This semester I resumed theological German. To recap, I had one year of German in a study group at George Fox Evangelical Seminary and one summer of self-study using April Wilson’s German Quickly. I have written on those resources in previous posts. What follows is an update to my journey in theological German, at which I am still a novice. This post will cover my latest resources.

  • K. Roald Bergethon and Ellis Finger, Grammar for Reading German: Form C, rev. ed. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1979), 207 pages. [Out of print.]
  • Susie Beattie, Collins German Concise Dictionary, 5th ed. (New York: Collins, 2010), 873 pages [dict.] + 252 pages [grammar guide].


Bergethon and Finger’s Grammar began as material for academic German reading classes at Brown University. It is meant for those with at least a grasp on basic German. I want to stress this point because, according to Bergethon, the German in the exercises are as difficult as one finds in higher-level German literature (iii). This is not to say that someone without German familiarity cannot use the Grammar and be successful at reading more difficult German; the authors have supplied a grammatical appendix that covers all the basics, as well as an answer key to the exercises. One, however, would get the most from this particular resource is there is an existing foundation in German.

Grammar consists of 16 chapters divided into three sections of Grammar, Exercises, and Working Vocabulary. The authors’ approach “is strictly from the viewpoint of the English-speaking reader” (iii). Whether this approach is the best is another discussion, but Bergethon and Finger’s approach so far has been helpful from a novice translator’s standpoint. For instance, Bergethon writes that “the student is not told how to form the future or passive; instead he is told what possibilities must be kept in mind when a form of werden occurs” (iii). In such an area as complex theological German, I have found that determining the possibilities and non-possibilities has been more than helpful.

Overall, Grammar has been thus far a valuable resource in translating German. Even the first chapter on determining what can and cannot be subject, verb, and object or predicate nominative has made German translation easier for me almost overnight. This grammar would work as a supplement to Wilson’s textbook, or it could even replace Wilson’s as a second year grammar.


I already own three German dictionaries:

  • Collins German Unabridged Dictionary, 7th ed.;
  • Helmut W. Ziefle, Dictionary of Modern Theological German;
  • The Concise Oxford-Duden German Dictionary, 2nd ed.

So why a fourth? The answer is simple: portability and breadth (approximately 190,000 words). The Collins German Concise is portable compared to the next concise dictionary I have (the Duden). It is true that Ziefle’s dictionary is much smaller, but it is geared primarily toward theological German. Much of the work with German that I am doing is from at least the mid-twentieth century, so some of the vocabulary falls outside of what I can find in Ziefle. The only bothersome point with this dictionary is that some of the words found in less extensive dictionaries are not found in Collins German Concise. One example would be rabbi/rabbiner: While one would not expect rabbinat (“rabbinic authority”) to appear in anything less than a theological or unabridged dictionary, one would expect the simpler word to appear in a general reference.

Nevertheless, as to help with translation work, I have found Collins German Concise to be sufficient for much of what I translate. Because of that, I tend to turn to it before Ziefle or the vocabulary list in Manton. The short examples for each entry also help one to get a better sense of the word.