Chinese translation of Greek lexicon follows LCMS role in English version

Missionaries and teachers are applauding the Chinese-language publication of a Greek lexicon that The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod helped publish in English 53 years ago. chinese.gif

The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature represents a giant step forward for New Testament scholarship in China, according to Dr. Jeffrey Oschwald, former professor of New Testament at China Lutheran Seminary in Hsinchu, Taiwan, and now a professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

“The implications of publishing a research tool of this quality are very far-reaching, from the training of pastors and teachers to the practice of ministry in the field, from direct study of the New Testament text to the production of translations, commentaries and the full spectrum of biblical study tools,” Oschwald said.

The Chinese volume has 1,687 pages of printed Greek and Chinese text with references to Western literature using the English alphabet. The lexicon was published in Hong Kong, with the copyright to the translation held by Chinese Bible International, Ltd.

The lexicon was originally compiled in German by Walter Bauer, and when the University of Chicago Press planned to publish an English version in the late 1940s, it asked William F. Arndt, a professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and F. Wilbur Gingrich, a professor at Albright College in Reading, Pa., to translate Bauer’s work and bring the entries up to date. Arndt died in 1957, and the publisher turned to Frederick W. Danker, a professor at Concordia Seminary and later at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, to rework the content for a second edition in 1979 and a third in 2000.

Dr. Daniel L. Mattson, associate executive director of LCMS World Mission, noted that, while the University of Chicago Press wanted to publish the lexicon in English, it could not afford to risk personnel and financial resourcchinese-2.gifes. The Synod had designated a portion of its 1947 centennial thank-offering for scholarly research and, through its Lutheran Academy of Scholarship, reached an agreement with the University of Chicago to assist with the publication.

The first edition of the lexicon was published in 1957.

“Synod scholars said in the preface to the 1957 edition, ‘This dictionary in its English dress constitutes a gift of The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod to the English-speaking world, presented in the hope that the work may assist in the interpretation and dissemination of the Divine Word which lives and abides forever,’” said Mattson.

He added, “They would rejoice in this important development of their work.”

Noting that the Bible was forbidden 30 years ago in China, Dr. Henry Rowold, mission professor of Old Testament at Concordia Seminary and guest lecturer at seminaries in the People’s Republic of China, noted that study of the Bible “has exploded” in all parts of Chinese society, from churches to universities.

“The translation of this finest of Greek lexicons into Chinese is both an outcome of the explosion and an encouragement for it,” Rowold said.

Oschwald observed that the lexicon is important for the eventual production of commentaries that address the needs of the Chinese church.

“Only commentaries … that spring from the minds and hearts of Chinese exegetes can fully meet all those needs, helping Chinese Christians around the world to understand and apply the Word more fully,” he said.

Posted Nov. 18, 2010

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