22 March 2007


Okay, so you all know I've been quite favorable to LSB - I think in general it is a very good hymnal. But last night, there I was, singing along and came across THIS:

Help me see forgiveness won
By Your holy Passion.
If for me He slays His Son,
God must have compassion!

(stanza 5 of 440: "Jesus, I Will Ponder Now")


This replaces:

Grant that I may trust in Thee
And Thy holy Passion.
If His Son so loveth me,
God must have compassion.

Now, the German original reads, literally translated:

You and Your Passion
Let me believingly hold fast to.
If His beloved Son loves me,
How can God hate me?

Now, I ask you WHERE ON EARTH did that horrible stanza come from in LSB? You can't call it a translation of the German; it's not. It has nothing do do with the point that the original was making, which is the comfort that comes from the identity of the divine will in Father and Son - if the Son so loves me that He embraces His passion to forgive me and destroy my death, then it is manifest that such love for me also exists in the heart of the Father. The Son's Passion manifests this love.

Does Scripture ANYWHERE use the language that "God slays His Son"? "Spared not His Son" "Gave up His Son" yes. But "slayed His Son"??? Peter spoke far differently on the Day of Pentecost: "This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, YOU crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. GOD raise Him up." Acts 2:23-24 "And YOU killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead." Acts 3:15 "This Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom YOU crucified, whom God raised from the dead." Acts 4:10

If the stanza as it appears in LSB is not out and out false, it is horribly misleading. I think from now on that stanza will just be skipped when we sing this hymn.


Mike Baker said...

Wow... everyone get out the whiteout and grab a black pen.

Anonymous said...

That "translation" is in Christian Worship as well. The CW Handbook doesn't say who did the revision. CW also has stanzas 4&5 reversed for some reason.
Brian Westgate

Pr. H. R. said...

Hmm...Certainly you are right on the bad translation. Fair point. But are we tending toward logomachy here? As you note, "God gave up his", "God spared not his Son" are Biblical concepts. I think we could charitably read the phrase "God slays his Son" in light of those. For what do we make of the typology of Abraham and Isaac? There's the type: father and son - the antitype: the Father will provide the Lamb who is his Son, slain from the foundation of the world.

So I'm not that hung up on the language, for the concept behind it is certainly Biblical. God sent his Son to die for the sins of the world. That death comes through evil men - but the irony of the story is that "what [they] intended for evil, GOD INTENDED for good." It is a mystery: but God also threw Joseph in the pit and struck Job with disease. I think "active" and "permissive" will helps us speak of this, but in the end it is the mystery of the God Who is in Charge and works through a broken world to bring us salvation.

Finally: "Though he slay me, I will praise him." Who are the Psalms about again....


Dave Armstrong said...

Dear Rev. Weedon,

I didn't see your e-mail listed anywhere, so I have replied here. I wanted to let you know that I responded to your (and your friend Rev. McCain's) thoughts on the death penalty and the Catholic Church's position on that, on my blog:


You're welcome to respond there if you wish. I think it could be a very helpful exchange.

In Him,


Paul T. McCain said...



Dave Armstrong is one of those sad persons who apparently spend nearly every waking moment on their Internet site. He is a Roman Catholic apologist who culls through the Internet looking for any chance he can to pounce on people who dare breathe a word of protest against what "Holy Mother" Rome has to say on anything. As is the case with most apologists like him, he tends to get his facts pretty screwed up.

If you engage him, it is akin to sticking your hand on flypaper, he and his groupies like to swarm.

He is the Roman version of a guy like James White, who has a similar style.

Dave Armstrong is not interested in "helpful discussion" but only attacking non-Romanists. I informed him that he is unwelcome to post on any of my blog sites. He only wants a platform to spread his false teachings.

Just a word of caution.

christopher3rd said...

I know we've talk about it before, but the LSB hymn translation is perfectly in line with what I was taught in WELS, and the lens through which I understood the other language that you prefer. God had to expand the wrath and punishment he had for humanity's sin, so "for me He slays His Son" which is the proof that "God must have compassion" on me. The proof that "His Son so loveth me" was that he allowed himself to be slain by his Father in my stead.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Heath,

But you would not dispute that it is not at all translating the thought of the original, correct? And the original thought was truly a beautiful thought: the love of the Son is a disclosing to me of the heart of the Father - indeed, how else could I know the Father's heart except through the Son? "If his loved Son so loves me, God cannot hate me."


I don't see how you can read the thought of the LSB version into the words of the original German. The thought is just of an entirely different sort. That's not to dispute vicarious satisfaction per se, but to note that it was not what was in view in this hymn stanza, and what was in view was horribly lost: the love of the Son for you in His passion discloses to you the Father's heart!

Eric Phillips said...

That wording brought me up short once too (is it really new with LBW? I thought I'd sung it longer ago than that, and I don't know this _Christian Worship_ book that Brian mentions). I didn't know how badly it "renders" the original German--that's interesting, and it some questions. I'm sure I could come up with a better translation without too much trouble (and avoid rhyming "passion" with "(com)passion" in the bargain). Was someone on some obscure crusade here?

Having thought about it, I think the language is defensible. "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief" (Is. 53:10a). It does require some explanation, though. And what was wrong with the original?

Eric Phillips said...

Could it be someone was just trying to get the "thee" out?!

Pr. H. R. said...

Fr. William,

Absolutely: you're spot on with the translation issues. It's simply a bad translation of the German original.

But what I find more interesting to think about are the words themselves. And for the reasons I stated above, I have not theological problem saying, "God slays his Son on the cross."

What are your thoughts on that issue based on what I said above? Especially regarding the typology of Abraham and Isaac and the Psalms?


William Weedon said...

Fr. Heath,

I understand the rationale you offer, but is it according to the pattern of sound speech?

Specifically, can you find any place where the New Testament writings so describe the sacrifice of Calvary?

Or do our Symbols ever speak in such a way?

For that matter, where do the classic chorales of the Lutheran Church ever speak in this way?

I think especially of Gerhardt's remarkable "Upon the Cross Extended": "Who is it, Lord, that bruised You? Who has so sore abused You And caused You all Your woe? We all must make confession Of sin and dire transgression While You no ways of evil know. / I caused Your grief and sighing By evils multiplying As countless as the sands. I caused the woes unnumbered With which Your soul is cumbered, Your sorrows raised by wicked hands." (LSB #453:3,4)

Or, the classic "O Darkest Woe": "O child of woe: Who struck the blow That killed our gracious Master? 'It was I' thy conscience cries 'I have wrought this disaster.'"

It is precisely reticence to probe the mystery of the cry of dereliction that makes me say: let us adore the fact that the Father offers up His Son in order to give us life, let us worship the Son for drinking the cup the Father gave Him even to the bitterest dregs, let us praise the eternal Spirit through whom Christ offered Himself to the Father, but let us not go beyond the language of Scripture and our fathers in speaking of that before which the angels veil their faces and tremble.

William Weedon said...

Also, on this question, see the piece of Lutheran art that McCain posted on his blog. The Father's offering of the Son to provide us with life. Look at the directionality of the gift: from the Father through the Son through His Body and Blood to us.

Anonymous said...

It seems to my simplistic mind that the Father causing His Son to suffer and allowing His Son to suffer are "crimes" which differ only by slight degree.

Then again, God is not in the dock, is He? We are the ones in the dock.

Tom Fast

Paul T. McCain said...

So, I just want to know how the translation got so badly mangled!

William Weedon said...


I think there is a difference. It was the difference in Mark 12 between the Father sending the Son to the murderers and the tenants actually murdering Him.


As Brian pointed out, it was in CW, so I suspect the committee just copied it from there as an easy away to avoid the dreaded "thees" and didn't bother to read the German. But that is just a guess. If Jon is keeping up with this thread, he could likely tell us.

Dave Armstrong said...

Dave Armstrong is not interested in "helpful discussion" but only attacking non-Romanists.

Wonderful example of Christian charity, isn't it (and coming from a man of the cloth), since I have stated repeatedly not only that this is exactly what I am interested in, but that I have a great deal of respect for Lutherans and Lutheranism.

I've had perfectly cordial dialogues with many Lutherans (Eric Phillips in this very thread is one of them, and he expressed willingness to do it again in the near future, not too long ago).

Of course, I can be expected to disagree with Lutheran stuff where it contradicts Catholic (big wow). Why that has to result in a pathetic personal attack and cynical exercise in well-poisoning, is, I confess, as baffling as it is disappointing. Mere disagreement or apologetics doesn't automatically turn one into Vlad the Impaler and Attila the Hun. For heaven's sake, I've now written 17 papers where I either agreed with Luther or defended him against bum raps. In fact, Pastor McCain commended me for one of these recently on my blog. He loves it when I agree with him; it's obviously not so pleasant when I disagree with his belief-system.

His response ranks up there, in terms of Lutheran hypersensitivity, with the threatened lawsuit because I dared to speculate on the identity of a poster who used a nickname.

I'm trying to turn the other cheek as much as I can -- really, I am -- , but admittedly, I still have a very hard time being smeared with extreme lack of charity and unfairness on a public discussion forum.

If anyone wants to see the wicked things I wrote to Pastor McCain in private (frequently praising Lutherans) they can see them in a recent post on my blog.

Dave Armstrong said...

If you engage him, it is akin to sticking your hand on flypaper, he and his groupies like to swarm.

Thus far, this amounts to exactly ONE person on my blog who simply asked three clarifying questions of Rev. McCain after he came onto my blog making unsubstantiated charges about my paper. No one else has commented on Rev. McCain's opinions except me.

That amounts, I guess, to a "swarm." I would call it intelligent discourse. People on my blog actually have discussions and give reasons for why they assert things.

Anonymous said...

Bill, you wrote:


I think there is a difference. It was the difference in Mark 12 between the Father sending the Son to the murderers and the tenants actually murdering Him.

Yes, there is a difference. I agree with you. But again, it is a difference only in degree. Furthermore, please note that it is the Father who Himself "kills" the murderous tenants. One way or the other, the Father is actively involved in killing here. On the one hand, by permitting His Son to be killed---and on the other hand, by Himself killing the murderers.

With all that said, it appears that your original complaint about the translation is spot on.

Gotta run. Wining and dining a potential music director in a few minutes.

Thanks again for a very thought provoking blog. I hope you don't think I'm trying to be obtuse.

Tom Fast

Past Elder said...

Eric -- "Christian Worship" is the current hymnal of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. It came out in 1993 if memory serves.

As a hymnal it has nothing to offer, with a hatchet job on the Common Service and the now requisite wannabe Vatican II novus ordo inspired service added after it, not even as good as the one in the original novus ordo for Lutherans, Lutheran Book of Worship.

On the other hand, as the product of recovering Pietists it's much better than one would expect.

PS -- I am a "past elder" in WELS.

Paul T. McCain said...

Bill, I do wonder how you take the account of Abraham and Isaac. It seems to me to be precisely the point that the Father does kill his own beloved Son, just as Abraham was told to do.

Help me here understand your concerns.

That is not to say the translation accurately renders the German. It is a given that it does not.

But can we perhaps talk about the concern that you expressed with the notion of the Father "slaying" His son?

William Weedon said...


See the comment to Heath Curtis above. Where is such language in the NT, in the Symbols, in the traditional chorales of our Church? I don't find it. That makes me wonder if we ought to use it. I am not saying that there is not some theological defense for it, but in our worship we tend to be very careful about the imagery we introduce and I find this imagery to be quite novel. I may well be wrong, but if I am on this, I wish someone would point out where this language was used in our worship before.

Mark said...

I agree with Pr Weedon that the language of the Father "slaying" the Son is misguided.

Look at the passage from the gospel of John 10 where our Lord says, "For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father."

Here is Jesus saying that he "lays down" his life "on [his] own accord," no one "takes it" from him.

The Abraham/Isaac story may be a "type." But it is only that, a shadow of the truth revealed in Jesus Christ. The full revelation of Christ is different. And clear. His life is not "taken" much less is he "slayed." Rather, he lays down his life.

Eric Phillips said...

Rev. Weedon,

> Where is such language in the NT...?

It's not the NT, but what about the verse I quoted above from Isaiah 53?

William Weedon said...


I think it would have greater weight if the LXX ran the same way with that verse, but it doesn't. I am not sure WHAT the LXX means at that point. Breton renders it: "The Lord also is pleased to purge him from his stroke." But such a variance from the MT makes me wonder a bit about what the original actually was. When LXX and MT are pulling together, no problem of course. But my gut reaction is usually to go with LXX rather than MT as an older witness to the original text. FWIW.

Eric Phillips said...

Pr. Weedon,

Interesting. I generally assume something went haywire with the translation when I find a passage that's obscure or bizarre in the LXX, and clear in the Hebrew.

fr john w fenton said...

It seems to me that the point of the Abraham/Isaac episode is that Abraham does not slay his only son Isaac, but that a Ram in thorns in provided which the Lord (through His angel) tells the one blessed (dare we say "priested") by Melchizedek to slay as the all-availing sacrifice.

Eric Phillips said...

But Fr. Fenton, that's precisely the point at which the Abraham-and-Isaac story _differs_ from what happened on Calvary. What are we to do with all the similarity? Surely it's prefigurement? I mean, right down to Isaac carrying wood up a mountain to be slain?

fr john w fenton said...

Dr Phillips,

Of course there are similarities and you have pointed out one of the finer ones. But the key is how the story twists from an ending one would have expected. If Isaac is Christ and Abraham is the Father, then how can one maintain that this episode makes "the point [precisely] that the Father does kill his own beloved Son, just as Abraham was told to do"--when, in fact, Abraham does not slay his only son?

So perhaps the episode makes the point that the Father does not and will not and did not slay His only-begotten Son. Perhaps it is fairer to hear this episode with Acts 2.23, 2.36 ringing in the ears.

Eric Phillips said...

Fr. Fenton,

I think this "episode" makes that point by disjunction. God spares Abraham's son, but does not spare His own Son. Instead He gives Him up for us all. Isaac is a type of Christ right up to the point where he doesn't die. Then he becomes a type of us, while the ram stands in for Christ.

I do notice, though, looking at what I've just written, that the one who actually wields the killing knife and the one who actually dies are NOT father and son. Instead, God "delivers up" the ram to Abraham, and Abraham kills it. Is that the specific distinction you want to maintain, that God does not kill His Son _directly_, but rather indirectly, by His "determinate counsel and foreknowledge"?

viekerhaus said...

>Does Scripture ANYWHERE use the language that >"God slays His Son"? "Spared not His Son" "Gave up >His Son" yes. But "slayed His Son"???

Not to defend the translational error in this stanza, but to consider the Scripture question posed above, what do you make of Zech. 13:7 (nachah), quoted in Mark 14:17/Matt. 26:31 (patasso).

Is not the YWHH Zebaoth the subject of this verb, often translated as "smite"? Is not the Father smiting the Son? How else could one read this weighty datum?

A wise father in the faith put me on to this as we were discussing this stanza over Easter dinner. FWIW.

William Weedon said...


Bless his heart. He keeps giving out the gifts. Indeed, if ever there were a Scripture passage that gives what I was asking for, that is it. And I note that Loew and Nida even offer one definition of the patasso verb as "to slay by means of a mortal blow." The same verb for Moses slaying the Egyptian. Wow.

Okay, I still don't like what it did to the German and it seems to be making a different point altogether, but Zech 13.7 which our Blessed Lord Himself uses to describe what happened on the night of His Holy Passion does use the language of "slay." Thank you. And thank our good friend also when you see him (you'll surely see him before I will).