December 11, 2014

Another Discovery: Martin Luther's "Enflamed Dialogue" in French

Several years ago, through the providence of library research in Oxford, I discovered a piece that could only be described as "the first evangelical 'Sinner's Prayer' published in English." It was striking that such a prayer could have been published by William Tyndale, yet it was not included in the various authoritative collections of his works. Tyndale, of course, was the famous translator of the English Bible, a commentator upon Scripture, an early English Reformation controversialist, and a martyr for evangelical Christianity.

The Southwestern Journal of Theology, at the time edited by Doug Blount, kindly allowed space in its pages to discuss the background of the prayer and to bring a transcription of Tyndale's prayer back into print after a nearly 500-year hiatus. (See Southwestern Journal of Theology, volume 47, number 1, pp. 27-44.)

More recently, Thomas P. Johnston, Professor of Evangelism at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a gentleman who I helped hire for the faculty when I was their Academic Dean, has made another interesting discovery. The most recent issue of the Midwestern Journal of Theology, an academic journal that Terry Wilder and I started, has an article by Johnston regarding his find.

Johnston discovered that Luther's conclusion of his Exposition on the Lord's Prayer, which Tyndale revised and published in English, had also been translated into French. The French translation, which precedes Tyndale's revision, was attached to Luther's 1519 L'Oraison Dominicale and was known as the Enflamed Dialogue. Johnston has provided an English translation of the French alongside my transcription of Tyndale's revision.

Moreover, Johnston argues that the French translation was given "both elegance and cultural prominence" in the Kingdom of France because it was put in verse form by Marguerite, the Duchesse of Angouleme and sister of the French monarch. Johnston believes this prayer was influential in the spread of evangelicalism in 16th-century France. French evangelicalism eventually swept up the leading second-generation Reformer, John Calvin, but was persecuted harshly during the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre and was finally dispersed after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes.

A native Francophone, Johnston's passionate evangelistic heart for God and for people to know God comes through his comments upon Luther's Enflamed Dialogue in its French and English versions. Johnston's article, along with articles by Midwestern's new president, Jason Allen, and other members of that fine Southern Baptist faculty, including Jared Wilson, Michael McMullen, and Radu Gheorghita, may be found in pdf format here.