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Mike Poteet

Thanks for lifting up the work of the translators. I remember listening with interest to the discussion of why a new translation was needed during the webcasting of the GA, and I am glad it is proceeding well! It sounds like interesting (if sometimes frustrating) work!

Here's a less thorny question regarding biblical citations: do you prefer the colon between chapter and verse number, or the period? Do academic publishers tend to use the period over the colon? Is there any stylistic consensus? I realize it's a totally superficial issue, but I've come to prefer the period myself...

Charles Wiley


We had spirited discussions on commas, semicolons, and brackets, but I'm pretty sure there was a consensus on colons--sorry, no periods.


Walter L. Taylor

Odd that the CRC did not insist on scripture citations, since all of theirs to date have included them (contra PCUSA and RCA). The Reformed Church in the US and the Canadian Reformed Churches have always had the scripture references with their editions, in continuity with the historical editions of the HC. Those might be helpful for the committee.

Matt Ferguson

What citations one uses / allows is very important if, later on, you are going to try to find a way to interpret a portion of the catechism not to say what the scripture does say. Thus, it does not surprise me that there would be a lot of haggling in this area of your work.

Charles Wiley


The CRCNA and the RCA do include scripture references in their text. But these texts have evolved over time in their tradition, and they did not consider them to be part of the common translation we worked on together. Therefore, the PCUSA special committee went back to the original citations for our version. We had the CRCNA/RCA citations in front of us.


Charles Wiley


There was absolutely no variation from the original German/Latin citation except in a handful of cases where there were obvious typographical errors. This was not an ideologically driven process. In fact, the committee valued the possibility that folks would wrestle with how particular texts were related to the question when it was not obvious.


Dave Moody

@Mike Poteet-- re: the period vs colon- I think it might be a British/European vs American thing, although my UBS 4 uses a period (Jn 3.16), and was published and printed in Germany. My German Bible, and my NA 27 use commas (Jn 3,16). Go figure.

grace & peace,

Todd Mulford


It is important for those outside the committee to realize that we did have to zoom in on the original German document, (the joke was to 800%), to help determine if a 1 was a 1 or a 2, or if a 1 was a 1 or a colon. An outside observer will understand if they look at the original German document. The committee even joked that people might say that our committee couldn't tell the difference between a 1 and a 2; HOWEVER, no one could be further from the truth. Rather we were VERY careful to ensure that the German and Latin citations were accurately identified in the original text and communicated in the citations for this translation, "identified" meaning (understanding Yes, that was suppose to be a colon, not a 1 - or vice versa). Fortunately this did not occur often.

I am proud to be a part of this committee and proud of the work that was accomplished, and proud that our members set aside their ideological differences to focus on preserving the historicity of the catechism.

Charles Wiley


Rightly so. As I mentioned to the committee, they could have easily mailed this one in. I don't think anyone since the writing of the catechism has put more hard work into getting those original biblical references right. There was one place, for instance, where a reference to Matthew was Mat instead of Matt. It turns out the second t had been read by a typesetter as a 1 before the reference. Someone on this team figured this out, and so a biblical reference that didn't make sense suddenly made perfect sense.


James D. Berkley


Thank you for the detective work that adds "perfect sense" to the references. That's helpful.

But I have a more basic question: Why the ferver to reclaim the exact "autograph" of the Heidelberg text? The text we now use is what we approved as our belief. In one sense, who cares about what was originally written in Heidelberg?

It's not that every other confession is the exact text originally written. Westminster has many changes. The Belhar now being voted on has a number of politically correct emendations in it.

If it's not a problem that these confessions are not the exact original text, why the big drive to remove a phrase about homosexual sin that the Heidelberg writers intended but delicately left implied rather than baldly written?

It seems that we aren't being consistent. Can you help me understand why?

Jim Berkley
Seattle, WA

Neal D. presa

Dear Jim,

Glad that you are engaging this conversation.

Permit me to answer your question:
"Why the ferver to reclaim the exact "autograph" of the Heidelberg text?"

1. The genesis of our work back in 2008 came from an overture of the Presbytery of Newark, written by a leader within the Presbyterian renewal movement, who read the Heidelberg in the original German, and who proceeded to suggest corrections to 5 sections, including correcting the current version of Q/A 87.

2. As you can read in the Report which we transmitted to the 219th General Assembly last year, their were so many other mistranslations, that a review of the entire Catechism warranted a re-translation. We cite 5 additional sections that had mistranslations. You can access our Report from last year here:

2. We join the 16th century Reformers in their method of ad fontes..back to the sources. Let history speak to us. In this case, let Zacharias Ursinus (and others of his contemporaries in Heidelberg) speak to us. The Reformers, as you know, held to the notion of going back to the sources (ad fontes) as a way to illumine truth (post tenebrux lux, "after darkness, light.")

3. The phrase "homosexual perversion" in the current version of Q87 in the Catechism is not at all a correct translation of the German and was not the intent of the Heidelberg writers, contrary to what you have stated. A more correct translation is "unchaste person," which is what we, together with the CRCNA and the RCA are proposing. There is unanimous, unambiguous and unassailable agreement on this point, from left-of-center, moderate, and right-of-center scholars, who have read the original texts.

4. You are correct in saying that the Westminster Confession of Faith that we have in our Book of Confessions has been amended over the years and which can be clearly seen in the two-columned version we have in the BoC. If you and others think that the WCF, too, should be re-translated to reflect historical accuracy of the original autographs, in line with the ad fontes methodology, you and your presbytery can advance an overture or commissioner's resolution to that effect and put it before the 220th General Assembly. In this case, the Heidelberg Catechism is before us.

5. The Heidelberg Catechism is the most translated and most used confessional document in the Reformed tradition. We should be faithful to its original intent and to the original language of what Ursinus and his contemporaries wrote it in.

Lastly, let me invite you to remain open to what the proposed re-translation is and the scripture references attached to them. In both the Catechism's text, and in the accompanying scripture references, we have meticulously and diligently stayed with the 1563 German (3rd ed.) and Latin editions of the Catechism. We believe, as I think you will find, that the re-translation will edify believers for many generations to come, both here and around the world.

Let's continue the conversation; I very much welcome it.

You can reach me at [email protected]

Neal D. Presa
Middlesex, NJ
Chair, General Assembly Special Cmte. on the Heidelberg Catechism

Mike Poteet

@Dave Moody - Thanks, although my "trim size" NRSV, published here in the States, uses periods in the running heads. I know we are way beyond adiaphora here and this is an incredibly geeky thing to notice, let alone care about -- but I really like the period. Oh, well, I guess I'm on the losing side!

And thanks to Neal for laying out the case for retranslating the Heidelberg. I'm looking forward to the new version since it is one of my favorites in the Book (I know we're not supposed to play favorites, but....!)

Matt Ferguson

A simple question, really. Do you believe 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 is being referenced by Q & A 87?

Charles Wiley

I'm not sure who you are asking, Matt, but the scripture references for question 87 are:

1 Cor. 6:9-10; Eph. 5:5-6; 1 John 3:14

Matt Ferguson

Thanks. And the scripture references will remain?

Charles Wiley


The scripture references are not part of the current translation, but are a part of the proposed translation. So, yes, if this is approved, those scriptural citations will be there. No one suggested that I Cor 6:9-10 should be omitted.

News article: http://www.pcusa.org/news/2011/3/14/heidelberg-catechism-special-committee-reaches-una/


Matt Ferguson

Thanks. IMHO If the scriptural citations are there, I don't see an serious objections to the committee's work. If they are not . . . I don't think the revision would stand a chance to gain a 2/3 vote.
God's blessings to you,
Matt Ferguson

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