In July of 1997, after finishing a master’s degree in the New Testament at Regent College, I went with my dad to visit my grandparents, Lennart and Margaret Anderson, in Willmar, Minnesota. Because they were in their mid-80s, they had to sell their house at 723 West Trott Avenue, where they had lived for over 55 years. It was the house where they had raised their two boys, Egil and Edmund Anderson, and the house where we grandchildren had always loved to visit and explore, whether it was the old storage room upstairs, our dad’s and uncle’s boyhood bedroom, the backroom next to the kitchen, or the basement that contained old baseball bats and a makeshift mini-basketball hoop where our dad and uncle would play, and where our grandpa handmade his own guitars, as well as other wood-working projects.
Their new house was smaller, on one floor, and simply not the same. Still, it was nice to see them. My grandpa listened attentively to me as I told about the courses I had taken at Regent, and even bragged a little about a particular paper I had written on the Gospel of Mark. He then said, “Stay here, I want to show you something.” He went back to one of the rooms and brought out a handmade leather-bound book—it was a hand-written copy of the New Testament.
But it wasn’t just a hand-written copy. It was, in fact, my grandpa’s life work. Back in 1940, when he was a recently married man and a new father, he decided to teach himself enough New Testament Greek so that he could, with the help of Greek lexicons, go through the Revised Standard Version of the New Testament, and produce his own, personal translation of the New Testament.
He did this without telling a soul. And over the course of 50 years, in the course of living his life, raising a family, and watching his grandchildren grow up, through World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Watergate, the Iran-Hostage Crisis, and the fall of the Soviet Union, Lennart Edmund Anderson immersed himself in God’s Word, bringing about a little bit of the Kingdom of God into his corner of the world.
And near the end of his life, he shared it with me.
Later that fall, he came down with cancer, and we thought he might succumb rather quickly to it. Fortunately, after the initial scare, he soon recovered his strength, although we knew it that he probably did not have much time left. In December of 1997, our family celebrated our last Christmas with my grandpa. He was still up and about, but it was clear that his strength was beginning to fade. That was the last time I saw him.
My grandparents went back home to Willmar, and went on with their lives. Every day, my grandpa still felt well enough to walk down to the post office and do his daily routine. But then in late February, the cancer came to take my grandpa, and within a week, on March 2nd 1998, one week short of his 87th birthday, Lennart Edmund Anderson died.
At his funeral, people recounted the things he had done in his life: he built his own acoustic guitars, he was a life-long Gideon, he taught himself the accordion and regularly went to the local prison to play for the inmates and to lead Bible studies, he was married for 60 years, raised a family and saw his grandchildren grow up…and for 50 years, he had immersed himself in God’s Word.
It may sound odd, but I distinctly remember thinking at the funeral, “I understand the idea of praying to the saints.” For as I reflected on my grandpa’s life, I saw that it was filled with the glory of God, and I understood that he had, in fact, run his race and was now receiving the upward call in Jesus Christ. He had entered into God’s glory, was now perfected and transformed into the image of Christ, and had taken his seat in the great cloud of witnesses who were victorious in Christ.
After he died, I was given his translation of the New Testament, and for the past 20 years, it has been on my shelf. Quite honestly, I wasn’t ready to read it. But now, as the 20th anniversary of the last Christmas we shared with him, I felt it was fitting to not only read through my grandpa’s translation, but to type it out and publish it, primarily for my family and friends who knew him and loved him.
This translation, The New Testament: A Life of Devotion, represents the heart and soul of Lennart Edmund Anderson’s life of devotion to Jesus Christ and commitment to God’s Word.