Wednesday, January 25, 2023

How to Read the Bible for the First Time

 If you've never read the Bible before, I don't recommend simply going from start to finish. Instead, read it this way:

  • Genesis (all)
  • Exodus 1-20
  • Numbers 11-27
  • Psalms: 1, 18, 22, 23, 32, 34, 36, 42-43, 45-46, 51, 69, 70, 72, 87, 93, 95, 98, 100, 110-134
  • Isaiah: 4-9, 14, 25-26, 40, 42, 49-56, 59-66
  • Matthew-Jude (all)
  • The rest of the Old Testament
  • Revelation
  • Apocryphal books (optional)

This helps you to see Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament, and then to go back and fill in the gaps.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Gerhard's Theological Commonplaces Series: What's Available

From time to time I'm asked how much of Johann Gerhard's monumental Theological Commonplaces is available and whether Concordia's edition is going to include this or that locus. Here are some answers.

First, the entire series (as currently available) can be found on this page. The volumes are not in order in this listing, but all available items (plus Gerhard’s commentary on the books of Timothy) are listed. We added the “original” loci on Scripture to our series so that we could also provide a translation of Gerhard’s Method of Theological Study (item 531216). This is the only instance where we have addressed the earliest form of the loci (1610) in addition to the 1625 exegesis volumes translated by Dr Dinda.

The newest volume, On Eternal Life, will be available in the fall of 2022.

The chart below presents each locus, its publication history in the various editions, and our status regarding publication. Those loci highlighted in blue have been published by Concordia, either as standalone volumes in the series or as multiple loci in a single volume. The loci on the ministry and on death are separated into two volumes. On Death part I will release in 2023 and part II will release in 2024 and will complete our work with the translated material. The loci that are not highlighted will not be published at this time by CPH. Although we have raw translated text for all but the “original” loci on the Trinity (included in the Frankfurt/Hamburg and Cotta editions), we have no current plans to edit and publish the material.

For those who would like to read what Gerhard says on the sacraments, please see Rev. Elmer Hohle's translation of Gerhard's Comprehensive Explanation of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

Comparison of Editions of Gerhard’s Loci

 Title -- Frankfurt/Hamburg (1657)* / Cotta (1762) / Preuss (1863)

On the Nature of Theology (Exegesis) -- E preface / E preface / Preface

On Holy Scripture (Exegesis) -- E1 / E1 / 1

On the Nature of God (Exegesis) -- E2 / E2 / 2

On the Most Holy Mystery of the Trinity (Exegesis) -- E3 / E3 / 3

On the Person and Office of Christ (Exegesis) -- E4 / E4 / 4

On Holy Scripture -- 1 / 1 / omitted

On the Interpretation of Scripture -- 2 / 2 / omitted

On the Nature of God -- 3 / 3 / omitted

On the Three Elohim -- 4 / 4 / omitted

On God the Father and His Eternal Son -- 5 / 4, part 2 / omitted

On the Holy Spirit -- 6 / 5, part 3 [!] /  omitted

On the Person and Office of Christ - 7 / 5 / omitted

On Creation and Angels -- 8 / 6 / 5

On Providence -- 9 / 7 / 6

On Election and Reprobation -- 10 / 8 / 7

On the Image of God in Man before the Fall -- 11 / 9 / 8

On Original Sin -- 12 / 10 / 9

On Actual Sins -- 13 / 11 / 10

On Free Choice -- 14 / 12 / 11

On the Law of God -- 15 / 13 / 12

On the Ceremonial and Forensic Laws -- 16 / 14 / 13

On the Gospel -- 17 / 15 / 14

On Repentance -- 18 / 16 / 15

On Justification through Faith -- 19 / 17 / 16

On Good Works -- 20 / 18 / 17

On the Sacraments -- 21 / 19 / 18

On Circumcision and the Paschal Lamb -- 22 / 20 / 19

On Holy Baptism -- 23 / 21 / 20

On the Holy Supper -- 24 / 22 / 21

On the Church -- 25 / 23 / 22

On the Ecclesiastical Ministry -- 26 / 24 / 23

On Political Magistracy -- 27 / 25 / 24

On Marriage, Celibacy, and Similar Topics -- 28 / 26 / 25

On Death -- 29 / 27 / 26

On the Resurrection of the Dead -- 30 / 28 / 27

On the Last Judgment -- 31 / 29 / 28

On the End of the World -- 32 / 30 / 29

On Hell, or Eternal Death -- 33 / 31 / 30

On Eternal Life -- 34 / 32 / 31


* The Jena ed. (1610) has the same enumeration, except that it lacks the Exegesis. Our edition follows this enumeration as well.

Monday, August 8, 2022

How to Meditate on Holy Scripture

Meditation and “spiritual” experiences are becoming more and more popular. Some kinds of Eastern meditation encourage an emptying of the mind rather than concentration. Some spiritual movements emphasize that human beings have a spark of divinity within them. For them prayer is creative thinking that heightens the connection with god mind (which is that spark of divinity within them). Yoga emphasizes the isolation of the soul from the body and mind, attempting to rid the mind of all outside thoughts and influences. Some Christians think of prayer primarily as a way to receive messages from God that go beyond Scripture. With these voices around us, it is important for us to remember in what ways genuine Christian meditation is different. How do we know what Christian meditation is? We look to Jesus Christ and the Word. Jesus is the One who gives “not as the world gives” (John 14:27), so Christian meditation will be quite different from the meditation of the world around us.

1. Christian meditation is concerned with God, His work, His Word. “I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds” (Psalm 77;12). Our meditation is not an emptying of the mind or a focus on our own heart, since “out of the heart proceed evil thoughts” (Matthew 15:19). Instead our meditation deals completely with God and His Word (Psalm 119:97).

2. Christian meditation is verbal. As St. Paul counseled one of the church’s first pastors, Timothy: “Give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine . . . . Meditate on these things” (1 Timothy 4:13–15). But not only should pastors meditate verbally, but the meditation of all Christians should be verbal. “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night” (Joshua 1:8). Verbal meditation means mostly, but not necessarily, speaking or singing, not just thinking. But it is always dealing with words. Why is Christian meditation verbal? Because God is verbal. He created all things by speaking words (Genesis 1), and His Son is the only-begotten Word of God (John 1). It is no coincidence that the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was the gift of tongues.

3. Christian meditation involves both the intellect and the heart. Clear understanding and love are fruits. “My mouth shall speak wisdom, and the meditation of my heart shall give understanding” (Psalm 49:3). “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). It is neither completely a matter of the heart, nor is it only cold knowledge. When Christ and His Word go to work in us, the fruits always include clear understanding and love.

4. Christian meditation has a structure (for example, day and night). “But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). “I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search” (Psalm 77:6). Christian meditation is not chaotic, but is marked by order, just as Paul says, “let all things be done with decency and order” (1 Corinthians 14:40).

5. Christian meditation takes place in the presence of the Triune God, and thus lays bare the sinful heart and prays for mercy. “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD” (Psalm 19:14).

Since Christian meditation involves the intellect, some labor in studying God’s Word is necessary. Before even opening the Bible, have the text of the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer firmly pressed into your mind. With these Catechism texts as your maps, the treasures of God’s Word will not be hard to find. But Christian meditation also involves the heart. Find a time each day for meditation. Our Lord recommends setting aside a small room at home for prayer (Matthew 6:6). Visual reminders of Christ can help direct the meditation of your heart. For example, the lovingkindness shown to us when Christ died, as depicted on a cross, can be a valuable aid to prayer, as it is written, “Your lovingkindness is before my eyes” (Psalm 26:3).

Dr. Luther gives advice on how to continue:

First, when I feel that I have become cool and joyless in prayer because of other tasks or thoughts (for the flesh and the devil always impede and obstruct prayer), I take my little psalter, hurry to my room, or, if it be the day and hour for it, to the church where a congregation is assembled and, as time permits, I say quietly to myself and word-for-word the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and, if I have time, some words of Christ or of Paul, or some psalms, just as a child might do.

It is a good thing to let prayer be the first business of the morning and the last at night. . . .

When your heart has been warmed by such recitation to yourself [of the Ten Commandments, the words of Christ, etc.] and is intent upon the matter, kneel or stand with your hands folded and your eyes toward heaven and speak or think as briefly as you can:

O Heavenly Father, dear God, I am a poor unworthy sinner. I do not deserve to raise my eyes or hands toward thee or to pray. But because thou hast commanded us all to pray and hast promised to hear us and through thy dear Son Jesus Christ hast taught us both how and what to pray, I come to thee in obedience to thy word, trusting in thy gracious promise. (Simple Way to Pray, 1535, LW 43:193–84)

Luther then suggests meditation on each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, or the Ten Commandments, using each Commandment as an occasion for doctrine, thanksgiving, confession, and prayer. He also recommends meditation on the texts of Scripture, especially the Psalms. This kind of Scriptural meditation, highly verbal, involving intellect and heart, and completely centered on the Triune God and His Word is “not as the world gives” but as Christ gives. In closing, I offer a meditation on one of my favorite verses of the Bible, Psalm 36:9. “With You is the fountain of life, in Your light we see light.”

Lord God, heavenly Father, throughout Your Word You proclaim to us Your love for us as proven in Your Son Jesus Christ. You have cause the Psalmist to say to You, “In Your light we see light.” In truth, I know that as a sinner, I walk in darkness, stumbling into danger and error. Were it not for Your light, all would be lost. But Your light has shone froth in Your Son, for as You have said in Hebrews 1, He is the very “brightness of Your glory.” Your Son is the Light, shining forth from You as from the sun, and in Him alone can we see Light. Thank You, heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ, who is God of God, Light of Light. Thank You for putting Me in Him so that “in Your Light” I may “see Light,” the Light of salvation, heaven, glory. Father, grant that as You have revealed Your light to Me in Christ, so I may manifest Your Light in my life, so that others around me may see Christ through me and give thanks to You. Forgive me for walking in darkness, enlighten me with Your Light, Jesus Christ, through whom be glory to You, together with the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.


Gerhard, Johann. Gerards Meditations. Translated by Ralph Winterton. Cambridge: John Hayes, 1670.

Gerhard, Johann. Gerhard’s Sacred Meditations. Translated by Charles W. Heisler. Philadelphia: Lutheran Publication Society, 1896.

Gerhard, Johann. Schola Pietatis: The Practice of Godliness. Edited by Rachel Melvin. Translated by Elmer M. Hohle. Vol. 2, pp. 58–110. Malone, TX: Repristination Press, 2013.

Hall, Joseph. “The Art of Divine Meditation.” In The Works of the Right Reverend Joseph Hall, edited by Philip Wynter, 6:46–88. Oxford: University Press, 1863.

Luther, Martin. A Simple Way to Pray (1535), LW 43:187–211.

Luther, Martin. First Lectures on the Psalms (1513–15), LW 10LW 11.

Luther, Martin. Large Catechism, longer preface, Kolb-Wengert, 379–83; Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions, 351–56.

Luther, Martin. Meditation on Christ’s Passion (1519), LW 42:3–14.

Luther, Martin. Preface to the Wittenberg Edition of Luther’s German Writings (1539), LW 34:279–88.

Luther, Martin. Short Instruction: What Should Be Sought and Expected in the Gospels (1522), LW 75:7–12.

Scriver, Christian. Gotthold’s Emblems: Or, Invisible Things Understood by Things That Are Made. Translated by Robert Menzies. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1862. 



Saturday, February 12, 2022

Restoring the Great Litany

Lent is coming up, a time in which the Litany is in many places sung frequently in our Lutheran services. In the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, the Litany (or "Great Litany") is normally sung or said with the pastor speaking several paragraphs of text before the congregation gives a short response. This is the way it's set forth in Lutheran Service Book, pp. 288-89. When the musical version is used (see LSB Altar Book), the pastor usually sings his parts with several cadences (the change in notes at the end of each line) before the congregation sings their response.

In an article back in 2017 I showed that this is actually a deformation of what a litany is. A litany is essentially responsive prayer, with short petitions by the liturgist followed each time by a short response of the congregation. When it is recited this way, there is a beautiful liturgical rhythm between pastor and people, one calling out and the other answering in a regular rhythm--almost like breathing. When the litany is sung, the pastor's cadence should signal to the people that it is time for their response.

So back in 2017 I showed historically and practically that in order to restore the litany to its purpose as responsive prayer and as easily sung by heart (without needing to read from a book), the people's responses need to be repeated after each semicolon in the pastor's part, or at least at the end of each paragraph. 

Sometimes pastors I know have resisted having the congregation repeat their response at the end of each paragraph, claiming that it will unduly lengthen the Litany and thus be burdensome to the people. However, I have timed the Litany with and without responses at the end of each paragraph. The difference is only 32 seconds when spoken, and 45 seconds when sung. Surely this is not too great a burden that would prevent us from putting the words of prayer in the mouths of the people more often, and allowing the musical cadence to signal the response of the people.

(When I say "responses at the end of each paragraph," what I mean is: "Liturgist. From all sin, from all error, from all evil; Congregation. Good Lord, deliver us. L. From the crafts and assaults of the devil; from sudden and evil death; C. Good Lord, deliver us. L. From pestilence and famine; from war and bloodshed; from sedition and from rebellion; C. Good Lord, deliver us." Etc.

When I say "responses after each semicolon," what I mean is: "L. From all sin, from all error, from all evil; C. Good Lord, deliver us. L. From the crafts and assaults of the devil; C. Good Lord, deliver us. L. from sudden and evil death; C. Good Lord, deliver us. L. From pestilence and famine; C. Good Lord, deliver us. L. from war and bloodshed; C. Good Lord, deliver us. L. from sedition and from rebellion; C. Good Lord, deliver us." Etc.)

So before Lent, I invite you to read my 2017 article and restore the Great Litany in your congregation.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Memory Tricks for Learning Greek

At this time of year we at Concordia Theological Seminary Fort Wayne are blessed to have new Greek students. These “Greekies” have a big task in front of them: by the end of the summer, learn all Greek grammar and vocabulary needed for reading the Greek New Testament. It is our “theological boot camp,” and it requires memorizing a huge amount of data.

How to do it? Some students try to memorize by rote repetition: repeating and reviewing over and over until it sinks in (or doesn’t!).

But there is a better way. You need tricks to make this easier. By using memory tricks, you will learn the content faster, which means you can learn more of it in the same amount of time. This will reduce stress and make your skills better, which will lead to you being a better student and theologian.

You have to be able to see each word in your mind visually. My tricks are as follows.

1. Word substitution. Substitute English words you know and can see for Greek words that you don’t know. For example, κεφαλή (he kephale, meaning “the head”) sounds like “coffee latte.” So there you’ve made a word substitution.

2. The Link. To link two concepts together, you have to form a very visual, memorable picture in your mind that includes both of them. For example, picture an enormous glass of coffee latte balancing on your head. Now you have an easy way to remember that κεφαλή means "the head." As for the fact that it’s a feminine noun, try making the coffee cup a bright pink in your picture.

3. A visual Greek alphabet. Sometimes you have to memorize word endings, and the differences come down to single letters. Here you can make a mental picture for each letter of the Greek alphabet. Here’s what I use. Some of them might not work for you; feel free to make your own. (The same thing can be done for the English alphabet, too!)

Greek Alphabet

α - Alpha Romeo (car)

β - Beta carotene (carrot)

γ - Gamma rays (Hulk)

δ - Delta airlines

ε - Pepsi

ζ - Zeta scanner (in the library)

η - Ate

θ - Thesis

ι - Yoda

κ - Cap

λ - Lamb

μ - Moo (cow)

ν - News

ξ - Excite

ο - Oh my crayon

π - Pie

ρ - Row

σ - Sick ma

τ - Taoism (yin-yang symbol)

υ - Up salon

φ - Wi-Fi

χ - Chi (Dr. Strange's mentor, using chi power)

ψ - Sci-fi

ω - Make-up


4. Numeral sounds and picture. Finally, there are times when you’ll need to memorize a number. You do this by changing each numeral 0-9 into a specific consonant sound. Then you can make words out of the numbers. This website explains how it works.

God’s blessings as you use these tricks to learn New Testament Greek!

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Lutheran Latin Guide to the Hebrew Old Testament: Reineccius' Janua

Christian Reineccius, Janua Hebraeae Linguae Veteris Testamenti: in qua Totius Codicis Hebraei Vocabula una cum radicibus & Grammatica vocum difficiliorum analysi comparent (Lipsiae: Sumpt. Haered. Lanckisianorum, 1704).

Back in college (Concordia University Nebraska) I was blessed to learn Hebrew well from Dr. Mark Meehl, but as time goes on, you have to either use your language abilities or lose them! Hebrew is still there in the back of my mind somewhere, but since I work with Luther's German and Johann Gerhard's Latin nearly every day, that's much easier. 

To get back into reading the Hebrew Old Testament, I've found this book to be very helpful. It goes through the text verse by verse and gives the definition and form of every difficult Hebrew word, while also indicating the roots of most words. If your Latin is better than your Hebrew, and if you want a good free resource, try this!

Friday, August 28, 2020