Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Luther on New Things

As I said at the start of the year, I'm planning on reading a lot more old books this year. I'm going to blog about the experience, in order to try and keep me honest in keeping it up!

I've just finished "Crime and Punishment" by Dostoevsky. It starts with a student who murders two people, and then tells the story of the fall out from that event. Dostoevsky was a Christian, and there a whole load of Christian themes which run through the story including the nature of sin, repentance and grace. I did really enjoy reading it, although it was hard going in parts. 

I'm now reading "Selections from the Table Talk of Martin Luther". Martin Luther was the priest and professor of theology who initiated the Protestant Reformation, affirming that salvation was by grace alone and re-establishing the unique authority of the Bible - a pretty key guy for us. He also translated the Bible into German to make it accessible to ordinary people, leading to Tyndale translating the Bible into English which then lead to the King James Version. 

But he wasn't just some dusty professor. He was also famous for his fireside chats, where students would come into his home and over a beer (his wife a brewer!) would discuss the Bible and related topics. The book I'm reading is a collection of these talks, which his students wrote down. The translation is a bit old fashioned but they're still incredibly fresh and relevant. Let me share one which amused me - if you remember I spoke a few weeks ago about our desire for new things - this obviously afflicted people in Luther's time too, even if for them it wasn't iPads and new TVs!

Before I translated the New Testament out of the Greek, said Luther, every one longed after it, to read therein, but when it was done their longing lasted scarce four weeks.  Then they desired the Books of Moses; when I had translated those, they had enough thereof in a short time.  After that they would have the Psalter; of the same they were soon weary; when it was translated, then they desired other books.

In like manner, said he, will it be with the Book of Ecclesiasticus, which they now long for, and about which I have taken great pains in the translating thereof.  All are acceptable, so long and until our giddy brains be satisfied; afterwards they let them lie, and seek after new things; therefore in the end there must come errors among us.



Sue said...

Just downloaded both and look forward to reading them!

Geri said...

I did Crime & Punishment at school - something about the reaccurance of the colour yellow,if I remember correctly! Should read it again without having to write the essay!

Also did Martin Luther in Church History at Uni. I think his wife used to be a nun, but I didn't know she became a brewer!

Anonymous said...

Crime and punishment was used as an excellent illustration for a large section of my Theology course , where we were encouraged to read it. Like you Simon, I found it pretty tough going in places. It did serve the tutors purpose well though and if I'm honest is a pretty fancy pants book to say you have read, which is always cool.