About This Site
The articles of incorporation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), the constitution of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS), and many (perhaps most) Lutheran congregational constitutions in the United States specifically reference "The Book of Concord of 1580" as their confessional standard. That being the case, it is quite surprising that a complete English translation of "The Book of Concord of 1580," which was written only in German (except the appended Catalog of Testimonies) and directly subscribed by thousands of rulers and theologians, has never been published. Instead, the authorized (but unsubscribed) Latin version of 1584 has always been used for at least some portions:
The 2005 and 2006 McCain editions are updates of the 1921 Bente/Dau edition; both used the Latin for the Preface, the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, and the Treatise, although some German variations are included within brackets.
The 2000 Kolb/Wengert edition is an update of the 1959 Tappert edition; both used the Latin for the Apology and the Treatise, and Kolb/Wengert used the second (octavo) edition of the Apology, which was widely used before 1584 but never included in any official version of the Book of Concord.
The 1882 and 1911 Jacobs editions used the Latin for the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, and the Treatise.
The 1851 and 1854 Henkel editions came closest, but (inexplicably) used the Latin for all the prefaces.
The excellent Book of Concord website provides free access to the entire public-domain Bente/Dau text. This website is intended primarily to supplement that one by providing free access to the public-domain Henkel text of the Augsburg Confession, the Apology, and the Treatise, along with new translations from the German of their prefaces and the overall Preface to the Book of Concord. I have also added the traditional section/paragraph numbers throughout to facilitate cross-referencing and comparison with other versions. I encourage anyone interested in obtaining the entire 1854 Henkel edition in a searchable PDF format to download it here after making the suggested donation (or a larger one) to support the training of confessional Lutheran pastors in Sri Lanka.
I am especially pleased to make available an English translation of the German Apology as prepared by Justus Jonas. There has been considerable misunderstanding for many years about its relationship to the original Latin text by Philip Melanchthon. Jacobs characterized it as "more of a paraphrase than a translation, differing sometimes from the original by the omission, introduction and transposition of entire paragraphs, and therefore inducing the editors of some of the best German editions of the Symbolical Books to prepare fresh translations." Decades later, Tappert likewise described it as "a very free translation which has been called a 'pious paraphrase.'" The assessment of Bente in the interim is more accurate: "The translation of Jonas is not a literal reproduction of the Latin original, but a version with numerous independent amplifications. Also Melanchthon had a share in this work. ... The deviations from the Latin original therefore must perhaps be traced to Melanchthon rather than to Jonas. Some of them are due to the fact that the translation was based in part not on the text of the editio princeps, but on the altered Latin octavo edition." For more details, I highly recommend this 1999 article by Fritz Schmitt on "The Impact of the German Apology."
Finally, a disclaimer: I have no academic background or expertise in this field, and no formal qualifications as a translator. I am a Lutheran layman with a strong interest in theology, basic competence in modern German from five years of study in high school and college, and access to helpful online resources; examples include this extensive German-English dictionary and this 19th-century dictionary that includes many archaic terms. As a result, my new translations of the prefaces--as well as my thorough update of the Henkel text for the German Apology, which is now in progress--are highly literal, and admittedly a bit clunky. I would welcome review and correction or improvement of my work by someone with the appropriate credentials. Visit this page to leave feedback of any kind.
May God bless all who read and use these documents!
Jon Alan Schmidt