Thursday, June 23, 2016

Lutheran Book Review Author Spotlight: William Weinrich



Weinrich, William, Translator and Editor. Thomas C. Oden and Gerald L. Bray, Series Editors. Latin Commentaries on Revelation (Ancient Christian Texts). Downers Grove: IVP Academic/InterVarsity Press, 2011. 201 Pages. Cloth. $60.00/$42.00 on sale.  http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=2909

Weinrich, William, Translator. Thomas C. Oden, Editor. Thomas C. Oden and Gerald L. Bray, Series Editors.  Greek Commentaries on Revelation (Ancient Christian Texts). Downers Grove: IVP Academic/InterVarsity Press, 2011. 212 Pages. Cloth. $60.00/$42.00 on sale. http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=2908

Weinrich, William. John 1:1-7:1 (Concordia Commentary). St. Louis: Concordia, 2015. 863 Pages. Cloth. $54.99. https://www.cph.org/p-7379-john-1171-concordia-commentary.aspx






In the fall of 2001 we were dealing with the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, including at the Wyoming District Fall Pastoral Conference. Our guest speaker had been scheduled months before, the Rev. Dr. William C. Weinrich

It was the first time I met him. I went to the other seminary...

His topic? John 1:1-4:42. And we were fascinated to hear a draft of his work toward a John volume in Concordia Commentary. We now have the first volume, covering 1:1-7:1, including John 6 and John 3:16. We'll cover that book and two Ancient Christian Texts volumes on Revelation edited by Rev. Dr. Weinrich.


Regular readers of LBR/QBR are quite familiar with our reviews of the InterVarsity set called Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. With that series complete, Thomas Oden and his team of scholars turned their attention to two additional series, each a natural outgrowth of the ACCS.

One is commentary set on the Nicene Creed, Ancient Christian Doctrine, complete in five volumes.

In Ancient Christian Doctrine, one volume is dedicated to the First Article of the Creed. Both the Second and Third Articles are treated in two volumes each, focusing on the person of Christ, the work of Christ, the person and work of the Holy Spirit, and the Church. The Nicene Creed has long been a basis for unity among Christians. With the help of this new Ancient Christian Doctrine series, I pray that the ecumenical creeds may lead us to honest discussion of differences between Christians and Christian traditions, in the hope that Scripture itself may lead us to a godly unity in the mind of Christ.

Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, we now resume doing reviews of the other new series, Ancient Christian Texts. One common piece of feedback heard by ACCS editors was the request for “more.” Personally, I wanted longer selections from the fathers quoted. Sometimes I thought some quotations suffered due to lack of a full context. Dr. Oden heard and responded with the series called Ancient Christian Texts. Fifteen volumes have been announced to date. The series could easily be expanded.


First up, Latin Fathers:


Interest in the book of Revelation in the Western tradition is stronger and earlier than that in the East. The earliest full commentary on the Apocalypse is that of Victorinus of Petovium written in the mid to late third century by the earliest exegete to write in Latin. Victorinus interpreted Revelation in millennialist terms, a mode of interpretation already evident in works by Irenaeus, as well as in modest allegorical terms.

Caesarius of Arles wrote in the early sixth century and offered a thoroughgoing allegorical-ecclesial interpretation of the Apocalypse. Apringius of Beja in Portugal, writing in the mid sixth century, drew on Jerome's edition of Victorinus's commentary yet understood the seven seals christologically as the incarnation, birth, passion, death, resurrection, glory and kingdom.

Bede the Venerable, who died in 735, is the last commentator to be included in this collection. Characteristically, he passes on commentary from earlier exegetes, here including that of Augustine, Gregory the Great, Victorinus, Tyconius and Primasius.

William Weinrich renders a particular service to readers interested in ancient commentary on the Apocalypse by drawing together these significant Latin commentaries. The work of translating these texts was begun in preparing the volume on Revelation in the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. We are indebted to William Weinrich for completing this work with his able and fresh translation and notes on these texts.

(Publisher's Website)
There is often discomfort in reading commentaries that conflict in some way with one's confession of faith. It can be good when that commentary adheres to Scripture more closely than ones prior or current confession. The Holy Spirit grants repentance and renewed faith in Christ for such a time. There are also times, when an amilleniallist, like this reviewer, hears the millennialist comments by Victorinus, author of "the earliest commentary on the whole of Revelation that we possess," (xvii) and is not swayed by his millennialism. He is to be commended for noting the repetitive nature of the events of Revelation (xxiv, 1-22). That part of his interpretation is underappreciated and deserves a wider audience through a volume like this. Many modern comprehensive commentaries from dispensational milleniallists seem like amateur hour after reading these pages. And any commentator, ancient or living, is only as good as his faithfulness to the biblical text.

I could commend to you tidbits from Bede (and I do), encourage you to clearly see the Church in Revelation as Caesarius does, but I was utterly fascinated with the cruciform explanation of the seven seals (incarnation, birth, passion, death, resurrection, glory, kingdom) in conjunction with the Sacrament of the Altar, the Mozarabic rite liturgy, both of which may have played a part in Apringius' commentary (diagram and explanation on xxx, 23ff).


Next up, Greek Fathers:


The Eastern church gives little evidence of particular interest in the book of Revelation. Oecumenius of Isauria's commentary on the book is the earliest full treatment in Greek and dates only from the early sixth century. Along with Oecumenius's commentary, only that of Andrew of Caesarea (dating from the same era and often summarizing Oecumenius before offering a contrary opinion) and that of Arethas of Caesarea four centuries later provide any significant commentary from within the Greek tradition.


William Weinrich renders a particular service to readers interested in ancient commentary on the Apocalypse by translating in one volume the two early sixth-century commentaries. Because of the two interpreters' often differing understandings, readers are exposed not only to early dialogue on the meaning and significance of the book for the faith and life of the church, but also to breadth of interpretation within the unity of the faith the two shared.

(Publisher's Website)
Oecumenius presents his commentary in twelve discourses. One will note the Christological nature of his work. He is obviously well-read, even though he does not always cite the source of his quotes of other Bible books. Consider how he explains 22:20, "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" 
Since the prophetic Spirit said to him the preceding material, "And he who hears, let him say to the Lord, 'Come!'" obedient to what had been commanded him, he says, "Come, Lord Jesus!" This is as though he said, "Yes, Lord Christ, quickly bring your second coming, which is our salvation."
I hear Luther here in the "This is as though he said..." 

The commentary on 22:21 is a course in exegetical theology, historical theology, pastoral theology, isagogics, and apologetics (106-107). 

Andrew gives us Twenty-Four "books" and it is evident he read and responds to Oecumenius. He stands with the consensus of the Church up to his day (xxxii), compiling his predecessors into a document that is roughly the same size as Oecumenius' own. His concluding commentary (206ff) is a true conclusion, the first paragraph quoted below:
To bring everything together, let me make a helpful summary of the contents of this book. Through the letters to the seven churches we are taught endurance in temptations, eagerness in the doing of good works and various other forms of virtue. We are to desire above all earthly things to see with the pure eye of the soul the glory of God in heaven, to be sure, note his essence itself but the appearance of God in the forms it assumes, whether that is the abundance of precious stone or the multicolored form of the rainbow or other such shapes of the divine economies. We learn of the holy incorporeal powers that are near God's glory and of those who in the body have pleased the Lord and of the thunder and lightning that announce the coming of God. Furthermore, we are taught that the interpretation of the book of the divine judgments, which is sealed with seven seals of the Spirit, is incomprehensible, but that through the Lamb of God the book is opened, revealing that which has happened and will happen from his coming until the consummation.
The two volumes complement one another well, more properly distinguishing law and Gospel as a pair, than separately.


How will I use these volumes? They will supplement my study of Revelation in my private devotional reading, will serve as references for the next time we do a congregational Sunday Morning Bible Class on Revelation, and will give me fresh, yet ancient insights and sermon illustrations each time the Three Year Lectionary (Year C) gives me the joy to preach on the book of Revelation as the "Epistle" readings for the season of Easter.

If there is a weakness of Ancient Christian Texts, it would be the list price of each volume. I would encourage the publisher to offer paperback and electronic versions of both new sets and to consider lowering the price point, or to offer discounts on a regular basis. A 20-30% discount is available through IVP for individual volumes, lowering a $60 cost to $48 or $42. Discounts also apply for ordering the entire sets. You may find a “deal” at an online bookseller as well. Budgeting and saving for these volumes will be worth the investment!




Dr. Weinrich is known as a patristics scholar. He should also be known as a noted commentator on Scripture in his own right. We now pivot to John 1:1-7:1.
About the Series
The Concordia Commentary Series: A Theological Exposition of Sacred Scripture is written to enable pastors and teachers of the Word to proclaim the Gospel with greater insight, clarity, and faithfulness to the divine intent of the biblical text. This landmark work will cover all the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, interpreting Scripture as a harmonious unity centered in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Every passage bears witness to the Good News that God has reconciled the world to Himself through our Lord's life, death, and resurrection.

The commentary fully affirms the divine inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of Scripture as it emphasizes "that which promotes Christ" in each pericope. Authors are sensitive to the rich treasury of language, imagery, and themes found throughout Scripture, including such dialectics as Law and Gospel, sin and grace, death and new life, folly and wisdom, demon possession and the arrival of the kingdom of God in Christ. Careful attention is given to the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek. Further light is shed on the text from archaeology, history, and extra-biblical literature. Finally, Scripture's message is applied to the ongoing life of the church in terms of ministry, worship, proclamation of the Word, Baptism, the Lord's Supper, confession of the faith—all in joyful anticipation of the life of the world to come.

View the entire series > 

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Now the wider church can here what we first heard at the Wyoming District Pastoral Conference in the fall of 2001. 



The lowly and simple majesty of John’s language calls the reader to become a disciple of the Word became flesh, and so to share in that which he himself is: eternal life. In John, the voice of the Word is heard; the Paraclete is speaking. God makes himself known, proffers himself, and so becomes our God. Thus, the Gospel invites us to see and to hear what apart from the Gospel cannot be seen and cannot be heard: the Father of Jesus, who is the true and divine Son. And in seeing the Father in that we see the Son, we can truly pray with Jesus, “Our Father.”

This commentary contains Dr. Weinrich’s original translation of John 1:1–7:1, a painstaking verse-by-verse analysis of the Greek text of these chapters, and theological exposition of the Gospel’s message, both for the apostolic church in its original context, and for the life of the Christian church today. His expertise in the early church fathers demonstrates how this Gospel was understood from the earliest times in the infant Christian church. Another unique aspect of this commentary is the interwoven extensive knowledge of the interpretation history of the Gospel of John. Dr. Weinrich explores both classic scholarship and modern interpretations of the book.


About the Author

William C. Weinrich is professor of early church and patristic studies at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind., where he has taught since 1975. During his tenure at the seminary, he has served as supervisor of the STM program (1986–1989), dean of the graduate school (1989–1995), and academic dean (1995–2006). He also served the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia as rector of its theological school, the Luther Academy, in Riga, Latvia (2007–2010). He served The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod as third vice-president (1998–2001) and as fifth vice-president (2001–2004). He retired at the rank of lieutenant colonel from the Indiana Air National Guard after serving as chaplain (1978–2004).

Dr. Weinrich received a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma (1967; Phi Beta Kappa) and his Master of Divinity degree from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Mo. (1972). He studied under Bo Reicke and Oscar Cullmann at the University of Basel, Switzerland, receiving the degree of Doctor of Theology in 1977. He edited the volume on Revelation for the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture series and translated two ancient Greek commentaries (Oecumenius, Andrew of Caesarea) and four Latin commentaries (Victorinus, Apringius, Caesarius of Arles, Bede) on Revelation for the Ancient Christian Texts series. Dr. Weinrich has published many articles and has lectured frequently for pastors and laity.

Dr. Weinrich is married to Barbara, and they have three children (Rebecca, Rachel, and John). (Publisher's Website)

Back in 2001, the most memorable part of Dr. Weinrich's presentation was his argument for an early date for John,"composed in Jerusalem during the 40s and taken with John to Asia minor in the early 50s." See 44-51. 

Translation, texual notes, commentary, and discussion of "logos" in The Prologue, John 1:1-18, make up 100 pages of the volume. This is a treasure trove!

Let's talk about John 6 (and John 3). Does John 6 speak of the Sacrament of the Altar? "Sic et Non" answers the discursus beginning on p. 740. Eight Communion hymns in Lutheran Service Book cite the chapter as a reference. In conclusion, Weinrich writes:
When one surveys the exegetical strength of a eucharistic interpretation of John 6, and when one surveys to what extent such interpretation has contributed to the doctrine of the Lord's supper, one can only concur with Scaer when he writes:
Luther's removal of John 6 from the eucharistic playing field has deprived Lutheran theology of what is arguably the most extensive and detailed discourse in the New Testament on the nature of the Lord's Supper and its benefits. John 6 has incarnation, atonement, forgiveness, and resurrection all woven within a eucharistic cloth.
Discuss this amongst yourselves. 

Let's try to explain it in a way that anyone can understand.

Do you remember the "trick" question about good works from seminary? It went like this: "Are good works necessary?" We were tempted to say no, but God, in His Word commands them, so we had to admit, "Yes." The follow-up question was "Are good works necessary for salvation?" We answered, "No." and felt better about both answers to both questions.

So, does John 6 refer to the Lord's Supper? I say, "Yes." Ask a follow-up: "Does John 6 only refer to the Lord's Supper?" "No." We can feed on Jesus, the bread that came down from heaven in the Word AND in the Sacrament of the Altar. Finish with similar questions on John 3. Regarding being born again by water and the Spirit, does John 3 speak of baptism? Yes. Only of baptism? No, for the repentant thief on the cross, to whom Jesus promised paradise "today," was born again.


Why end at 7:1? There is a break here in the Greek text. 7:2 is a new paragraph in many editions. And Weinrich sees a natural transition between Jesus' work in Galilee and His work in Judea (776).


We eagerly await the conclusion to this John commentary, additional volumes of Concordia Commentary and Ancient Christian Texts.


Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School and Immanuel Academy, a member of the Board of Directors of the Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Education Chairman and Editor of Lutheran Book Review. A graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Rev. Cain is a contributor to Lutheran Service Book, Lutheranism 101, the forthcoming LSB Hymnal Companion, and is the author of 5 Things You Can Do to Make Our Congregation a Caring Church. He has previously served Emmanuel, Green River, WY and Trinity, Morrill, NE. He is married to Ann and loves reading and listening to, composing, and making music.