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Sunday, February 15, 2015

“Most controversial Protestant hymn”; C. Winkworth; Luther: Curb Pope & Turk

[2017-04-28: added link to 1-page article in 1894 Der Lutheraner; 2017-01-27: added note at bottom in red – P.E. Kretzmann essay on this same subject]
      This post is a supplement to my previous "Martyrs 21" post on the Magdeburg children who were slain as they sang a hymn of Luther.  Fortunately, it was a Wikipedia article that tipped me off to this fact and so I thought to cross reference this hymn to one of our modern hymnbooks and oh!... did this open up a "hot topic", a topic that leads me to present some questions to Matthew Carver and Jon D. Vieker, both well known for their work with hymn books.  As the German Wikipedia article notes, this hymn of Luther was
...regarded for centuries as the most controversial Protestant hymn.
What was this hymn?
"Erhalt uns, HErr, bei deinem Wort" (Preserve us, Lord, by Thy Word)
As mentioned in the previous post, it was the second line of the first stanza that caused controversy for it said literally: "And curb the Pope and Turks’ murder", and that Germany had abandoned the "Pope and Turks" words in their modern hymnbooks.
      But what about America?  What happened to Luther's words "Pope and Turk"?  Well!... this developed into a whole separate blog post ... to honor these slain children of Magdeburg.
  1. The gold standard of Lutheranism in America comes first from C.F.W. Walther.  His Kirchen Gesangbuch (or Walther's original German hymnal) published Luther's hymn under # 159 and clearly kept Luther's words.  An 1868 edition had (page 122): "Und steu'r des papst's und türken mord"; in a modernized 1909 edition, it reads (page 93): "und steur des Pabsts und Türken Mord"
  2. In 1879, August Crull of the old Missouri Synod published an English hymn book titled Hymn Book for the Use of Evangelical Lutheran Schools and Congregations.  On page 64, hymn # 46, his second line reads "And break the Pope's and Turk's fell sword.  So unlike Germany, the old Missouri Synod had not abandoned Luther's words, even the English portion.
  3. From about 1901 to the 1930's, another English Lutheran hymnbook came into use – the Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-book (ELHB).   My mother had a 1928 edition of this hymnbook.  There is a book out now by Jon D. Vieker with the title August Crull and the Story of the Evangelical Lutheran Hymn-book (1912), implying that this newer hymn-book was strongly influenced by Crull's hymn book (see # 2 above).  It probably came out of the "English Synod", the same body that originally published The Lutheran Witness magazine, an English magazine for those associated with the German Missouri Synod.  How did it translate Luther's words?: "Restrain the murd'rous Pope and Turk" (1892 p. 1391909 p. XXX)
  4. Better than Luther?

  5. Then came the axe – in 1941, the The Lutheran Hymnal (TLH #261) made the great leap and struck out Luther's words "Pope and Turk".  They did this by means of using the translation of Catherine Winkworth: "Curb those who fain by craft and sword" -- Luther's words were stricken... by the new (English) Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod... just as Germany had done.  This is one of the clearest signs to Lutherans that the LC-MS was not what they thought it was – a bastion in today's modern world for Lutheranism and Luther.
  6. Jaroslav Pelikan, the fiendish LC-MS theologian, gleefully pointed out in his book Bach Among the Theologians (1986) how his LC-MS had abandoned Luther's words saying (on page 44): "By 1941, however, hymnody, if not theology, was prepared to mollify Luther's polemic against 'the two archenemies of Christ and of his church,' and the revised version of that hymnal adopted Catherine Winkworth's translation of 1863..."
  7. In 1982, the TLH was replaced by the Lutheran Worship (LW #334) hymnbook which slightly modernized Winkworth's translation: "Curb those who by deceit or sword"... no return to Luther or Walther here.
  8. In 1996, the ELS came out with their own hymnbook, Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary.  I had some hope for this church body as it was considered more "conservative" than the LC-MS, but alas!  they too have been infected by the "modernism" of the LC-MS and kept the translation of C. Winkworth (see # 4 above).
  9. In 2006, the Lutheran Service Book (LSB #655) continued the way of modern Lutherans -- leaving the words of Luther stricken.  In the October 4, 2010 issue of Christian News, an article by "EJG" entitled "Islam and the LCMS's LSB" lamented the continuing break with the old Missouri's hymn wording.
    Walther's Hymnal
    by Matthew Carver
  10. In 2012, Matthew Carver published Walther's Hymnal, an English version edited and translated by him.  What did Mr. Carver do with this verse?... would he too try to hide Luther and Walther?  (but this was Walther's hymnal!)... would he perpetrate on Walther's own hymnal what today's LC-MS had done in 1941?  His translation is (pages 119-120): "Restrain the murd'rous pope and Turk".  He then identified his translation as that of C. Winkworth, altered.  Essentially he took Winkworth's translation and replaced her first stanza to be that of the old ELHB - see # 3 above.   Thankfully Matthew Carver at least did not falsify Walther in this regard.  Is it any wonder that he should state in his preface: "This translation is not an official hymnal of the LCMS."   He calls Walther's hymnal an "historical artifact".  He said he was "indebted to The Lutheran Hymnal (1941)" but that "alterations have been made on occasion for greater fidelity to the original sense..."  Thank God for that!
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Catherine Winkworth
It is most unsettling that so many of the German Lutheran hymns published today have been taken from the translations of Catherine Winkworth.  Why is this unsettling?  Because this is a manifestation of what Franz Pieper warned his Missouri Synod of -- the dangers of the false teaching of the "English" speaking Lutherans in America.  It is most troubling to read in the Wikipedia article (here) of her saying she "...studied under the Unitarian minister... and with the English philosopher..."  This does not recommend Catherine Winkworth for Lutheran hymns.
      But then the Lutheran Cyclopedia (here) said she was "cultured, devoted member of Church of England".  Although the Church of England may be weak in resisting the heresy of Unitarianism, yet it confesses Christ as Savior and Redeemer.   And I have taken some comfort in the fact that Catherine's Unitarian sister Susanna Winkworth wrote to an English pastor about Catherine (Memorials of Two Sisters, in 1856, pg 148):
As you will probably have supposed us to be a Unitarian family, I think it but right to explain that that is not the case, and my sister Catherine has always been a member of the Church of England.
In 1859, Catherine wrote to her Unitarian sister Susanna, pg 197:
... what a happiness it would be to me if you could feel it right to join the Church...  your many friendships with Theists, etc, I still cannot but feel, too, that if you saw it right, it might be of the greatest service to them. I think your calling would be to show them . . . that you had found it necessary, and a great blessing, to believe more than they do
In this letter, Catherine clearly distinguished her faith from that of her Unitarian sister.  Although it may have been written from a Christian faith, yet it was surely a weak faith.

Logia article
      An article of the April 1994 journal Logia (vol. 3, #2, pgs 19-24, "A Victorian Legacy–The Translating of German Hymns", or here), author Pastor Alan C. Hoger exposes the glaring weaknesses of the "Victorian" translators like Winkworth.  Hoger flatly states the condition exported from England: "This relative disregard for German hymnody in England has continued down to the present."   Hoger later states: "It is a matter of fact that we English-speaking Lutherans have in our public worship relied on the work of these non-Lutheran Christians for decades..."   Hoger is praising the work of these "non-Lutheran Christians".  Then later, Hoger makes a most striking statement about today's hymn writers:
... lead us to ask whether we have not moved below the standard set by our group of Victorian translators in terms of achieving both graceful English verse and fidelity to the original text.
Wow!  Hoger seems to see even more clearly that his generation of Lutherans are less Lutheran than the non-Lutheran "Victorian" translators, like Winkworth!  Sad indeed!  I rather lament this situation, that true Lutherans are subject to the "English" influence that Franz Pieper so warned his Missouri Synod against.  Nevertheless, we must accept the crumbs from the Master Table, and be vigilant.

Questions for Jon D. Vieker, Sr. Assistant to President Harrison:
  1. Why did Walther not eliminate Luther's words "Pope and Turk" in his hymnbook if the Roman Catholics (and even perhaps the Mohammedans at that time) were no longer slaughtering Lutherans, by "sword" or otherwise?
  2. Why didn't August Crull use Catherine Winkworth's translation instead of keeping the wording "Pope and Turk" in his translation? (see # 2 above)
  3. Did Luther mean only bodily murder with his words of warning against the "Pope and Turk"? ... i.e. would Luther approve of the elimination of his words "Pope and Turks" by the LC-MS from his hymn?
Questions for Matthew Carver:
  1. Did anyone advise you to say in your "Translator's Note" that "This translation is not an official hymnal of the LCMS?  
  2. Did you ask for advice from Revs. Jon D. Vieker or Joel Baseley, or anyone else on which translation you should use for your translation of Walther's hymn words --"Pope and Turk" in hymn # 159?  
  3. Why did you call Walther's Hymnal an "historical artifact"?
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Maybe someone will think that I am being too particular or too harsh with the efforts by some to bring more of Walther works to today's readers.  But I would point out that Germany itself has identified this very hymn of Luther to be
...regarded for centuries as the most controversial Protestant hymn
... and long ago abandoned Luther.  So to honor the memory of the Magdeburg children who "were not hurt by their early death", as Hermann Fick points out, I sing with the old (German) Missouri Synod: "Restrain the murd'rous Pope and Turk"!
Next I return to my series on Martyrs -- Part 22 -- Juan Diaz.

[2017-04-03: Der Lutheraner had many articles on this hymn, including by Walther -- search "Erhalt uns, HErr" here (Archive) or here (Gdoc); Prof. Paul E. Kretzmann wrote an essay on this same subject in The Orthodox Lutheran, July 1952, pp. 123-124. –  A less useful article on this subject is available here, pgs 176-179]
[2017-04-29: Der Lutheraner (DL), vol. 50, November 27, 1894, No. 25, pp. 204-205 -- 1-page historical essay by "F.L" published here. Walther's short blurb on this hymn in DL, vol. 35,, Nov. 1, 1879 p. 167 here, text file here.  3-part historical essay by "G.G" in 1885 DL here, here, and here, FULL text file here.]


  1. Hi, very interesting post here! It was lately brought to my attention that some questions were directed to me here. I am sorry I did not see this post earlier

    1. I included this statement of my own accord. I took it for granted that it was not an official hymnal, since it was not done by the Commission for Worship nor adopted (in its English form) by the Synod in convention. Of course, the German original certainly was adopted, and theoretically to my knowledge remains official, and could, I suppose, be used where any German service continues. This statement may also be taken as a sign of my wish to avoid presuming anything with respect to its merits or accuracy. I am also unsure whether there is a doctrinal review for academic translations, without which review, it might not be wise to employ the work for a divine service (according to the pastor's discretion).

    2. I believe I did ask about this, and it was suggested to use the generalized version of the stanza, but ultimately the final decision was mine, I take responsibility for it. I recognize a translation ethic which calls for as much accuracy as possible, even working within my tenets of using pre-existing translations as much as possible. I don't mind either translation, but would certainly prefer to translate for accuracy without fear of objections.

    3. When I say historical artifact, I am probably not being very precise, but I certainly don't mean an obsolete thing, but a thing which may be viewed in its historical meaning and in a historical context, and valued as such, apart from its contemporary applications and practical considerations. Hope that helps.

    1. Mr. Carver:
      Your response is far too important to leave buried here so I have created a separate blog post to publicize it and provide my replies.


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