Sometime last year I read the wonderfully delightful biography on Eerdmans, An Eerdmans Century: 1911–2011. Probably my favorite section of the book is the section about how Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament came to be. The story is told of how Bill Eerdmans traveled to Edinburgh in hopes of convincing the translator of Barth’s Church Dogmatics, Geoffrey Bromiley, to do the same for Kittel’s massive tome. Here is how it all went down:
I still remember how chilly it was sitting in his church one summer Sunday, shivering in my seersucker suit. At lunch we sat around a fire, it was cold that cold. Everybody else was wearing overcoats. Bromiley agreed to do the project. He would translate the whole thing for five dollars a page plus two percent royalty. He’d sit reading German, and simply type the text in English. He had such a grasp of church history that he’d freely edit out anything he thought the Germans had gotten wrong. Because of Bromiley’s generous terms, we were able to sell our earliest editions of “Kittel” for only twenty-five dollars a volume, back when a good car tire sold for the same price.
A Eerdmans Century, 102.
Looking back on it, one would get the impression that Bromiley had some kind of death wish. Not only was he the translator of Barth and Kittel, he also translated Ernst Käsemann’s Romans commentary and Wolfhart Pannenberg’s three volume Systematic Theology. If anything, we owe him a great debt for his work! He used his time to translate some of the classical German work instead of writing and publishing his own contribution to the field. For that I say danke!