German-English Theological Dictionary
Date: December 9, 2010
Since the early 1980s, Wolfgang Kunze, professor emeritus of German, has dreamed of publishing a German-English theological dictionary. With plans “to help people continue their research using German material that needs to be understood,” dreams became reality in 2009 when Kunze designed the German-English Online Dictionary of Religion and Theology, the first of its kind. The resource will provide significant help to students taking language exams required for certain PhD programs. It can also help in understanding the contents of major German theological texts such as the vast amount located at Fuller Theological Seminary McAlister Library in Pasadena, Calif.
“A long time in the making, Dr. Kunze’s German-English Theological Dictionary will provide a valuable tool for doctoral students in various disciplines that need a basic knowledge of German for their studies,” says Denis Fortin, dean of the Andrews University Seventh-day Theological Seminary. “I’m thankful that he has been able to prepare this dictionary and to make such a contribution to theological education.”
A long time in the making, indeed. The project began some 30 years ago when Kunze worked as a professor of German at Andrews University. With the help of several doctoral students from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, Kunze compiled thousands of dictionary entries into mainframe computers. He intended to publish the entries in a hardbound copy.
“This was the time before any book could be printed electronically,” he explained. Tragedy struck when technological difficulties got in the way of publication and after years of hard work and the completion of thousands of entries, Kunze says he got stuck with a computer mainframe that was totally obsolete.
For the next 20 years, he continued to write and published several small German reference works. He resumed the dictionary project in full force upon retirement in 2002. 40,000 entries later, he decided to publish the dictionary online.
In 2007, he teamed up with Armand Poblete, instructor of information services at Andrews University, and began to develop the book’s website: www.dictionary-theologicalgerman.org. Together they created an open-source database software program designed specifically for the project. The program allowed the designers to create a Wikipedia-style website, encouraging database expansion over time, printable dictionary entries in PDF format and password-protected editable entries.
“The main difference between this site and Wikipedia is that we don’t allow just anyone to edit entries... You can only edit and submit with a password. We give this information out to theologians and experts, and they can enter material from wherever they are. We want accountability, and that lies with the author and their reputation,” said Kunze.
Though the edit/entry portion of the site is closed, the resources and information are available to all. The current theological dictionary is composed of some 2,000 entries that include abbreviations, definitions, and even picture and graphic illustrations. When completed, it is expected to consist of more than 40,000 entries and offer supplemental material to Kunze’s textbook: Theological German: A Reading Course.
“I envision this online dictionary filling a great need for those of us whose native theological language is not German, but who need to stay abreast of current theological literature,” says Richard Davidson, chair of the Old Testament Department at the Andrews University Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. “Such a research tool will be of inestimable value to our doctoral students.”
With the dictionary project 98 percent complete, says Poblete, the only work left to do is data editing and entering. Project funding is requested to finance the labor, which will be conducted by doctoral Seminary students. Kunze aspires to have some 15,000 entries online by the end of the school year. Approximately 2,000 hours of student labor are needed to complete the project, totaling about $20,000.
Donations for the dictionary are being accepted. You can give online at www.andrews.edu/development or send checks payable to Andrews University—Dictionary Project to the Andrews University Office of Development. For more information about the book, e-mail Wolfgang Kunze at email@example.com.
-Written by Ashleigh Jardine, student news writer, Office of Integrated Marketing & Communication