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In my daughter's sixth grade Confirmation class (LCMS), she was taught that Martin Luther thought that the New Testament books of James and Revelation were not correct and should not be included in the Bible. I had never heard this. I did see reference to the book of James in your Q&A section on Martin Luther but no mention of Revelation. Can you clarify all of this for us?Luther's controversial writing concerning the Epistle of James and the Revelation can be found in Volume 35 of Luther's Works, American Edition, pages 395-397 and 399-400.
An excerpt from his "Preface to the Epistles of St. James and St. Jude" -- "...I praise [the Epistle of James] and consider it a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God.... However, ...I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle, and my reasons follow.
"In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works [2:24]....
"In the second place its purpose is to teach Christians, but in all this long teaching it does not once mention the Passion, the resurrection, or the Spirit of Christ....
"In a word, he wanted to guard against those who relied on faith without works, but was unequal to the task. He tries to accomplish by harping on the law what the apostles accomplish by stimulating people to love. Therefore I cannot include him among the chief books, though I would not thereby prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him,"
Lutherans generally do not agree with Luther's devaluation of this epistle.
An excerpt from Luther's earlier preface to Revelation: "About this book of the Revelation of St. John, I leave everyone free to hold his own opinions. I would not have anyone bound to my opinion or judgment. I say what I feel. I miss more than one thing in this book, and it makes me consider it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic.
"First and foremost, the apostles do not deal with visions, but prophesy in clear and plain words, as do Peter and Paul, and Christ in the gospel.... I can in no way detect that the Holy Spirit produced it...."
In 1530, Luther revised the Preface, but had not really changed his view regarding Revelation:
"...Some of the ancient fathers held that it was not the work of St. John, the Apostle.... For our part, we still share this doubt. By that, however, no one should be prevented from reading this as the work of St. John the apostle, or of whomever else he chooses...."
Lutherans generally do not agree with Luther's devaluation of the book of Revelation.
When Luther wrestled with the question of whether these books belong in the canon of scripture, he was not questioning the inspiration or the authority of god's word. The question for him was what is properly part of God's Word.
As with other questions of faith and doctrine, Luther is never the final authority.
Could you please tell me how Martin Luther had an impact on the German language?Luther's Bible translation work helped to standardize the language of German literature. He determined to use the language of the Saxon court, "New High German." At the same time, he strove to use language that ordinary German people could understand.
Because Luther's Bible translation was long the best seller of all German literature, and because his language helped shape the language of all German speakers (also in other lands!), it was not necessary to revise his translation until the 19th century.
What does VIVIT mean?
I saw it on a flag that was described as a Lutheran Herald. The flag was black with a sky-blue ring filling it. Inside the ring was a white open flower with a red heart at its center. In the middle of the heart was a cross. Around the flower starting at the nine o'clock position, ending at the three o'clock position was the word: VIVIT. The word sounds French but it may be an acronym.The word VIVIT is a Latin word that means "He lives," and the flag sounds like Luther's seal.
Here is an explanation of the symbolism of the seal:
While Luther was a professor at Wittenberg, he devised a seal which was meant to be expressive of his theology. In a letter to a friend Luther explained the symbolism of his seal.
A black cross rests on a red heart "to put me in mind that faith in Christ crucified saves us." The heart rests on the center of a white rose "to show that faith causes joy, consolation and peace. The rose is white, not red, because white is the ideal color of all angels and blessed spirits."
The rose is fixed in a dark blue sky "to denote that such joy of faith in the spirit is but an earnest and beginning of heavenly joy to come, as anticipated and held by hope, though not yet revealed."
The sky is surrounded by a golden ring "to signify that such bliss in heaven is endless, and more precious than all joys and treasures... Christ, our dear Lord, He will give grace unto eternal life."
It is said that Luther wrote the word VIVIT on his study wall to remind him whenever he was down that the Lord Jesus, his Savior, is alive, having risen from the dead.
About the promised rest... I have found four types of rest in my studies; a Sabbath rest in this life, a partially spiritual rest for us in this life (not well defined in literature), a rest in which the Holy Spirit does works through us in this life (a Spiritual rest), and a heavenly rest for us in the next life.
You have kindly directed me to Luther's writings, and I believe that Luther clearly describes a rest in which the Spirit desires to work through us in this life. Luther describes in detail how we may 'labour to enter into this rest' (Heb. 4:11) by fasting, praying, emptying ourselves of our own will, which is in competition with the will of the Spirit. I have included below some of Luther's writings (from "A treatise on Good Works together with the Letter of Dedication", 1520).
I have looked through a few Lutheran books on theological doctrine, and rest is either not mentioned or is defined as heavenly rest. Being convinced that Luther knew of a Spiritual rest, I would like to discover whether this was at some later time disproven, or perhaps re-defined as being a heavenly rest (as is the common interpretation today). Could you direct me to further resources?This rest or ceasing from labors is of two kinds, bodily and spiritual. For this reason this Commandment is also to be understood in two ways. The bodily rest is that of which we have spoken above, ... The spiritual rest, which God particularly intends in this Commandment, is this: that we not only cease from our labor and trade, but much more, that we let God alone work in us and that we do nothing of our own with all our powers. But how is this done?
In this way: Man, corrupted by sin, has much wicked love and inclination toward all sins, as the Scriptures say, Genesis viii, "Man's heart and senses incline always to the evil," that is, to pride, disobedience, anger, hatred, covetousness, unchastity, etc., and summa summarum, in all that he does and leaves undone, he seeks his own profit, will and honor rather than God's and his neighbor's. Therefore all his works, all his words, all his thoughts, all his life are evil and not godly.
Now if God is to work and to live in him, all this vice and wickedness must be choked and up-rooted, so that there may be rest and a cessation of all our works, thoughts and life, and that henceforth (as St. Paul says, Galatians ii.) it may be no longer we who live, but Christ Who lives, works and speaks in us. This is not accomplished with comfortable, pleasant days, but here we must hurt our nature and let it be hurt. Here begins the strife between the spirit and the flesh; here the spirit resists anger, lust, pride, while the flesh wants to be in pleasure, honor and comfort.
Of this St. Paul says, Galatians v, "They that are our Lord Christ's have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts." Then follow the good works, -- fasting, watching, labor, of which some say and write so much, although they know neither the source nor the purpose of these good works. Therefore we will now also speak of them.
XVIII. This rest, namely, that our work cease and God alone work in us, is accomplished in two ways. First, through our own effort, secondly, through the effort or urging of others. Our own effort is to be so made and ordered that, in the first place, when we see our flesh, senses, will and thoughts tempting us, we resist them and do not heed them, as the Wise Man says: "Follow not thine own desires." And Moses, Deuteronomy xii: "Thou shalt not do what is right in thine own eyes." Here a man must make daily use of those prayers which David prays: "Lord, lead me in Thy path, and let me not walk in my own ways," and many like prayers, which are all summed up in the prayer, "Thy kingdom come."
For the desires are so many, so various, and besides at times so nimble, so subtile and specious, through the suggestions of the evil one, that it is not possible for a man to control himself in his own ways. He must let hands and feet go, commend himself to God's governance, and entrust nothing to his reason, as Jeremiah says, "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in his own power." We see proof of this, when the children of Israel went out of Egypt through the Wilderness, where there was no way, no food, no drink, no help. Therefore God went before them, by day in a bright: cloud, by night in a fiery pillar, fed them with manna from heaven, and kept their garments and shoes that they waxed not old, as we read in the Books of Moses.
For this reason we pray:
"Thy kingdom come, that Thou rule us, and not: we ourselves," for there is nothing more perilous in us than our reason and will. And this is the first and highest work of God in us and the best training, that we cease from our works, that we let our reason and will be idle, that we rest and commend ourselves to God in all things, especially when they seem to be spiritual and good.
XIX. After this comes the discipline of the flesh, to kill its gross, evil lust, to give it rest and relief. This we must kill and quiet with fasting, watching and labor, and from this we learn how much and why we shall fast, watch and labor. There are, alas! many blind men, who practise their castigation, whether it be fasting, watching or labor, only because they think these are good works, intending by them to gain much merit. Far blinder still are they who measure their fasting not only by the quantity or duration, as these do, but also by the nature of the food, thinking that it is of far greater worth if they do not eat meat, eggs or butter. Beyond these are those who fast according to the saints, and according to the days; one fasting on Wednesday, another on Saturday, another on St. Barbara's day, another on St. Sebastian's day, and so on. These all seek in their fasting nothing beyond the work itself: when they have performed that, they think they have done a good work...
For Luther, and in Lutheran theology, the "four types of rest" the inquirer enumerated are really all one rest, four aspects of one and the same thing. When we have the rest that Jesus gives us in forgiveness, and thus have the assurance of the heavenly rest, we also have "rest for our souls." Not yet perfect and undisturbed, but real.
Richard Lauersdorf's comments on Hebrews 4:9-11 (Peoples Bible) may prove to be helpful:
"'Sabbath-rest,' the author calls it, combining thoughts by using a term found only here in the New Testament. 'The people of God,' the spiritual Israel of all true believers, have the eternal Sabbath-rest of peace and pardon, union and communion with God, with its fullness to be reached in heaven. God's resting on that first Sabbath after creation typified this wondrous rest as did all the Sabbaths observed in the New Testament.
"For us in the New Testament the picture is even clearer. Those Sabbath days were, as Colossians 2:17 points out, 'a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." In Christ, shadow has become reality. Through his death and resurrection the way to God's eternal rest is fully built and opened wide. What we need now are not Old Testament Sabbath days, but a faith in Christ 'that will not shrink though pressed by many a foe.'
"Rest implies cessation from work, a laying down of that which tires. So also with the heavenly rest which Christ brings and to which he leads. 'Anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work,' the author reminds us. Before faith, man seeks to work out his own salvation, ...futilely and fearfully seeking to remove sin's stain and pay its penalty....
"How quickly he who knows and trust Christ's work will lay down the labors of his own hands. After salvation, the believer still labors. He spends himself in loving service to the one who loved him and gave himself for him. Of that service we never grow weary, though we often weary in it. How wonderful when the time comes and we hear that voice from heaven as recorded in Revelation 14:13 saying, 'Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, they will rest from their labor. for their deeds will follow them.'
"Such glorious rest the believer tastes now in part and wants to taste in heaven fully and forever.... Before we can pray, 'Jesus, in mercy bring us to that dear land of rest,' we need another prayer, the one that humbly asks, 'Lord, open thou my heart to hear and through thy word to me draw near."
Luther often quoted the Church Fathers sometimes in a good light and sometimes...well. Which of the Church Fathers was closest to Luther's heart?Judging by the American Edition (Luther's Works) Luther quoted none of the Fathers more often than he quoted Augustine of Hippo. He did not always agree with him, but drew on his writings from the time he began to teach at Wittenberg to the end of his life.
Luther regarded St. Augustine as Paul's "most trustworthy interpreter." He believed that there was "no better teacher after the apostles than St. Augustine." He regarded him as "a teacher who shines in the church up to this day and teaches and instructs it."
That Luther's appreciation of Augustine was not idolatrous or uncritical comes through in a sermon of 1540: ""I will remain with St. Augustine, but especially with the Lord Christ, who has the Word of Truth."
When was the 95 Theses nailed to the church door? What is the 95 Theses?Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on October 31, 1517. Disturbed by the claims made for indulgences (the Roman Catholic Church's grants, for a price, of release from temporal punishment due for sins), Luther wanted to debate the issue of indulgences publicly. The 95 Theses were intended to be discussion points for that debate in which Luther wanted to take a stand against the sale of indulgences. The theses were written in Latin because the debate was intended for a learned audience of clergy and professors. They were soon translated into German, however, and quickly spread across Germany. Although the posting of the 95 Theses is generally considered to be the beginning of the Reformation, these theses are an early work of Luther and do not fully reflect his later positions on other theological issues.
A copy of the 95 Theses can be found at a number of internet web sites, including:
I am looking for the exact quote that martin luther was said about music, how he gave it the highest place next to theology.There are two quotes from Luther that speak similarly.
We can mention only one point (which experience confirms), namely, that next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise.
(LW, American Edition, Vol. 53:323)
Music is an outstanding gift of God and next to theology. I would not want to give up my slight knowledge of music for a great consideration.
(Weimar edition of Luther's Tischreden, Vol. 3, # 3815. Translated and quoted by Ewald Plass in his "What Luther Says," Concordia Publishing House, 1959, p. 979)
Quote: "Historically, Lutheranism has affirmed the necessity of faith in order to receive the blessings and benefits associated with baptism" (He then quotes Luther who says, "For baptism is useless without faith. It is like a letter to which seals are attached but in which nothing has been written. Therefore he who has the signs and not the faith has seals only, seals attached to a letter without any writing")
Question: If this is a true statement, from a Lutheran perspective, how does it fit with our Lutheran belief that, in baptism, the infant receives the gift of justifying faith? How can a baby receive the "blessings and benefits" associated with baptism if it is in baptism that he receives that which is necessary to receive these blessings and benefits? I can understand how, as an adult, I require faith to appropriate the grace unto the forgiveness of sins given me in my baptism. In this way, without faith my baptism is useless to me in the here and now. Was Luther speaking of baptism from this perspective or from the perspective of the infant's reception of the divine gift for the first time?
Quote: "In addition, Lutheranism has taught that the operation of the Holy Spirit working through the Word and sacraments is resistible." (He then quotes from Francis Pieper, who says, "Men, then, do possess the power to thwart the operation of divine grace whereby God intended to produce faith in them.") He further adds his own statement, "therefore, according to Confessional Lutheranism, simply because an infant is baptized by no means indicates that he/she has definitely received the gift of faith. Since grace is resistible, it is entirely possible that the infant has resisted God's work in the sacrament."
Question: I know that Lutherans confess that grace is resistible, but is it Lutheran teaching that infants can resist the grace that produces faith in baptism? If this is the case, how can we say with certainty (as I have been taught to confess concerning my baptized children), that the child "has been sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever"? It would seem that such a statement is presumptuous if the child may have resisted the grace of the baptism. My understanding has long been that, since God has promised to work through His sacraments as "God's Word made visible," we have no greater assurance than the fact that an infant is a "child of God" upon being baptized, since it is God's work, not man's.
Quote: "In short, since Lutheranism affirms the necessity of faith, the resistibility of grace, and the possibility of apostasy, a reception of baptism is not sufficient grounds for ultimate assurance of salvation. To be sure, Lutherans point to the objective promises of Word and sacrament as assurance for salvation, but the benefits procured by Christ and offered through Word and sacrament must be received through faith."
Question: I don't know what it is, but these two sentences trouble me. Is it really proper from a Lutheran perspective to use the word "but" after the statement "Lutherans point to the objective promises of Word and sacrament as assurance of salvation"? Doesn't using the word "but" invalidate or unnecessarily qualify the former statement? I sense that we should leave the first part of the sentence to stand by itself. If Lutherans "point to the objective promises of Word and sacrament," that would seem to necessitate faith. As far as the "ultimate assurance of salvation," I know that Lutherans do not believe that Scripture teaches the Perseverance of the Saints.Luther is not teaching that faith is a prerequisite to baptism, but that baptism does not benefit a person without faith. The faith necessary to receive the blessings of baptism may precede baptism or result from baptism.
We can never know with absolute certainty if any individual has faith. Even in the case of an adult who confesses faith clearly and gives evidence of a Christian life, we could be fooled by a false confession. Putting the best construction on things, we receive every confession at face value. At the funeral of a Christian we do not add qualifiers like "Well, he seemed like a Christian, but maybe he really was not."
In the same way, we know baptism is a real means of grace that works faith. We know that a child can depart from that faith and fall away from the grace given to them in baptism. Unless we have evidence that the child has rejected the faith worked by baptism, we assume it remains. It is true that we cannot know the faith of any person with absolute certainty. Only God can do that. We can only go by the evidence we have. Where we have the evidence of baptism or a clear confession, we assume the presence of faith. Where a person confesses unbelief, we also accept that testimony at face value.
In the confession and absolution in the service we simply announce to grace of God to all who have confessed. To judge the hearts of the hypocrites is God's responsibility not ours.
A Baptist friend of mine told me at a recent church study, he was told that Luther also believed the teaching of John Calvin on predestination. I have read that some early Lutherans did believe in Calvin's teaching even some that came to America, is that true?Because Scripture teaches that God has predestined some to salvation and eternal life, John Calvin concluded that God must have also predestined some to damnation. Scripture does not make such a statement or support Calvin's conclusion.
On the basis of Scripture Martin Luther also believed (and the Lutheran Confessions teach) that God has predestined some to salvation and eternal life. Luther did not, however, reach the conclusion that Calvin reached. He did not teach a "double predestination."
In America some Lutherans (and perhaps people from other denominations) accused C.F.W. Walther and the churches of the Evangelical Lutheran Synodical Conference (including the Missouri and Wisconsin Synods) of being "crypto-Calvinists" in the doctrine of predestination. Perhaps that is what the "Baptist friend" heard in the church study he attended.
Other than that, I am not aware of any Lutheran body in America or elsewhere that taught "double predestination."
When did the Lutheran religion start? Was Martin Luther the one who founded it or was it just named after him?Luther did not start a new religion at the time of the Reformation in the 1500s. He called for the church to return to the religion of Christ as taught in the New Testament. When Luther and those who followed him were excluded from the church of Rome, people began to call his followers Lutherans against his wishes. Luther was the most important man in God's restoration of the gospel for the church so we willingly bear his name, but he did not found any new religion. It was the false teachings of Rome that were an innovation and departure from the Bible.
God says in the NIV in Exodus 20,
Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you nor your son nor daughter, . . . . . .
How did Martin Luther interpret this to mean that we should not despise preaching and his word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it? Luther's words are good to remember, but I don't see the connection.
A second related question: Is the Sabbath mentioned in this reference the same Sabbath as the Old Testament Sabbath which we no longer keep?The Sabbath mentioned here is the Saturday Sabbath which we no longer have to keep. Since this Sabbath no longer applies to us, in his discussion of the 3rd Commandment Luther refers to the underlying principle which applies to us, namely, we should worship God as he wishes to be worshipped.
The New Testament very specifically says that we are not bound by the Sabbath as the Jews were in the Old Testament (Colossians 2:16-17). That is the reason we do not observe a Sabbath on Saturday. We do have Sunday as a regular day of worship, but this day was freely chosen by the church. The principles of the moral law as expressed in the 10 Commandments are, of course, still in force. This is what is discussed in the questions and passages presented in the catechism.
Does the WELS agree with other synods on the issue of Mary being the "Ever Virgin" and her interceding for the church? Do other saints supposedly do this as well and where is this found in Scripture. More importantly, does a fellow Lutheran have to agree with this statement? I consider myself a Lutheran but I don't believe or agree with these two statements of Mary interceding and her perpetual virginity...does this mean I can't be a Lutheran anymore or can I still belong to a synod and possibly even be a teacher in it someday even though I think Luther was wrong on this despite the fact that I hold a very high admiration for Dr. Luther but I don't think he was always right (I didn't like his anti-Semitic statement and I still have yet to see a synod that would agree with that ).
I am thinking of becoming WELS so if I do decide that I want to be a member of your synod and you do happen to believe in these two issues of Luther's Mariology should I be concerned since I don't agree in this matter. Please let me know because I am concerned. I want to be Lutheran but now I am wondering if that will be possible now considering the strictness that many synods have. Thank you.The saints in heaven may pray for the church in a general way (Revelation 6:9:10) but there is no indication that they know what is happening on earth (Isaiah 63:16). Christ is the only mediator or intercessor we need in heaven. We are to seek no other.
Luther sometimes referred to Mary as "always virgin" and this term appears once in the Lutheran Confessions (Smalcald Articles I, IV). In this article it is in the Latin version, but not in the official German. The article is about Christ, not about Mary. We do not regard the perpetual virginity of Mary as a doctrine of Scripture. She was a virgin till after Jesus' birth. It appears from Scripture that the brothers and sisters of Jesus were most likely children of Mary and Joseph.
A discussion of this topic was previously posted:
There are three theories about Jesus' brothers and sisters who are mentioned in the gospels. One is that these were actually Jesus' cousins. Another is that these were children of Joseph, whose first wife had died before he married Mary. Both of these theories were motivated at least in part by the desire to preserve Mary's virginity even after Christ's birth. The third idea is that these were children of Mary and Joseph born in a natural way after Christ's birth. This is the most natural understanding of the passages in which Jesus, Mary and these brothers and sisters appear together. See, for example, Matthew 12:46 and 13:55.
I was hoping you might help with the following. I would like to verify and document the following quotation of Martin Luther:
"That they now allege the name to be unpronounceable, they do not know what they are talking about ... if it can be written with pen and ink, why should it not be spoken, which is much better than being written with pen and ink? Why do they not also call it unwriteable, unreadable or unthinkable? All things considered there is something foul."This appears to be from Luther's work on the Shem Hamphoras, the unpronounceable name of God, the Tetragrammaton, Jehovah. I am not aware of an English translation of this work. It is in volume 53 of the Weimar edition of Luther's works, pages 579-648. The topic is discussed several places in the American edition of Luther's works, but they don't seem to match your quote precisely. You can find them by looking in the index to the American edition under Shem Hamphoras or Schemhaperes. Luther's main objection to the tradition of the unpronounceable name was to its use in magic.
I've heard of an encounter Luther had as he was climbing the stairs in a monastery one at a time while saying certain catechisms. His report was that God spoke to him saying "the just will live by faith" over and over again. This help to convince Luther that it is not by works that we are saved, but by grace through faith. I would like to use this story for a sermon - but I really need more of the details of when and how it happened. Could you help me?The story is almost certainly apocryphal, and has never circulated in the form suggested by the inquirer. It may be a combination of several incidents in (or stories about) his life.
One thing is certain: Luther never claimed that God spoke to him, except in the written Word, the Bible. Luther did not learn "The just will live by faith" from a special revelation but from Romans 1:17.
I was looking for information about Luther's rabid hatred for Jews and the incident when he fomented a riot which killed several Jews and then burned the synagogue. Any information you have would be useful.Luther did not have a rabid hatred for Jews nor do I know of any incident when he fomented a riot in which Jews were killed or a synagogue burned.
In fact, early in his career as a reformer Luther had written in a rather sympathetic way about the Jews and had chastised European Christians for their treatment of the Jews. Please read Luther's That Jesus was Born a Jew (1523). In his lectures on the Psalms (Ps 14:7) he wrote, "The fury of some Christians (if they are to be called Christians) is damnable. They imagine that they are doing God a service when they persecute the Jew most hatefully, think everything evil of them, and insult them with extreme arrogance and contempt amid their pitiable misfortunes, whereas, according top the example of the Psalm and of Paul (Romans 9:1), a man ought to be most heartily sorry for them and continually pray for them. . .By the example of this cruelty they are, as it were, repelling Jews from Christianity, whereas, they ought to attract them by all manner of gentleness, patience, pleading and care" (What Luther Says, vol. 2, p. 683).
At the end of his life, however, Luther did write a rather harsh work against the Jews which is not consistent with his earlier writings, On the Jews and Their Lies (1543). Luther's harsh comments toward the Jews were not racially motivated, but were directed against people who were opposing the message of salvation by God's grace through faith in Jesus. His opposition to the errors of the Catholic Church of his day was equally forceful and much more extensive.
We do not defend Luther's suggestions for dealing with the Jews in his work, On the Jews and Their Lies. None of his followers put his suggestions into practice. In fact, this writing was pretty much ignored until the 20th century.
In the context of the 16th century Luther was comparatively mild. In the Middle Ages it was not unusual for theologians to publish defenses of the Christian faith over against the teachings of Judaism in rather strong language. Even the "enlightened" humanist Erasmus wrote extensively against the Jews. We try to understand Luther's writings in the historical context. We do NOT endorse or excuse or condone his suggestions for the treatment of the Jews.
For more information on this subject you may wish to read Martin Luther and the Jewish People by Neelak Tjernagel (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 1985) and The Fabricated Luther: The Rise and Fall of the Shirer Myth by Uwe Siemon-Netto (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1995).
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