Messianic Prophecy and English Translations with Addendum
Nass, Thomas P.
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With the recent publication of NIV11, many people in the WELS raised concerns regarding the translation’s handling of messianic prophecies. The problem arose from the classifications of Old Testament prophecies: Direct (or rectilinear), typical, and intermediate fulfillment. Direct has only Christ as the subject of the prophecy, whereas typical references a person, thing, or event as a type or foreshadowing of the coming Christ. For a long time, the LCMS held fast to the interpretative principle of sensus literalis unus est (one literal meaning), thereby rejecting claims of typical prophecies. Recently, the LCMS has started to accept typical prophecies, stating that a preliminary fulfillment that Christ will later fully fulfill does not violate sensus literalis unus est. On the other hand, the WELS has always acknowledged rectilinear and typical prophecies. Thus, such an understanding of prophecies produces different English translations, where interpretation guides the capitalization of nouns within prophecies. Many people found the NIV’s new approach to using capitalization sparingly to have removed Christ from Old Testament prophecies. Such opinions are rooted in the old LCMS’s rectilinear-only approach, misunderstanding typical prophecies’ ability to describe another figure. Other misunderstandings include English’s convention of capitalizing titles and names but not descriptive words, as well as prospective typology and retrospective typology understanding of prophecies. Addressing such differing opinions may occur so long as one does not view the Old and New Testament as two distinct works of literature and denies prophecies of Christ in the Old Testament; this is the bedrock of the historical-critical method. In viewing both parts as the work of the same Holy Spirit, Luther said that “all the Scriptures point to Christ alone.” If Christians agree that Christ is the ultimate fulfillment, one should not demean the other over subjective opinions of the possible typical nature of the prophecy."Messianic Prophecy and English Translations" was written in July 2011 with an "Addendum" in July 2012, when Prof. Nass was a member of the WELS Translation Evaluation Committee.