28 February 2011

Christliche oder Catholicam

It all depended - at least in the 16th and 17th century - on whether one was singing in German or in Latin.  If the Creed was sung in German - and that means, Luther's "Wir Glauben All" - then one confessed that the Holy Spirit "die ganz' Christenheit auf Erden hält in einen Sinn gar eben."  But if one sang the Latin Creed, then one confessed "unam sanctam catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam."  And Lutherans for a couple centuries were totally at ease with confessing it either way; in many services confessing it both ways as the German was often sung by the people after the Latin was led by the choir.  The notion that "christian" is preferred over "catholic" because that's how the Creeds were rendered in the German Book of Concord does not jive with the actual history of Lutheran liturgy.

15 comments:

Chuck Wiese said...

It would seem that if we were to carry the same principle forward all of our English translations of the Bible would have to be based on the German.

William Weedon said...

And that would be most silly, no?

Anonymous said...

The LCMS creedal use of Christian
over catholic in the Apostles Creed
is due to Roman Catholic phobia.

In our parish 50% of our adult
confirmands are former Roman Catholics. When catholic is used
with a small c it means universal,
not Roman Catholic. We have done
a poor job of educating our laity
on this distinction. Ex-Roman
Catholics make good Lutherans (LCMS)

melxiopp said...

Something similar can be found in Slavonic translations of the Bible, the Creed, and liturgical texts originally written in Greek. In further translation from Slavonic, the translated term was used as the gloss to understand how to translate yet further (e.g., into English, Japanese, Aleut). The prime example being the Slavonic use of sobornost to translate 'catholic' in the Creed, oddly enough.

The important thing to remember is that the translation is a sort of fossil preserving a way the original term was understood at the time. Using the same word is not the same thing as using the same meaning of the word; nuance can be added as well as lost, meaning can be wholly reversed (e.g., see KJV). These translational fossils allow us to peer into perhaps little preserved shades of meaning in the 'original' term lost in later forms of the 'original' language. The corollary is that Russian practice has 'better' - though not purely - preserved the mid- and late-Byzantine practices they were evangelized with than have the Greeks. That is, when there is a divergence between Slavic and Greek practice, Slavic practice is usually more ancient.

These things happen, except when they don't.

Anonymous said...

If the LCMS wishes to confess the universal Nicene Creed, she needs to confess "CATHOLIC"; otherwise, the creed is parochial.

William Weedon said...

Just to note on the capitalization: in the Missale Romanum as in the Magdeburg 1613 and the Lossius 1594, catholicam is always rendered with a lowercase c. Both Apostolicam and Ecclesiam in the Lutheran documents are uppercase; in the Roman (at least the copy I have) only Ecclesiam is upper.

Petersen said...

This discussion it is almost always misinformed and there is plenty of ignorance on both sides.

Prior to the Reformation, the German papists sometimes translated the Greek word for "whole" into German into something akin to the English word "christian." Other times, they transliterated it with something akin to our word "catholic." To think that this word must be transliterated, and can't be translated, or the other way around is worse than silly. Both renderings are faithful. Neither is anti-papist or anti-Protestant or anything else. Legalistic rules demanding one or the other are born in ignorance and prejudice.

Pastor Peters said...

For pete's sake.... the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians all use catholic in the creed -- and most without intending to BE catholic in confession and faith. If we who take seriously the confession and faith have trouble lisping our way through the word catholic, it is the utmost of ironies. We whose confession is claimed both catholic and evangelical, should be most intent upon using the word catholic in the creed and stealing away its common use to refer to one particular tradition. My words to Missourians who have trouble with this, grow up...

Chris said...

Why not just admit that thew word Christian is NOT a good and NEVER has been a good translation for "catholicam" (Latin) or "Katholikon" (Greek)? It's simply an issue of bad language choices. No time like the present to get it right.

Past Elder said...

In either the Greek or Latin of the Creed, the word for whole, complete, entire, universal usw means whole, complete, entire, universal usw, and not Christian.

The English word "catholic" is cognate with the Greek and Latin. If the Roman church wishes to make of it a proper adjective, as it is wont to do since created by the Edict of Thessalonica, it will be neither the first nor the last of its many errors.

Nor is it just a matter of confusion among Protestants. As an RC, it was explained to us that the "catholic epistles" were not "Catholic epistles" but those not addressed to a specific congregation, general or universal.

Anonymous is quite right: explaining the difference between catholic and Catholic is short and simple, if one will just do.

And thanks for the compliment Anon! Too bad I am only excommunicated latae sententiae, or at least I hope I am, but, with that kind you ain't got no papers to show for it!

Marinus Veenman said...

I support the rendering "catholic". I already teach all my kids to say "catholic" in the recitation of the creed. We lapse into saying "Christian" only on Sunday.

Jim Huffman said...

Even better, Marinus, don't lapse. :)

Several in our congregation (myself included) are among those annoying people who persist in confessing "catholic," despite what the book says.

christl242 said...

Why not just admit that thew word Christian is NOT a good and NEVER has been a good translation for "catholicam" (Latin) or "Katholikon" (Greek)? It's simply an issue of bad language choices. No time like the present to get it right.

Not quite that simple, Chris. My mother's Lutheran ancestors lived in Salzburg, Austria. The Catholic Archbishop gave them a choice, convert or leave. They left and settled in East Prussia. My mother's Lutheran congregation was as steadfast and faithful as any but they were determined to hold onto their identity and part of that was confessing the holy "Christian" rather than "catholic" church because yes, at that time "catholic" was too close to "Catholic" for comfort.

Today, centuries later and in the context of the freedom we are blessed with here in the U.S. Lutherans can once again embrace their evangelical and catholic heritage in confessing the ancient Creed.

Christine

Deacon Latif Haki Gaba, SSP said...

Fr. Petersen writes:
"To think that this word must be transliterated, and can't be translated, or the other way around is worse than silly. Both renderings are faithful. Neither is anti-papist or anti-Protestant or anything else. Legalistic rules demanding one or the other are born in ignorance and prejudice."

I would challenge this in one sense, okay maybe two senses. "Catholicam," I would certainly argue, is untranslatable, perhaps even moreso than "Kyrie eleison" is (and I think the Kyrie ought to be sung in Greek). This does not mean, however, that I necessarily condemn the use of "Christian." My point, first of all, is that we should not say of it that it is a tanslation.

Second, whether both are "faithful" depends on what one means by faithful. Linguistically faithful? theologically faithful? historically faithful? liturgically faithful? Pastorally faithful? A good discussion could take place for each of these questions, and not all of them should have the same weight in the decision to use the creed one way or the other.

Third, whether one way or the other is anti-papist, or anti-protestant, etc., I agree with you that they are not, if you have in mind the words themselves. But the particular decision of a church to use the creed one way or the other could be out of anti-RC biases, and so forth. Furthermore, whatever the biases and intents of the decision-makers may or may not be, another factor to consider is the effect. What has "Christian" in the creed (in a church that virtually never uses the Latin creed-and therefore cannot be compared with the use of the early Lutherans, as Fr. Weedon has observed) done to the thinking of generations of Lutherans?

Chuck Wiese said...

It seems that not using the word "catholic" actually produces the opposite of the intended results. It's as if we are saying the the Roman Church really is "catholic." Instead of not using the word "catholic" in the creed I think we should refuse to call papists "catholic."