–3 John), by Dr. Bruce G. Schuchard (December 2012); Romans 1–8, by Dr. Michael P. Middendorf (June 2013); and Mark 1–8, by Dr. James W. Voelz (December 2013). Fraternal discussions by the editors covered the progress of current commentary authors, potential new authors, and cooperative arrangements to facilitate the ongoing faithful labor of the writers, who are drawn from confessional Lutheran church bodies around the globe. Central to the dialogue was the vital role of exegesis in the history of the church, particularly the Reformation, and the foundational role of the interpretation of Scripture in the life of the church today. The editors continue to pray that this series will further the mission of the church to proclaim the Gospel with clarity and fidelity throughout the world, until the return of Jesus Christ.

Pictured standing are, left to right, Rev. Paul T. McCain, Executive Director of Editorial and Publisher, CPH; Mrs. Julene Gernant Dumit, Production Editor, CPH; Dr. Christopher W. Mitchell, Old Testament Editor and CPH Editor for the series; Dr. Curtis P. Giese, Interim Assistant New Testament Editor for the series and Professor of Theology at Concordia University Texas. Seated, from left to right, are Dr. Jeffrey A. Gibbs, New Testament Editor for the series and Professor of Exegetical Theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri; and Dr. Dean O. Wenthe, General Editor of the series and President Emeritus of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Dr. Michael P. Middendorf of Concordia University Irvine is completing his commentary on Romans 1–8. CPH anticipates that it will be published in June 2013. Dr. Middendorf was named the Trembath Professor in 2010–2011, allowing him extra time for research and writing. He then gave the Trembath Lecture at the university on February 7, 2012, titled “Romans: It's Not Really about You … and That's a Good Thing!” This lecture summarized some of his work on the first of two volumes on Romans in the Concordia Commentary series. According to R. C. H. Lenski (Romans, p. 84), “the great theme of Romans is the Sinner's Personal Justification by Faith.” Dr. Middendorf suggests that a close reading of the letter reveals that it is more about the community than the individual. Even more importantly, Paul directs our attention primarily toward God and his righteousness, which is his gift to us in our Lord Jesus Christ.

To learn more about the available volumes it the Concordia Commentary series, or how to become a subscriber and save 30% off the retail price, click here.

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