Ad Fontes Witebergenses: Select Proceedings of Lutheranism and the Classics III: Lutherans Read History

Edited by James A. Kellerman, E.J. Hutchinson, and Joshua J. Hayes

Minneapolis: Lutheran Press, 2017. 326 pages. Softcover. $20.00.

Reviewed by Peter J. Scaer on 04/16/2018

A number of years ago, John Nordling, a trained classicist and New Testament exegete, had a dream. Nordling’s academic career has been devoted to reinvigorating the study of the classics within Lutheran circles. Long an advocate for the study
of both Latin and Greek, Nordling has spoken forcefully and often about the need for our church to get back to its roots, to return to the fountains of knowledge. This dream has come to fruition in a bi-annual conference, held at Concordia Theological Seminary, and entitled “Lutheranism and the Classics.” In the October of every even year, Lutheranism and the Classics brings together scholars from the worlds of Lutheran dogmatics, Greco-Roman antiquity, medieval history, and everything in be­tween. Accordingly this conference, though it may seem to some narrowly focused, brings together a wide range of people. All this diverse wisdom is on display in Ad Fontes Witebergenses.

Open the book to Cameron MacKenzie’s delightful article on “Martin Luther and History.” In a world that thinks history is driven by secular ideologies such as Marxism, or perhaps thinks history has no goal or meaning at all, this essay is essential reading. Learn from MacKenzie and Luther that history has a meaning and a goal, driven by God, centered in Christ. Then move to an essay by the great historian Paul Maier, who lays out for us all the ways in which the New Testament story was acknowledge and known by the ancients, including the likes of Josephus and Pliny. Again, in an age in which the New Testament history is unfairly derided, this is more essential reading.

Many of the essays are quirky, and in the best sense of the word. Joel Elowsky speaks of the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart, and does so in light of both Luther and the Church Fathers. Paul Strawn has marvelous essay detailing the publication and reception of patristic literature at the time of the Reformation. This is a helpful reminder to us as Lutherans, but is also something we need to tell the world. Lutheranism is not the beginning, nor is it a new thing, but is a continuity of the church catholic. It is a reformation, but not a revolution. The church fathers are our fathers, as Strawn’s evidence demonstrate. For those interested in classical education, and there are many, Martin Noland offers an essay on the German contribution and appropriation of the ancient model. Nordling himself chimes in with a fascinating essay on Josephus, whose works may have brought biblical prophecies into the minds of the Roman empires.

There are quite a few other essays well worth your while. By way of disclaimer, the author of this review finds his own banquet speech in the volume. In it you will learn about the great Fort Wayne classicist, Edith Hamilton. All of this is quite the bargain at twenty dollars, and can be purchased through the Concordia Seminary Bookstore.