Prolixity

I’ve been reading Martin Chemnitz’ Examination of the Council of Trent. It’s a four volume analysis of the 16th Century council which solidified Roman Catholic doctrine and condemned Lutheran doctrine following the Reformation.

I had to laugh when in the section I was reading today, Chemnitz says that there is plenty more to say about the issue at hand, and he would say more, “if I were not afraid of prolixity” (Vol. 1, p. 595). I laughed (after looking up the word) because this work is already so comprehensive and thorough, that I can’t even imagine what it could say. But Chemnitz could go on and on.

I am completely impressed by the scholarship of these giants. I have another set of books that Chemnitz contributed to, which is a series of text studies based on a harmony of the gospels put together by Chemnitz, Johann Gerhard, and Polycarp Leyser. The books I have were printed in the 1860s. They cover the Gospels for the historic church year. Some of these studies are as long as 75 pages. Talk about serious exegesis!

So, on the one hand, it’s kind of funny for Chemnitz to talk about sparing words for the sake of brevity. He is anything but brief. And sometimes it’s hard to wade through pages and pages that cover every single aspect of a particular topic. But on the other hand, I admire their use of words. I feel as though even our best scholars today couldn’t come close to their understanding and depth of scholarship. Yet it makes me want to read more, study harder, and think more clearly about the things I study. I may not be able to produce the kind of work that these men created. I struggle to complete each sermon, and I have to push to be able to get a few words onto a blog every once in a while. But if nothing else, a little more careful study will give me a better grasp of the center of all this study—Christ Jesus. And that’s good enough for me.

2 thoughts on “Prolixity

  1. And on a slightly lighter note, on the plane ride to Toronto today, I milled through “Truck: A Love Story,” by Michael Perry. I can’t recall coming across “prolixity,” but there are still several hundred pages to go. I’ll keep you and your readers posted.

  2. I came to much the same conclusion when I was reading Krauth’s ‘conservative reformation…’. His defense of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper was impressive and extensive. It’s difficult to compare to that level of dedication and scholarship.

    But, on the other hand, I used to be so very amazed at our profs at the Sem (and I still am). But, after a couple of years out in the ministry, when you get asked the same question over and over again, it’s hard to not become a thorough exegete and theologian in some areas of scripture. I mean, how many times can you be asked about infant baptism before you lay out a well-defined, cogent response?

    Lord’s blessings on your Lent Preaching, Hans.

    Steve

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