Luther’s Weekly Sermons on John 16-20 (1528-1529)

By Licentiate Otto Albrecht and Dr. Gustav Koffmane
From the Weimar edition of Luther’s works, vol. 28

Translator’s Preface

In preparation for Easter Sunday this year, I translated some of Luther’s 1529 sermon on John 20:1-10 from vol. 28 of the Weimar edition (D. Martin Luthers Werke: kritische Gesammtausgabe [sic] [Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1903], p. 425-447). Both because it was curiously laid out (with three versions on one page) and from past experience, I soon decided that it would also be worthwhile for me to translate the introduction at the front of the volume.

What follows is taken from that same volume, p. 31-37. The various page numbers, except when included in source citations, refer to pages in that volume. I have made some of Albrecht and Koffmane’s citations more complete than in the original, or changed their citations to earlier editions, as I deemed necessary for more easily locating the works they are citing.

I know next to nothing about Albrecht and Koffmane, the authors of this introduction.

I have also translated anew the historically significant preface by Nikolaus von Amsdorf referred to below under “Poach’s Version of the Sermons on John 18-20.” I will provide that in a separate post. I am still working on a translation of all three versions of Luther’s sermons on John 20:1-10 and 20:11-18 (Rörer’s transcript and Poach’s two editions) and will post those when I am finished. This may not be until around Easter of next year, or even later.

May increased study of Luther lead to an even more increased study of Christ and his life, death, and resurrection on humanity’s behalf.

Weekly Sermons on John 16-20

As a substitute for Bugenhagen (p. 1 above) Luther also took over the vesper sermons on Saturday from 1528-1529, which had always dealt with the Gospel of John for a number of years. (Cf. the quotation from no. XXXIII, p. 48, of the Zwickau manuscript on p. 2 above, as well as what Luther indicates in the sermon from March 25, 1529, in Buchwald, Andreas Poachs handschriftliche Sammlung ungedruckter Predigten D. Martin Luthers, 1/1:101, lines 2ff, and our edition 19:79, lines 21 and 25). Luther had already stepped in for Bugenhagen once before this, on February 15, at which time the text for consideration was John 14; Luther treated verses 1ff. According to what has been handed down to us in the present volume, Luther began to substitute for him on a regular basis on June 6, 1528, and he appears to have begun with a short sermon on John 16:1ff. Bugenhagen had probably finished John 14 and 15 in the meantime, and after his departure these sermons may have simply been omitted at first. Rörer conceivably recorded not only that one-time substitute sermon, but also the first of the continuous sermons in the notebook of sermons from the 1528 church year, as he likewise also certainly did with the first sermon on Matthew. The latter was preserved for us by a certain good fortune, while the others have been lost (cf. p. 3 above).

Certainly only the 35 sermons handed down to us by Rörer in Nuremberg 1a and 1-34 belong to the series of Saturday sermons on the Gospel of John delivered at that time by Luther when he was regularly substituting for Bugenhagen. From the rest, which Poach imparts in his two versions in order to fill in the undeniable gap in Rörer’s transcript, the one designated as Xb in the overview is excluded; Poach himself assigned it to Easter Eve of 1533 in P1 [Poach’s first edition]. Likewise the one from Easter Tuesday of 1529 (Xc) in P2 [Poach’s second edition] certainly does not belong in our series. The sermon from Easter Saturday of 1529 (Xa) in P1,2 can only be included in the series with reservation. The two sermons designated in the table as 32a and 32b apparently do belong to it and are borrowed from a different transcript in P2.

In the sermons handed down to us by Rörer, John 16:1—19:22 and 20:1-18 are treated. In the one that can be included only with doubt (Xa), John 19:23-30 is treated. In those that appear to belong (32a; 32b), John 19:31-42 is treated. Since Xc (on John 20:19-23) certainly does not belong here, Luther thus concluded with 20:18, because Bugenhagen, who had returned, stepped in after that.

From these sermons, the ones on John 16 had remained unknown until now (they are completely different from those that were delivered in 1537, according to Mathesius’ testimony, and were printed for the first time in 1538; cf. Erlangen edition 49:1ff; 50:42ff). The ones on John 17 were published by Cruciger during Luther’s lifetime. The ones on John 18-20 were published by Poach in two versions, but not until after Luther’s death.

These weekly sermons were held fairly regularly at first. From June 6, 1528, to March 13, 1529, only nine Saturdays were missed, and for the most part we know or can surmise the reasons for Luther’s pauses during that time.1 The treatment of the text shows no gap, which is proof both that he did not let anyone substitute for him for this series, as he did with the Catechism sermons in February of 1529 (cf. Buchwald, Beiträge zur Reformationsgeschichte, cited in Endnote 1 below, p. 50ff), and that the fault for the nine missing Saturdays does not rest with the person transcribing his sermons. But from here on difficulties in dating the sermons arise. After the sermon on John 19:8-14 (no. 31) from the Saturday before Judica [Lent 5], March 13, 1529, there follows in Rörer’s notebook another sermon without a date, on John 19:15-22 (no. 32). It has to be a different sermon, because otherwise the sermon on John 19:8ff would be twice as long as all the others. In addition, on p. 142a of Rörer’s notebook one can clearly make out a paragraph that was written in different ink, and right before this paragraph this sentence is written as a sort of closing formula: “We want to hold off until Holy Week.” This undated sermon is probably to be assigned to the Saturday after March 13, 1529, namely March 20, the Saturday before Palm Sunday. That would agree with the fact that the next sermon on John 19:23-30 (no. Xa) is introduced by this marginal note in Poach’s first version: “The exposition that follows is taken from a sermon by Dr. Martin Luther that he preached on Easter Eve in 1529,” that is, on March 27, since Easter fell on March 28 in 1529. For more details on this, cf. further below on p. 35.

The next date expressly given in Rörer’s manuscript is not until June 12, 1529, for the sermon on John 20:1-10, and then the manuscript closes with the sermon on June 19, on John 20:11-18. Concerning the replacement sermons that Poach brings in for the texts John 19:31-37; John 19:38-42; and John 20:19-23 (partly in his first version and partly in his second version), these are addressed further below.

The large gap in Rörer’s transcripts between March 13 (or 20, if the undated sermon mentioned above belongs here) and June 12, 1529, can be explained mainly by two circumstances. For one thing, we know that from Easter Wednesday to Exaudi [Easter 7], thus from March 31 to May 9, Luther took a break from his Sunday sermons due to hoarseness (cf. Buchwald, Andreas Poachs handschriftliche Sammlung, 1/1:151, 155; DeWette, Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken, 3:442, 451; Enders, Dr. Martin Luther’s Briefwechsel, 7:85, 95). After that Rörer was given a leave of absence to Nuremberg between May 17 and June 13 (see Buchwald, op. cit., p. 175; Zur Wittenberger Stadt- und Universitäts-Geschichte in der Reformationszeit, p. 59-60, no. 64, fn. 1) and thus could not continue his transcript on the (three) Saturdays that occurred during that time. A marginal note related to this can be found in his manuscript on p. 144b, which was added later: Desunt aliquot conciones [“Several sermons are missing”]; it is not next to the first line of the sermon from June 12, where it belongs, but occurs seven lines later. The person who wrote it probably did not notice that some sermons must have been omitted until that point while he was reading. That two of these sermons, which Rörer could not have transcribed, were preserved for us from another source in Poach’s second version may be accepted as true until someone provides proof to the contrary.

Thus Luther apparently interrupted his Saturday sermons on March 27, 1529, and then probably did not resume them until sometime near the end of May, concluding them on June 19 shortly before Bugenhagen returned home.

Rörer’s Transcript

Rörer’s notebook containing these sermons is the manuscript Bos. o. 17m in Jena, which also contained the sermons on Matthew at one time (cf. our edition, vol. 27, p. xii, and above). The pages are marked 79-150. At the top of the first side (p. 79a) the following words are written in faint ink, which were added later: Nunc vado ad eum qui misit me [“Now I am going to him who sent me” (John 16:5)], etc. and 2. pars [2nd part], which is perhaps meant to indicate that what follows is a “continuation” of the first sermon on John (no. 1a) taken down elsewhere by Rörer. Either that, or the sermons on Matthew that were once included are to be thought of as the 1. pars [1st part]. After that comes the following in Rörer’s hand: Sabbato primae dominicae post Trinitatis quae erat 13 Iunii.  Ex Eo Ioh: Expedit vobis [On the Saturday of the First Sunday after Trinity, which was June 13.  From the Gospel of John: “It is to your advantage” (John 16:7)], etc. The dates are likewise in the margin or added in the lines for the sermons that follow. Two sermons have no date. Halfway through – between the sermons on October 24 and 31, 1528 – the sermon delivered at Michael Stiefel’s wedding appears, imparted in our edition, 27:383ff.

The Saturday sermon that Luther delivered as a one-time substitute for Bugenhagen on February 15, 1528, is found in the manuscript Bos. o. 17e, p. 43a-44b, in Jena. The first of the sermons that Luther delivered as a regular substitute on June 6, 1528, is found in the same manuscript, p. 114a-114b. Cf. p. 31.

Cruciger’s Version of the Sermons on John 17

Luther’s hearers might have asked him to publish his exposition of the High-Priestly Prayer. Perhaps he himself had also wished and pushed for its publication before that. But since he himself had no time for that, he committed the task of working out the details of its printing to his friend Cruciger, according to Luther’s preface. Whether this assignment was first given after he had concluded the sermons or had already been given earlier, Luther’s preface does not say. Now Cruciger himself appears to have been one of the hearers, for he was in Wittenberg at the time (cf. the letters in De Wette, op. cit., 3:314,442; Enders, op. cit., 5:158f; 6:270f; 7:85; Mathesius, Historien von des ehrwirdigen in Gott seligen thewren Manns Gottes Doctoris Martini Luthers etc. [Nuremberg, 1566], fol. 80, 812). That being the case, being able to recall what he heard in person certainly made his work easier. It is possible that he even took down some notes of his own. But certainly Rörer’s notebook served as the main source for his work, as even a cursory, comparative glance at both texts reveals. The places where Cruciger deviates from Rörer can be attributed first of all to the unconstrained method of the editor, who took pains to make his often unmanageable and enigmatic master copy readable by combining, supplying, and switching material around. Occasionally he also probably misread Rörer’s handwriting, which is very difficult because he wrote so quickly. Considerable alterations, however, like the ones seen, for example, in the sermon on John 17:6-8 (no. 12), permit us to assume that in addition to Rörer’s transcript Cruciger occasionally used still other sources, perhaps notes he himself had taken down.

Before Cruciger published Luther’s sermons on John 17, he had apparently already tried his hand once at such assistant work for Luther, with the sermons on Genesis (our edition, 24:xvi). Cruciger’s most recent biographers, Oswald G. Schmidt3 and Theodor Pressel,4 have failed to mention his work with both of these sermon series. In the foreword Luther rightly praises Cruciger’s ability. Later Cruciger himself transcribed the sermons Luther delivered in 1537 on John 14-16 (Erlangen edition, vols. 49 and 50) and published them in 1538 (Mathesius, op. cit., fol. 133).

Now since at that time the sermons on John 16 and 17 were printed together and the sermons on John 14-17 seem to have been combined in one volume early on (cf. the bibliography below and Buchwald, “Stadtschreiber M. Stephan Roth in Zwickau” etc. in Archiv für Geschichte des Deutschen Buchhandels [Leipzig: Verlag des Börsenvereins der Deutschen Buchhändler, 1893], p. 195, no. 615), one may also reasonably apply what Mathesius says on fol. 133 (op. cit.) to John 17, when he relates that Luther “very often brought this book” containing the exposition of Christ’s final sermon during the Last Supper “with him to church and enjoyed reading from it.” Luther then gave voice to this fondness at his table, saying that “this was the best book he had produced. ‘Though I did not produce it,’ he said, ‘for it is Dr. Caspar Cruciger who has demonstrated his great intellect and outstanding diligence in it. After the Holy Bible this has to be my treasured and most beloved book.’” This exposition was also afforded enthusiastic praise later, e.g. by Timotheus Kirchner in his Deutscher Thesaurus (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Schmid, 1568). And Köstlin is correct in his judgment that whoever wishes to get acquainted with Luther’s style of preaching must especially include the sermons on John in his studies (Martin Luther: Sein Leben und seine Schriften, 2:427)5.

Poach’s Version of the Sermons on John 18-20

First Edition of 1557 (P1)
The editor named neither in the title nor in Amsdorf’s preface is the Erfurt pastor Andreas Poach. This is proven both by Poach’s reference to this first edition in the foreword to the second edition and by what he says in the letter cited just below. Poach, who first came to Wittenberg in 1530 and did not hear Luther’s sermons on John himself, designates Rörer’s transcript as his master copy in a letter to the privy council in Weimar (March 6, 1564; Theologische Studien und Kritiken, vol. 67 [1894], p. 377f). In that letter he also expresses himself concerning the circumstances which occasioned his work and its publication:

He [Rörer] also taught me himself to read his running handwriting and explained his customary characteres6 to me. He also entrusted me with a book containing the Passion sermons on the 18th and 19th chapters of John so that I could test myself on the characteres using that book. And my draft pleased Master Rörer and Master Stoltz so much that these Passion sermons were published in Jena and printed with a preface by the bishop Nikolaus von Amsdorf. And Master Stoltz entrusted his notebooks to me at that time.

As a matter of fact, Poach took pains to fill in the gaps in Rörer’s transcript already in his first version; whether he might have done so on the basis of the just-mentioned manuscripts of the court preacher Stoltz, we do not know. After the sermon on John 19:15-22, Poach remarks: “Here end the sermons of the man of God Dr. Martin Luther that he preached on the Passion in 1528 and 1529.7 What follows from here was taken from elsewhere, as indicated by the scholium that follows next.” This scholium is a marginal note that assigns the sermon on John 19:23-30 to Easter Eve of 1529 (p. 396 below). This appears to be a contradiction at first, for if what follows in Poach’s edition actually belongs to a sermon delivered on Easter Eve in 1529, then the note that Luther’s Passion sermons were concluded with John 19:22 is incorrect. But the contradiction can be resolved: Luther does in fact seem to have broken off the continuous Passion sermons on the Gospel of John at John 19:22, but we possess in Rörer’s transcript (published in Poach’s copied version by Buchwald, Andreas Poachs handschriftliche Sammlung, 1/1:113-118) a Passion sermon delivered on Easter Eve in 1529, which in fact mainly treats the text Luke 23:38-43, but in the middle also treats the text John 19:23-27. A comparative glance from Rörer-Poach (in Buchwald, op. cit., p. 114, 9th line from the bottom to p. 116, 3rd line from the top) to Poach in our text (P1, p. 396, line 25 to p. 405, line 31 below) clearly shows that Poach draws solely from that manuscript of Rörer here in his first version (while he patches in a lot of other material in the 2nd version; cp. e.g. our text, p. 397, line 12ff and p. 398, p. 10ff with the Erlangen edition, 2nd ed., 2:116). “Taken from elsewhere” accordingly means that it was taken from that sermon on Luke 23:38-43, in which the text John 19:23-27 was nevertheless also treated in passing (cf. the cue-words Milites [“The soldiers”] – which is how Militis should be read – and Accepit [“(He) took”] in Buchwald, op. cit., which refer to John 19, verses 23 and 27). One almost gets the impression from Rörer’s transcript that on Easter Eve in 1529 Luther wanted to continue the sermon series on John in passing and therefore combined the two just-named texts with each other. Whatever the case, Poach’s scholium cited above is subject to misunderstanding and only partially accurate.

The sermon that then follows after that, on John 19:31-37, has the marginal note: “The following piece was preached by Dr. Martin Luther on Easter Eve in 1533.” We find this sermon in Rörer’s notebook, Jena manuscript Bos. q. 24g, p. 121, with the house sermons. For the end of chapter 19, verses 38-42, Poach could not find any replacement whatsoever, so he leaves a gap here and immediately conveys his version of Rörer’s last two transcripts from June 12 and 19, 1529, on the beginning of the resurrection account according to John 20, verses 1-10 and 11-18. For the last piece he remarkably adds the marginal note: “Saturday after St. Vitus’ Day [June 15], i.e. Luther preached this sermon on the 19th of June in 1529,” even though he did not include the dates in Rörer’s manuscript elsewhere.

Thus Poach’s first version concludes with John 20:18. This version now also acquires a special contemporary interest due to Amsdorf’s preface, which we impart in the appendices in the back of the volume.

The trial work of Poach, instigated by Rörer (see above), was accordingly printed off “specially” at Rörer and Stoltz’s recommendation (cf. also Poach’s preface to the second version below) by order of the Saxon princes. “Specially” probably means separate from the Jena Tomi [tomes of the Jena edition of Luther’s works]. According to what Amsdorf says in the preface, this was in fact supposed to be done at the same time as two other writings – the “Confession” of the late Elector Johann Friedrich against the Augsburg Interim (cf. E. Julius Meier’s biography of Amsdorf in Meurer, ed., Das Leben der Altväter der lutherischen Kirche, 3:221) and a new edition of Luther’s Brief Confession concerning the Holy Sacrament (Erlangen edition 32:396ff; Köstlin, Martin Luther: Sein Leben und seine Schriften, 2:572ff). In view of the impending Colloquy of Worms (cf. Schmidt, Philipp Melanchthon: Leben und ausgewählte Schriften, p. 602ff)8, these three writings were apparently, according to Amsdorf’s preface, supposed to serve as a public warning against all Adiaphoristic, Majoristic, and Interimistic false doctrines. We have not been acquainted with any editions of that “Confession” of Johann Friedrich and of Luther’s Brief Confession from the year 1557. Nor have we come across any copy of the printing of P1 bound together with those two writings. Dr. Knaake in Naumburg possesses a later edition of the Confession of Johann Friedrich. Thus Amsdorf’s preface, to which Poach especially appeals for his work from 1557 in his letter dated March 6, 1564 (cf. above), is actually referring to other writings which he expected to appear at the same time, but whose publication is not verifiable and perhaps never took place. It is also worthy of special note that Amsdorf, at the very beginning of his foreword, not only mentions Luther’s sermons on John but also his sermons on Matthew, which had been “put…on paper and dispatched…to press [in Druck vorfertiget]” (which probably means: “prepared for print [für den Druck vorbereitet]”) from Rörer’s transcript. Perhaps he means the sermons on Matthew that were at one time located in the Jena codex Bos. o. 17m before the sermons on John (cf. p. 2 and above).

Poach’s Second Edition of 1566 (P2)
Poach dedicated his second version to Duke Johann Friedrich the Younger (or III). In the preface he justifies the new edition in the following way:

These articles of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ [whose twofold significance as a gift to be believed and as a pattern for our life he has just discussed in detail], as they were described by the holy Evangelist John and afterward preached and expounded on by the cherished man of God, Master Georg Rörer of blessed memory gave to me, as he had recorded them, about ten years ago. The idea was that I should test myself on them, to see whether I could decipher them. And when I had deciphered them as best I could, I turned the draft over to him and Master Johann Stoltz, the court preacher of blessed memory, and they had them printed at that time. But since no more copies were available and there was much demand for them, and since many Christians also desired that they be printed in the form of a handbook, I have gone through them again. In addition, I have been moved to do so by the fact that I was still inexperienced in such work at that time and my first draft reflected that. On top of that, in Master Georg Rörer’s inventory Luther’s exposition of the 19th chapter did not go all the way to the end so that I could carry his exposition all the way through that entire chapter. But now God has bestowed on me another inventory, belonging to a God-fearing and learned man who was also there to hear these sermons and wrote them down as Dr. Luther was preaching them. From this inventory I have supplied what was lacking in Rörer’s. I have issued this exposition, Gracious Prince and Lord, in Your Princely Grace’s name in all humility. In doing so I wanted to make it public to Your Princely Grace that the cherished man of God, whom I personally heard lecture and preach for eleven years, is the one I recognize and consider to be my prophet, master, and teacher, and I acknowledge now and intend to acknowledge until my end that I am his unworthy and feeble disciple. May God graciously help me to this end. Amen. …

For this version Poach does not seem to have consulted Rörer’s manuscript anew. He probably did not have access to it anymore, after he had offended the court in Weimar with an unauthorized edition of four previously unknown Luther sermons using the remains of Rörer’s notes (Theologische Studien und Kritiken, vol. 67 [1894], p. 375ff). But the definite assurance that he had located and utilized another Rörer-supplementing transcript in the meantime – an assurance whose accuracy we have no reason to question – gives the second version a critical significance all its own, in spite of its shortcomings. To be sure, he seems not to have used his other source – an “inventory” (i.e. a collection of notes [Niederschrift]), as he himself calls it – for a thorough revision of the first edition. Instead he seems to have used it mainly just to complete the parts that were lacking in Rörer’s manuscript, especially, as he emphasizes, to retrieve the missing exposition of the end of chapter 19. Accordingly, John 19 is concluded thus:

  1. The Easter Eve sermon on John 19:23-30 from 1529 (Xa) – which, as we have already seen, Poach included with some justification – is essentially unaltered in P2.
  2. The sermon on John 19:31-37 from 1533 (Xb), which was admittedly only used in P1 in a makeshift capacity, is replaced in P2 by a completely different sermon on the same verses (32a). And
  3. the gap in the exposition that existed in P1 is filled in with a sermon on John 19:38-42 (32b).

But P2 has not only completed the exposition of chapter 19; it has also extended the exposition of chapter 20 to 20:23. Poach did this by utilizing a Luther sermon from Easter Tuesday of 1529 (Xc). Poach made no mention of this in the foreword, nor was there any immediate reason for it, since this sermon does not come from the new transcript of sermons on John that he used. The original sermon is preserved for us in Rörer’s transcript; Poach’s copied version of it is found in Buchwald, Andreas Poachs handschriftliche Sammlung, 1/1:141ff. It thus does not belong to the series of Saturday sermons, the last of which was the one handed down by Rörer as such, from the Saturday after St. Vitus’ Day, June 19, 1529. Bugenhagen returned to Wittenberg on June 24; cf. Hering, Doktor Pomeranus, Johannes Bugenhagen, p. 78, 169.

In the sections that were already presented in the first edition by following Rörer’s notebook, manifold additions now appear, as well as (rare) abridgments, for the second edition. These are partly due to the liberal redacting of Poach, who like Joannes Aurifaber had learned how to think and write in Luther’s style, and partly due to borrowing from other sermons; e.g. for John 19:23-24 he conveys the spiritual interpretation by following the House Postil (Erlangen edition, 2nd ed., 2:115), then conveys the explanation of Jesus’ words to his mother by following the House Postil (ibid., 2:143).

Cf. Köstlin, Martin Luther: Sein Leben und seine Schriften, 2:155f.


1 Due to sickness e.g. on January 30 and February 6, 1529; cf. Burkhardt, Dr. Martin Luther’s Briefwechsel, p. 158, fn.; Küchenmeister, Dr. Martin Luther’s Krankengeschichte, p. 62; Buchwald, “Die letzten Wittenberger Katechismuspredigten vor dem Erscheinen des kleinen Katechismus Luthers” in Beiträge zur Reformationsgeschichte (Festschrift for Prof. Dr. J. Köstlin, 1896), p. 49, fn. 3. Due to participation in the visitations on January 9, 1529, at least (De Wette, Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken, 6:98; Enders, Dr. Martin Luther’s Briefwechsel, 7:39).

2 The editors Albrecht and Koffmane actually cited an edition of Mathesius’ sermons by G. Lösche, published in Prague in 1898, but I did not have access to this edition and thus cited a much earlier edition available on the internet. – trans.

3 Caspar Cruciger’s Leben in Das Leben der Altväter der lutherischen Kirche für christliche Leser insgemein aus den Quellen erzählt, ed. Moritz Meurer, vol. 2, part 2 (Leipzig & Dresden: Verlag von Justus Naumann, 1862). – trans.

4 Caspar Cruciger: Nach gleichzeitigen Quellen (Elberfeld: Verlag von R. L. Friderichs, 1862). – trans.

5 In Leben und ausgewählte Schriften der Väter und Begründer der lutherischen Kirche, ed. J. Hartmann, W. Möller, et al., II. Theil (Elberfeld: Verlag von R. L. Friderichs, 1875). Albrecht and Koffmane cited different editions of Köstlin’s work throughout this introduction, but I have located and cited all of their references in just the first edition, cited in this endnote. – trans.

6 A transliteration of the Greek word χαρακτῆρες, which means figures or letters, referring to Rörer’s particular shorthand abbreviations and symbols. On Rörer’s complex system of Latin-German shorthand, see D. Martin Luthers Werke: kritische Gesamtausgabe, vol. 29 (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1905), p. xvi ff, esp. p. xxii-xxiv. – trans.

7 Since Poach still conveys items from the manuscript after this, the stress is on the word Passion; the remainder deals with the account of the resurrection.

8 In Leben und ausgewählte Schriften der Väter und Begründer der lutherischen Kirche, ed. J. Hartmann, Lehnerdt, et al., III. Theil (Elberfeld: Verlag von R. L. Friderichs, 1861). – trans.

Michael Schulteis: Student in Wittenberg

By Wilibald Gurlitt

Translator’s Preface

The following was translated from Wilibald Gurlitt’s Michael Praetorius (Creuzbergensis): Sein Leben und Seine Werke (Michael Praetorius [of Creuzburg]: His Life and His Works) (Leipzig: Druck von Breitkopf & Härtel, 1915), p. 9-10. This is the third in a series of posts on Michael Praetorius.

For more on the author, click here. For more on this particular work of the author, read the Translator’s Preface here.

This section picks up after Michael Schulteis, Michael Praetorius’ father, has enrolled at the University of Wittenberg during the winter semester of 1528, at about age 13. Though we have no personal recollections from Schulteis about his time in Wittenberg, Gurlitt is able to put us in his shoes anyway by citing the recollections of a man who enrolled at the university on May 30, 1529, at the age of 24, Johannes Mathesius. (I was startled to discover that Mathesius’ series of sermons on Luther’s life, a sine qua non for any serious Luther biographer or Reformation historian, has not yet appeared in English.)

The bracketed [ ] interpolations in the Mathesius excerpt are Gurlitt’s, except for those that contain the original German. For the sake of translation accuracy, I consulted four editions of Mathesius’ work:

  • Historien von des Ehrwirdigen in Gott Seligen thewren Manns Gottes, Doctoris Martini Luthers, anfang, lehr, leben und sterben (Nuremberg, 1566), folios 81, 82. (See link under “Sources” on the right.)
  • A. J. D. Rust, ed., Leben Dr. Martin Luthers, in siebzehn Predigten (Berlin: Verlag von G. Crantz, 1841), p. 105-106, 107.
  • Dr. Martin Luthers Leben (St. Louis: Druckerei des Lutherischen Concordia-Verlags [Concordia Publishing House], 1883), p. 125-126, 128.
  • The edition Gurlitt used for his citation (rf. Endnote 1).

Michael Schulteis: Student in Wittenberg

Master Johannes Mathesius, who spent his first semester at the University of Wittenberg in 1529, paints a vivid picture of student life at that time. Among other things, he relates the following from that year:

[S]ince Doctor Johann Pommer, pastor in Wittenberg, was absent at this time [Bugenhagen was in Hamburg], being regularly called upon to organize churches and schools in the land of Saxony [Lower Saxony], our Doctor [Luther] preached three or four sermons every week. In them he expounded the Sunday Gospels, the Gospel of John, and chapters 19 and 20 of the second book of Moses in a wise and Christian manner. It was also at that time, on St. James’ Day [July 25], that he beautifully applied the legends of St. Christopher to all preachers and Christian people who carry Jesus Christ in their heart and arms, guard their conscience, and help other people, and who receive nothing but ingratitude from the world and false brothers for doing so.

During this year I also heard, in the first place, the Catechism and many other comforting doctrines expounded, by Doctor Justus Jonas [theological dean from 1523-1533] in the castle [the collegiate Castle Church] and by the three deacons, Master Georg Rörer, Johann Mantel, and Master Sebastian Fröschel [in the parish church]. Now, just as the Parish Church and Castle Church were very well managed at that time, and the word of Christ was wisely taught in good harmony and produced much fruit, so also the university was held in the highest honor at that time.

From the Doctor [Luther] I heard the last 22 chapters in the prophet Isaiah expounded in the course of perhaps forty weeks. From these lectures I often returned home filled with comfort and joy [confidence].

From Mr. [Herrn] Philipp [Melanchthon], the faithful and diligent professor, I heard during this short time a portion of Cicero’s Orations and the beautiful Latin oration pro Archia. During this year I also heard him lecture on the entire dialectics [logic], which he dictated to us afresh, together with rhetoric [including homiletics]. In the morning this great man explained the epistle to the Romans; on Wednesday he lectured on honorable ethics and virtue from Aristotle’s Ethica or book of ethics. We debated or gave speeches [declamiret] on this every week. Mr. Johann Bugenhagen [who returned to Wittenberg in June of 1529] expounded the epistles to the Corinthians; Doctor Jonas expounded several Psalms. Aurogallus [Matthäus Goldhahn, d. 1543] lectured on his Hebrew grammar and Psalm 119. Master Franz [Burchart] of Weimar lectured on Greek, Tulichius [died as rector in Lüneburg in 1540] on Cicero’s De officiis, Master Vach [Balthasar Fabricius from Vacha an der Werra] on Virgil. The old Master [Johannes] Volmar lectured on the Theoricas planetarum,* Master [Jakob] Mülich on the sphere.† Master Caspar Creuziger lectured on Terence to the young students in the paedagogium at this time.‡ The private schools were excellently managed in the same way. Master Winsheim [Veit Örtel from Windsheim], Master Kilian Goldstein, Master [Veit] Amerbach, and Master Erasmus Reinhold, and soon afterwards Master [Johannes] Marcellus, Mr. Georg Maior [Major], and Master [Paul] Eber all kept their students in good discipline and diligently lectured and repeated.

There was also good peace and harmony between students and townspeople. …

… We all lived and sang in our choir [hatten unser Canterey] with joy and in good spirits, in love and friendship. Moreover, from the lips of the old men, for whom we juveniles had an honorable awe and reverence, fell many good speeches and stories which I diligently retained. And because it was precisely Mr. Philipp who lectured on dialectics, we had very good discussions consisting of questions and instruction in these and other lectures. There was also no excessive or immature eating, drinking, or entertainment; everyone tended to his studies for which he had come to the place…1

These captivating recollections were written down in the years 1562-1564. Many a detail in them would seem distorted by the passage of time, which tends to make the past more glorious. However, the great and significant thing that was alive in Wittenberg at that time still sounds out clearly on every side of this small portrait of time, which gives an accurate glimpse into the quiet sphere of the inner life of this great time, into the world which a young Wittenberg student experienced in those days, and into the wealth of stimuli and the abundance of important personalities whom he encountered on a daily basis and who filled his soul with sublime happiness.

In these incomparable surroundings, united by uniform convictions and common goals, Michael Schulteis also laid the foundation of his comprehensive education, which would set him apart from so many of his brothers in the ministry in the varied struggles of his life.

We first have to imagine the young Schulteis, occupied with the subjects of the trivium, as a student in one of those numerous Wittenberg “private schools,” which had arisen in the home of various professors according to Melanchthon’s standard. It is uncertain how long this course of study lasted for Schulteis. It is also uncertain when he obtained in Wittenberg the lowest academic degree, the honor of a Bachelor of Arts – or if he did at all;2 his later mention as such may have been merely a professional designation. For indeed, by March 22, 1534, he has been appointed as a Bachelor at the Latin school in Torgau; on that day he receives a pay raise of 10 florins from the council.3 He thus seems to have belonged to the teaching profession for some time already, the customary first step toward the preaching ministry. His outward circumstances were apparently quite poor, which also would have taken him away from his studies in Wittenberg prematurely.


* This might refer to Giovanni Campano’s (also called Campanus von Novara) influential work Theorica Planetarum (1261-1264).

† That is, the sphere of the heavenly bodies, since the universe was thought to be arranged in a series of revolving, concentrically arranged spherical shells in which the heavenly bodies were set in a fixed relationship. Today we would call this astronomy.

Heath’s New German and English Dictionary (1939) defines Pädagogium as a “secondary school (usually a private educational institution); college; academy; cramming establishment [or cram school].” The Journal of Education, ed. Henry Barnard (Hartford, CT: F. C. Brownell, 1860), in part 2 of its “History of the University of Tübingen,” dealing with the years 1535-1652, reads: “For better preparation in the languages, two preparatory schools were adjoined to the university proper; a ‘Trivial School,’ for the rudiments [of grammar, rhetoric, and logic], and a ‘Paedagogium’ immediately preceding entrance to the university. An eminently fit person was to be made ‘Paedagogarch,’ with three masters to assist him; and they were principally to teach grammar and rhetoric; to read with their pupils Terence, Virgil, and Cicero’s epistles; to make them compose a poem (carmen) and an epistle (epistolam); to instruct them in music, both simple and figured, and to sing with them, sometimes after meals, a motet or a psalm” (p. 70). A footnote says that the Paedagogium in Tübingen lasted until the Thirty Years’ War. It appears that the University of Wittenberg had a somewhat similar arrangement.

1 Johannes Mathesius, Luthers Leben in Predigten, in Ausgewählte Werke, ed. G. Loesche (Prague, 1898), 3:159ff.

2 Cf. Jul. Köstlin, Die Baccalaurei und Magistri der Wittenb. philosoph. Fakultät 1518-1537 (Halle, 1888), p. 14, where the conferrals from the years 1525-1532 are missing, with the note (fn. 4): “There seem to have been no conferrals in these years, partially due to the disturbances occasioned by Carlstadt and partially due to plague.”

3 Karl Pallas, Die Registraturen der Kirchenvisitationen im ehemals sächsischen Kurkreise, in Geschichtsquellen der Provinz Sachsen und angrenzender Gebiete, vol. 41, sect. 2, part 4 (Halle, 1911), p. 16.