What Does It Mean to Call the Bible “Inspired”?

“St. Paul Writing His Epistles,” by Valentin de Boulogne (17th Cent.)

 

I preach from the Bible whenever I preach. God spoke through and to humanity by the Word. My primary goal as a preacher is to create a space where we can hear God speaking to us today again through that Scripture that is “living and active.” And that we would respond faithfully.

Rare, however, is the full sermon I preach about the Bible: what it is, how we got it, what it does, and how we can respond. I had that privilege this last Sunday, as I preached on the first of five parts of our church’s vision: Scripture guides us. To say Scripture guides us invites reflection on at least two questions: (1) what is Scripture and (2) why should that be what guides us? (Not to mention: how would we know, months and years from now, if Scripture actually were guiding us?)

Despite 40+ years of my life steeped in the Bible, despite memorizing whole books of the New Testament as a kid, despite reading the Bible through multiple times, and despite reading it in Hebrew and Greek… I found it surprisingly challenging to concisely share about, “What is the Bible?” and the follow-on question: “So what?”

In the end I broke it down broadly into two -ations: Revelation and Invitation. God’s Word is revelation. God’s word is an invitation.

To call the Bible revelation means that it is a received word. It is a given word. It is not something we went looking for and figured out by pure reason or emotion or will—in contrast to starting points in other disciplines, like philosophy. All the world’s Pulitzer Prize winners combined couldn’t conjure up God’s Word if they tried. Scripture is God’s self-revelation, and we have it, available to us. Deuteronomy 30:11-14 says:

This command I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, and it is not beyond your reach. It is not kept in heaven, so distant that you must ask, ‘Who will go up to heaven and bring it down so we can hear it and obey?’ It is not kept beyond the sea, so far away that you must ask, ‘Who will cross the sea to bring it to us so we can hear it and obey?’ No, the message is very close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart so that you can obey it.

Notice who is doing the work, so to speak, in finding “the message”—not you! Not me! God says the people of Israel already have it—on their lips and in their heart. Not because they set it there, but because God put it there. In the 21st century, we might add that we have God’s Word at our very fingertips—just a search string and a click away.

The more specific word Scripture uses for revelation is inspiration. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Maybe a better English word (or at least a more literal one) for “God-breathed” would be theo-spired. God breathed his words into the Bible. Just as he breathed life into Adam and Eve and created them in his image, he breathed himself into Scripture, showing us even more of his image. Scripture is not just humans guessing at who God is; it’s God himself telling us who he is.

Millard Erickson, in his wonderful Christian Theology, puts it this way:

By inspiration of Scripture we mean that supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit on the Scripture writers that rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation or that resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God.

Just how does inspiration work? If the Bible was both written by God and written by humans, what percentage of each author is at play in each passage, or across the whole Bible? Or is that the wrong way to think about it? Is it more like the incarnation: fully divine, fully human, both at once?

I think the best answer to this question is: we just don’t know. Erickson says it more articulately:

It is our contention here that inspiration involved God’s directing the thoughts of the writers, so that those thoughts were precisely the ones that he wished expressed. At times these thoughts were very specific; at other times they were more general. When they were more general, God wanted that particular degree of specificity recorded, and no more.

I suppose Erickson’s claim could be seen as a case of post hoc ergo propter hoc , where someone infers causation (or intent) just because one thing chronologically follows the other. In other words, “We have it how we have it, so God must have wanted it that way.” But I believe he’s right, and so do millennia of interpreters.

Speaking of philosophy, Erickson tells this story about Edmund Husserl:

Edmund Husserl, the phenomenologist, had a devoted disciple and assistant, Eugen Fink. Fink wrote an interpretation of Husserl’s philosophy upon which the master placed his approval. It is reported that when Husserl read Fink’s article, he exclaimed, “It is as if I had written it myself!””

So, too, God’s relationship to Scripture.

That’s all revelation. But this revelation of God calls for a response: it’s also an invitation. I’ll write more about this in a future post.

Treasure Trove of a Website for Bible Translation (or just richer Bible reading)

 

I just learned about this fascinating Website intended for Bible translators, which is also useful for preachers or anyone who wants to better understand the Bible. It’s called TIPs, which stands for “Translation Insights and Perspectives.” Here’s the site description:

God’s communication with humanity was intended from the beginning for “every nation, tribe, and language.” While all languages are equally competent in expressing the message of the Bible, each language has particular and sometimes unique capacities to communicate certain biblical messages in exceptionally enriching ways that other languages cannot. The Translation Insights and Perspectives (TIPs) tool collects these outstanding translation insights in the form of stories so they can be made available to everyone in the church as well as researchers and other interested parties.

There’s a great explainer video here.

You can search the site by word or phrase or even language.

Here’s just one of many insights at the TIPs site. Revelation 3:20 says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me” (NIV). Searching the TIPs site yields this translation anecdote:

For the translation of this verse into Maasina Fulfulde Doug Higby tells this story:

“[We] had the word for ‘door’ and also a word for knocking or ‘hitting’ a door. But as I thought about it, Jesus was coming to visit! The Fulani don’t even have doors on their traditional huts, and they certainly don’t bang on the reed coverings used to keep the dust out of the doorway. If Jesus came, he would go to the entrance of the courtyard and say, ‘Salaam Alaikum.’ This would announce his presence in the same way that knocking on a door would in Western contexts. But I was concerned… the Greek text says ‘door’ and I wanted to be faithful to the original. Yet, I felt the Fulani customary greeting was exactly what Jesus would do in this context, so I continued. To my great surprise, the next part of the verse went: ‘Anyone who hears my voice and opens the door…’ Voice?! Who said anything about Jesus speaking, I thought he was knocking… So now the Fulani greeting makes even more sense with the cultural version which goes like this: ‘I stand at the entrance (to your courtyard) and greet (in peace). Whoever hears my voice and lets me in, I will enter and eat together with him.’ (Hettina, miɗo nii darii e damal miɗo salmina. Neɗɗo fuu nanɗo daande am so udditi, mi naatan galle mum, mi ɲaamda e mum.).”

You can access the site here.

“I’m not really a scholar”–the Late J. Alec Motyer

I realize that–without really meaning to–I’ve developed an affinity for Anglican priest-scholar types. To name just a few: R.T. France, Fleming Rutledge, N.T. Wright.

Add to that list the late J. Alec Motyer. I can hardly imagine studying Isaiah without Motyer’s work. And his commentary on Zephaniah is a model of scholarship that praises God.

I recently came across this great quote from him:

I’m not really a scholar. I’m just a man who loves the Word of God.

J. Alec Motyer

I’m not sure I’m in danger of being called a scholar. All the same, his words resonate deeply with me, as what I aspire to.

Fear No Evil or See No Evil? One Way to Preach a Textual Variant

Last week’s Hebrew Bible lectionary gave us the beautiful Zephaniah 3:14-20. There is an interesting variant in the Septuagint reading of verse 15.

Hebrew

לֹא־תִֽירְאִ֥י רָ֖ע עֽוֹד

= you will no longer fear evil

Greek

οὐκ ὄψῃ κακὰ οὐκέτι

= you will no longer see evil

The Hebrew verb for fear (יָרֵא) looks like the verb for see (רָאָה), especially in conjugation:

תִירְאִי

= you will fear

תִּרְאִי

= you will see

The only difference is the presence or absence of the vowel letter in the first syllable, which is superfluous for pronunciation anyway. Both words sound the same in Hebrew.

So the Greek “see” for “fear” is easy to appreciate. But which one to preach? In this case, whenever I quoted the passage in my sermon, I was using my own translation. Since both readings seem equally plausible to me, I decided to present the Greek variant as expounding on the Hebrew, not replacing it (so to speak).

The single line became:

You will no longer fear any evil. You won’t even see evil.

This is many more words than are in the Hebrew text, but I think both the Hebrew “fear” and the Greek “see” so well capture the essence of the passage, that it was worth quoting both. It’s as if God is saying through Zephaniah (if we combine the readings)—not only will you not fear evil, you won’t even have to see it… because it won’t exist.

Lord, haste the day!

A Review of T. Muraoka’s “Fully Fledged” Septuagint Lexicon

Introduction

Takamitsu Muraoka’s work is a gift to all who would read the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.

When I first began to love reading the Septuagint, T. Muraoka’s Two-Way Index was my most valued resource. I reviewed it here.

So of course it has been with great interest and appreciation that I’ve used his “fully fledged lexicon” (X) of the Septuagint, titled A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (GELS). I review it here, with gratitude to Peeters for sending the review copy, with no expectation as to the content of my review.

The Approach of This Lexicon

First a word about the book itself: the binding is sewn and the cover is cloth. It is built to last. There could be no shoddy construction for a work of this magnitude and price, but even the publisher Brill sells multi-hundred-dollar books with glued bindings.

Why GELS?

The importance of the Septuagint does not lie merely in its value for historians of Early Judaism, but also in the fact that it embodies quite a sizeable amount of texts witnessing to Hellenistic, Koine Greek. Some of the current lexica such as Liddell, Scott and Jones, and Bauer do make fairly frequent references to the Septuagint, but their treatment, by universal agree­ment, leaves much to be desired. Furthermore, the last several decades have witnessed remarkable revived interests in the Septuagint, not only on the part of scholars interested in the history of the text of the Hebrew Bible, but also those who study the Septuagint as a Greek text with its own interests and perspectives, not necessarily as a translated text. (VII)

Consider the reader of an English translation of the New Testament. They may not know the original languages. If they don’t, they’ll be reading in translation, thinking of the text as it is in front of them. The one reading only in translation reads the text-as-received, not necessarily with an interest in the translation and production of the text. In the same way, I enjoy reading Bonhoeffer but know barely any German. I read him in English translation and except for the occasional footnote, don’t really consider the German or the particular decisions the translators made.

Here, then, is how Muraoka approaches the LXX:

Following a series of exploratory studies and debates, we have come to the conclusion that we had best read the Septuagint as a Greek document and try to find out what sense a reader in a period roughly 250 B.C. – 100 A.D. who was ignorant of Hebrew or Aramaic might have made of the translation, although we did compare the two texts all along. (VIII)

This is not, Muraoka is quick to note, the same approach as the so-called interlinear model of the New English Translation of the Septuagint (NETS). Besides, for more comparison between Greek and the Hebrew it translates there is the Two-Way Index.

How does Muraoka approach words and their definitions? Meaning is derived from how a word is used in its context: “Thus we started from the actual text, the whole text” (X). (This lexicon has evolved over time. He began with Obadiah and then the rest of the 12 prophets, to be exact.) Here it is worth quoting GELS at length:

A word is hardly ever used in isolation and on its own, but normally occurs in conjunction with another word or words. Such collocations help to establish the semantic ‘profile’ of the word concerned. Two words which are closely related may not wholly share their ‘partners,’ each thus gaining its individuality. Such in­formation about collocations a given word enters provides important clues for defining its senses and deter­mining its semantic ‘contours.’ It concerns questions such as what sorts of adjective a given noun is qualified by or what sorts of nouns or nominal entities a given verb takes as its grammatical subject or object. In ad­dition to these semantic collocations, the question of syntactic collocations is equally important: which case (genitive, dative or accusative) and which preposition a given verb governs.

Different translations and lexicons may have their different approaches, but I appreciate how clear Muraoka is about his. I greatly value his approach. For those wondering, he uses Göttingen critical editions, where they are available, then Rahlfs, with “occasional use” of the Cambridge LXX.

The Structure of the Entries

Perhaps the two most welcome contributions of this lexicon are that:

(A) Muraoka provides definitions and not merely glosses or translation equivalents.

(B) Lexicon entries not only cite but also excerpt relevant LXX passages… even including an English translation of the quoted Greek. In this, Muraoka says, “we have decided to err on the generous side” (XI)—indeed.

There are 9,548 head-words—and I thought learning New Testament Greek was a challenge! Each entry has three primary sections:

  1. The headword (lexicon entry) in bold, followed by a “morphological inventory” so you can see the lexeme in other forms (this is great for language learning). There is also an asterisk that signifies a word “not attested earlier than the Septuagint” (XIII).
  2. The “main body” of the entry, “defining senses of the headword and describing its usage” (XIII). If there is “more than one distinct sense” of a headword, Muraoka marks them off by bold numerals.
  3. A surprising but helpful inclusion: “a word or group of words semantically associated with the headword” (XV). This is reminiscent of the Louw-Nida NT Greek lexicon, and a welcome addition. There are also references to secondary literature, when Muraoka deems them relevant to understanding the word.

Muraoka’s humility and sense of humor are here, too—qualities I might not have anticipated shining through in a lexicon. He says, “(?) is a symbol of despair, indicating our inability to establish any relationship of equiva­lence between the Greek word concerned and the supposed Hebrew original of the translator” (XVI).

Entries, Compared

Here is a comparison of entries between Muraoka’s GELS and Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (“LEH”=Johan Lust, Erik Eynikel, and Katrin Hauspie). The word is μακάριος, the first word in the Psalms and in the Beatitudes in Matthew. One immediately begins to appreciate the depth which Muraoka treats a word.

LEH (via Accordance):

Muraoka:

I especially appreciate that Muraoka not only defines the word, but helps the lexicon user see how it is used:

With a limited number of exceptions (see below), μ. opens, as in the Beatitudes (Mt 5.3-10), a generic, typological statement in the form of a nominal clause without a copula with the fortunate character of the subject—a human, never a divinity—formulated by means of a relative clause or a participial clause….

While I appreciate Muraoka’s in-depth definitions, I wondered if he couldn’t have also included more translation equivalents as part of the entry. While the LEH entry is rather sparse, it gives the expected “happy” and “blessed” in its entry (though GELS does list “fortunate” right away as a translation equivalent). “Blessed” doesn’t come in Muraoka’s entry until further down, and only then as a translation of a Greek example. So too with φιλέω. LEH gives “to love” and “to kiss” right away in its few-line entry. Muraoka (whose entry is much more detailed) gives the first meaning as “to find agreeable, feel attracted to,” which is comparable to BDAG’s lengthy “to have a special interest in someone or someth., freq. with focus on close association, have affection for, like, consider someone a friend.” But if it’s often (and appropriately) translated “love,” why not indicate that earlier in the entry?

This may just be personal preference, and it would be unfair to evaluate Muraoka’s lexicon on something it doesn’t set out to do—namely, to provide translation equivalents at every turn. (He does say, “Occasionally, when we saw fit, we added a translation equivalent or equivalents….”)

So perhaps the best workflow is to consult Muraoka first to really understand a word, then go to LEH for a translation equivalent if needed. No one lexicon can do it all, and Muraoka really fills a large gap with his extended treatment of words.

Typographers, Shield Your Eyes?

Typographers, shield your eyes? Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration. And may God bless and prosper biblical language typographers!

Still, for those looking closely, there is a bit of a distraction with how the font is vertically aligned in places, both in Greek and in English. See here:

In “and” and “unmarried,” the letters appear not to be totally flush with the baseline. The letters r and n and a seem to be the most frequent offenders. And there are issues with kerning (consistent spacing between letters):

Is this picky? Maybe. Could I do better? No way. I can’t imagine how hard it is to typeset a multi-language book like this. It is a little distracting, though, so I just try not to notice it.

Ordering Info

My only wish now is that Peeters would consider licensing this lexicon to Accordance Bible Software, where I would find it immensely useful. However, the bound edition is beautiful, and I do actually appreciate leafing through a print lexicon, just like I did in the olden days.

Any of the above critiques are far outweighed by the impressiveness of this lexicon. Kudos and thanks to Prof. Muraoka and others involved for producing such a fine resource.

And thanks again to Peeters for the review copy. Find the book here at their Website, and here via Amazon (affiliate link).

Expect, God willing, more Septuagint resource reviews in the weeks ahead.

New Biblia Hebraica Quinta (BHQ) Volume: Leviticus!

978-1-68307-403-8Who needs a Leviticus video game when you can now have the book as the newest BHQ volume?

BHQ (Biblia Hebraica Quinta) is meant to supersede the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia (BHS) as the scholarly, critical edition of the Hebrew Bible.

It’s been a few years since I wrote it, but here I describe the BHQ and its use in Accordance Bible Software.

Here’s a bit more from Hendrickson:

At the beginning of each volume, there is a table of accents, a glossary for the Masorah parva, a list of the definitions and abbreviations used to characterize the readings, and a useful sample page that illustrates the features of the layout. Each volume ends with a detailed yet succinct discussion of the textual witnesses for each biblical book that contains a wealth of helpful information, and the manuscripts and critical editions of the texts are clearly annotated. The volumes read right to left.

And a bio of the editor of this volume:

Innocent Himbaza is a Rwandan-born evangelical pastor, theologian, lecturer, Hebrew language expert, and Bible researcher. He is currently a professor at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland and in partnership with the German Bible Society in Stuttgart, he participates in the compilation of the Bible Hebraica Quinta. He lives in Switzerland with his wife, Swiss-born Liliane Mouron, and two daughters, Sarah and Esther.

I recently read Leviticus through in English and wondered how that book got its reputation as the most tedious in the Hebrew Bible. (That honor, with all due respect to God’s holy, revealed Word, belongs to Numbers, I think.) And the Hebrew isn’t as difficult as other books of the Hebrew Bible.

You can check out Leviticus BHQ here. For the rest of today (Friday), Hendrickson is offering 45% off with the code LEVI45.

Delta: What Changes, What Doesn’t

My former love of mathematics came in handy the other day.

I was in a clergy meeting, and we were talking about the delta variant of the coronavirus. And I remembered using the “delta” sign in math equations. It’s a triangle: ∆. Whenever you’re taking the delta of something, you’re finding the difference, or the amount of change.

So the delta between 5 and 3 is 5 – 3, or two. ∆x (“delta x”) is the change of a variable, x.

Delta is change. It’s difference.

As I came out of this math flashback, I spoke up in this clergy meeting, talking about how the delta variant, this change in the trend of coronavirus cases, surely means a change—again—for how we do church, for how we are the church. It’s like “Delta Church” now.

This felt like a deep insight, until I said it out loud, when I saw a bunch of other pastors staring back at me on Zoom, as if to say, “Uh, yeah, Pastor Abram. We already knew that delta means change.” ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

What we don’t know is what kind of changes this new wave of coronavirus cases may require from us. More patience, for sure. More trust, yes. More caution? You bet. A vaccine booster, even after you’ve had two shots? Yes, that, too. A vaccine as soon as it’s available, if you’re younger? Yes, please.

Delta is all about change. It’s about things being different. And here we finally thought things were done being different, with the cases dropping a few months ago and vaccinations on the rise. It seems we’re back into an unclear present. And it’s hard to keep perspective, when we don’t even know where we are anymore!

Changeless

Enter Joshua.

At end of the book of Joshua, Israel’s great leader sees the end of his life approaching.

He leads the people of Israel in a covenant renewal at Shechem in Joshua 24. Joshua seems to sense that, as faithful as this group of people wants to be, they are only a generation away from abandoning the LORD.

So before he leads them in a declaration of trust in God, in the uncertain present moment, he has them look back.

They reflect on God’s faithfulness in the past, to remind themselves that God is a faithful God, not just in the past, but also in the present, and that God will be faithful in the future. God provided for the people in the past. He’s going to do it again today, and he’ll do it again tomorrow!

Think about your own life—whatever kind of moment you’re in, however uncertain you feel, however scared this new delta variant has you, whatever the rest of your life feels like right now… think about your past, and how God has been present to you. Think about how God has healed you, how God has provided for you, how God has shown up to you.

Joshua walks through this important act of remembering with his people.

He recaps the history of this people in the presence of all the leaders and judges and officials and tribes. He begins with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, then goes on to Moses, Aaron, and how God parted the Red Sea and brought the Israelites out of slavery from Egypt. All praise be to our liberating God! Other nations fought Israel, but through God they prevailed. God says through Joshua in verse 13, “I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.”

In other words: I, the LORD, gave you what you have.

Even so, Joshua presents the people with a choice, in verse 15: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living.”

Will a faithful, loving, generous God in the past be enough for God’s people today, and well into tomorrow?

Yes, God gave us water from the rock, but… can he do it again? Yeah, God has literally defied the laws of physics to save us, but… what if he forgets how to do it again? Sure, God has done miracles in our past, made a way where there is now way, but what if God gets stuck this time?

It’s not going to happen. There is no delta with God. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” God is good… not some of the time, not off and on, but God is good… all the time!

That doesn’t mean God is unmoved by our challenges. He weeps with those who weep, and he knows what it’s like to be tempted, to suffer. God knows what it feels like to be swept up by a storm at sea, or surrounded by contagious sickness.

But there is no delta with God, no change. No such thing as a God who is here today but gone tomorrow. With God, it’s not just faithfulness and provision up to a certain point. God is who God is yesterday, today, and forever.

Joshua leads the way in recommitting to this changeless God: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Mater the Tow Truck

In an uncertain moment, in a season of drought, or in-between-ness, it can be tempting to say, “Well, everything is kind of on hold right now, so there’s nothing we can do. Let’s wait till things resolve, and get back to it then.”

As a pastor—the pastor of a church living through almost two years of transition now, as the pastor of a church without a meeting space, without a church office, and at the mercy of the elements for if we can meet in person or not—I confess that this temptation is real for me, too. It’s the temptation to say, “Let’s just survive and get through this so we can go back to being the church, for real.”

But we are the body of Jesus Christ in the city of Boston right now. Do we need a building to be the body? In some ways, yeah, it really helps! Do we need to be able to attend large gatherings without masks and be back to where we were two years ago, before any of these changes came? That would be awesome! I would love that.

But that’s not our reality. Reality has changed.

Who we are in Christ Jesus has not changed.

We are still the congregation, the people, God has called us to be.

The same God who has led us “where (we’ve) been” is going ahead of us into a future we cannot see. This future is crystal clear to God. Muddy for us, totally in focus for God.

Consider Mater the Tow Truck, from Pixar’s Cars movie. Mater declares himself to be, among other things, “the world’s best backwards driver.”

He shows the race car Lightning McQueen his skills. He uses his rear-view mirrors to look behind him and quickly drive backwards through town and over various obstacles. To an amazed Lightning McQueen, Mater says, “Don’t need to know where I’m going, just need to know where I’ve been.”

“Don’t need to know where I’m going, just need to know where I’ve been.”

And that’s a good thing, because, ask me what I know about the present? Ask me what I know about next week or next month? Shrug of the shoulders.

But that doesn’t mean we’re on hold. God’s Spirit is living and active among us, and we get to be the body of Christ in the city right now in a world where everybody else is feeling anxious about all of the delta changes ahead. Do we know where we’re going? We’ll still make plans, but no, we don’t really know where we’re going. But do we know where we’ve been, how God has walked with us? You bet!

What if this tough, in-between time is vital work God is doing in is right now to shape us into the church he needs us to be for the future?

What if our building-less summer and fall means we’re an even more public witness to the city, as we worship in full view of the public at the park?

What if we were like Joshua, and led the way in helping our friends, families, and neighbors remember a good God who has always been faithful? What if we said to others, I believe that this loving and generous God is not going to give up now!

What if our faith and trust in God, even in this “delta” season, inspired others to trust God, too?

Friends, let’s say with Joshua, loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear, “But as for (us) and (our) household, we will serve the LORD!”

I adapted the above from a sermon I recently preached.

Bonhoeffer’s Last Words, Before He Was Hanged (76 Years Ago Today)

Source: German Federal Archive
Source: German Federal Archive

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was hanged in the Nazi concentration camp of Flossenbürg on April 9, 1945, just two weeks before the U.S. military came to liberate it.

John W. de Gruchy describes the lead-up to that day in his Editor’s Introduction to Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, volume 8):

On October 8 [of 1944], Bonhoeffer was taken to the cellar of the Gestapo prison on Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, where he stayed until February 7, 1945. From then on, all correspondence came to an end, and contact between Bonhoeffer and the family and [Eberhard] Bethge was broken. From there Bonhoeffer was taken first to Buchenwald and then, via the village of Schönberg in Bavaria, to the Flossenbürg concentration camp, where he arrived on April 8. That evening he was tried by a hastily rigged court and condemned to death. Early the next morning Bonhoeffer was executed along with several other coconspirators.

He was hanged April 9. His family would not learn about it for several months.

The July before he had written to his trusted friend (and later biographer) Eberhard Bethge, one day after the failed assassination attempt on Hitler’s life. He wrote:

How should one become arrogant over successes or shaken by one’s failures when one shares in God’s suffering in the life of this world? You understand what I mean even when I put it so briefly. I am grateful that I have been allowed this insight, and I know that it is only on the path that I have finally taken that I was able to learn this. So I am thinking gratefully and with peace of mind about past as well as present things. …

May God lead us kindly through these times, but above all, may God lead us to himself.

His final recorded words before his hanging are especially appropriate in these days that lead up to Easter Sunday:

This is the end–for me the beginning of life.


This post is one I’ve re-posted a few times on April 9. It began as part of the “Tuesdays in Lent with Bonhoeffer” I wrote when I first got into Bonhoeffer. See other gathered Bonhoeffer posts here.

A Verse for Holy Week

Lent can help us recalibrate our anthropology:

καὶ γὰρ ὁ ἄνθρωπος τῆς εἰρήνης μου, ἐφ̓ ὃν ἤλπισα,
ὁ ἐσθίων ἄρτους μου, ἐμεγάλυνεν ἐπ̓ ἐμὲ πτερνισμόν·

Psalm 40:10 (LXX)

Indeed, the person at peace with me, in whom I hoped,
he who would eat of my bread, magnified trickery against me.

(NETS translation)

Jesus will apply this verse to Judas in John 13:18: The one who ate bread with me has turned his back on me.

And this was one of the 12! Even one of Jesus’s inner circle would turn his back on him. A sobering reminder of all that Jesus endured as we “journey toward the cross” this week.