Thursday, August 25, 2016

The sweetness of the Gospel lies mostly in pronouns

Digital Puritan
"The nature of this dowtye diuynite is to stande moche in the declynynge of pronownes".

     John Bayle, A mysterye of inyquyte contayned within the heretycall genealogye of Ponce Pantolabus, is here both dysclosed & confuted by Iohan Bale . . . (Geneua [i.e. Antwerp]:  Mycheal Woode [i.e. A. Goinus], 1545), 49.  See EEBO.  The pronoun is in this case "hoc", and the context, more controversial than pastoral.

"There is great diuinitie, saith Luther, in Pronouns: a great Emphasis in nobis and noster, as Bullinger & Caluin note."

     John Boys, An exposition of the dominical epistles and gospels used in our English liturgie throughout the whole yeare together with a reason why the church did chuse the same . . . ; the winter part from the first Aduentuall Sunday to Lent (1610), 20.  See EEBO.

"because there is (as Luther saith) great Diuinitie in pronounes, I will first examine the pronoune My: my soule, my spirit, my Sauiour."

     John Boys, An exposition of the principal Scriptures vsed in our English liturgie together with a reason why the church did chuse the same (London:  Felix Kyngston, 1610), 51.  See EEBO.

"and herein lies the sweetness of faith:  in that we believe not Christ only to be a Saviour, and righteousness, but my Saviour and my righteousness; and therefore Luther affirmed, that the sweetness of Christianity lay in pronouns; when a man can say, My Lord, and my god, and my Jesus.  I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me, Gal. ii. 20."

"his relations are made ours, and our relations are made his interchangeably.  No wonder if Luther tell us, That the best divinity lay in pronouns, for as there is no comfort in heaven without God, and no comfort in God without a Father, so neither is there comfort in Father, heaven, or God, without ours, to give us a property in them all[.]  O the blessed news that Christ tells Mary, and that Mary tells us!  I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God, Oh!  what dull hearts have we that are not affected with this blessed news?"

     Isaac Ambrose, Looking unto Jesus:  a view of the everlasting gospel; or, the soul's eyeing of Jesus II.ii.5 ("Of believing in Jesus in that respect") and IV/4.i.5 ("Of Christ's apparition to Mary Magdalene") (Belfast:  James McGee, 1763 [1658]):  52 and 354.  My thanks to Dr. Tom Schwanda, of Wheaton College, for pointing out that this reference to the Gospel pronouns (in general) appears in Ambrose before Flavel, below.

1681:  "Propriety is the sweetest part of any excellency, therefore Luther was wont to say, That the sweetness of the Gospel lay mostly in Pronouns, as me, my, thy, &c. who loved [me] and gave himself for me, Gal. 2.20.  Christ Jesus [my] Lord, Phil. 3.18.  So Matt. 9.2.  Son be of good cheer [thy] sins are forgiven:  take away Propriety, and you deflower the very Gospel of its beauty and deliciousness. . . ."

     Many thanks to my colleague Greg Morrison, of Wheaton College, for inquiring into the source of the sentence "The sweetness of the Gospel lies mostly in pronouns."  Though I had not encountered it before, I find it quite lovely.

     As for Luther himself, here's what I've found (without benefit of the digital edition of the Weimarer Ausgabe) so far:

1535 (1531):  Commentary on Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians at Gal 1:4, trans. of 1575 (New York:  Robert Carter, 1848), 48-49 =WA 40.1, p. 85, ll. 27 ff.:  “weigh diligently every word of Paul, and especially mark well this pronoun [(pronomen)], our; for the effect altogether consisteth in the well applying of pronouns [(pronomina)], which we find very often in the Scriptures, wherein also there is ever some vehemency and power.  Thou wilt easily say and believe that Christ the Son of God was given for the sins of Peter, of Paul, and of other saints, whom we account to have been worthy of this grace; but it is a very hard thing that thou which judgest thyself uworthy of this grace, shouldest from thy heart say and believe, that Christ was given for thine invincible, infinite, and horrible sins.  Therefore, generally, and without the pronoun [(pronomine)], it is an easy matter to magnify and amplify the benefit of Christ, namely, that Christ was given for sins, but for other men’s sins, which are worthy.  But when it cometh to the putting to of this pronoun [(pronomen)] our, there our weak nature and reason starteth back, and dare not come nigh unto God, nor promise to herself that so great a treasure shall be freely given unto her, and therefore she will not have to do with God, except first she be pure and without si; wherefore, although she read or hear this sentence, ‘Which gave himself for our sins,’ or such-like, yet doth she not apply this pronoun [(pronomen)] (our) unto herself, but unto others, which are worthy and holy; and as for herself, she will tarry till she be made worthy by her own works" (note that the WA gives two versions, and that the 1531 version running along the top uses forms of the Latin word "pronomen" as well).

1542:  Copy of Luther's interpretation of Rom 8:31b inscribed (probably by Georg Rörer) onto a scrap of paper glued onto a page of a manuscript of the Widerrufs vom Fegefeuer in Luther's own hand, Lutherhalle, Wittenberg (WA 48, no. 273, on pp. 203-204):

Si deus pro nobis, Quis contra nos?

     Wenn wir das Pronomen, Nos, und Nobis wol kundtenn decliniren und verstehen, So wurden wir das Nomen deus, auch wol coniugirn, und aus dem, Nomen, ein verbum Machen, das hies, deus dixit, Et dictus est          da wurde die Prepositio, Contra, zu allen schanden werden, und endlich Ein infra nos draus werden, wie es doch geschehen wird und mus.  Amen.

M L d


Si deus pro nobis, Quis contra nos?

     If we the pronoun nos/nobis could well decline and comprehend, so would we the noun deus also well conjugate, and out of th[is], [the] noun, make a verbum [(verb, i.e. Verb)], that is, deus dixit, Et dictus est [(God has spoken, And has been spoken)].  [And] thus would the Prepositio [(preposition)] Contra for all become infamous, and finally An infra nos [(A beneath us)] come out of that, as, of course, will and must take place.  So be it.

D[r.] M[artin] L[uther]

I.e. the pronoun nos/nobis is to be "declined" (i.e. comprehended) in such a way as to "conjugate" and transform the noun Deus into the perfect passive verb/Word (VerbumDeus dictus est, God has been spoken.  In this way we parse out, by reference to the Incarnation of the Word, the implications of the "God is for us", and allow the Lord to put all things under our feet, as, indeed, the immediately following verses of Rom 8 imply.  Cf. WA46, p. 549, ll. 35-37:  "'Die zwo Person sind also unterschieden:  der Vater ist, der da spricht, und die ander Person der Son, so gesprochen wird [(The two Person[s] are therefore distinguished:  the Father is [he] who there speaks, and the other Person, the Son, [he who] thus is spoken)].'"

     Pronomen (the Latin neuter) would (for future reference, should I come within reach of the Weimarer Ausgabe in digital form) be declined, I'm assuming, as follows:  pronomen (also the vocative singular), pronominis, pronomini, pronomen, pronomine; pronomina (also the vocative plural), pronominum, pronominibus, pronomina, pronominibus.

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