Luther Visualized 6 – Reform

The German Hercules

Hans Holbein the Younger, Hercules Germanicus, woodcut, c. 1519

This was not part of my sermon and service folder series, but I wanted to include it with this online series. In the midst of Martin Luther’s instructional and reformatory writings of 1519 and 1520, Hans Holbein the Younger of Basel produced this woodcut of “The German Hercules.” Luther with his tonsure and Augustinian habit, from which a lion’s skin hangs down protracted, holds a knotty club with long, sharp spikes in his right hand, in order to deal a crushing blow to the last of his opponents, which he holds down by the neck with his left hand. He is Jacob van Hoogstraaten, the Dominican doctor of theology and inquisitor of Cologne. (Perhaps Holbein produced this woodcut after being acquainted with Luther’s 1519 work A Page Against Jacob Hoogstraaten.) A string is drawn from Luther’s nose, which has a strangled pope hanging from the end of it. Beneath Luther the following have already been beaten down so that they lie there powerless: Aristotle, the philosopher; Thomas Aquinas; William of Ockham; an unnamed monk; Nicholas of Lyra, directly beneath Luther’s feet with his commentary on the Bible in hand; Peter Lombard, wearing a beret, virtually crushed by those around him, and holding his book (which reads “L. IV SENTENCIAR” – short for Libri IV Sententiarum [Four Books of Sentences] – in reflected letters); Robert Holcot, an English Dominican scholastic philospher, theologian, and influential Bible scholar; and Duns Scotus, who was know for his commentary on Lombard’s Sentences, is not visible. In the background are some houses, apparently belonging to a village, beneath a mountain. Between the village and the foreground another hooded, tasseled figure makes good his escape.

The colorized version of this woodcut appeared in the eighth book of the Schweizerchronik by Heinrich Brennwald and his son-in-law Johannes Stumpf, for the beginning of the year 1519. Beneath the woodcut are six Latin distichs, which read:

Do you not shudder, wicked Rome, at your enemy Luther,
the German Hercules, as he does away with monsters?

You see, do you not, how he has suspended the tripled Geryon [allusion to the three-tiered papal tiara]
from an aquiline nose, and how the drooping crest wearies the head?

See for yourself with what might he strikes down the raving sophists,
and how the agile club besets the rabid dogs.

Behold, what falls is a multitude gone mad, to whom Cerberus himself
is inferior, and a Hydra reproducing in new throats.

Why not then acknowledge the gallant man as both lord and father,
since you stretched out conquered hands to him when you were stung the first time?

There has been error enough, believe me; be sensible and cleanse yourself again,
or else impure Lerna’s sacred flame awaits you.

In a December 27, 1531, sermon on Isaiah 9:6, in talking about Christ as a Champion who “deals out blows left and right” “without swinging a sword,” Luther wittingly or not paid tribute to this portrayal of himself:

So too today, what have I done to the pope? I have not taken so much as a Heller [or dime] from him. I simply swing the gospel at the monks, nuns, priests, and bishops, and all their errors and idols have fallen to the ground.

Sources
Theophil Burckhardt-Biedermann, “Über Zeit und Anlaß des Flugblattes: Luther als Hercules Germanicus,” Basler Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Altertumskunde, vol. 4 (1905), pp. 38-40

Martin Luther, Luther at the Manger: Christmas Sermons on Isaiah 9:6 (Milwaukee: Northwestern Publishing House, 2017), pp. 49-51

Title page from a first edition of Martin Luther’s Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (Wittenberg, 1520); full book viewable here

1519 and 1520 were truly the years of the Reformation proper, as far as Luther’s writings are concerned. Among his instructional writings were his lectures on Galatians (May 1519, eventually replaced by his 1535 edition); lectures on Psalms 1-21 (1519), Meditation on Christ’s Passion (1519); Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer (April 1519); A Brief Form of the Ten Commandments; A Brief Form of the Creed; A Brief Form of the Lord’s Prayer (1520); A Sermon on Preparing to Die (October 1519); A Sermon on Usury (1519); A Sermon on the Sacrament of Penance (1519); A Brief Instruction on How Confession Should Be Made (January 1519) and How to Confess (March 1520); A Sermon on the Holy and Blessed Sacrament of Baptism (1519); A Sermon on the Blessed Sacrament of the Holy and True Body of Christ, and the Brotherhoods (1519); and his Treatise on Good Works (May 1520).

His two major reformatory writings were To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate (June 1520), in which he demanded that the papacy be reformed and celibacy for the priests abolished and proposed that every city should care for its own poor people (leading to the first congregational charity program), and his Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (October 1520; pictured), in which he denied that there were seven sacraments and confessed only three or two (depending on whether an external element was part of the definition of sacrament), denied the doctrine of transubstantiation and taught the real presence, and taught that priests should be elected and permitted to marry. The latter work gained such notoriety that it was even rebutted by King Henry VIII of England.

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The Necessity of Being Persecuted

A Commentary on 2 Timothy 3:10-13

By Johann Gerhard, Th. D.

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Adnotationes ad Posteriorem D. Pauli ad Timotheum Epistolam, in Quibus Textus Declaratur, Quaestiones Dubiae Solvuntur, Observationes Eruuntur, & Loca in Speciem Pugnantia quam Brevissime Conciliantur (Commentary on St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy, in Which the Text Is Explained, Difficult Questions Are Answered, Observations Are Drawn Out, and Seemingly Contradictory Passages Are Reconciled as Concisely as Possible) by Johann Gerhard, Th.D. (Jena: Steinmann, 1643), pp. 63-65; available from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin.

This translation was prepared in connection with an exegetical presentation assigned to me for a circuit meeting in Merrill, Wisconsin, on November 3, 2014.

May the Holy Spirit use the example of the apostle Paul, especially his willingness to suffer a multitude and variety of persecutions for the sake of the gospel, to incite and inspire us so that we are willing and able to undergo similar experiences to the triune God’s honor and glory.

2 Timothy 3:10-13

10. Σὺ δὲ παρηκολούθηκάς μου τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ, τῇ ἀγωγῇ, τῇ προθέσει, τῇ πίστει, τῇ μακροθυμίᾳ, τῇ ἀγάπῃ, τῇ ὑπομονῇ

Tu autem adsecutus es meam doctrinam institutionem propositum fidem longanimitatem dilectionem patientiam

  • Σὺ δὲ παρηκολούθηκάς μου τῇ διδασκαλίᾳ, τῇ ἀγωγῇ, τῇ προθέσει

In contrast to the corrupt teachings and practices of the heretics Paul sets down his own example, and with it he incites Timothy to discharge his office in a steadfast manner. Paraphrase: “But you have eagerly sought to imitate and have sufficiently understood my teaching, instruction, and intention, that is, when you were an inseparable companion on my travels and a partner in my activity. Therefore you are thoroughly familiar and intimately acquainted with everything about me.”

Some take ἀγωγὴν to mean a particular method of instructing, since ἀγωγή, as Aristotle teaches in Book 1 of The Art of Rhetoric, signifies a guiding and understanding of the law that happens when an instructor or professor leads, so to speak, a student who is to be instructed to the understanding of a particular matter.1 Others say it refers to how one acts in day-to-day life and a particular manner of living. Either interpretation works.

By πρόθεσιν Paul means the end and goal of his apostolic activity. That is to say, in all the activity of his ministry he had as his purpose not his own own glory or his own well-being, but the glory of God and the well-being of his neighbor.

  • τῇ πίστει, τῇ μακροθυμίᾳ, τῇ ἀγάπῃ, τῇ ὑπομονῇ

Some take faith to mean steadfastness of the soul, but it is more correctly applied to faith’s πληροφορίᾳ or full assurance, which shows itself through firmness and steadfastness of the soul.

By μακροθυμίαν Paul means tenderness of the soul and restraint toward persecutors and enemies of the truth.

By ἀγάπην he means Christian love toward all people.

By ὑπομονὴν he means endurance in the adversities and persecutions that he had to undergo.

11. τοῖς διωγμοῖς, τοῖς παθήμασι, οἷά μοι ἐγένετο ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ, ἐν Ἰκονίῳ, ἐν Λύστροις, οἵους διωγμοὺς ὑπήνεγκα, καὶ ἐκ πάντων με ἐῤῥύσατο ὁ Κύριος.

persecutiones passiones qualia mihi facta sunt Antiochiae Iconii Lystris quales persecutiones sustinui et ex omnibus me eripuit Dominus

  • τοῖς διωγμοῖς, τοῖς παθήμασι

He recounts the persecutions and afflictions that he has patiently endured for the sake of the gospel, in order that he may incite and inspire Timothy so that he is able and willing to submit to similar experiences.

  • οἷά μοι ἐγένετο ἐν Ἀντιοχείᾳ, ἐν Ἰκονίῳ, ἐν Λύστροις

He names three cities that were all accessories to his sufferings – Antioch (Pisidian, not Syrian), Iconium, and Lystra. According to Theodoret and Theophylact, Paul recalls these particular cities because Timothy was more familiar with what Paul had suffered in those places, since Timothy was originally from Lystra, a city in the vicinity of the other two.2 Alternatively, he might be recalling these three cities because the persecutions in those places were stirred up against him particularly by the Jews, as is clear from Acts 13 and 14.

  • οἵους διωγμοὺς ὑπήνεγκα

He is thinking of either the persecutions he has endured in the cities just mentioned or other persecutions. After all, Timothy had seen many other persecutions of Paul.

  • καὶ ἐκ πάντων με ἐῤῥύσατο ὁ Κύριος

Paul adds these words for Timothy’s comfort. However, God does not deliver from adversities in just one way. Sometimes he removes them, sometimes he lightens them, he always works patience in the hearts of the pious, and in the end he grants a blessed ἔκβασιν or release, if not in life, then through death.

12. καὶ πάντες δὲ οἱ θέλοντες εὐσεβῶς ζῆν ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ διωχθήσονται.

et omnes qui volunt pie vivere in Christo Iesu persecutionem patientur

Paraphrase: “If persecutions and adversities should also fall to your lot, there is no reason that this should seem strange and unusual, because this is common to all those who are truly pious.”

Question: Why does he add “in Christ Jesus,” when no one is able to live piously except in Christ?

Response: He wants to show the only way we are able to live piously, namely in Christ-centered faith.

Gregory says in Book 7, Epistle 30: “I say confidently that you would live less piously if you suffered persecution to a lesser extent.”3

13. πονηροὶ δὲ ἄνθρωποι καὶ γόητες προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον, πλανῶντες καὶ πλανώμενοι.

mali autem homines et seductores proficient in peius errantes et in errorem mittentes

  • πονηροὶ δὲ ἄνθρωποι καὶ γόητες προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον

There is no reason for us to expect that persecution will cease during this age, because wicked people and seducers are always getting worse and worse, from which fact persecutions against the pious originate.

  • γόητες

Γόητες properly signifies enchanters and swindlers, then it is applied more generally to impostors and deceivers.

  • προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ τὸ χεῖρον

These words make us think back to what the apostle had said earlier in vs. 9: οὐ προκόψουσιν ἐπὶ πλεῖον, “they will not progress further.” They also send us back to the just judgment of God, on account of which the false teachers and those who listen to them are being struck with blindness (Rom 1:18ff).

  • πλανῶντες καὶ πλανώμενοι

This is an elegant polyptoton4tum seducentes, tum seducti, “both seducing and being seduced.” Erasmus translates: dum & in errorem adducunt [alios], & errant ipsi, “while they are both leading [others] astray and going astray themselves.”5

The translator of the Vulgate has altered the sequence of the words, because in the natural order going astray comes first, rather than leading others astray. But we are not compelled by any necessity to have recourse to πρωθύστερον.6 For the sense is this: While they are seducing others, they themselves, by the just judgment of God, are suffering the punishment of immediately falling into more grievous errors.

Endnotes

1 Rf. Aristotle, The “Art” of Rhetoric, tr. John Henry Freese (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1926), p. 154, 155. The more exact citation would be Book 1, Chapter 15, Section 10, or 1375b. Gerhard seems to have obtained this interpretation of Aristotle’s usage from Henricus Stephanus, Thesaurus Graecae Linguae, vol. 1 (Paris: Henricus Stephanus, 1572), col. 64. That Aristotle was actually using the word this way does not seem to be firmly established.

2 Interpretation of 2 Timothy: “[Paul] left out everything else that happened to him and called to mind only the dangers that he had met with in Pisidia and Lycaonia. For the one to whom he wrote was himself a Lycaonian, so these dangers were more familiar to him than the others” (Theodoret, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 82, Theodoreti Cyrensis Episcopi Opera Omnia [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], pp. 847,848).

Commentary on 2 Timothy: “He means the Antioch that was in Pisidia. Lystra was Timothy’s hometown. This is why he only mentions these places, since they were more familiar to Timothy. It could also be that they were the most recent places Paul visited” (Theophylact, Patrologiae Graecae, vol. 125, Theophylacti, Bulgariae Archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani, Opera Quae Reperiri Potuerunt Omnia [Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1864], pp. 121,122).

3 St. Gregory the Great, Patrologia Latina, vol. 77, Sancti Gregorii Papae I, Cognomento Magni, Opera Omnia (Paris: J.-P. Migne, 1862), col. 886. The letter was addressed “To Narses, the Religious.” “The Narses here addressed as ‘Religiosus’ was probably the same as the ‘Narses Comes’ of I. 6, and VI. 14, and the ‘Narses Patricius’ of IV. 32. For it is evident from the letters that he was of high rank at Constantinople, and greetings are sent through him to the same persons as in the other letters. He had now, we may suppose, devoted himself to the service of the Church in some capacity” (www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf212.iii.v.vii.xviii.html, note 1710; accessed 3 November 2014).

4 A rhetorical device when several forms or cases of the same word stand together

5 E.g. Novi Testamenti Aeditio Postrema, per Des. Erasmum Roterodamum (Zurich: In Officina Froschoviana, 1541), p. 280. Gerhard incorrectly quotes Erasmus as translating inducunt instead of adducunt, but in this case the two are virtually synonymous.

6 Taking what is last and putting it first