Luther the Apologist

Apologetics has definitely reclaimed a prominent place in Christianity today. This is yet another realm to which Martin Luther, who reflected on nearly everything, also provides valuable contributions. Much of his sermon on Trinity Sunday (June 16) of 1538 took up the defense of the Christian faith. It was more of a thematic sermon on the Trinity—with a considerable aside on the veracity and reliability of the Trinitarian faith—than it was an exposition of a specific text. The content of this sermon is sometimes overshadowed by the pronouncement against Simon Lemnius that Luther read from the pulpit after the sermon.

The larger quote that follows is admittedly somewhat speculative. It is based on Andreas Poach’s working of Georg Rörer’s stenographic transcript in his (Poach’s) 1559 edition of the House Postil. Luther preached that there were basically three “external indications” that the Christian faith was the one true faith. After expanding on each of these in detail, Rörer records him concluding with these sentences:

These are the external indications that our faith is true—that divine power shows itself in this faith against the gates of hell. Likewise, prophecy about future and past events. No other faith has these three things; it [i.e. our faith] is therefore most true.

It is clear from these lines that Luther recapped all three points here. However, only the second and third are in Rörer’s transcript—divine power showing itself in Christianity against the gates of hell and prophecies coming true. Luther doubtless mentioned the first also—the Christian faith’s long duration—but Rörer probably figured he or anyone else reading his transcript would realize that and fill in the blank for themselves. (In the meantime, he could use the short summary paragraph to relax his hand a bit.) This is, in fact, exactly what Poach did. Johann Stoltz (1514–1556) also transcribed this sermon, but he did not include any of the summary paragraph; he likely also seized the opportunity to catch up on what he had been transcribing and to relax his hand.

So for this Quote, I will share Poach’s reworking, which is probably closer to what Luther actually preached. And even if it is more verbose than what Luther originally preached at this point in his sermon, it will give the reader an idea of what Luther covered in the preceding paragraphs.

These, then, are the external indications and proofs that our faith is the true faith: First, its long duration, the fact that this faith has existed from the beginning of the world and will continue to exist until the end of the world. Second, its strength, the fact that this faith stands victorious against every attack, and the might and power of God has shown itself in this faith, even against the gates of hell. Third, its prophecies, the fact that this faith says in advance what is to come, and the prophecies line up nicely with the historical facts and come true without fail. No other faith has these three points; only the Christian faith does. Therefore it is truly and certainly the one true faith.

Sources

Weimar Edition 46:436 (original transcripts)

Erlangen Edition 6:230 (Poach’s edition of Rörer’s transcript)

Weimar Edition 50:348–51 (pronouncement against Simon Lemnius)

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 87–89

Martin Luther’s Praise of Music (German)

Brief Introduction

First Page of Praetorius’s 1607 Reprint of Luther’s Preface, Entitled Encomion Musices

In 1607, the Lutheran composer and musician, Michael Praetorius (1571–1621), had Installments 1–4 of his Musae Sioniae (Muses of Zion) series published together in Wolfenbüttel. He had his woodcut portrait printed on the back of the special title page, and immediately opposite his portrait, a reprint of a work by Martin Luther under the title Encomion Musices (Praise of Music).

I will trace the origins and subsequent use and translation of this work, and the debates surrounding it, in greater detail in the Afterword below. For now, the reader should be aware that Luther originally composed this work in Latin in 1538, as a preface for a motet collection printed in Wittenberg by Georg Rhau. Praetorius used a 1564 German translation of this preface by the cantor Johann Walther (1496–1570) as his base text; Praetorius’s father had once been Walther’s colleague in Torgau. But Praetorius also consulted a version of the preface printed by Wolfgang Figulus (c. 1525–after 1588) in 1575, and he inserted text from Figulus’s version in four places in Walther’s text—additions which he felt contributed something that was missing in Walther’s version. Thus the Encomion Musices is a hybrid version of Luther’s preface.

I have distinguished Walther’s original translation from the Figulus interpolations by placing the latter in brackets [ ]. (No such distinction appeared in Praetorius’s reprint.) I also bolded the parts that Praetorius put in bold typeface, but the reader should be aware that neither Walther’s nor Figulus’s versions, as originally printed, contained any bold typeface.

I produced this original translation using Praetorius’s hybrid reprint, Walther’s original translation as printed in the Weimar Edition, and Figulus’s version. (The preface preceding the text in the Weimar Edition also lent much assistance to my Afterword.) As far as I am aware, this is the first complete, from-the-ground-up English translation of this particular version of Luther’s preface, though if any readers are aware of another, I invite you to inform me thereof, so that I can give proper credit. You can find my English translation of Luther’s original Latin preface in this separate post. I present these fresh translations today, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of Praetorius’s death, to the glory of the triune God, with the prayer that they will renew and increase the reader’s appreciation for God’s gift of music.

Martin Luther’s Encomion Musices (Praise of Music)

First Page of Luther’s Preface in Johann Walther’s Lob und preis Der Himlischen Kunst Musica (1564)

A preface by the holy, cherished man of God,
Doctor Martin Luther, on the heavenly art of music,
never before printed in German.1

To all admirers of the liberal art of music, I, Doctor Martin Luther, wish grace and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Though I would sincerely like to commend and highly praise this beautiful and precious gift of God, the liberal art of music, I find that it provides so much and such great benefit, and is so glorious and noble an art, that I do not know where to begin or end in praising it, or in what manner and form I might praise it as it deserves to be praised and to be cherished and appreciated by everyone. I am so overwhelmed by the rich abundance of praise for this art, that I cannot extol and praise it sufficiently. For who can say and point out everything that might be written and said about it? And even if a person really wanted to say and point out everything, he would still forget many points. In short, it is impossible for anyone to sufficiently praise or extol this noble art.

First of all, if you give the subject proper consideration, you will find that this art was given by God to each and every creature from the beginning of the world, and was created with all of them from the beginning. For there is absolutely nothing in the world that does not produce a noise and sound, so that even the air—though it is invisible and impalpable by itself, and it seems to possess the very least music, that is, beautiful tones and sound, and seems to be completely mute and inaudible—nevertheless, when it is moved and forced through something, it too produces its music and tones, and what was previously mute now begins to become audible and a form of music, so that it can now be heard and felt, though it was not heard or felt before. The Spirit is pointing out wonderful and great mysteries through this, which I won’t talk about right now.

Second, the music, tones, and singing of the animals, and especially of the birds, is much more wonderful still. [Ah, what a glorious music it is, with which the almighty Lord in heaven has endowed his singing instructor, the dear nightingale, along with its young pupils and so many countless thousands of birds in the air, since every single genus has its own style and melody, its sweet, glorious call and singular coloratura, which no one on earth can comprehend!] King David himself, the excellent musician who sings and plays purely divine songs on his lute and string-play, testifies to this, and he prophesies and sings with great amazement and passionate spirit about the wonderful singing of the birds in Psalm 104. There he says, “Upon them2 sit the birds of the sky and sing amid the branches.”

But what should I say about the human voice, with which all other singing, tones, and sounds simply cannot compare? For God has endowed the human voice with so great a music that his super-abundant and incomprehensible kindness and wisdom neither can nor may be understood even in this one thing. For the philosophers and scholars have certainly pushed themselves hard and taken great pains to investigate and understand this wonderful work and art of the human voice—how it happens that the air can produce words, sounds, singing, and tones through such a small and slight movement of the tongue, and then, too, through an even slighter movement of the throat or neck, likewise in many different styles and ways, depending on how it is governed and directed by the mind, and can do all that so powerfully and forcefully that it is not only distinctly heard, but also perceived and understood so far and wide, in every direction. But they have only attempted to investigate it; they have not actually discovered the answers. Indeed, no one has yet come forward who could even say and show where human laughter comes from (to say nothing of crying), and how human laughter happens. They are amazed by it, but that’s all the further they get; they cannot discover it. But we should entrust the reflection on the immeasurable wisdom of God in this one creature to those who have more time than we. I just wanted to touch on it briefly.

Now I should also say something about the benefit of this noble art, which is so great that no one, no matter how eloquent he may be, can sufficiently relate it. I can point out this one thing for now, to which experience also testifies: After the holy word of God nothing whatsoever deserves to be glorified and praised as highly as music does, namely for this reason, that she is a ruler over every emotion of the human heart (to say nothing right now of the irrational animals). She masters and controls the very emotion that frequently rules and overpowers humans, as if it were their lord.

For nothing on earth is more capable of making the sorrowful glad, making the glad sorrowful, bracing up the despairing, enticing the proud to humility, calming and suppressing passionate and excessive love, curtailing envy and hate, and who can enumerate all the other emotions of the human heart that rule people, and entice and drive them either to virtue or vice? For ruling these emotions of the mind and keeping them in check, nothing, I say, is more powerful than music. Yes, the Holy Spirit himself praises and honors this noble art as an instrument of his own office by attesting in Holy Scripture that his gifts, that is, the incitement and inducement to every kind of virtue and all good works, are given to the prophets through music. We see this in the prophet Elijah who, when he is about prophesy, commands that an instrumentalist be brought to him, and while the instrumentalist is playing on the strings, the hand of the Lord came upon him, etc. [2 Kings 3:14–19]. On the other hand, Scripture testifies that Satan, who drives people to every vice and depravity, is driven away through music. This is shown in King Saul. When the spirit from God came upon him, David would take his lyre and play with his hand and Saul would be refreshed and would feel better, and the evil spirit would depart from him [1 Sam. 16:14–23]. It was therefore for good reason that the holy fathers and prophets brought the word of God into many different songs and string-play[, so that music would always remain in the church]. As a result, we have so many kinds of excellent songs and psalms from them, which move the hearts of mankind both with words and also with the singing and sound.3 But in the irrational animals, string-playing, and other instruments, we only hear the singing, sound, and tones, without speech and words. It is to humans alone, in preference to the other creatures, that the voice has been given with speech, so that they would be able and learn how to praise God with singing and words at the same time, namely with the clear and sonorous proclamation and praise of God’s kindness and grace, in which beautiful words and lovely tones are heard at the same time.

Moreover, if a person compares humans to each other and considers the voice of each one, he will discover how God is such a glorious and complex creator in what he distributes to the voices of humans, how there is such a great difference among humans with respect to voice and speech, and how one is so far superior to another in this. For they say that you cannot find two people who have exactly the same voice, speech, and articulation, even if one person devotes himself to another’s style with careful diligence and tries to be like him and imitate everything like the ape.

And when natural music is sharpened and polished by craft, there a person can finally see and recognize with great amazement just a bit of the great and perfect wisdom of God in his wonderful work of music (for it cannot be comprehended or understood completely). Within this craft, it is particularly special and deserving of amazement when one person sings a plain tune, or tenor (as the musicians call it),4 and three, four, or five other parts are also sung alongside it, which accompany this plain[, simple] tune or tenor on all sides with shouts of joy, as it were, playing and jumping around this tenor, wonderfully adorning and embellishing this tune with many different styles and tones, and leading a heavenly round dance, so to speak[—meeting each other in friendly fashion and embracing each other with congeniality and love]. Those who understand and are affected by it just a little cannot help but be overcome with amazement at it, and they must suppose that there is nothing more remarkable in the world than a song adorned with many parts like that. But whoever has neither inclination nor affection for it, and is not moved by such a lovely wonder, must truly be a thick blockhead who does not deserve to hear such lovely music, but the desolate, wild donkey-braying of the hymn-tune by itself, or the singing and music of dogs or sows.

Now what more can I say? The subject and the benefit of this noble art is much greater and richer than may be related in a short space like this. Therefore I wish to have this art entrusted to everyone, and especially to the young people, and I hereby wish to admonish them to let this precious, beneficial, and joyous creature of God be cherished, loved, and esteemed by them. Through the knowledge and diligent use of this art, they can sometimes drive away evil thoughts, and can also avoid bad company and other vice. I then also admonish them to get in the habit of recognizing, lauding, and praising God the Creator in this creature, and to flee and avoid with all diligence those who are corrupted by sexual immorality and who misuse this beautiful element and art [Natur und Kunst]5 (just as the unchaste poets also do with their element and art) to serve shameful, frenzied, unchaste passion. You can know for certain that it is the devil who is driving them like that, contrary to nature. Since nature should and is meant to use such a noble gift only to honor and praise God, the Creator of all creatures, these depraved and unnatural children [ungeratene Kinder unnd Wechselbelge]6 are driven by Satan to take away and rob this gift from God the Lord, and to use it to honor and worship the devil, who is an enemy of God, nature, and this lovely art. With that, I wish to have you all entrusted to God the Lord. Written in Wittenberg, in 1538.

Afterword

Preliminary note: This Afterword is essentially the same as that printed in the companion post. If you already read that one, you can skip this one.

The history of the transmission of this preface through the ages is consistently marked by both admiration and errors. Since the admiration is fairly consistent, while the errors vary, I will categorize and trace the errors.

Error Category 1: Faulty Citation

Melanchthon’s Reprint of Luther’s Preface in Liber selectarum declamationum (1541)

The errors of faulty citation trace back to two facts: First, Rhau’s Symphoniae Iucundae did not enjoy particularly widespread distribution, which is the case with most printed musical collections. Second, Luther’s friend and colleague Philipp Melanchthon reprinted Luther’s preface on pages 768–71 of his Liber selectarum declamationum (Strasbourg: Crato Mylius, 1541). But he also reprinted a preface of his own immediately before it (pp. 766–68), also written in praise of music, also written for a musical collection published by Georg Rhau (Selectae Harmoniae Quatuor Vocum de Passione Domini [Select Four-Part Harmonies about the Lord’s Passion]), and also written in 1538. For his own preface in his 1541 collection, Melanchthon correctly cited the original source. But above Luther’s preface, he simply wrote, “Alia Martini Lutheri [Another Preface, by Martin Luther].” Since Melanchthon’s book experienced a wider distribution and went through reprintings, many understandably, though incorrectly, assumed that both Melanchthon’s and Luther’s prefaces had been printed back-to-back in the same work. (And since the Selectae Harmoniae also did not enjoy a wide distribution, there weren’t copies of the work handy against which to check that assumption.)

Thus the 1703 Buddeus reprinting7 and the 1873 reprinting in the Latin volumes of the Erlangen Edition8 (both Latin), Johann Jacob Greiff’s German translation (which appeared in Part 22 of the Leipzig Edition [1734]9 and Part 14 of the first Walch Edition [1744]10), and the 1898 German translation in the second Walch Edition (based on the Latin text of the Erlangen Edition)11 all mistakenly connect Luther’s preface either to harmonies about the Lord’s Passion or, even more incorrectly, to a supposed harmony of the accounts of the Lord’s Passion.

Error Category 2: Textual Modification

Other errors originate with one or the other of the two earliest German translations.

Lady Music, woodcut printed in Walther’s Lob und preis Der Himlischen Kunst Musica (1564)

The Lutheran cantor Johann Walther was the first to translate Luther’s preface into German. He included his translation in his 1564 publication, Lob und preis Der Himlischen Kunst Musica (Laud and Praise for the Heavenly Art of Music), which was an enlarged, swan-song-reprint of his 1538 work, Lob und preis der löblichen Kunst Musica (Laud and Praise for the Laudable Art of Music). (It is important to note that Luther wrote a different, poetic German preface for Walther’s 1538 work.) The dead giveaway that the German preface is Walther’s translation and not original with Luther is how the German text in Walther’s work compares to the section about listening to “some crap-poet” in the Latin version: “But as for those who are not affected by [figural music], they indeed are truly without taste and deserve to spend their time listening to some crap-poet [aliquem Merdipoetam] or to the music of swine.”

As Martin Brecht details in the third volume of his Luther biography,12 on Pentecost Sunday of 1538, Simon Lemnius, a talented but misguided University of Wittenberg student, offered some poems for sale outside of the Wittenberg parish church that he had secretly published through Nickel Schirlentz. In them, Lemnius made subtle insinuations about public figures in the town. He was subsequently placed under house arrest, but broke his fetter and escaped before he could be called up before the university rector (Melanchthon at the time). After his sermon on Sunday, June 16, Luther issued a pronouncement against Lemnius, in which he referred to him as a “dishonorable rogue” and a “shameful would-be poet.” After Lemnius’s escape, in September of that same year, he published an enlarged collection of poems which also took shots at Luther, among others. This led Luther to compose, apparently at least somewhat spontaneously, five elegiac Latin couplets at his table on Thursday, September 30, in which he referred to Lemnius as a Merdipoeta, “crap-poet”—no doubt a label he had already been using for him.13

This context not only explains Luther’s phrase, “some crap-poet,” in his Latin preface, as well as his reference to “the crude poets” in the final paragraph of that preface, but it also shows that the German preface in Walther’s edition was his own translation and not a Luther original. You can read the corresponding section in Walther’s 1564 work above. You will note there the disappearance of any reference to poets, because Luther’s original words would have been confusing in 1564 to people who knew little, if anything, about Simon Lemnius. But Walther also betrays himself in what he substitutes for Luther’s “crap-poet” reference—“the desolate, wild donkey-braying of the hymn-tune by itself.” For in his concluding remarks (Beschlus) in the back of his 1564 work, Walther not only verifies that Luther composed the preface twenty-six years earlier (1564 minus twenty-six equals 1538) but also makes it clear why he is publishing Luther’s preface in German now:

I see and experience that this art of music is being disparaged and despised by many who pride themselves in being evangelical and Lutheran. They think that it’s papistic [i.e. too Roman Catholic] when four- or five-part songs are used in Christian assembly and during divine services, and as if it would strengthen the papacy if music were promoted in figural singing.

Luther was not addressing any such problem in his own time. Thus it is clear twice-over from this one section that the Luther preface in Walther was translated and edited by Walther.

In spite of this, Johann Nicolaus Forkel in the second volume (1801) of his Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik (General History of Music)14 and Hugo Holstein in his 1883 article, “Eine unbekannte Schrift Luthers über die Musik [An Unknown Writing of Luther on Music]”15 push the German preface in Walther as Luther’s original. Forkel says that, “judging from the language, [the German version] must originate with Luther himself” (though I’ll show later that the German version at Forkel’s disposal was actually Praetorius’s hybrid), and that he had “read somewhere” (?) that Luther had nailed this preface to the church doors in Wittenberg in order to give church music the strongest possible promotion—the assumption being that, if he did so, he would have nailed up a German version. Holstein insisted that the German preface in Walther was Luther’s original and that the Latin version originated with Melanchthon, who translated it. But the idea of Melanchthon creating the concept of “some crap-poet” without it being in Luther’s original is unimaginable, not to mention that Melanchthon’s take on the Lemnius affair was different than Luther’s.

First Page of Figulus’s Version of Luther’s Preface (1575)

The second German version of Luther’s preface appeared in a musical collection published by Wolfgang Figulus (c. 1525–after 1588) in 1575. After carefully comparing this German version to both the 1538 Latin preface and Walther’s 1564 German translation, I don’t think Figulus’s version even merits being called a translation. It seems to be merely a reworking and compacting (with one glaring exception) of Walther’s translation, apparently simply for the purpose of boosting the sales of his work. (Beneath the title on the title page of the first tenor part-book, we find this “clickbait”: “With a German preface by the Reverend Father Dr. Martin Luther that has not been previously printed.”) This version would probably merit no further attention, except that the esteemed musicologist Walter Blankenburg (1903–1986) apparently went to great lengths to demonstrate “that the preface that Figulus published in 1575, rather than being an alternative German translation, was indeed Luther’s original draft that he then translated into Latin in 1538.”16 I am admittedly unfamiliar with Blankenburg’s work, but apart from the shorter length in Figulus and the first three words of his version of the preface more closely matching the Latin (Ich wolt warlich || Vellem certe), the evidence against such a conclusion is quite strong. Consider the following:

  1. If anyone were to come into the possession of a supposed original draft in German, it would be Walther, not Figulus. Recall that Walther actually published a work in 1538, the same year Luther published a poetic preface for that work and wrote his Latin preface for Rhau’s collection. Walther was Luther’s friend and collaborator.
  2. The idea of Luther possessing a draft for any preface he wrote at this time is problematic. In 1538 he dealt with the Lemnius affair and suffered from severe attacks of dysentery and gout, on top of his regular domestic duties and busy schedule of preaching, teaching, and letter writing. “Because of the great quantity of his business [at this time], his friends frequently had to be content with brief letters.”17 In reading the Latin preface, one gets the impression that Luther threw it out of his sleeve, as it were. His great genius is certainly still on display, but it does not possess the kind of organization and progression of thought that one finds in his more carefully crafted works, or that one would expect if he wrote it on the basis of a draft.
  3. The preface in Figulus begins and ends the same way Walther’s translation does—word for word. (Beginning [Walther/Figulus]: Allen Liebhabern/liebhabern der freien Kunst Musica wündsch/wünsch Ich/ich Doctor Martinus Luther Gnad/Genad und Fried von Gott dem Vater und unserm HERrn/HERRN Jhesu Christ/[omit Jhesu] Christo etc. Ich wolt… Ending: Hiemit will/wil ich euch alle/allen Gott dem HERRN/HErrn befohlen/bevolen haben.) What are the odds of the beginning and ending of Walther’s translation—and I have already demonstrated that his version was indeed a translation—just so happening to match Luther’s supposed original German draft? Especially when Luther’s Latin simply begins, “Martin Luther to Devotees of Music. Salvation in Christ [to you all].”?
  4. If what Figulus published was Luther’s original draft, Luther did a poor job following his draft when he converted it into Latin. In one place in particular the preface in Figulus has much more content than Luther’s Latin; in a number of other places it has less.
  5. In the one place where Figulus has much more content, the word Coleratur (coloratura) occurs. Any Luther scholars reading this are invited to correct me if I’m wrong, but I did extensive searching and I am led to conclude that if Luther did use this word in his draft, it was the only time he ever used it.
  6. One sentence in Figulus’s version doesn’t even make sense: “Indeed, no one has yet made it to the point that he could figure out the A-B-C of music, namely that, of all the visible creatures, humans alone can express the joy in their hearts by laughing, and conversely can cry when they are grieved.” How are laughter and crying the A-B-C of music? Luther’s Latin preface is much clearer when it identifies laughter as the alphabet and primary material of the human voice, not of music.
  7. The progression from the art or craft of music in general to figural music in particular, clearly present in Luther’s Latin version, is completely missing in Figulus.
  8. Both references to poets are completely missing in Figulus. Perhaps this is the best point under which to see Figulus’s method at work. Luther’s Latin reads: “To those who are even but modestly affected by this type of singing, it seems that nothing more wonderful can be found in this age. But as for those who are not affected by it, they indeed are truly without taste and deserve to spend their time listening to some crap-poet or to the music of swine.” Walther translates: “Those who understand and are affected by [figural singing] just a little cannot but be overcome with amazement at it, and they must suppose that there is nothing more remarkable in the world than a song adorned with many parts like that. But whoever has neither inclination nor affection for it, and is not moved by such a lovely wonder [Wunderwerck], must truly be a thick blockhead who does not deserve to hear such lovely music, but the desolate, wild donkey-braying [Eselgeschrey] of the hymn-tune by itself, or the singing and music of dogs or sows.” Figulus, imitating and compacting Walther, reads: “Whoever reflects on [figural singing] just a little and does not consider it an inexpressible wonder [Wunderwerck] of the Lord does not deserve to be called a human, and should get to hear nothing but the donkey braying [wie der Esel schreiet] and the sow grunting.”
  9. At the end of the Latin version, Luther calls the devil “the adversary of nature and of this most delightful art.” Walther translates: “an enemy of God, nature, and this lovely art.” Figulus reads: “an enemy of God, nature, and all that God has made and calls good.” On the one hand, notice the greater similarity of Figulus’s version to Walther’s translation than to Luther’s Latin. On the other hand, notice Figulus’s omission of the reference to the devil as the enemy of the art of music—highly unlikely to be Luther’s original in a preface on music.

More specifics could have been cited, but this should suffice to show that Figulus’s version, though important for its own reasons (which I’ll touch on shortly), is a reworking and compacting of Walther’s translation, and not a presentation of an original German draft by Luther or even an original translation of Luther’s Latin. One can go through Walther’s translation section by section, comparing each one to its counterpart in Figulus’s version, and one will consistently see Figulus borrowing vocabulary and phraseology from Walther, even as he reworks and condenses Walther’s material. (He even borrows language from Walther’s own concluding remarks [Beschlus] and incorporates it into his version of Luther’s preface, as I’ll touch on briefly further below.)

Error Category 3: Ignorance of Previous Versions

Another group of errors relates not so much to the preface itself, but to its presentation; these are simply errors of ignorance.

When Johann Jacob Greiff’s aforementioned translation was published in Part 22 of the Leipzig Edition of Luther’s works in 1734, it was accompanied by this byline: “Now translated into German for the first time.”18 Either he or the editor was completely unaware of both Walther’s and Figulus’s versions.

When Forkel published the second volume (1801) of his aforementioned history of music, he wrote: “It is noteworthy that this outstanding epistle is not found in any edition of Luther’s complete works”19—when in fact Greiff’s translation had been published in both the Leipzig and first Walch Editions. (Of course, Forkel wouldn’t have been looking for a potentially different German version, since he was operating under the assumption that the hybrid version at his disposal was Luther’s original.)

Hugo Holstein unfortunately put his ignorance on display right in the title of his aforementioned 1883 article, “Eine unbekannte Schrift Luthers über die Musik [An Unknown Writing of Luther on Music].” He went on to say in the article itself that this writing of Luther had “escaped all the editors of Luther’s works and [was] therefore not recorded in any edition of his works.”20 (By that point, it had also been published in volume 7 [1873] of the Latin volumes of the Erlangen Edition, but Holstein, too, was convinced that Walther’s German translation was actually Luther’s original.)

Encomion Musices: The Hybrid Version

The reason that I am publishing these two posts today, on the 400th anniversary of the death of Michael Praetorius, is because Praetorius’s German reprinting of Luther’s preface became one of its most prominent versions. As I mentioned in the Brief Introduction above, though, what Praetorius reprinted was actually a third German version—a hybrid of Walther’s and Figulus’s versions.

In my translation of the hybrid version above, you can see for yourself the text that Praetorius added from Figulus’s version in four places (placed in brackets). Most notable of these additions is the extended exclamation of wonder over the birds, and the nightingale in particular. Though this exclamation was not in Luther’s original, it does, interestingly, reflect sentiments that Luther expressed in the poetic preface he wrote for Walther in 1538,21 and it also borrows from language Walther himself uses in the concluding remarks (Beschlus) of his 1564 work.22

It was this hybrid version that Forkel reprinted, as did August Jakob Rambach and Karl Grell not long after Forkel (1813 and 1817, respectively).23 All three men were of course unaware that the Encomion Musices was a hybrid.

Even though Walther’s translation and Praetorius’s hybrid are not pure Luther in content, in that Luther did not express in that particular work all the thoughts that those versions express, they are nevertheless thoroughly Lutheran. They also give us insights into the mind, life, and work of both Walther and Praetorius—prominent and important figures in their own right. As just one example, one can distinctly hear Walther’s rendering of “wild donkey-braying” and “the singing and music of dogs or sows” in Praetorius’s dedicatory epistle for Polyhymnia Caduceatrix & Panegyrica (1619).24

Generally speaking, the very fact that this preface by Luther has been handled and mishandled, represented and misrepresented, so much and so often through the centuries, bespeaks all by itself the continuous, unflagging influence and impact of Luther’s musical thought, birthed from the Holy Scriptures.

Endnotes

1 Praetorius did not include this heading in his reprinting.

2 The Luther translation reads An denselben (“Along them”), not Auf denselben (“Upon them”), as Walther has it. The former makes much better sense, since the “them” refers to the streams formed by springs of water.

3 Because of the extra clause he inserted, Praetorius tweaks this sentence somewhat: “That is then why we have so many kinds of excellent songs and psalms, which move…”

4 Tenor in Luther’s day referred to the main voice-part or cantus firmus. Its usage implied at least three parts—a middle-range melody (tenor or “holding” or “enduring” part) accompanied by at least one alto (“high”) part and one bass (“low”) part. Incidentally, Luther’s original Latin preface was printed in the tenor part-book of Georg Rhau’s Symphoniae Iucundae collection.

5 Walther’s translation of the Latin et natura et arte. Luther is referring to the fact that music occurs both naturally in creation (element) and as something crafted and refined by humans (art), as already outlined.

6 Walther’s free translation of the Latin phrase adulterini filii. A Wechselbalg was a supposed demon-child swapped with a human child soon after childbirth—a superstitious explanation for major deformities in a newborn. In a transferred sense, the word could then be used for an illegitimate child or, as Walther uses it here, someone considered unworthy of being called human (usually for moral reasons).

7 Johann Franz Buddeus, ed., Supplementum Epistolarum Martini Lutheri (Halle, 1703), 327–30.

8 Heinrich Schmidt, ed., D. Martini Lutheri Opera Latina, vol. 7 (Frankfurt am Main: Heyder and Zimmer, 1873), 551–54.

9 Des Theuren Mannes Gottes, D. Martin Luthers Sämtliche…Schrifften und Wercke, part 22 (Leipzig: Johann Heinrich Zedler, 1734), appendix, 141–43.

10 Johann Georg Walch, ed., D. Martin Luthers…Sämtliche Schriften, part 14 (Halle: Johann Justinus Gebauer, 1744), cols. 407–412.

11 Johann Georg Walch, ed., Dr. Martin Luthers Sämtliche Schriften, 2nd ed., vol. 14 (St. Louis: Concordia, 1898), cols. 428–31.

12 Brecht, Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 87–89.

13 Weimar Edition 50:348–51; Tischreden 4:89–90, no. 4032.

14 Forkel, Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik, vol. 2 (Leipzig: E. B. Schwickert, 1801), 76–79.

15 Holstein, “Eine unbekannte Schrift Luthers über die Musik” in Die Grenzboten. Zeitschrift für Politik, Literatur und Kunst 42, no. 3 (Leipzig, Friedrich Ludwig Herbig, 1883) 77–83.

16 Robin A. Leaver, Luther’s Liturgical Music: Principles and Implications (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017), 12; see also p. 313.

17 Brecht, op. cit., 230.

18 Des Theuren Mannes Gottes, D. Martin Luthers Sämtliche…Schrifften und Wercke, op. cit., appendix, 141.

19 Forkel, op. cit., 76.

20 Holstein, op. cit., 78.

21 Weimar Edition 35:483–84; Luther’s Works (American Edition), 53:319–20; cf. 21:197; 54:351.

22 Desgleichen sihet vnd höret man von den Vogeln / wie sie mit jrem einigen Helslin vnd Rörlin / jren Gesang / so wunderbarlich vnd meisterlich / erstlich ausschlahen / vnd bald darauff jren Gesang / so künstlich Figuriren / coleriren / verdrehen vnd ritzen / das ein Mensch / der bey sinnen vnd nicht gar ein stein ist / sich darob hoch verwundern mus.

Likewise, one can see and hear from the birds how, with just the one little throat and pipe they have, they first knock out their song in such wonderful and masterful fashion, and then immediately figure, color, recast, and pick it apart so artfully, that a person in his right mind and who is not solid stone cannot help but be astounded by it.

Compare this language to the bracketed exclamation on birds, originating with Figulus, in the German version.

23 Rambach, Über Dr. Martin Luther’s Verdienst um den Kirchengesang (Hamburg, 1813), appendix, 84–90; Grell, ed., D. M. Luthers geistliche Lieder (Berlin: Ferdinand Dümmler, 1817), 85–93.

24 Gesamtausgabe der Musikalischen Werke von Michael Praetorius 17:viii.

Martin Luther’s Praise of Music (Latin)

Brief Introduction

Title Page for Georg Rhau’s Collection, Symphoniae Iucundae (Wittenberg, 1538)

Martin Luther composed the following preface in Latin in 1538 for a collection of fifty-two motets published by Georg Rhau (1488–1548), formerly the cantor at St. Thomas in Leipzig. The collection was titled Symphoniae Iucundae Atque Adeo Breves Quatuor Vocum (Delightful and Very Brief Four-Part Concertos1), and it included pieces by Josquin des Prez, Ludwig Senfl, Heinrich Isaac, Pierre de la Rue, Georg Forster, Philippe Verdelot, and Johann Walther. I will trace the subsequent use and translation of this work, and the debates surrounding it, in greater detail in the Afterword below. You can find my English translation of Johann Walther’s (1496–1570) German translation in this separate post.

I produced the following original translation from the Weimar Edition. (The preface preceding the text there also lent much assistance to my Afterword.) I did not consult Ulrich Leupold’s translation in volume 53 of Luther’s Works until after I had finished, when I used it to check my translation for mistakes. A comparison of my translation to his will preclude any possible charge of plagiarism. I present these fresh translations today, on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the death of the Lutheran composer and musician, Michael Praetorius (1571–1621), to the glory of the triune God, with the prayer that they will renew and increase the reader’s appreciation for God’s gift of music.

Martin Luther to Devotees of Music

First Page of Luther’s Preface in Symphoniae Iucundae (1538)

Salvation in Christ to you all. I would certainly and sincerely like it if music, that divine and most excellent gift, were praised and made appealing to everyone, but I am so overwhelmed by the quantity and quality of its virtue and excellence, that I would not know where to start or finish, or a suitable manner of speech, and I would be forced to be a poor and helpless eulogizer with such an extreme abundance of merits to eulogize. For who could capture all of them? And if you tried to capture all of them, you would seem to have captured nothing.

First, if you should consider the thing itself, you will discover that music was imparted to all creatures, individually and collectively, from the beginning of world, or was created together with them. For nothing is without sound or sonorous rhythm, so that even the air itself—though by itself invisible and impalpable, and imperceptible to all the senses, and accounted as the least musical of all things, as completely mute and nothing, in fact—nevertheless becomes sonorous and audible when it is moved, and palpable too. The Holy Spirit means to draw attention to wonderful mysteries in this, but this is not the place to talk about them. But music is even more wonderful in the animals, especially the birds, just as that most musical king and divine lyre-player, David, prophesies [praedicit]2 with tremendous amazement and exultant spirit about the wonderful skill of the birds and the serenity of their singing when he says in Psalm 104[:12]:3 “Above them4 nest the birds of the sky; from amid the branches they give their voices.”

But compared to the human voice, everything else is all but unmusical—so great is the super-extravagant and incomprehensible generosity and wisdom of the supreme Creator in this one thing. The philosophers have tired themselves out trying to understand this wonderful artistry of the human voice—how air pushed by such a slight movement of the tongue and an even gentler movement of the throat can produce that infinite variety and articulation of sound and words, at the will of the mind that governs it, and so powerfully and forcefully between locations separated by such great distances, that it can not only be distinctly heard, but also understood by everyone in the surrounding area. But the philosophers can only tire themselves out asking; they never find the answers and must give up in astonishment, amazed that no one has yet been found who could define and decide what laughter is (to say nothing of weeping), even though that is just a hissing of the human voice, yes, its alphabet, as it were, or primary material (materia prima). They can marvel at it, but they cannot wrap their minds around it. But we should leave these observations on the infinite wisdom of God in this one creature5 to better men with less work to occupy them; we are barely scratching the surface.

This would have been a good place to talk about the benefits of something so great. But this aspect of music, too, far exceeds the most eloquent eloquence of all the most eloquent speakers with its infinite variety and usefulness. We are able to cite this one thing for now, because experience testifies to it: Music is the one thing that justly ought to be honored, after the word of God, as the lord and ruler [domina et gubernatrix]6 of the emotions of mankind (the beasts must be disregarded for now), in spite of the fact that humans themselves are ruled and, more often, seized by their emotions, as if they were their lords. No higher praise of music can be conceived than this (not by us, at any rate). For if you should wish to cheer up those who are sad, or to terrify those who are happy, to revive the despairing, to break down the proud, to calm down those in love, to pacify those filled with hate—and who can number all those lords of the human heart, namely the emotions and impulses or inclinations, the instigators of all virtues and vices?—what more effective thing could you find than music herself? The Holy Spirit himself honors her as an instrument of his own particular office by testifying in his Holy Scriptures that his gifts, that is, the affection for all virtues, flow into the prophets through her, as can be seen in Elisha [2 Kings 3:14–19]. And he testifies, on the other hand, that Satan, that is, the instigator of all vices, is driven away through her, as is shown in Saul, king of Israel [1 Sam. 16:14–23].

It was therefore for good reason that the church fathers and prophets wanted nothing to be more connected to the word of God than music. For there are so many songs and psalms from them, in which both intelligible words and sound [et sermo et vox] are at work in the soul of the hearer, while in the other animals and bodies only music is mimicked, without any intelligible words [sine sermone]. So then, speech [sermo] has been given to humans in preference to others, coupled with the voice [voci], that they may know that they have an obligation to praise God with word and music, namely with sonorous preaching and with words united with pleasant melody. Now if you should compare humans to each other, you will see how manifold and diverse the glorious Creator is in his distribution of musical gifts, how much human differs from human in sound and speech [voce et verbo], so that one is amazingly superior to another. For they say it is impossible to find two humans who are exactly alike in voice and articulation, even if some people frequently seem to imitate others, like when some people try to ape others.

Finally, where diligence and the craft of music [Musica artificialis] are added—the craft that improves, develops, and refines natural music—here we are at last permitted to sample with amazement (though not to comprehend) the absolute and perfect wisdom of God in his wonderful work of music. In this kind of music, the best is when one and the same voice proceeds with the song’s theme [tenore],7 while more voices play all around in a wonderful way, adorning the main part with lively and most delightful figures [gestibus],8 leading, as it were, a sort of divine round dance alongside it. To those who are even but modestly affected by this type of singing, it seems that nothing more wonderful can be found in this age. But as for those who are not affected by it, they indeed are truly without taste and deserve to spend their time listening to some crap-poet [aliquem Merdipoetam]9 or to the music of swine.

But the thing is too great for its beneficial traits to be described in this short space. You, most virtuous of young people, should let this noble, wholesome, and joyous creature be entrusted to yourselves, so that you have something with which you may sometimes remedy your emotions, in your fight against foul desires and improper relationships.10 Then, too, you should get into the habit of recognizing and praising the Creator in this creature. And you must also watch out for and avoid the depraved souls who misuse this most beautiful element and art [et natura et arte]11 to serve their own inordinate lusts, as the crude poets do. For you can be certain that the devil is carrying them away and inciting them against nature, since nature is meant to and ought to use this gift solely to praise God the creator. Those illegitimate sons, having turned the gift of God into plunder, use it to worship the enemy of God and the adversary of nature and of this most delightful art. Farewell in the Lord.

Afterword

The history of the transmission of this preface through the ages is consistently marked by both admiration and errors. Since the admiration is fairly consistent, while the errors vary, I will categorize and trace the errors.

Error Category 1: Faulty Citation

Melanchthon’s Reprint of Luther’s Preface in Liber selectarum declamationum (1541)

The errors of faulty citation trace back to two facts: First, Rhau’s Symphoniae Iucundae did not enjoy particularly widespread distribution, which is the case with most printed musical collections. Second, Luther’s friend and colleague Philipp Melanchthon reprinted Luther’s preface on pages 768–71 of his Liber selectarum declamationum (Strasbourg: Crato Mylius, 1541). But he also reprinted a preface of his own immediately before it (pp. 766–68), also written in praise of music, also written for a musical collection published by Georg Rhau (Selectae Harmoniae Quatuor Vocum de Passione Domini [Select Four-Part Harmonies about the Lord’s Passion]), and also written in 1538. For his own preface in his 1541 collection, Melanchthon correctly cited the original source. But above Luther’s preface, he simply wrote, “Alia Martini Lutheri [Another Preface, by Martin Luther].” Since Melanchthon’s book experienced a wider distribution and went through reprintings, many understandably, though incorrectly, assumed that both Melanchthon’s and Luther’s prefaces had been printed back-to-back in the same work. (And since the Selectae Harmoniae also did not enjoy a wide distribution, there weren’t copies of the work handy against which to check that assumption.)

Thus the 1703 Buddeus reprinting12 and the 1873 reprinting in the Latin volumes of the Erlangen Edition13 (both Latin), Johann Jacob Greiff’s German translation (which appeared in Part 22 of the Leipzig Edition [1734]14 and Part 14 of the first Walch Edition [1744]15), and the 1898 German translation in the second Walch Edition (based on the Latin text of the Erlangen Edition)16 all mistakenly connect Luther’s preface either to harmonies about the Lord’s Passion or, even more incorrectly, to a supposed harmony of the accounts of the Lord’s Passion.

Error Category 2: Textual Modification

Other errors originate with one or the other of the two earliest German translations.

The Lutheran cantor Johann Walther was the first to translate Luther’s preface into German. He included his translation in his 1564 publication, Lob und preis Der Himlischen Kunst Musica (Laud and Praise for the Heavenly Art of Music), which was an enlarged, swan-song-reprint of his 1538 work, Lob und preis der löblichen Kunst Musica (Laud and Praise for the Laudable Art of Music). (It is important to note that Luther wrote a different, poetic German preface for Walther’s 1538 work.) The dead giveaway that the German preface is Walther’s translation and not original with Luther is how the German text in Walther’s work compares to the section about listening to “some crap-poet” in the Latin version.

As Martin Brecht details in the third volume of his Luther biography,17 on Pentecost Sunday of 1538, Simon Lemnius, a talented but misguided University of Wittenberg student, offered some poems for sale outside of the Wittenberg parish church that he had secretly published through Nickel Schirlentz. In them, Lemnius made subtle insinuations about public figures in the town. He was subsequently placed under house arrest, but broke his fetter and escaped before he could be called up before the university rector (Melanchthon at the time). After his sermon on Sunday, June 16, Luther issued a pronouncement against Lemnius, in which he referred to him as a “dishonorable rogue” and a “shameful would-be poet.” After Lemnius’s escape, in September of that same year, he published an enlarged collection of poems which also took shots at Luther, among others. This led Luther to compose, apparently at least somewhat spontaneously, five elegiac Latin couplets at his table on Thursday, September 30, in which he referred to Lemnius as a Merdipoeta, “crap-poet”—no doubt a label he had already been using for him.18

This context not only explains Luther’s phrase, “some crap-poet,” in his preface, as well as his reference to “the crude poets” in the final paragraph, but it also shows that the German preface in Walther’s edition was his own translation and not a Luther original. The corresponding section of the preface in Walther’s 1564 work reads: “But whoever has neither inclination nor affection for [multi-part harmonic music], and is not moved by such a lovely wonder, must truly be a thick blockhead who does not deserve to hear such lovely music, but the desolate, wild donkey-braying of the hymn-tune by itself, or the singing and music of dogs or sows.” Notice the disappearance of any reference to poets, because Luther’s original words would have been confusing in 1564 to people who knew little, if anything, about Simon Lemnius. But Walther also betrays himself in what he substitutes for Luther’s “crap-poet” reference—“the desolate, wild donkey-braying of the hymn-tune by itself.” For in his concluding remarks (Beschlus) in the back of his 1564 work, Walther not only verifies that Luther composed the preface twenty-six years earlier (1564 minus twenty-six equals 1538) but also makes it clear why he is publishing Luther’s preface in German now:

I see and experience that this art of music is being disparaged and despised by many who pride themselves in being evangelical and Lutheran. They think that it’s papistic [i.e. too Roman Catholic] when four- or five-part songs are used in Christian assembly and during divine services, and as if it would strengthen the papacy if music were promoted in figural singing.

Luther was not addressing any such problem in his own time. Thus it is clear twice-over from this one section that the Luther preface in Walther was translated and edited by Walther.

In spite of this, Johann Nicolaus Forkel in the second volume (1801) of his Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik (General History of Music)19 and Hugo Holstein in his 1883 article, “Eine unbekannte Schrift Luthers über die Musik [An Unknown Writing of Luther on Music]”20 push the German preface in Walther as Luther’s original. Forkel says that, “judging from the language, [the German version] must originate with Luther himself” (though I’ll show later that the German version at Forkel’s disposal was actually a hybrid), and that he had “read somewhere” (?) that Luther had nailed this preface to the church doors in Wittenberg in order to give church music the strongest possible promotion—the assumption being that, if he did so, he would have nailed up a German version. Holstein insisted that the German preface in Walther was Luther’s original and that the Latin version originated with Melanchthon, who translated it. But the idea of Melanchthon creating the concept of “some crap-poet” without it being in Luther’s original is unimaginable, not to mention that Melanchthon’s take on the Lemnius affair was different than Luther’s.

First Page of Figulus’s Version of Luther’s Preface (1575)

The second German version of Luther’s preface appeared in a musical collection published by Wolfgang Figulus (c. 1525–after 1588) in 1575. After carefully comparing this German version to both the 1538 Latin preface and Walther’s 1564 German translation, I don’t think Figulus’s version even merits being called a translation. It seems to be merely a reworking and compacting (with one glaring exception) of Walther’s translation, apparently simply for the purpose of boosting the sales of his work. (Beneath the title on the title page of the first tenor part-book, we find this “clickbait”: “With a German preface by the Reverend Father Dr. Martin Luther that has not been previously printed.”) This version would probably merit no further attention, except that the esteemed musicologist Walter Blankenburg (1903–1986) apparently went to great lengths to demonstrate “that the preface that Figulus published in 1575, rather than being an alternative German translation, was indeed Luther’s original draft that he then translated into Latin in 1538.”21 I am admittedly unfamiliar with Blankenburg’s work, but apart from the shorter length in Figulus and the first three words of his version of the preface more closely matching the Latin (Ich wolt warlich || Vellem certe), the evidence against such a conclusion is quite strong. Consider the following:

  1. If anyone were to come into the possession of a supposed original draft in German, it would be Walther, not Figulus. Recall that Walther actually published a work in 1538, the same year Luther published a poetic preface for that work and wrote his Latin preface for Rhau’s collection. Walther was Luther’s friend and collaborator.
  2. The idea of Luther possessing a draft for any preface he wrote at this time is problematic. In 1538 he dealt with the Lemnius affair and suffered from severe attacks of dysentery and gout, on top of his regular domestic duties and busy schedule of preaching, teaching, and letter writing. “Because of the great quantity of his business [at this time], his friends frequently had to be content with brief letters.”22 In reading the Latin preface, one gets the impression that Luther threw it out of his sleeve, as it were. His great genius is certainly still on display, but it does not possess the kind of organization and progression of thought that one finds in his more carefully crafted works, or that one would expect if he wrote it on the basis of a draft.
  3. The preface in Figulus begins and ends the same way Walther’s translation does—word for word. (Beginning [Walther/Figulus]: Allen Liebhabern/liebhabern der freien Kunst Musica wündsch/wünsch Ich/ich Doctor Martinus Luther Gnad/Genad und Fried von Gott dem Vater und unserm HERrn/HERRN Jhesu Christ/[omit Jhesu] Christo etc. Ich wolt… Ending: Hiemit will/wil ich euch alle/allen Gott dem HERRN/HErrn befohlen/bevolen haben.) What are the odds of the beginning and ending of Walther’s translation—and I have already demonstrated that his version was indeed a translation—just so happening to match Luther’s supposed original German draft? Especially when Luther’s Latin simply begins, “Martin Luther to Devotees of Music. Salvation in Christ [to you all].”?
  4. If what Figulus published was Luther’s original draft, Luther did a poor job following his draft when he converted it into Latin. In one place in particular the preface in Figulus has much more content than Luther’s Latin; in a number of other places it has less.
  5. In the one place where Figulus has much more content, the word Coleratur (coloratura) occurs. Any Luther scholars reading this are invited to correct me if I’m wrong, but I did extensive searching and I am led to conclude that if Luther did use this word in his draft, it was the only time he ever used it.
  6. One sentence in Figulus’s version doesn’t even make sense: “Indeed, no one has yet made it to the point that he could figure out the A-B-C of music, namely that, of all the visible creatures, humans alone can express the joy in their hearts by laughing, and conversely can cry when they are grieved.” How are laughter and crying the A-B-C of music? Luther’s Latin preface is much clearer when it identifies laughter as the alphabet and primary material of the human voice, not of music.
  7. The progression from the art or craft of music in general to figural music in particular, clearly present in Luther’s Latin version, is completely missing in Figulus.
  8. Both references to poets are completely missing in Figulus. Perhaps this is the best point under which to see Figulus’s method at work. Luther’s Latin reads: “To those who are even but modestly affected by this type of singing, it seems that nothing more wonderful can be found in this age. But as for those who are not affected by it, they indeed are truly without taste and deserve to spend their time listening to some crap-poet or to the music of swine.” Walther translates: “Those who understand and are affected by [figural singing] just a little cannot but be overcome with amazement at it, and they must suppose that there is nothing more remarkable in the world than a song adorned with many parts like that. But whoever has neither inclination nor affection for it, and is not moved by such a lovely wonder [Wunderwerck], must truly be a thick blockhead who does not deserve to hear such lovely music, but the desolate, wild donkey-braying [Eselgeschrey] of the hymn-tune by itself, or the singing and music of dogs or sows.” Figulus, imitating and compacting Walther, reads: “Whoever reflects on [figural singing] just a little and does not consider it an inexpressible wonder [Wunderwerck] of the Lord does not deserve to be called a human, and should get to hear nothing but the donkey braying [wie der Esel schreiet] and the sow grunting.”
  9. At the end of the Latin version, Luther calls the devil “the adversary of nature and of this most delightful art.” Walther translates: “an enemy of God, nature, and this lovely art.” Figulus reads: “an enemy of God, nature, and all that God has made and calls good.” On the one hand, notice the greater similarity of Figulus’s version to Walther’s translation than to Luther’s Latin. On the other hand, notice Figulus’s omission of the reference to the devil as the enemy of the art of music—highly unlikely to be Luther’s original in a preface on music.

More specifics could have been cited, but this should suffice to show that Figulus’s version, though important for its own reasons (which I’ll touch on shortly), is a reworking and compacting of Walther’s translation, and not a presentation of an original German draft by Luther or even an original translation of Luther’s Latin. One can go through Walther’s translation section by section, comparing each one to its counterpart in Figulus’s version, and one will consistently see Figulus borrowing vocabulary and phraseology from Walther, even as he reworks and condenses Walther’s material. (He even borrows language from Walther’s own concluding remarks [Beschlus] and incorporates it into his version of Luther’s preface, as I’ll touch on briefly further below.)

Error Category 3: Ignorance of Previous Versions

Another group of errors relates not so much to the preface itself, but to its presentation; these are simply errors of ignorance.

When Johann Jacob Greiff’s aforementioned translation was published in Part 22 of the Leipzig Edition of Luther’s works in 1734, it was accompanied by this byline: “Now translated into German for the first time.”23 Either he or the editor was completely unaware of both Walther’s and Figulus’s versions.

When Forkel published the second volume (1801) of his aforementioned history of music, he wrote: “It is noteworthy that this outstanding epistle is not found in any edition of Luther’s complete works”24—when in fact Greiff’s translation had been published in both the Leipzig and first Walch Editions. (Of course, Forkel wouldn’t have been looking for a potentially different German version, since he was operating under the assumption that the hybrid version at his disposal was Luther’s original.)

Hugo Holstein unfortunately put his ignorance on display right in the title of his aforementioned 1883 article, “Eine unbekannte Schrift Luthers über die Musik [An Unknown Writing of Luther on Music].” He went on to say in the article itself that this writing of Luther had “escaped all the editors of Luther’s works and [was] therefore not recorded in any edition of his works.”25 (By that point, it had also been published in volume 7 [1873] of the Latin volumes of the Erlangen Edition, but Holstein, too, was convinced that Walther’s German translation was actually Luther’s original.)

Encomion Musices: The Hybrid Version

The reason that I am publishing these two posts today, on the 400th anniversary of the death of Michael Praetorius, is because Praetorius’s German reprinting of Luther’s preface became one of its most prominent versions. What Praetorius reprinted, though, was actually a third German version—a hybrid of Walther’s and Figulus’s versions.

First Page of Praetorius’s 1607 Reprint of Luther’s Preface, Entitled Encomion Musices

In 1607, Praetorius had Installments 1–4 of his Musae Sioniae (Muses of Zion) series published together in Wolfenbüttel. He had his woodcut portrait printed on the back of the special title page, and immediately opposite his portrait was Luther’s Encomion Musices (Praise of Music)—the title Praetorius gave to Luther’s preface—printed on four pages. Praetorius used Walther’s translation as his base text, but he also added text from Figulus’s version in four places—additions which he felt contributed something that was missing in Walther’s version. Most notable of these additions is the extended exclamation of wonder over the birds, and the nightingale in particular. Though this exclamation was not in Luther’s original, it does, interestingly, reflect sentiments that Luther expressed in the poetic preface he wrote for Walther in 1538,26 and it also borrows from language Walther himself uses in the concluding remarks (Beschlus) of his 1564 work.27 I document all four of Praetorius’s additions from Figulus, and the parts Praetorius put in bold typeface, in the companion post.

It was this hybrid version that Forkel reprinted, as did August Jakob Rambach and Karl Grell not long after Forkel (1813 and 1817, respectively).28 All three men were of course unaware that the Encomion Musices was a hybrid.

Even though Walther’s translation and Praetorius’s hybrid are not pure Luther in content, in that Luther did not express in that particular work all the thoughts that those versions express, they are nevertheless thoroughly Lutheran. They also give us insights into the mind, life, and work of both Walther and Praetorius—prominent and important figures in their own right. As just one example, one can distinctly hear Walther’s rendering of “wild donkey-braying” and “the singing and music of dogs or sows” in Praetorius’s dedicatory epistle for Polyhymnia Caduceatrix & Panegyrica (1619).29

Generally speaking, the very fact that this preface by Luther has been handled and mishandled, represented and misrepresented, so much and so often through the centuries, bespeaks all by itself the continuous, unflagging influence and impact of Luther’s musical thought, birthed from the Holy Scriptures.

Endnotes

1 Symphony did not have the more technical definition it does today. It was used as a synonym for harmony, and it also denoted any composition in which multiple vocal parts were harmonized, which was also the original definition of concerto (thus my translation). It was also the name given to various instruments, especially to stringed instruments equipped with a keyboard.

2 Here Luther uses praedico not in its technical sense of foretelling the future, but in its more general sense of the speaking done by the prophets.

3 Luther cites Psalm 103, the numbering in the Vulgate.

4 In the context, “them” refers to the streams formed by springs of water.

5 Namely the voice

6 Luther uses the feminine forms of “lord” and “governor,” which could yield a translation such as, “mistress and governess,” but he appears to do so simply because in Latin and German music is a feminine word and concept. Since he is here comparing the regulating influence of music to that of God’s word, it seemed best to use words that would apply equally well to both.

7 Tenor in Luther’s day referred to the main voice-part or cantus firmus. Its usage implied at least three parts—a middle-range melody (tenor or “holding” or “enduring” part) accompanied by at least one alto (“high”) part and one bass (“low”) part. Incidentally, Luther’s preface was printed in the tenor part-book of Rhau’s Symphoniae Iucundae collection.

8 Gestus corresponds to the Greek σχήματα. The idea of gestures or figures in music appears to be carried over from the use of those concepts in oratory, where a figure refers to “that which is poetically or rhetorically altered from the simple and straightforward method of expression” (Quintilian, Institutes of Oratory 9.1.13). The figures in music, then, are the harmonic notes and rhythms added to the melody or cantus firmus (“the simple and straightforward method of expression”), in order to beautify and embellish it and to enhance its manner of expression. Thus the German phrase Choral and Figural contrasts the singing of a melody in unison (Choral) with the singing of that same melody along with harmonic parts (Figural).

9 Luther is alluding to Simon Lemnius, though with the aliquem he avoids referring to him directly. (Ulrich Leupold renders this phrase, “a certain filth poet,” in Luther’s Works [American Edition, 53:324], but that more direct reference would have been quemdam Merdipoetam.) I talk more about this reference in the Afterword. See Weimar Edition, Tischreden 4:89–90, no. 4032, for the five elegiac couplets Luther composed “against the crap-poet Lemchen” on September 30, 1538. (The nickname Lemchen is both a crass diminutive of Lemnius and pronounced exactly the same as Lämmchen, “little lamb,” yielding the same effect as if he had called Lemnius, “dumb little Lemmy-lamb.”)

10 Alternate translation: “…foul desires and associations with corrupt characters.” Johann Walther rendered pravas societates as “bad company and other vice.”

11 Luther is referring to the fact that music occurs both naturally in creation (element) and as something crafted and refined by humans (art), as he has already outlined.

12 Johann Franz Buddeus, ed., Supplementum Epistolarum Martini Lutheri (Halle, 1703), 327–30.

13 Heinrich Schmidt, ed., D. Martini Lutheri Opera Latina, vol. 7 (Frankfurt am Main: Heyder and Zimmer, 1873), 551–54.

14 Des Theuren Mannes Gottes, D. Martin Luthers Sämtliche…Schrifften und Wercke, part 22 (Leipzig: Johann Heinrich Zedler, 1734), appendix, 141–43.

15 Johann Georg Walch, ed., D. Martin Luthers…Sämtliche Schriften, part 14 (Halle: Johann Justinus Gebauer, 1744), cols. 407–412.

16 Johann Georg Walch, ed., Dr. Martin Luthers Sämtliche Schriften, 2nd ed., vol. 14 (St. Louis: Concordia, 1898), cols. 428–31.

17 Brecht, Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), 87–89.

18 Weimar Edition 50:348–51; Tischreden 4:89–90, no. 4032.

19 Forkel, Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik, vol. 2 (Leipzig: E. B. Schwickert, 1801), 76–79.

20 Holstein, “Eine unbekannte Schrift Luthers über die Musik” in Die Grenzboten. Zeitschrift für Politik, Literatur und Kunst 42, no. 3 (Leipzig, Friedrich Ludwig Herbig, 1883) 77–83.

21 Robin A. Leaver, Luther’s Liturgical Music: Principles and Implications (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2017), 12; see also p. 313.

22 Brecht, op. cit., 230.

23 Des Theuren Mannes Gottes, D. Martin Luthers Sämtliche…Schrifften und Wercke, op. cit., appendix, 141.

24 Forkel, op. cit., 76.

25 Holstein, op. cit., 78.

26 Weimar Edition 35:483–84; Luther’s Works (American Edition), 53:319–20; cf. 21:197; 54:351.

27 Desgleichen sihet vnd höret man von den Vogeln / wie sie mit jrem einigen Helslin vnd Rörlin / jren Gesang / so wunderbarlich vnd meisterlich / erstlich ausschlahen / vnd bald darauff jren Gesang / so künstlich Figuriren / coleriren / verdrehen vnd ritzen / das ein Mensch / der bey sinnen vnd nicht gar ein stein ist / sich darob hoch verwundern mus.

Likewise, one can see and hear from the birds how, with just the one little throat and pipe they have, they first knock out their song in such wonderful and masterful fashion, and then immediately figure, color, recast, and pick it apart so artfully, that a person in his right mind and who is not solid stone cannot help but be astounded by it.

Compare this language to the bracketed exclamation on birds, originating with Figulus, in the German version.

28 Rambach, Über Dr. Martin Luther’s Verdienst um den Kirchengesang (Hamburg, 1813), appendix, 84–90; Grell, ed., D. M. Luthers geistliche Lieder (Berlin: Ferdinand Dümmler, 1817), 85–93.

29 Gesamtausgabe der Musikalischen Werke von Michael Praetorius 17:viii.

Later Editions of Luther’s Works

This post picks up where Early Editions of Luther’s Works left off. I must once again acknowledge the blog “Beggars All,” not only for the same reason I acknowledged it in the earlier post, but also because the author of that blog had already started a list of the volumes of the Altenburg Edition here.

Altenburg Edition

The Altenburg Edition was edited by Johann Christfried Sagittarius. It was intended to be an edition of “all the German books and writings” of Luther. With the exception of Part 9, all the title pages included these words: “Compiled from the Wittenberg, Jena, and Eisleben tomes.” (See Early Editions for more on those volumes.) The famous composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) possessed a copy of the Altenburg Edition.

Title Page of Part 1 of the Altenburg Edition

The above volumes comprise the Altenburg Edition proper. There was also a supplementary volume—edited by Johann Gottfried Zeidler and published in Halle in 1702 with a foreword by Johann Franz Buddeus (see below)—that is sometimes considered part of this edition. It contained “books, writings, and sermons” that were not published in the Wittenberg, Jena, or Altenburg Editions. (Here is a library catalog entry; I could not locate any online edition.)

Buddeus Volumes

The following were edited by Johann Franz Buddeus (1667–1729). He was a professor of philosophy in Halle (1693–1705) and professor of theology in Jena (1705–1729). Johann Georg Walch (see below) was his son-in-law.

Leipzig Edition

This edition was edited by Christian Friedrich Börner (1663–1753), a doctor and professor of theology in Leipzig. It was meant to be a comprehensive German edition of Luther’s works, “compiled from all previously issued collections.” The Latin works in those collections were carefully translated into German.

Walch Edition 1 (Halle)

Pieter Tanjé, Johann Georg Walch, engraving.

This edition was edited by Johann Georg Walch (1693–1775), a professor and doctor of theology in Jena, and published in Halle an der Saale. Like the Leipzig Edition, this too was an all-German edition, but Walch also took the liberty of updating Luther’s by-then antiquated German. Walch’s edition also gained some prominence in the United States when Concordia Publishing House, the publishing arm of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, issued a revised reprint of it from 1880–1910. (See “Walch Edition 2 (St. Louis)” under the “Editions of Luther” collection of links in the sidebar.) Note that some of the volumes were published out of order; the years are not typos.

Early Editions of Luther’s Works

It has bothered me for a while that there isn’t a convenient place (that I know of, anyway) where one can look up the individual volumes of past editions of Luther’s works. Furthermore, citations in scholarly works often simply refer to the shorthand abbreviation of the edition of Luther’s works (e.g. Wittenberg Edition, Jena Edition), without referencing the actual titles so that a person can look up their references. This post is meant to get a good start at remedying this. (UPDATE [2/9/21]: Click here to see the second post in this series, with links to the volumes of the Altenburg Edition, Buddeus volumes, Leipzig Edition, and first Walch Edition.)

This index, any others that may follow it, and the new category “Editions of Luther’s Works” in my collection of links in the sidebar were inspired by this post in the blog “Beggars All.”

Wittenberg Edition (German)

Parts 1–4 were edited by Georg Rörer and Kaspar Cruciger. Parts 5–12 were edited by Georg Major and Christoph Walther.

Title Woodcut for Part 1 of the Wittenberg Edition (German Volumes)

Wittenberg Edition (Latin)

House Postil

For more on the editions of Luther’s House Postil, see here.

Jena Edition (German)

The chief editor of the Jena Edition was Nikolaus von Amsdorf, who was assisted by Georg Rörer, Joannes Aurifaber, and Matthäus Ratzenberger. Aurifaber was responsible for the Letters tomes, and all the volumes published in Eisleben. Both the German and the Latin volumes, unlike the Wittenberg Edition, follow a strictly chronological arrangement.

Title Page of Part 1 of the Jena Edition (German Volumes)

Jena Edition (Latin)

Praetorius on the Effect and Value of Choral Church Music

What follows is an excerpt taken from an article submitted to the Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly for publication in 2021. To access the full article, check back on Red Brick Parsonage’s “Published” page periodically (I will post more details there once it is published, God willing), or you can use the link above to subscribe to the Quarterly.

Translator’s Introduction

[Michael] Praetorius planned four installments for his Syntagma Musicum (Musical Compendium) series: 1) a complete overview of the history and significance of both sacred and secular music from their beginnings, 2) a description of all ancient and modern instruments, with a special focus on the pipe organ (this eventually included an appended, forty-five-page section of woodcut illustrations done to scale), 3) a treatment of music theory, terminology, and performance, and information about new musical developments taking place in Italy,1 and 4) a comprehensive composition manual. Only the first three volumes are extant, though Praetorius evidently also completed the fourth.

Title page of volume I (Wittenberg, 1615) of the Syntagma Musicum by Michael Praetorius

The first volume of this series was published in Wittenberg in 1615 under the title Syntagmatis Musici Tomus Primus (The First Volume of the Musical Compendium). Of the three extant volumes of the Syntagma, this one has received the least attention, probably because it was the only volume Praetorius authored in Latin and because it is the most religious of the three (and therefore of less interest to secular music historians). …

In light of this anniversary year, and in light of ongoing discussions and debates about church music in Lutheran circles, I decided to provide for this submission a fresh translation of Chapters 3, 5, and 6 of Part 1, Section 1 of the first volume of Praetorius’s Syntagma (pp. 8–10, 16–19), which deal with the purpose, effect, and value of choral church music. [Only Chapter 3 is included in this online excerpt.] In these chapters, Praetorius regularly uses the term psalmody (which literally means “psalm-singing”) to refer to sung church music in general, though he also uses it to refer to the actual singing of biblical psalms.2 The context usually makes clear which he has in mind. All of the content in brackets and parentheses is Praetorius’s own, except in the case of Scripture citations and where I include Praetorius’s original Latin.

How much Praetorius himself was influenced by the content of these chapters is evident from his inclusion of its content in his other writings, most notably his dedicatory epistles for Urania (1613) and Polyhymnia Caduceatrix & Panegyrica (1619). Between these three sources, we find basically a threefold purpose for choral church music:

  1. To aid believers in proclaiming God’s grace and truth and in praising and honoring him “all the more joyfully and gladly”;
  2. To more easily and deeply inculcate “the doctrine about the true God and all divine exhortations, comfort, praise, and thanksgiving” in human hearts, which are naturally inclined away from God and toward sensual pleasure;3 and
  3. To ready believers for their participation in the glorious music of heaven.4

Since Praetorius prominently quotes two longer sections from Basil the Great’s (330–379) brilliant introductory remarks on the Psalms in affirming especially the second of these purposes, I include a fresh translation, from the Greek, of those sections taken together in an appendix at the end [not included in this online excerpt]. Praetorius also quotes a number of other church fathers; my abbreviated citations “PL” and “PG” refer to Jaques Paul Migne’s Latin (1844–1855) and Greek (1857–1886) series, respectively, of his Patrologiae Cursus Completus. …

Syntagma Musicum

Volume 1, Part 1, Section 1

Chapter 3
The Effects of Psalmody in General, When Combined with a Procedure and Discipline of Singing Devoutly and Modestly

This marks the μετάβασις or transition into the efficacy and benefits of psalmody, and the second and most important part of the Διανοίας [Discourse].5

Justin details just how supremely wonderful the effects of psalm-singing are: Ἡδύνει γὰρ [ἡ ψαλμῳδία] τὴν ψυχὴν πρὸς ζέοντα πόθον etc.6 That is:

  1. The singing of psalms arouses the soul to a burning desire for that which is desirable in song-tunes.
  2. It stifles the emotions that arise from the flesh.
  3. It disperses the wicked thoughts that are inspired in us by our invisible enemies.
  4. It incites the soul to bear the fruits of God’s blessings [bonorum].
  5. It makes the noble combatants [1 Tim. 1:18; 6:12] perfect in piety so that they can persevere in adverse circumstances.
  6. It is a remedy for the pious for all their griefs in life.
  7. Paul calls it “the sword of the Spirit” [Eph. 6:17], since it equips the soldiers of piety with weapons against their invisible enemies. Ῥῆμα γὰρ ἐστι Θεοῦ, τὸ καὶ ἐνθυμούμενον, καὶ ᾀδόμενον, καὶ ἀνακρουόμενον. (For it is the Word of God whether it is pondered in the mind, or sung, or conveyed by striking an instrument.)
  8. It is an ἀπελατικὸν for demons, that is, it drives them away.
  9. Those things that the pious acquire from ecclesiastical songs make the soul perfect in the virtues of piety.

So says Justin.7

Pope John XXII also suggests that there is a twofold effect of hymns in the church: While psalm singers are reciting the divine words, they are receiving God in their heart, and devotion is kindled toward God by songs of this kind. He says this in Extravagantes communes, Book 3, De vita et honestate clericorum:

An altogether sweet sound resounds in the mouth of psalm singers, since they are receiving God with their heart as they recite with their words, and they are kindling devotion toward him with their songs. And that is exactly why the singing of psalms is commanded in the churches of God, that the devotion of the faithful may be aroused. For this purpose the nightly and daily office and the celebrations of masses are continually sung by clergy and people with a mature pitch [tenore] and distinct inflection [gradatione], in order that they may take pleasure in that same distinction and delight in the same maturity.8

Here the pontiff likewise teaches that hymns were introduced and accepted in the church especially for this purpose, that devotion toward God might be kindled and stirred up.

But in order for psalm singing to awaken its virtue in souls by the effectual grace of the Holy Spirit, it is also truly necessary to observe a manner of psalm-singing that is pleasing to God. And in this regard, the following sentence was prescribed for hymns and cantors in the Fourth Synod of Carthage: “See that what you sing with your mouth, you believe in your heart, and what you believe in your heart, you prove with your deeds.”9

The apostle also requires of them that they sing and make music to the Lord in their hearts in Ephesians 5[:19]. When Jerome explains this passage in Book 3 of his commentary on Ephesians 5, he addresses singers thus: “Let those who have the duty of singing psalms in church listen carefully: Songs should not be sung to God with the voice, but with the heart. … Songs should be heard in fear, in deeds, in knowledge of the Scriptures.”10 The same precept of Jerome is included in canon law, Part 1, Distinction 92, Chapter 1.11 The gloss there adds two lines of verse:

Non vox, sed votum: non chordula musica, sed cor:
Non clamans, sed amans: cantat in aure Dei.

Not the voice, but prayer; not a musical string, but the heart;
Not one who cries out, but one who loves—sings in the ear of God.12

And Chrysostom says in a sermon on the Davidic songs:

So let us sing Davidic songs to the soul [troubled by the devil or by terrible suggestions of the flesh], in addition to other passages from Sacred Scripture, and in such a way that the mouth, by singing, may educate the mind. Nor indeed should this be regarded as petty and trifling since, whenever we instruct the tongue to sing, the soul—even the one [otherwise] feeling the opposite way—is ashamed not to imitate what is being sung, at least while singing it.13

And in the church, diligent care was taken that nothing would be done casually and without restraint [leviter & lascivè], but that everything would be done in a dignified and decent manner, accompanied by singing, and we read that the utmost reverence and decorum were observed by the singers and attendants. For “the learned authority of the holy fathers has decreed,” as the supreme pontiff, John XXII, says at the beginning of his decretal De vita et honestate clericorum in Book 3 of Extravagantes communes, “that in the services of divine praise, whatever belongs to the submissiveness of servitude should be exhibited, everybody’s mind should be alert, the sermon should not falter, and the unassuming dignity of the psalm singers should echo in their gentle modulation, since a sweet sound was resonating in their mouth.”14 In this decretal letter, the pontiff strongly reprehends those singers who were taking undue liberties [nimis lasciviebant] in their melodies, contrary to clerical respectability, and, in order that they might abstain from such levity in the future, he forbids them under threat of punishment. Nor indeed “should the throat and pharynx be coated with sweet medicament like the tragic actors do, so that theatrical modes and songs can be heard in church,” as Jerome says in the decretal in Part 1, Distinction 92, Chapter 1 of canon law.15

Likewise, the value the fathers placed on Paul’s rule about veiling the head, handed down in 1 Corinthians 11, is evident from the book On the Veiling of Virgins, which Tertullian, a very ancient ecclesiastical writer, wrote in its entirety. In this book he demonstrates, among many other arguments, that it is dishonorable for virgins16 to be uncovered during the psalms or at any mention of God:

How severe a chastisement do those women deserve who insist on remaining uncovered during the psalms or at any mention of God? Are they in the right when, even during prayer itself, they so readily place a fringe or tuft or any sort of thread on the crown of their head and then think themselves covered? So highly do they value their head!17

Now then, up to this point in the discourse, we have been able examine choral music’s origins in ecclesiastical psalmody and the practice of singing in multiple choirs that was introduced in the churches of the Old and New Testaments. We then examined its actual singing, the distinct variety of its modulation, its manifold effect, the manner of singing it devoutly, and the discipline and reverence of which it was deemed worthy. Now we must press the discourse more deeply into the broad field of its very frequent usefulness—a field of study that will amply demonstrate that choral music is filled with the activity of the Holy Spirit, pleasing to God, necessary for the Church, and beneficial to pious souls.

Endnotes

1 As you can imagine, volumes II and III are of incalculable worth to the study and practice of period-correct performance.

2 In Chapters 1 and 2, Praetorius discusses the “choral psalmody instituted by David and Solomon, which was later adopted by the choirs of the Greek and Latin churches,” and “the modulation [or melodies] of the ancients in psalm-singing, its purpose, the various kinds of ecclesiastical singing, and the ritual suggested in the psalms of ascents.”

3 Siegfried Vogelsänger, Heaven Is My Fatherland (Eugene, OR: Resource Publications, 2020), 61–62. Praetorius therefore also stresses in two of his dedicatory epistles the necessary balance in worship between concio and cantio—sermon (spoken proclamation of the Word) and song (musical proclamation of the Word). Elsewhere Praetorius wrote in a prayer of elegiac stanzas, in reference to his father and maternal grandfather: “One and the same is the aim (not to mention the zeal and the fervor): | What they endeavored with words, I seek with strings and with song” (Heaven Is My Fatherland, 55).

4 He makes this purpose clear in his dedicatory epistle for Polyhymnia Caduceatrix & Panegyrica; see Gesamtausgabe der Musikalischen Werke von Michael Praetorius, 17:viii–ix.

5 Praetorius divided the first volume of his Syntagma Musicum into two parts—the first on sacred music and the second on secular music. He further divided the first part into four sections: 1) Διάνοια or discourse on the choral music or sacred psalmody of the ancients, 2) Ὑπομνήματα or commentaries on the main liturgy, 3) Ἐξήγημα (elsewhere called Ἐξήγησις) or explanation of the liturgical songs of matins and vespers, and 4) Θεωρία ὀργανικῆς Sioniae or contemplation of the instrumental music used in both the Old and New Testament church. Even though he could have used the same label (discourse, commentaries, explanation, or contemplation) for all four sections, he chose different ones so that he could use each label as a shorthand reference for each section.

6 The author of this quote (not actually Justin Martyr; see next endnote) is answering this question: “Songs were devised by the unbelievers for deceit, and were introduced by those under law on account of the immaturity of their minds. Why then have those who have received the perfect knowledge of grace, and knowledge alien to the just-mentioned customs, continued to make use of those songs in their churches, the way the immature did who were under the law?”

7 PG 6:1353–56. This quote is taken from Quaestiones et Responsiones ad Orthodoxos (Questions and Answers for the Orthodox), Question 107, which Praetorius, like many before him, falsely attributed to the second century Christian apologist Justin Martyr. Scholars now generally date this work to the late fifth century.

8 The idea seems to be: The type of music used and the decorum and style employed in church singing will hopefully carry over into everyday life and have a moderating influence on one’s conduct. Since God wants us to exercise discipline and self-control (1 Thess. 5:6–8), to lead hard-working and unassuming lives (1 Thess. 4:11), to distinguish ourselves from the world around us (2 Cor. 6:14–18), and to have our minds set on things above, not on earthly things (Col. 3:1,2), the church’s music will reflect and encourage these characteristics. Regarding Praetorius’s source for this quote, the Corpus Juris Canonici (Collection of Canon Law) published in Rome in 1582 contained three volumes. Volume 1 contained Gratian’s collection of church laws and decretals. Volume 2 contained five books of additional decretals. Volume 3 contained a sixth book of additional decretals, the Clementine Constitutions, and the so-called decretales extravagantes or supplementary decretals, divided into the Extravagantes Johannis XXII and the Extravagantes communes. You can view the same page Praetorius likely consulted here: http://digital.library.ucla.edu/canonlaw/librarian?ITEMPAGE=CJC3&PAGENUM=732. Praetorius must have had a particular affinity for this quote, since he cites more of it later, and he included the entire section from which it was taken in an appendix on pages 456–57.

9 Karl Joseph von Hefele, A History of the Councils of the Church from the Original Documents, vol. 2, trans. Henry Nutcombe Oxenham (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1896), 412, no. 10. For more on the so-called Fourth Synod of Carthage, see pp. 409–410: “These 104 canons are certainly very old, but…the heading which ascribes them to the Carthaginian Synod of 398 is spurious.”

10 PL 26:528. Jerome’s entire quote may be of interest: “Let young people listen carefully to these words. Let those who have the duty of singing psalms in church listen carefully: Songs should not be sung to God with the voice, but with the heart. Nor should they have their throat and pharynx coated with sweet medicament as the tragic actors do, so that theatrical modes and songs can be heard in church. No, songs should be sung in fear, in deed, in knowledge of the Scriptures. Show me anyone you like that people are accustomed to call κακόφωνος [ill-sounding]; if he has good works, he is a sweet singer to God.” Praetorius refers to more of this quote later.

11 Praetorius cites the chapter using the first Latin word, Cantantes, &c.

12 Regarding the source, see endnote 8. You can view the same page Praetorius likely consulted here: http://digital.library.ucla.edu/canonlaw/librarian?ITEMPAGE=CJC1&PAGENUM=357. I included the original Latin so that the reader could see the play on words.

13 J.-P. Migne refers to this introduction in PG 55:31–32, but does not include it even among Chrysostom’s spurious works because of a lack of a Greek original. However, parts of this sermon are very similar to thoughts appearing in another introduction to the Psalms falsely ascribed to Chrysostom that does have a Greek original (PG 55:536–37).

14 Same source as cited in endnote 8. In other words, since what the singers were singing was inherently sweet by virtue of its content, the singers should not spoil its sweetness, or attempt to overshadow it, with their own fanciness or showiness. Praetorius would not have objected to the use of some artful and tasteful singing techniques (see e.g. Heaven Is My Fatherland, 107), but he was definitely in favor of comporting oneself with unassuming dignity while singing in church, and of putting oneself completely in the service of the music and especially the textual content.

15 See endnotes 10–12.

16 Actually, in the final chapter of On the Veiling of Virgins, from which the following quote is taken, Tertullian is making an appeal to women in general, including married women.

17 PL 2:913; cf. Roberts and Donaldson, eds., Ante-Nicene Fathers, 4:37.2.

Advent Stanza by Paul Gerhardt

Translator’s Preface

I’ve always loved the original fourth stanza of Paul Gerhardt’s (1607–1676) beloved Advent hymn “Wie soll ich dich empfangen [O Lord, How Shall I Meet You],” which unfortunately seems to get omitted from most modern translations. The German text reads as follows:

Ich lag in schweren Banden;
Du kommst und machst mich los.
Ich stund in Spott und Schanden;
Du kommst und machst mich groß
Und hebst mich hoch zu Ehren
Und schenkst mir großes Gut,
Das sich nicht läßt verzehren,
Wie irdisch Reichtum tut.

The version in The Lutheran Hymnal (St. Louis: Concordia, 1941) does include this stanza, but its antiquated and non-euphonic language doesn’t lend itself well to updating. So I tried my own hand at translating it.

To the glory of the triune God:

Original Fourth Stanza of “O Lord, How Shall I Meet You”

I sat in chains, dejected;
You come and set me free!
To scorn and shame subjected;
You come exalting me!
In honor I am seated;
You lavish goods untold,
Which cannot be depleted
Like merchandise and gold.

Strieter Autobiography in Production

Finalized cover design for Sacred Storytelling

n December 15, Sacred Storytelling: The Autobiography of Johannes Strieter (1829–1920) and Related Sources went into production. Please contact Wipf and Stock Publishers’ customer service department if you wish to place an order for a softcover or hardcover edition. God willing, it will eventually also be available in ebook format.

Special thanks go to Erin Mathieus for her artwork, which was used as the basis for the cover design, and to Prof. em. James Korthals, Dr. John Brenner, and Winfried Strieter for their gracious endorsements.

Please see my earlier post for an overview of the book’s content. Especially the Name and Place Indexes are extremely comprehensive, and should prove valuable to both church historians and ancestral researchers.

To God alone be the glory!

Morning Prayers Compiled by Musculus

Translator’s Preface

Franz Friedrich, Portrait of Andreas Musculus, 1577, woodcut

In 1561, Andreas Musculus (1514–1581), professor and doctor of theology at the University of Frankfurt an der Oder, published an enlarged edition of his Precationes. Ex Veteribus Orthodoxis Doctoribus. Ex Ecclesiae Hymnis et Canticis. Ex Psalmis denique Davidis collectae, & in certos locos digestae (Prayers Collected—and, in Certain Places, Broken Up—from the Ancient Orthodox Teachers, from the Hymns and Songs of the Church, and Finally from the Psalms of David). He dedicated the work to Duke Johann Albrecht I of Mecklenburg.

Musculus was a staunch Lutheran, having studied under Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon at the University of Wittenberg. Whenever he included prayers or hymns in his prayerbook that were originally stained with Mariolatry and other false ideas (e.g. the hymns “Stabat Mater” and “Ave Mundi Spes”), he cleaned them up and redirected the focus to Christ.

Musculus’s prayerbook proved quite popular among learned Lutherans, going through multiple posthumous editions stretching well into the seventeenth century. Those known to have used it regularly include Michael Praetorius (whose brother Andreas married one of Musculus’s daughters), Heinrich Schütz, and Johann Heermann.

What follows is my translation of the five morning prayers in the second to last section (fols. M 4 verso—M 7 recto). The first is attributed to Augustine (but see endnote 1), while the latter four are all simply attributed to “the church.” My prayer is that they assist the reader in his or her morning devotions, to the glory of Jesus our Savior.

Morning Prayers

First1

Omnipotent Lord God, you who are three and one, you who are always in everything, were before everything, and shall always be in everything the God blessed2 into eternity: Into the hands of your power I commend, today and at all times, my soul, my head, and all my thoughts and actions, that you may guard them both day and night, at every hour and at every second. Hear me, Holy Trinity, and preserve me from every evil, from every stumbling block, from every mortal sin,3 and from all snares and harassments of the demons and of enemies visible and invisible. Teach me today to do your will. That which you hate in me drive far from me; remove from me what is harmful, and supply what is beneficial. Today and always, be lenient toward my soul, be lenient toward my sins, be lenient toward my offenses. Grant me today a heart that fears you, a mind that loves you, an intellect that understands you, ears that listen to you, and eyes that see you. Grant me today, Lord, the ability to discern between good and evil, and protect me from all evil, you who are blessed and worthy of praise into eternity. Amen.

Second

O God, be kindly disposed toward me, a sinner, and pay me heed; please be my God every day and night. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, and send a holy angel4 to aid me, who will guard and protect me from all my enemies. Behold the cross of the Lord! Begone, adverse forces! The Lion from the tribe of Judah has conquered!5 Savior of the world, our salvation, you who have redeemed us through the cross and blood, come to our aid, we pray you. Holy God, Holy Strong One,6 Holy Immortal One, have mercy on us and keep us this day from every evil. Amen.

Third

O sweetest Lord Jesus Christ, omnipotent God, into the hands of your ineffable mercy I commend my soul and my body; my emotions and conversations; my plans, my words, and all my steps; my thoughts, my works, and all my doings; all the necessities of my body and soul; my coming in and my going out; the passage, progress, and end of my life; my passing away, my rest, and my resurrection with your saints and elect into perpetuity. Open my heart and my lips today to bless and glorify your name, which is blessed above every name. Cleanse my heart from all wicked and corrupt thoughts, that my lips may continually extol you, my mind may continually meditate on you, my life may continually glorify you, and my soul may continually bless you, that I, who have been created by your goodness alone for the praise and glory of your name, might remain devoted to you always and as long as I may live in this mortality, in order that I might one day be entitled to render you worthy service in the presence of your divine majesty, you who live and reign as God with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirt, through all ages to eternity. Amen.

Fourth

I give you thanks, holy Lord, omnipotent Father, eternal God, that you have seen fit to guard me this night through your great mercy. And I pray of your boundless clemency, that you may grant me to pass the coming day with all humility, gentleness, chastity,7 charity,8 patience, kindness, fear, and responsibility,9 in such a way that my service might be greatly pleasing to you through Him who is coming to judge the living and the dead, and the world with fire. Guard and preserve me from every evil, from every stumbling block, from every mortal sin, and from all snares and harassments of the demons and of enemies visible and invisible, through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who is blessed into eternity. Amen.

Fifth

Lord Jesus Christ, you who are the true Sun of the world, always rising, never setting, you who keep watch with your healing gaze of fire,10 you who sustain and gladden all things both in heaven and on earth: Shine favorably upon my soul, I beg you, in order that, with the night of offenses and clouds of errors dispersed, and you shining brightly within, I may proceed through my entire life without setback and conduct myself decently as in the daytime,11 free from the works of darkness, you who live and reign in every age with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Endnotes

1 Musculus cited the source of this prayer thus: Augustine, Meditations, Chapter 40. See J.-P. Migne, ed., Patrologia Latina 40:938,939. This is a condensed and slightly altered version of this chapter of Pseudo-Augustine’s Meditations. We now call the author Pseudo-Augustine because scholarship has demonstrated that Augustine of Hippo did not write these meditations. They more likely belong to Jean de Fécamp (d. 1078).

2 There are two main words for “blessed” in both the Old and New Testaments, and those two words reflect the difference between a beatitude and a benediction. The beatitude word for “blessed” (e.g. Psalm 119:1,2; Matt. 5:3–11) is usually used instructionally. One could paraphrase it this way: “If you want to be truly happy…” Since God does not need instruction on how to be truly happy and exists every moment in the most perfect bliss, this concept is not used with him. The benediction word for “blessed” is used more broadly—to acknowledge (with admiration) a state of happiness, or to express a desire (in a wish or prayer) for someone’s happiness. When we say, “Let us bless the Lord,” we are saying, “Let us praise the Lord for his state of perfection and the way that he makes his perfection known to us.” And when we state the fact that he is blessed, as here, we are saying, “Lord, you exist in a state of perfect bliss, and you have revealed it to us in order that we may acknowledge you for it, derive joy from it, and share in it eternally.”

3 In Lutheran theology, “mortal sin” is not a label for a limited number of specific crimes (cf. the seven deadly sins in Roman Catholic theology), but refers to any sin that represents a transition in our hearts from faith to unbelief, and thus from walking the road of eternal life to walking the road of eternal death.

4 It appears that, in the original prayer from which Musculus took this one, the archangel Michael was referred to by name.

5 These three lines are taken from a prayer attributed to Anthony of Padua (1195–1231).

6 Latin: Sancte Fortis; from the translation of Isaiah 9:6 in Jerome’s Vulgate, where Jesus is called: Admirabilis, Consiliarius, Deus, Fortis, Pater futuri saeculi, Princeps pacis.

7 That is, moral purity, especially purity of bodily action and activity.

8 Usually charity now refers to what used to be called alms, giving to the poor and needy. But it has been traditionally used in Christian literature to denote love, in the Christian sense. Love in the Christian sense does not primarily focus on the emotions, as it does in the worldly sense. It is an attitude primarily of the will—as C. S. Lewis wrote, “that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people” (Mere Christianity [New York, NY: HarperOne, 2001], 129). However, when the will has learned to act in love, the emotions also learn to follow suit.

9 Latin: solicitudine. The basic idea is that of caring about our words and actions and their consequences, and undertaking our endeavors with a sense of duty and purpose, instead of having a “Whatever” attitude.

10 See Rev. 1:14; 2:18ff; 19:12.

11 See Rom. 13:13.

Luther’s House Sermon on the Canaanite Woman

Translator’s Preface

Martin Luther preached the following sermon in his home on March 1, 1534, Reminiscere Sunday (Lent 2). Luther preached a number of sermons in his home between 1532 and 1534 on account of frailty. Veit Dietrich, Luther’s personal secretary and one of the attendees, transcribed these sermons as they were being preached. Later, he lent them to the parish deacon Georg Rörer, so that Rörer could in turn copy them into his own notebooks of Luther’s lectures and sermons. Since the whereabouts of Dietrich’s original transcripts, if they still exist, are unknown, Rörer’s copies are the closest thing to original copies of these house sermons that we have today. Dietrich later included this sermon in his 1544 edition of Luther’s House Postil. However, he took some noticeable liberties in the smoothing out of his transcript. And when Andreas Poach later published his own edition of the House Postil in 1559, based exclusively on Rörer’s notebooks, he used Dietrich’s version as his base for this sermon, since he was able to locate the sermon that Dietrich used, and he could tell that Dietrich followed it fairly closely. Accordingly, Poach made only minor tweaks and changes—some good, some unnecessary. (Compare Erlangen Edition 1:259–67 to 4:338–46.)

I have followed Rörer’s copy of Dietrich’s transcript, as found in the Weimar Edition 37:313–316, as closely as possible, except where the flow of the sermon or a difficult transcription demanded that I consult the editions of the House Postil for advice. Thus my English edition is shorter than either Dietrich’s or Poach’s.

You can find a longer, more sermon-study-type sermon on this Bible text in Luther’s Church Postil (Luther’s Works 76:378ff).

Though this house sermon is fairly short, it is a masterpiece, showcasing Luther’s biblical expertise, homiletical and oratorical skill, wide-ranging knowledge, and unshakable faith in Christ. May this fresh translation serve to glorify the triune God and edify the English-speaking reader.

House Sermon on the Canaanite Woman (Matthew 15:21–28)

his is a sublime Gospel. It got appointed for this Sunday because it dealt with the driving out of demons. The idea was to induce people to be pious, go to confession, and so on. But it is a weighty and sublime Gospel, not just some child’s game. It describes the real struggle and mortal anguish that faith goes through with God, from which we are to learn that nothing should scare us off from praying and crying out to God. And we should not give up even if he himself says no, like in the perils of death, when the devil shoves his way in and our Lord God lets himself be seen as anything but our helper. Things go just horribly then. That is when the clouds cover the sun, and there is distress beyond all distress. This is portrayed for us here in this woman. Here everybody and every circumstance is so bad that nothing could be worse.

First, she is a gentile woman. This is the first circumstance that makes the situation difficult. She is not a child of Abraham nor of the seed of Abraham. She has no right to ask Jesus for anything. She is a foreigner. That alone should have deterred her. She should have said, “Why even ask? It’s a lost cause. I am a foreigner and from a heathen nation to boot, and he was sent to the Jews.” If we felt a deterrent that strong, we would quickly desist, when we heard our conscience saying, “Ugh, you are not someone who should be praying. You don’t belong to Christ. People like Peter and Paul can pray, but God won’t listen to you. You do not have faith. You are not one of the elect. You aren’t good enough for it.” That’s how the devil can bring someone to despair. It’s a strong deterrent.

But she heads out anyway. She doesn’t pay attention to any of this; she is blind to it in her spirit, so that she is able to forget and not think about the fact that she is a gentile. Her confidence in that man, namely the Lord Christ, is so great that she thinks, “He will not ignore me.” In this way she extinguishes the thought that she is a gentile. Someone else without faith would not be able to take it. He would think to himself, “You belong to the devil,” and would never pray again, because those who have no hope do not pray. But she won’t let herself be attacked this way. She does not dispute with herself by saying, “You don’t belong in that house.1 You are excluded, since you are a gentile.”

It is therefore a difficult and harmful temptation when the devil says, “Why keep on praying? You’re already mine. Go ahead and curse our Lord God. You aren’t going to be saved anyway.” These words can hinder a person from praying. So this is written for our sakes, so that we are not deterred from it. If he suggests this to us, then tell him, “I am a gentile, but I’m not going to worry about it. Although I am a sinner and a gentile, that doesn’t bother Christ. Yes, I will cry out to him all the more loudly, the worse I am. I therefore won’t give it any consideration at all. I’m not able to dispute right now whether I am one of the elect or not. This woman certainly didn’t appear to be one of the elect either, since she was a gentile. I simply need help right now.” This is quite a struggle, and it’s an amazing thing to behold in this woman.

Now it says in the text that she cries out, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David,” and she laments her distress to him. And he hears her crying out, but he does not answer her. That is the second deterrent. He puts her in her place. She is a heathen who is not a part of his inheritance. She has no right to the benefit that is Christ himself. And so he is completely silent. A tower should crumble in the face of two cannons like this. We can imagine that she might ask herself, “Where now is the God who is merciful? Where is the man praised for hearing and answering?”

Third, the disciples grow tired of her crying out. They became more pious than Christ himself. It seems to them that Christ is being so cruel. Therefore they approach and ask on her behalf, “Just do what she wants and give her help. She isn’t going to let up.” This is a precious example of how we shouldn’t give up. Tauler provides an example to teach us that there comes a point when we should give up.2 By no means. Giving up happens far too often. The example of this woman shows that we should not give up, but should say like this woman did, “I am not going to dispute whether I am pious or not. I don’t have time for that right now. My daughter is sick in bed and is being horribly tormented by a demon.” This is what occupies her mind, and in this way she absorbs the harsh blows and rebuffs in her heart.

Fourth, Christ says, “I was only sent for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Thus he also slaps his disciples upside the head. He neither listens to the woman nor to the others praying on her behalf. This is a harsh man. He won’t even listen to other people who pray on her behalf of their own accord, without her asking them to. Christ is nowhere portrayed more harshly than he is here. But she acts as if it’s a game and doesn’t give up. Four great cannon shots have been fired at her and she has simply swallowed them down. Since her cries and the disciples’ intercession won’t work, she comes right into the house, Mark says (7:24,25). She is a shameless woman; she has run after him in the streets, and now she follows him into the building. He simply cannot get rid of her at all. This is written for our sakes, that we may learn what heartfelt pleasure he takes in it, when we steadily persist in prayer. If anyone would act this way toward another human, he would be considered a nuisance and forcibly removed from the premises.3 But this woman does not hesitate to act this way toward Christ.

But now Christ tells her, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” If he had said this to me, I would have run right out the door. This is also the harshest deterrent. There it is, right out in the open: She is not one of the children, but is a dog. This is even worse than being a gentile. He calls her a dog. This is what it means to be severely tested. He appears to be saying, “You belong to the devil indoors and out [wie du gehest und stehest].” I would simply flee, in her shoes. If he were to say that to me in person, he would terrify me. For that matter, if Paul or some other great man were to say that to me, I would be scared to death.

But see how powerful and potent a thing faith is! She seizes him at his words, and turns them around in her favor. “You say I am a dog. That’s true. Then treat me like a dog.” She traps him in his own words, but he is happy to be trapped like that. “What I desire,” she says, “is nothing more than the right of a dog. I am not a child; I am not from the seed of Abraham. But you are a rich Lord, and you spread a glorious table. I am just a dog. I do not wish to sit at the table. Just let me have the crumbs that you and the children don’t need.” With that, she traps him. Yes, she not only wins the right of the dogs, but also the right of the children. Where else can he go? He has trapped himself. He must relent.

This is a masterpiece and an uncommon example. It was written that we might learn from it, namely, that we should never let us ourselves be refused by this man, the Lord Christ, even if the Lord God should act as if he were against us in whatever way he might choose, even if he should call us dogs or heathens. As this woman says, dogs must have masters and crumbs. Thus the Lord is trapped and says, “O woman, your faith is great!” As if to say: “If you could bear all these deterrents in your heart, then your faith is truly special.” This is an unusual judgment from his mouth. As if to say: “Some of the Jews took offense at me after one word. Is theirs the kind of faith we should celebrate?4 You, on the other hand, held firm.” So you see how and why he refused to listen to her, that he only exhibited his rude behavior so that her faith would be on display, and so that the Jews would know that she was not a Jew. It’s as if he were saying to them, “You who are the heirs need to learn from this gentile woman how you should believe in me and pray to me.”

He then tells her, “Go, let it be done for you exactly as you wish.” He doesn’t just give her the right of a dog, but says to her, “Not only shall your daughter be freed, but everything that you seek shall be done for you.” Thus he places her among Abraham’s seed. Her faith is what brings her to a place where she is no longer called a heathen, but a saint [nicht mehr ein heiden, sed heiligin].

Here’s how this applies to us: Even if our Lord God make us wait for a long time, we should not give up. He will secretly say yes to your prayer in his5 heart, even if you do not see and experience it right away. Just don’t give up. Joseph probably cried out to him for twelve years or more. It took a long time for God to act. And, judging by appearances, the more time passed, the worse things got for him, since the more he prayed, the worse it got. The same was true for Christ in his passion. And that’s also how it goes today with Christians. When they have called out to him for a long time, they don’t perceive any improvement, but that things are actually getting worse, just like with Joseph. But if God had heard and delivered Joseph right away, his father Jacob and his brothers might have become pious,6 but Joseph would have remained a shepherd. But since God’s deliverance took such a long time, Joseph became a ruler over Egypt and the greatest man among his brothers, and God provided food for many people through him during a famine. So too, when our Lord God refuses his Christians for a long time and keeps on saying no, and they keep clinging to his yes, they will ultimately experience his yes. For God’s word will always prove true: “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you” (John 16:23). Since his word is true, that will certainly take place.

But reason objects: “Okay, but how can he act like that to us?” Don’t worry about it. There’s no harm done by it. Let him say no. Let him delay one, two, even three years or longer. He can never tear out of your heart what he has promised. He may have in mind to give you more than what you asked, as he was willing to do for this woman. If she had desired more, he would have given her more.

Therefore our Lord God wants to teach us that it is not always good for him to answer us right away. In great distress, he takes quicker action, like when someone falls into the water or in time of war. That’s not the time to make people wait. The same is true in great and severe spiritual afflictions. But in situations where a person can bear to do some waiting, there the person is to learn that God delays for our good. “Even if he lingers,” says Habakkuk, “wait for him, because He who is coming will come and will not delay” (2:3).

Right now he is delaying with us. He is letting the pope and the Muslim Turk rage against us. And although we cry out and are doing miserably, he isn’t listening and is acting as if he doesn’t know us. He is letting us get dragged through the mud, as if we had no God. But he will eventually compensate us for all of this. We should have no doubt that we have a yes in heaven, hidden within the heart of Christ. But just as he does in this account, Christ builds five solid walls of iron around his yes, and the devil is constantly shooting nothing but no’s at the situation. But in spite of all this, you should still say, “I take it as a yes, and I know that he wishes to be gracious and merciful to those who cry out to him. I know the yes is hiding there in his heart. Therefore, I am not going to dispute whether I am elect or the fact that I am a gentile. Instead, I will simply stick to this fact—that the yes is there.”

Thus this account is an especially beautiful example of faith, showing how it wants to be practiced and that it will ultimately come out the conqueror in every situation. We should not therefore despise the Word so much, but cling firmly to it and have no doubt that our prayers are heard by God. Just as this woman keeps crying out to the Lord Christ and will not let his yes be taken from her heart, but steadfastly persists in her confidence that he is kind and will help her—yes, she does not let our Lord God himself deprive her of it—so may our Lord God help us to follow after her. Amen.

Endnotes

1 Namely, where Jesus was staying

2 In one of his sermons, Johannes Tauler tells of a girl who, in an ecstatic state, saw herself separated from God by an inexpressibly great distance. Since the saints in the presence of God did not hear her because they were completely immersed in the beatific vision of God, she eventually appealed to God himself: “even if you would have me suffer in this horrible, hellish pain eternally, I will humbly yield myself to it, according to your dearest will, in time and in eternity.” Thereupon she was immediately “swung into the lovely abyss of the Godhead” (Julius Hamberger, ed., Johann Tauler’s Predigten, 2nd ed. [Prague: F. Tempsky, 1872], 218–19).

3 I had to use my imagination to complete this sentence and the rest of the paragraph. Veit Dietrich only recorded the first half and ended with “etc.”

4 Original: “sollen wir den [denn?] feyren?” The meaning isn’t entirely clear.

5 Even though the Weimar Edition has dein, not sein, the immediate context and what Luther says at the end of the sermon supports changing “your” to “his.” This may have been a copying error on the part of Rörer, or on the part of the editors of the Weimar Edition. (A University of Jena librarian, in custody of their rare books collection, once told me that there were many mistakes in the Weimar Edition.)

6 Dietrich’s transcription is not exactly clear here, and thus required some interpretive filling in.