Luther Visualized 19 – In Decline

Luther’s Decline in Old Age

Left: Luther’s most infamous work, On the Jews and Their Lies (Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1543). Right: Luther’s probably second-most infamous work, Against the Papacy in Rome, Instituted by the Devil (Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1545). For more on the accompanying woodcut by Lucas Cranach, see #8 below.

Luther historians like Martin Brecht would have us “guard against too hastily explaining Luther’s actions in the last years of his life as the grumpiness of an old man.” But those who think this is too easy or simple an explanation have not fought the fight Luther had to fight or experienced his frustrations and disappointments. (Rf. Daniel Deutschlander’s brilliant treatment of the Christian’s struggles in the so-called golden years in The Theology of the Cross, pp. 187-193. Luther’s struggles were compounded many times over.) In a letter to Jakob Probst, bishop of Bremen, dated March 26, 1542, he wrote, “I am exhausted by age and work, ‘old, cold, and sorry to behold’ (as they say).” He closed by saying, “I have had enough of this life, or more accurately, of this extremely bitter death.”

Nevertheless, increasing cantankerousness in advancing age is an explanation, not an excuse. Two of his mounting frustrations in particular got the better of him in these years.

That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew (Wittenberg: Lucas Cranach and Christian Döring, 1523).

Luther and the Jews
In 1523 Luther had written That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew. In addition to defending himself against false rumors in it, he also attempted to win the Jews of his day as converts to the Christian gospel. He suspected that the reason more Jews hadn’t converted to Christianity up to that point was because the only Christianity they had been able to convert to was that of the pope and his followers. “[T]hey have dealt with the Jews as if they were dogs and not humans; they have afforded them nothing more than to insult them and take their property. … I hope that, if we deal with the Jews in a friendly way and give them careful instruction from Holy Scripture, many of them will become true Christians and return to the faith of their fathers, the prophets and patriarchs.”

Luther then went on to demonstrate patiently and thoroughly that the Christian faith was indeed the faith of the Old Testament prophets and patriarchs. He thought it enough to convince the Jews that Jesus was the promised Messiah; the teaching of Jesus’ divinity could wait for the time being. “For they have been led astray so badly and for such a long time that we must proceed cautiously with them… If we want to help them, then we must not practice the pope’s law with them but the law of Christian love, receiving them cordially and permitting them to trade and work with us. That way they will acquire the occasion and opportunity to be with us and around us and to hear and witness our Christian teaching and living.” He even joked that the papists might now begin to denounce him as a Jew as a result of the book.

Judensau, sandstone relief on the exterior of the parish church chancel in Wittenberg, c. 1304 (© Red Brick Parsonage, 2013).

Indeed, this book is remarkable when placed in the context of Luther’s thoroughly anti-Semitic culture. To this day you can visit the parish church in Wittenberg and see an anti-Semitic sandstone relief on the southeast corner of the building, called the Judensau or Jewish Sow, which preceded Luther’s arrival in Wittenberg by more than 200 years. It depicts Jewish boys suckling from a sow – an unclean animal in the Jewish religion (rf. Leviticus 11:1-8) – and a Jewish rabbi looking into the sow’s rear end to read the Talmud. This characterizes the world in which Luther grew up, lived, and worked.

But Luther’s hopes for the conversion of many Jews – hopes he also expressed in a letter he wrote to his friend Bernhard, a baptized Jew, in May or June 1523 – were not realized, and he grew increasingly frustrated with them on the whole. In part, his disappointments were fueled by reports and rumors about the Jews originating with Jewish converts to Christianity. After receiving and reading an unidentified treatise containing a dialogue between a Jew and a Christian in an attempt to convert Christians to Judaism, Luther penned On the Jews and Their Lies (pictured at the head) at the end of 1542. The first two sections were relatively tame, but the third section is now infamous. In view of the frightful rumors surrounding their activity and their supposedly negative effect on the economy, Luther advised the following (directly quoted from the book):

  1. to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn…
  2. that their houses also be razed and destroyed. … Instead they might be lodged under a roof or in a barn, like the gypsies.
  3. that all their prayer books and Talmudic writings…be taken from them.
  4. that their rabbis be forbidden to teach henceforth on pain of loss of life and limb.
  5. that safe-conduct on the highways be abolished completely for the Jews.
  6. that usury be prohibited to them, and that all cash and treasure of silver and gold be taken from them and put aside for safekeeping. … Whenever a Jew is sincerely converted, he should be handed one hundred, two hundred, or three hundred florins, as personal circumstances may suggest.
  7. putting a flail, an ax, a hoe, a spade, a distaff, or a spindle into the hands of young, strong Jews and Jewesses and letting them earn their bread in the sweat of their brow… But if we are afraid that they might harm us or our wives, children, servants, cattle, etc., if they had to serve and work for us…then let us emulate the common sense of other nations such as France, Spain, Bohemia, etc. [further proof of the anti-Semitic world in which Luther lived], compute with them how much their usury has extorted from us, divide this amicably, but then eject them forever from the country.

Martin Sasse, Regional Bishop of Thuringia, ed., Martin Luther on the Jews: Away with Them!, a 1938 pamphlet defending the events of the Night of Broken Glass (Kristallnacht).

Not surprisingly, this work was later utilized by Hitler and the Nazis to try and attract Christians to their cause.

On the one hand, it is folly merely to equate Luther’s religious post-judice (frustration resulting from the Jews’ rejection of the gospel) with Hitler and the Nazi leaders’ racial prejudice (fundamental disdain for the Jewish ethnicity). On the other hand, especially if we are Lutheran, we must acknowledge two things:

  1. The deep contradiction in Luther’s own theology, not only when compared to what he condemned and advocated in his earlier and better 1523 work, but also when compared to his previous assertions about the distinction between Church and State and the roles of each. For example, in his Admonition to Peace (1525) he had written that “no ruler ought to prevent anyone from teaching or believing what he pleases, whether it is the gospel or lies. It is enough if he prevents the teaching of sedition and rebellion.” But in On the Jews and Their Lies Luther tries to defend and advance Christ’s kingdom using the power of worldly government, even though Christ himself said his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36).
  2. Even supposing that it were biblical to enlist the power of the State in defending and advancing Christ’s kingdom, Luther’s advice in this work would still be unchristian and abominable. How could such treatment ever win hearts, which is what Christianity is always after?

Luther and the Pope
This series has already covered Luther’s biblical conviction of the papacy as the Antichrist. In February and March 1545 Luther gave full, unrestrained vent to his pent-up frustrations with the pope, who had already convoked the Council of Trent (rf. woodcut #3 below). The result was Against the Papacy in Rome, Instituted by the Devil (pictured at the head), printed at the end of March.

While he was working on this book, he also designed a series of ten depictions of the papacy—not in the sense of drawing them himself, but in the sense of describing what he wanted artist Lucas Cranach to produce for him. He also composed a short poem, consisting of two distichs, to accompany each one. Cranach then created the woodcuts according to Luther’s designs and had them published with a Latin title at the top and Luther’s poem at the bottom of each. Today this collection of woodcuts is called Abbildung des Papsttums, or Portrayal of the Papacy. They consist of the following, with Luther’s corresponding poem as the caption of each:

1. Birth and Origin of the Pope – A she-devil gives birth to the pope and cardinals. In the background on the right Megaera, one of the Furies in Greek mythology (the Furies executed the curses pronounced on criminals), serves as the baby pope’s wet-nurse. Alecto, another of the Furies, serves as his nursemaid, rocking him and feeding him honey. Tisiphone, the last of the Furies, teaches the toddler pope to walk. Luther himself criticized Cranach for depicting the pope’s birth so crudely, saying that he should have been more considerate of the female sex.

Hier wird geborn der Widerchrist
Megera sein Seugamme ist:
Alecto sein Kindermegdlin
Tisiphone die gengelt jn.

2. The Monster of Rome, Found Dead in the Tiber River in 1496 – This was actually a reprint of a 1523 woodcut by Cranach. The births of freaks or “monsters” in Luther’s day were viewed as evil omens or signs (informative post on this here). So when Melanchthon found out about an alleged monster that had been found dead in the Tiber River in 1496 with head of a donkey, the body of a woman, the skin of a fish, different kinds of feet, and so on (see all the details in the woodcut), and shared it with Luther, Luther of course took it as a sign that God was telling people what the bishop of Rome had become. This depiction was commonly called der Papstesel, the pope-ass, which also unfortunately became the common way not a few German evangelicals referred to the pope.

Was Gott selbs von dem Bapstum helt
Zeigt dis schrecklich bild hie gestelt:
Dafür jederman grawen solt
Wenn ers zu hertzen nemen wolt.

3. The Pope Gives a Council in Germany – The council initially announced in 1536 (the announcement that prompted the Smalcald Articles of 1537) was finally convened by the pope in Trento—a city at the time in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation—in December 1545, the now infamous Council of Trent. However by that time Luther and his followers had given up all hope of a council correcting Roman doctrine and practice and restoring the relationship between the Roman Church and the Lutherans. Here the pope giving a council is depicted as him riding a sow with a handful of his own waste in his hand, which the sow sniffs at greedily and to which the pope gives his paternal blessing. Basically Luther is saying that the pope views Germany as a sow which he can ride as he wishes and to which he can feed his waste—namely whatever decisions the council would render—and the pope expects Germany to be happy with all of it.

Saw du must dich lassen reiten.
Und wol sporen zu beiden seiten.
Du wilt han ein Concilium
Ja dafür hab dir mein merdrum:

4. The Pope as Doctor of Theology and Master of the Faith – Luther’s own biting poem beneath this woodcut says it all: “The pope alone can interpret the Scriptures and sweep out error—just as much as the ass alone can play the pipes and understand the notes correctly.”

Der Bapst kan allein auslegen
Die schrifft: und jrthum ausfegen
Wie der Esel allein pfeiffen
Kan: und die noten recht greiffen.

5. The Pope Thanks the Emperors for the Immense Benefits He Has Received – Pope Clement IV is depicted as beheading Conradin of Hohenstaufen (1252-1268), King of Sicily and Naples. Clement doubtless did not perform the execution himself, but was responsible for it. Luther used this as a metaphor for the pope’s ingratitude for all the benefits that had been given to the papacy by the emperors over the years.

Gros gut die Kaiser han gethan
Dem Bapst: und ubel gelegt an.
Dafür jm der Bapst gedanckt hat
Wie dis bild dir die warheit sagt.

6. Here the Pope, Obedient to St. Peter, Pays Honor to the King – This woodcut, not pictured here, also was not included in some editions of the collection. It shows the pope placing his foot on the neck of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, and so the title is clearly sarcastic. The apostle Peter says to submit to kings and honor them (1 Peter 2:13,17), but the pope, who is the supposed successor of St. Peter, does the opposite. Luther’s accompanying poem reads: “Here the pope openly shows by his deeds that he is the enemy of God and men. What God creates and wants to have honored, the most holy man tramples with his feet.”

7. The Just Rewards of the Most Satanic Pope and His Cardinals – In his poem, Luther said that if the pope and cardinals were to receive what they deserved in the form of earthly punishment (and not just the eternal punishment they can anticipate), this is what it would look like. The pope (on the far right) and three cardinals hang from a gallows. Because of their blasphemies against God and his word, their tongues are nailed to the gallows next to their heads (the hangman is in the process of nailing the pope’s tongue to the crosspiece). Demons receive their souls and carry them away.

Wenn zeitlich gestrafft solt werden:
Bapst und Cardinel auff erden,
Jr lesterzung verdienet het:
Wie jr recht hie gemalet steht.

8. The Kingdom of Satan and the Pope (2 Thessalonians 2) – This is by far the most famous of the woodcuts, since it was also used for the title page of Against the Papacy in Rome, Instituted by the Devil. The pope, with long donkey ears, sits enthroned in the jaws of hell and is waited on by various demons.

Jn aller Teufel namen sitzt
Alhie der Bapst: offenbart jtzt:
Das er sey der recht Widerchrist
So in der schrift verkündigt ist:

9. Here the Kissing of the Pope’s Feet Is Taunted – The pope is holding his ban or excommunication, which is emanating rays. In order to avoid having the ban fall upon them, these two peasants have been summoned to kiss the pope’s feet in repentance. Instead they curse his ban (“Maledetta” is Italian for “damned or accursed thing”), turn around to leave, moon him (in his poem, Luther calls this showing the pope the “Bel vedere,” Italian for “beautiful sight”), and pass gas at him as they go.

Nicht Bapst: nicht schreck uns mit deim bann
Und sey nicht so zorniger man.
Wir thun sonst ein gegen wehre
Und zeigen dirs Bel vedere.

10. The Pope Is Worshipped As an Earthly God – On a podium (altar?) decorated with the papal keys (which, however, are mere skeleton keys, showing that they have no power, because the pope does not use them according to Christ’s institution) sits an inverted papal tiara or crown. A peasant is defecating into it, while another one gets ready to do so. Luther’s poem for this woodcut reads: “The pope has done to Christ’s kingdom as they are treating his crown here. ‘Pay her back double,’ says the Spirit [in Revelation 18:6]. ‘Go ahead and fill it up’ [a play on his own translation of Rev 18:7]—it is God who says so.” To paraphrase: After all the “crap” the pope, as fallen Babylon, has given you true Christians, put twice as much crap in his crown for him to wear.

Bapst hat dem reich Christi gethon
Wie man hie handelt seine Cron. (Apo. 18)
Machts jr zweifeltig. spricht der geist
Schenkt getrost ein: Got ists ders heist

It will come as no surprise that, as went the woodcuts, so went the book. Luther speaks the truth, but he does so in such incredibly crude and indefensible ways that he must fall under the apostle Paul’s judgment of being “only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). Here is a characteristic excerpt:

This, this, this is how one should lie and blaspheme if he wants to be a real pope. Dear God, what a completely and exceedingly brazen and blasphemous lying yapper the pope is. He speaks just as though there were no one on earth who knew that the four chief councils, and many others besides, were held without the Roman Church. Instead he thinks this way: “Since I am an uncivilized ass and do not read books, then there must not be anyone in the world who reads them. But when I sound out my assy braying – Hee-aw! Hee-aw! [German: Chika, Chika] – or if I just let out an ass fart, then they had better regard it all as an article of faith. If not, then Saints Peter and Paul, yes, God himself will be angry with them.” For God is not God anymore; there is only the Ass-God in Rome, where the great, uncivilized asses (the pope and the cardinals) ride on asses that are better than they.

It should go without saying that no Lutheran wears that badge because he worships Luther or thinks he was inspired by the Holy Spirit or without sin. Lutherans wear that badge because of Luther’s Christo-centric theology with its emphasis on grace, faith in Christ, and the authority of Holy Scripture.

Sources
Dr. Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette, ed., Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken, fünfter Theil (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1828), pp. 450-452 (no. 2056)

Woodcuts and distichs from Abbildung des Papsttums in Ein Buch allerlei Rüstung von der Hand darein zu schreiben geistlich und weltlich, pp. 42-59

Helmar Junghans, Wittenberg als Lutherstadt, 2nd ed. (Union Verlag Berlin, 1982), picture #10

Helmut T. Lehmann and Eric W. Gritsch, eds., Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 41:257ff

Helmut T. Lehmann and Walther I. Brandt, eds., Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1962), 45:195ff

Helmut T. Lehmann and Robert C. Schultz, eds., Luther’s Works (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), 46:22

Helmut T. Lehmann and Franklin Sherman, eds., Luther’s Works, trans. Martin H. Bertram (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), 47:121ff, esp. pp. 137,268ff

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the Reformation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1990), pp. 112-113

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1993), pp. 229-235, 333-351, 357-367

Martin Luther, Das Jhesus Christus eyn geborner Jude sey (Wittenberg: Lucas Cranach and Christian Döring, 1523)

Martin Luther, Wider das Bapstum zu Rom vom Teuffel gestifft (Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1545)

St. Louis Edition of Luther’s Works 20:1822-1825

Finishing the Race

A Commentary on 2 Timothy 4:6-8

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. 78-86; available from the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin. I also consulted the 1666 Jena edition, pp. 205-213.

This translation was prepared in connection with an exegetical presentation assigned to me for a circuit meeting in Merrill, Wisconsin, on December 7, 2015.

The footnotes are mine, and are for the most part an attempt to cite Gerhard’s sources more exactly. “PG” and “PL” stand for J. P. Migne’s collections of the writings of the church fathers, “Patrologia Graeca” and “Patrologia Latina” respectively.

May the Holy Spirit use the apostle’s Paul’s words to inspire us to contend honorably and well in the good contest in which God has graciously placed us, so that we finish our race as Paul did, satisfied with our earthly lot and confident of the crown of righteousness that awaits us.

2 Timothy 4:6-8

6. Ἐγὼ γὰρ ἤδη σπένδομαι, καὶ ὁ καιρὸς τῆς ἐμῆς ἀναλύσεως ἐφέστηκε.

ego enim iam delibor et tempus meae resolutionis instat

  • Ἐγὼ γὰρ ἤδη σπένδομαι

Paraphrase: I am being offered and poured out in the manner of a sacrifice.

This kind of metaphor is taken from the sacrifices of the Old Testament, to which drink offerings used to be added.

At the same time he is alluding to the punishment that he is going to undergo and its fruit, the verification of the truth of the gospel. For he says that he is being poured out [libari], that is, that he is about to be poured out [libatum iri], that is, that his blood is about to be shed in order to ratify the truth of the doctrine of the gospel, just as agreements were ratified with drink offerings [libaminibus], that is, with the pouring out of wine which the contracting parties had first sampled [libaverant], that is, tasted with the edge of their lips.

Certainly our death is a sacrifice that we offer to God, but that sacrifice ought to be a willing one. Therefore when the hour of death comes, let us follow after our Lord, not with reluctance and groaning, but with a ready spirit.

A passage parallel to this one is found in Philippians 2:17: ἀλλ᾽ εἰ καὶ σπένδομαι ἐπὶ τῇ θυσίᾳ καὶ λειτουργίᾳ τῆς πίστεως ὑμῶν, χαίρω [But even if I am being poured out on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice].

The little word ἤδη [already] means that it will not be long before he is carried off to punishment and he ratifies the truth of the gospel with the pouring out of his blood.

  • Καὶ ὁ καιρὸς τῆς ἐμῆς ἀναλύσεως ἐφέστηκε

“The time of my release [resolutionis],” namely from bodily fetters. Cyprian seems to have read ὁ καιρὸς ἐμῆς ἀναλήψεως [the time of my ascension].1 Some teach that Paul called it “release” [resolutionem] because through death the body is released (or dissolved) [resolvatur] into ashes, but the better reason was just given, namely that through death the fetter is loosened [solvatur] with which the soul was drawn together with the body.2

A parallel passage is Philippians 1:23: ἐπιθυμίαν ἔχων εἰς τὸ ἀναλῦσαι καὶ σὺν Χριστῷ εἶναι [having a desire for release and being with Christ].

Most interpreters conclude from this passage that out of all the Pauline epistles, this was the last one the apostle wrote, since the death he would suffer was already imminent. Rf. Eusebius’ Church History, Book 2, Chapter 22.3 Estius opposes this judgment in his section on the “Theme of the Epistle.”4 He is of the opinion that “this epistle is either the first or second of those that were produced in Rome, and was written many years before Paul’s death, namely in Nero’s third or fourth year, since Paul’s martyrdom occured during Nero’s thirteenth year.”5 He proves his opinion with the following arguments:

  1. Since Paul had just arrived in Rome, he wanted to inform his disciple Timothy right away how he was doing, since Timothy was his dearest friend, and in particular about the success of his first defense before Nero, which he does at the end of the epistle.
  2. He writes several things in this epistle which clearly show that he has just arrived in the city of Rome, e.g. “When you come, bring along the cloak that I left in Troas” (4:13) and, “Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus” (4:20).
  3. In this very epistle he indicates that he is still being reserved for fulfilling the office of preaching among the gentiles: “The Lord stood by me and gave me much strength, in order that through me the proclamation might be fulfilled and all the gentiles might hear it” (4:17).
  4. The epistle Paul wrote to Philemon, in which he asks that a guest room be prepared for him [vs. 22], implying that he would soon be released from prison, is much later than this one.6

In his exposition of verse 13 in this chapter, he strengthens his opinion with another argument: If [Paul] was thinking that the day of his death was already impending as he wrote this epistle, then what would be the point of his asking for the traveling clothes, or the box, or the scrolls that he had left in Troas some ten years ago, when they would not be of any further use to him?7

At the present passage he responds to the mainstream interpretation by saying that the apostle does not think “that he is already about to be carried off to martyrdom,” but that he is simply indicating that, “even though he is uncertain as to the time of his death or suffering, he is gradually being prepared for sacrifice through imprisonments and tribunals.”8 But this exposition does not capture the emphasis of the apostle’s words, and the strength of the arguments produced by Baronius and Estius is weak.

7. Τὸν ἀγῶνα τὸν καλὸν ἡγώνισμαι, τὸν δρόμον τετέλεκα, τὴν πίστιν τετήρηκα.

bonum certamen certavi cursum consummavi fidem servavi

This is a flowery and sort of triumphant συμπλοκή [combination] linked together by asyndeton, in which he describes the course of his life using three distinct metaphors.

The first one is borrowed from a strong athlete: Τὸν ἀγῶνα τὸν καλὸν ἡγώνισμαι, certamen bonum certavi, “I have contended in the good” – that is, the noble, distinguished, and excellent – “contest.” Some want this to be understood as a running contest here, since it is immediately followed by cursum consummavi, “I have finished the race.” But it is more correct to say that the metaphor is taken particularly from a wrestling contest, which metaphor is also used in 1 Corinthians 9:25.

The second metaphor is borrowed from a strenuous runner: τὸν δρόμον τετέλεκα. He compares himself to those who run in a racecourse, which metaphor is used in the same way as the first, and he links it together with the first one taken from an athlete. See 1 Corinthians 9:24,26. Some want this metaphor to be taken from a journey, but the first explanation fits the context better.

The third metaphor is borrowed from an honorable soldier: τὴν πίστιν τετήρηκα. By the faith he not only understands the confident apprehending of Christ’s merit, but also the faith of duty or the faithfulness with respect to duty that he owed and promised to God. For he compares himself to a soldier who has pledged loyalty [fidem] to the emperor or to the general and keeps it faithfully. “This is what is sought in stewards, that a man be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2).

Therefore Paul’s life has constituted the following:

  1. A good contest, since he has thus far been stationed in battle against sins, the world, the flesh, the devil, heretics, false apostles, and also enemies of Christ, both Jews and gentiles, and by the power of Christ, who has strengthened him, he has emerged the victor.
  2. A vigorous race, for on the racetrack of the public ministry and of private life, on which he has been running his heart out thus far, he has neither grown faint along the way nor lost faith, but has finished his race the victor.
  3. A continuous excercise of faith, since he has remained faithful to Christ his general all the way to his life’s final breath, and has kept the loyalty [fidem] pledged to Christ.

“[H]e says that he has [contended in the contest,] has finished [the] race[, has kept the faith], even though…the last act of his suffering and death still remained, because…he was already approaching the end of the contest and had firm confidence in the Lord regarding the part of the racecourse he still had to cover.”9 Cf. Augustine, A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins, Book 2, Chapter 16.10

8. Λοιπὸν, ἀπόκειταί μοι ὁ τῆς δικαιοσύνης στέφανος, ὃν ἀποδώσει μοι ὁ Κύριος ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ὁ δίκαιος κριτής, οὐ μόνον δὲ ἐμοὶ, ἀλλὰ καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς ἠγαπηκόσι τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν αὐτοῦ.

in reliquo reposita est mihi iustitiae corona quam reddet mihi Dominus in illa die iustus iudex non solum autem mihi set et his qui diligunt adventum eius

  • Λοιπὸν, ἀπόκειταί μοι ὁ τῆς δικαιοσύνης στέφανος

Ambrose renders the Greek λοιπόν as quod reliquum est, “as for what remains.”11

He continues in the metaphor and calls the reward of the contest, race, and military service that have been completed commendably a crown, since it was customary for a crown to be given to those running in a racecourse and to soldiers.

But the happiness and glory of eternal life is called the crown of righteousness, not Paul’s righteousness, but God’s. And indeed the righteousness of God is understood not as that which judges according to the merits of works, but as that according to which God is steadfast in promises, and which does not pay a debt that has been earned, but a debt that has been freely promised.

Therefore it is the crown of righteousness because:

  1. Christ has won it for us by his perfect obedience and righteousness.
  2. God has promised it to those who serve him faithfully and pursue holiness and righteousness (1 Corinthians 9:25; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4).In the case of the former, the crown is earned by righteousness; in the case of the latter it is only a consequence of righteousness. It can also be called the crown of righteousness because:
  3. At that time Paul and all the elect will be fully and perfectly brought to that life where there is righteousness without sin. In this sense it is called “the crown of life” (James 1:12), “a beautiful crown” (Ezekiel 16:12), and “the crown of glory” (Isaiah 6:3;12 1 Peter 5:4), etc.

Estius asks how it can be called the crown of righteousness, since it is the crown of compassion (Psalm 103:4). He responds:

Those are no less compatible than the fact that eternal life is sometimes called a reward [merces] in the Scriptures, and at other times a favor [gratia] – a reward because it is given in return for the merits of good works, and a favor because these same merits are God’s gifts. So too eternal life is the crown of righteousness because it is owed to the one who contends according to the law, and it is the crown of compassion because a person would not be able to contend according to the law if God did not grant it, nor would a person attain to the crown if the same Lord did not mercifully pardon the failings and mistakes committed while contending.13

And later:

If Christ as the just judge is going to pay [redditurus] Paul and all the elect with the crown of righteousness in return for having kept the faith and having finished the race, there is therefore a kind [ratio] of merit in these works with respect to such a crown. Nor indeed do the Catholics frame these merits of works in opposition to the grace of Christ… For [they teach] that God’s kindness towards us is required just as much as our merits, which are his gifts. And it is in return for these merits, which he himself has generously bestowed, that eternal rewards are going to be given.14

We respond:

  1. It is not eternal life itself, the essential reward [praemium], that is called a reward [merces], but the accidental or secondary rewards [praemia] that are so called. In Matthew 5:12 and Luke 6:12, Jesus says, “Your reward [merces] will be abundant in heaven,” making a noticeable distinction between heaven itself or eternal life and the reward in heaven. Thus in 1 Timothy 4:8 piety is said to have “promises of the present life and of the life to come,” i.e. promises of the rewards [praemiorum] in the present and future life.
  2. If Scripture does call eternal life a reward [mercedem] sometimes, and a favor [gratiam] at other times, then it is not a reward of merit, but a reward of grace [gratiae], and consequently it is not given in return for the merits of good works, but out of grace. “If it is by grace, then it is not by works” (Romans 11:6).
  3. When the good works of the pious are called merits by the ancients – and indeed such as derive their origin from God’s gift and grace – then they are using the term merit in a broader sense and καταχρηστικῶς [improperly], as was clearly established at the proper locus.15
  4. We concede that eternal life is called the crown of righteousness because it is given to one who contends according to the law, but it still does not follow from this that the contest is deserving of eternal life, or that eternal life is a reward owed by merit in return for that contest. For it is one thing to ask to whom the crown of eternal life should be given; in that case it is correct to say that it is given to those who contend according to the law. But it is another thing to ask for what reason it should be given. The former describes the subject, the latter the meritorious cause.
  5. A debt owed with respect to justice, carefully considered and properly so called, is opposed to a reward of grace, but a debt owed with respect to a gracious promise, carefully considered and καταχρηστικῶς [improperly] so called, does not exclude grace nor is opposed to it. The reward of good works is said by the fathers (but nowhere in Scripture) to be owed by reason of the promise, but since that promise is purely gracious (Isaiah 40:23; Romans 11:35),16 it is therefore improper to call it owed. Augustine on Psalm 109: “God is faithful, the one who has made himself our debtor, not by accepting anything from us, but by promising so many things to us. … Whatever he has promised, he has promised to the unworthy, so that it would not be like a reward [merces] promised in exchange for works, but would be a favor [gratia] given gratis, as its name indicates.”17
  6. If “a person would not be able to contend according to the law if God did not grant it,” then there is no way that the contest can be a meritorious cause of the crown of glory or of eternal life. The reason is that, if the ability to contend according to the law is given by God, then a person is rendered God’s debtor for that, rather than that God should owe a person anything for that. If good works are God’s gifts, then, properly speaking, we are unable to merit anything with them.
  7. If “a person would not attain to the crown if God did not mercifully pardon the failings and mistakes committed while contending,” then there is no way that the contest can be a meritorious cause of the eternal crown. The reason for that is because that contest is not complete, perfect, blameless in all respects. And works that are going to be meritorious need to be perfect and pure, completely free of any defect.

As for the rest, the apostle says that that crown of righteousness has been “set aside for [him],” no doubt by God, by whom Paul was most confidently expecting to have it bestowed [reddendam] upon him. “I am certain that he is able to guard my deposit” (2 Timothy 1:12). That is why he immediately adds:

  • ὃν ἀποδώσει μοι ὁ Κύριος ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ, ὁ δίκαιος κριτής

Estius emphasizes that Paul does not say, “will give [dabit],” but “will give back [reddet],” “just like some debt, or a loan or deposit, which needs to be paid back by law,” and he cites Theophylact and Oecumenius.18

We respond:

  1. The little word ἀποδώσει has the free promise in mind; for what God has promised out of grace, he faithfully keeps. It is therefore not a debt of justice, but of promise.
  2. Basil, on p. 68 of his seventeen homilies on the Psalms, on Psalm 7 in the second homily, teaches that it is Scripture’s custom to say ἀνταπόδοσιν for δόσει and ἀνταποδοῦναι for δοῦναι, just as compound forms are used for simple ones in other cases.19
  3. In Colossians 3:14 the rewards [praemia] for good works are called ἀνταπόδοσις τῆς κληρονομίας, retributio hereditatis, the “repayment of the inheritance.” Just as a son is born an heir, and does not at some point need to earn the inheritance with works, so the pious have been born of God as cherished sons of God in Christ, and if they are sons, then they also have to be heirs. Yet just as a large inheritance is nevertheless at the same time a reward [praemium] for filial obedience, so also the rewards [praemia] of life in heaven compensate the pious for their works and afflictions most generously and far beyond what they deserve.

By ὁ Κύριος [the Lord] he understands Christ, whom he calls ὁ δίκαιος κριτής [the righteous judge], the one to whom the Father has given all judgment (John 5:22). The apostle notably says about this righteous judge that he is going to give the crown both to him (Paul) and to all who love his (the judge’s) appearing, from which it is clearly proved that the authority κριτικήν [to judge] is given to Christ as man.20

But Estius follows this up by saying that Christ is not going to present the elect with heavenly blessedness in any other way than by simply awarding the apostle Paul and the rest of the elect the crown that is owed to them through a judicial decision, since “to bless a creature effectively and properly belongs to uncreated authority alone.”21

We respond: But indeed that uncreated and infinite authority to bless a creature has been given to Christ the man through and on account of the personal union of the two natures in time. He will therefore not only pronounce a judicial decision with his external and audible voice, but he will also demonstrate his omniscience by exposing even the most hidden things of all people (1 Corinthians 4:5), and he will demonstrate his omnipotence with that which precedes the judgment – the resuscitation of the dead, the summoning and assembling of all people at the tribunal of judgment, and the effectual execution of the judicial sentencing. Power and glory that are truly divine are required in order to do all or any of these things, which is why Scripture says throughout that Christ is coming to judge in truly divine glory, power, and authority.

By ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ [that day] he understands the day of judgment, which is elsewhere called “the day of the Lord.”

Ἐναντιοφανές [Apparent Contradiction]: As far as his soul is concerned, Paul received that crown of righteousness immediately after his death. Why then does he say that Christ is not going to give it to him until the day of judgment?

We respond: He is talking about the fullest and most perfect blessedness, which will be bestowed not upon the soul, but upon the human consisting of soul and body.

From this passage it is concluded that the apostle was sure of his salvation. But Estius follows this up by saying that “Paul is not simply affirming here what is going to happen. Rather, he is either speaking optimistically [sermonem esse bonae fiduciae], as if to say, ‘I am certainly expecting and hoping to receive this crown from the Lord,’ or more likely, there is an implied condition, ‘The Lord will do this for me if I perserve all the way to my death.’”22 For Estius says that what Paul wrote in the letter to the Philippians “after this one to Timothy”23 stands against any certainty of salvation, “when he speaks as one who is still by no means completely certain: ‘if somehow I may attain to the resurrection which is from the dead’ (3:11).”24

We respond:

  1. The words of the text by themselves testify clearly enough that the apostle was most certain that the crown of glory would be bestowed upon him by Christ the judge. For he says that that crown of glory was set aside for him by the Lord and would be bestowed upon him on that day of judgment, and he does not employ verbs in the optative mood, but in the indicative.
  2. Many of the Pontificals concede that the apostle was certain of his salvation, but they add that that certainty came from some special revelation. See Duraeus in the eighth chapter of his book against Whitaker, folio 259,25 and Pistorius in his guide, p. 201.26
  3. The words of Romans 8:38, “I am certain that neither death nor life…,” are not merely optimistic, but are also words of unshakeable certainty and of the firmest conviction, with which these words in the present text are in perfect agreement.
  4. Certainly the condition of perseverance is also implied, but the apostle was certain of that very perseverance because of God’s kindness, faithfulness, and power, as was demonstrated at the proper locus.
  5. The particle εἴ πως in Philippians 3:11 does not express doubt, but alludes to the hardship and afflictions that weigh upon the pious in this life.

He is called the δίκαιος κριτής [righteous judge] because he will judge ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ [in righteousness] (Acts 17:31) and will execute that δικαίαν τοῦ θεοῦ κρίσιν [righteous judgment of God] which Paul describes this way in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7: “It is just in God’s sight to repay tribulation to those who are troubling you, and to you who are undergoing tribulation to repay rest, along with us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven…”

  • οὐ μόνον δὲ ἐμοὶ, ἀλλὰ καὶ πᾶσι τοῖς ἠγαπηκόσι τὴν ἐπιφάνειαν αὐτοῦ

Those “who love [Christ’s] coming” are those who are waiting for him as their Savior with longing and vigilance, who daily prepare themselves for Christ’s coming, and who demonstrate that they love him and are eagerly waiting for his coming by earnestly devoting themselves to piety.

Estius suspects that the “familiar distributive” πᾶσι in the Greek text was a later addition, because:

  1. Hentenius does not translate it in Oecumenius.27
  2. Ambrose and the other Latin ancients do not read it.28
  3. The Syriac translator also does not find it in his Greek text.
  4. It is easier to add this little word than to remove it, since the sense seems to require it.29

We respond:

  1. The main reason prompting Estius’ position that this particle was a later addition is that it is not included in the Vulgate version, which the Council of Trent pronounced the authentic one.30
  2. But what will be done with those same Tridentine fathers, who explicitly add that particle when citing this verse in the Sixth Session, Chapter 16?31
  3. Estius himself confesses that “the sense seems to require it.” It is therefore easier for it to have been omitted in the Latin version than added in the Greek, especially since other examples of this kind of omission can also be found in the Vulgate version.
  4. The Greek text of Oecumenius explicitly includes that particle, and Hentenius’ version cannot detract from it at all. In fact Oecumenius draws out this useful observation from that particle: “Here he also incites Timothy himself, for he says, ‘He will also bestow it upon you. For if he will give the crown to all [omnibus] who love his coming, then how much more to you!’”32
  5. Ambrose and the Latin ancients have followed the Vulgate version. The Syriac translator also ignored the Greek text and followed the Vulgate now and then, as several examples are able to confirm.

Endnotes

1 Gerhard may be referring to De Laude Martyrii (On the Glory of Martyrdom) 18 (PL 4, col. 828). This work is attributed to Cyprian with reservation.

2 Cf. Guilielmus Estius, In Omnes Beati Pauli et Aliorum Apostolorum Epistolas Commentaria (Paris, 1623), p. 852.2-853.1: “[Paul] calls death his ‘release’ [resolutionem] either because through death the body is released (or dissolved) [resolvatur] into ashes or, more likely, because through it the fetter is loosened [solvatur] with which the soul was drawn together with the body.” Cosmas Magalianus, Operis Hierarchici, sive, De Ecclesiastico Principatu, Liber II. in quo Beati Pauli Apostoli secunda ad Timotheum Ephesi Episcopum, & Primatem, Epistola, Commentariis illustratur (Lyon, France: Sumptibus Horatii Cardon, 1609), p. 180: “For death is the loosening [solutio] of the soul from the body, a departure, as it were, from the penitentiary in which it was being detained.”

3 PG 20, col. 193-196. Rf. also Magalianus, op. cit., p. 8, where he not only cites Eusebius as such an interpreter, but also Chrysostom in his homilies on this epistle (rf. e.g. PG 62, col. 601) and Jerome in his Lives of Illustrious Men (rf. PL 23, col. 615-618).

4 Estius’ opposition is really based on the arguments of Cardinal Caesar Baronius, in tome 1 of his Annales Ecclesiastici. (Cardinal Baronius undertook his Annales in answer to the Lutheran church history compiled mainly by Matthias Flacius, the so-called Magdeburg Centuries.) Magalianus (op. cit., p. 9) also cites Alfonso Salmerón the Jesuit, in Salmerón’s first discussion (Prima Disputatio) on 2 Timothy (Disputationum in Epistolas Divi Pauli Tomus Tertius), in addition to Baronius, as going against the judgment of mainstream interpreters.

5 Estius, op. cit., p. 825.

6 Ibid., p. 825-826. Estius does not actually include this argument in the “Theme of the Epistle,” as implied here, but in his comments on vs. 6 (p. 852.2), where he says that he will prove his assertion in his comments on Philemon 22.

7 Ibid., p. 856.1.

8 Ibid., p. 852.2.

9 Ibid., p. 853.1. In the original, it appears that Gerhard is citing Augustine (rf. next footnote), but he is actually citing Estius, who supports his interpretation by citing Augustine.

10 PL 44, col. 165-166. In English editions, the citation in question appears in Chapter 24. The “Cf.” does not appear in Gerhard’s original (rf. preceding footnote).

11 On the Duties of the Clergy, Book 1, Chapter 15 (PL 16, col. 40). The Latin phrase, like the English, is somewhat ambiguous, referring either to remaining subject matter or to what remains in the future. In Schaff’s Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (vol. 10, p. 11) the phrase is rendered henceforth.

12 This reference does not seem to fit.

13 Estius, op. cit., p. 853.2.

14 Ibid., p. 854.1.

15 Latin: suo loco. This phrase occurs again later; both times it seems to be a reference to Gerhard’s well-known dogmatic treatise and magnum opus, Loci Theologici (Theological Topics).

16 Perhaps Gerhard meant to cite 40:13 (which corresponds to Romans 11:34). The actual Old Testament parallel to Romans 11:35 is Job 41:11.

17 PL 37, col. 1445,1446. This corresponds to Psalm 110 in English Bibles.

18 Estius, op. cit., p. 853.2. Cf. Oecumenius in PG 119, col. 233,234; Theophylact in PG 125, col. 131,132.

19 “‘Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is injustice in my hands, if I have paid back [ἀνταπέδωκα] evil to those who pay me back [τοῖς ἀνταποδιδοῦσί μοι], may I then fall down empty at the hands of my enemies. May the enemy then hunt down my life and overtake it’ [Psalm 7:4-6a LXX]. It is customary for Scripture to apply the term ἀνταπόδοσις [repayment] not only to the usual circumstances, as repayment of something good or bad that already exists, but also to actions taking place first, as in the passage, ‘Pay back [Ἀνταπόδος] to your slave’ [Ps 118:17 LXX]. For instead of saying, ‘Give [Δὸς],’ ‘Pay back [Ἀνταπόδος]’ was said. Δόσις [giving], then, is the beginning of doing good; ἀπόδοσις [giving back] is the reciprocal measuring out of something equal for the good that one has experienced; ἀνταπόδοσις [paying back] is a sort of second beginning and going around [περίοδος] of the good and bad things being paid to certain people. But I think that, whenever the discourse is seeking repayment [τὴν ἀνταπόδοσιν], making, as it were, a sort of formal demand instead of a request, it yields something like the following sense: ‘Show me the same obligation of care that progenitors automatically owe their offspring by nature’” (PG 29, col. 233; translation mine).

20 “appearing” in this sentence is adventum, “coming,” in Latin, but Gerhard has the original Greek ἐπιφάνειαν, “appearing,” in mind. The authority to judge is clearly given to Christ as man, since Christ can only visibly appear to other humans as man, and not as God (rf. Col 1:15; 1Ti 1:17; Heb 11:27; Jn 4:24).

21 Estius, op. cit., p. 853.2.

22 Ibid., p. 854.1.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid., p. 853.2.

25 Ioannes Duraeus, Confutatio Responsionis Gulielmi Whitakeri (Paris: Apud Thomam Brumennium, 1582).

26 Ioannes Pistorius, Wegweiser für all verführte Christen (Ingolstadt: Andreas Angermayer, 1600). Gerhard cites this book as “hodeget.”, which is an abbreviated Latin transliteration of ὁδηγητήρ, a Greek word corresponding to Wegweiser in German. Pistorius’ father, Johannes Sr., was at first a Roman Catholic and then a Lutheran. Johannes Jr. went the opposite direction.

27 Rf. Iohannes Hentenius, ed., Ennarationes vetustissimorum Theologorum (Antwerp: In aedibus Iohannis Steelsii, 1545), folio 169, Caput Nonum.

28 Rf. Ambrose, op. cit. (endnote 11).

29 Estius, op. cit., p. 854.1.

30 Rf. H. J. Schroeder, trans., Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent (St. Louis and London: B. Herder Book Co., 1941), p. 18 (English), 297 (Latin), Fourth Session, “Decree Concerning the Edition and Use of the Sacred Books.”

31 Ibid., p. 41 (English), 319 (Latin).

32 Hentenius, op. cit. (endnote 27), folio 170. At the head of each section of Oecumenius’ commentary, Hentenius includes his own Latin version of the verses being treated.

A Prince’s Response to the Augsburg Interim

By Johann Friedrich the Elder (John Frederick I)
1548

UPDATE (12/8/15): The complete German original has also been included at the bottom in an attempt to counter its rare availability up to the present.

Translator’s Preface

On April 24, 1547, the Catholic princes of the Holy Roman Empire under Emperor Charles V decisively defeated the Schmalkaldic League of Lutheran princes under Elector Johann Friedrich I of Saxony and Landgrave Philip I of Hesse, at Mühlberg on the Elbe River. In the course of battle, Johann Friedrich and other Lutheran princes were captured by the Hungarian cavalry. This battle was part of a larger effort – agreed to by Charles V and Pope Paul III on June 26, 1546 – to compel the Protestants by force of arms to acknowledge the decrees of the Council of Trent, convened in 1545, and to return to the fold of the Roman Church.

Friedrich Bente reports:

The Elector [John Frederick I] himself was taken captive, treated as a rebel, and sentenced to death. The sentence was read to him while he was playing chess with his fellow-captive, Duke Ernest of Lueneberg. John Frederick answered, he did not believe that the Emperor would deal so severely with him; if, however, he were in earnest, they should let him know that he might order his affairs with his wife and children. He then calmly turned to the Duke, saying: “Let us continue the game; it’s your move.” (Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions, 2nd ed. [CPH, 2005], p. 220)

Johann Friedrich the Elder. Portrait by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1531.

Johann Friedrich the Elder. Portrait by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1531.

But due to Emperor Charles’ threat to execute their beloved leader, the city of Wittenberg also signed a Capitulation to the Emperor on May 19. Johann Friedrich was compelled to resign his electoral dignity and the Electorate of Saxony was taken away from him and his heirs and given to his relative Maurice. In exchange, Johann Friedrich’s death sentence was changed to an indefinite prison sentence. Johann Friedrich talks more about the Capitulation in his Confession below.

But the conscientious Charles knew that mere governmental submission was not tantamount to submission to the Roman Church. The first step to reduce the Lutherans to obedience to the pope took place at the 1548 Diet of Augsburg, when Charles issued “The Declaration of the Roman Imperial Majesty as to How Affairs Will Proceed in the Holy Empire of the German Nation with Respect to Religion Until the Decision of the General Council,” or Augsburg Interim, on May 15. The decree became imperial law on June 30, though it proved impossible to enforce.

At some point in 1548, perhaps before the Augsburg Interim became imperial law, “special efforts were also made by the Emperor to induce John Frederick…to sanction the Interim” while he was in prison (Bente, p. 224).

That is where the Confession below comes in.

By 1557, several years after Johann Friedrich’s death in 1554, his written confession to the Emperor in response to the Interim had become more widely known. Nicolas von Amsdorf, in a preface to a book of Luther sermons on John 18-20 published in 1557, wrote of plans to have the Confession published (apparently together with the Luther sermons) and spoke very highly of it:

From [this confession] all pious and troubled hearts, which are assailed under the cross that they carry in any situations like those of [Johann Friedrich], should take a comforting example and illustration, so that they too confess their faith as joyfully and steadfastly as the praiseworthy elector of Christian memory did. He confessed his faith during his imprisonment dauntlessly, yet with the utmost patience and humility.

For he did not rant and rave, he did not disparage the Imperial Majesty or his counselors who urged him to accept the Interim, nor give them empty prattle. Instead, with due honor and reverence, he humbly and submissively requested, and yet at the same time announced, that he could not and would not accept such an Interim in good conscience, just as everyone will see and read in this confession of his. (source)

But in the preface to volume 28 of the Weimar Edition of Luther’s Works (1903), Otto Albrecht and Gustav Koffmane write, “We have not been acquainted with any editions of that ‘Confession’ of Johann Friedrich…from the year 1557. Nor have we come across any copy of the printing of [those Luther sermons on John 18-20 originally published in 1557] bound together with [it].” The most they can say is that a certain Dr. Knaake in Naumburg was in possession of a later edition of Johann Friedrich’s Confession, but they do not say anything more about the nature of that edition (source).

There is a fairly large excerpt from the Confession on pages 224-225 of Bente’s Historical Introductions cited above. One almost cannot read the excerpt without craving the entire document. Bente’s somewhat obscure citation for the excerpt is “Walther, 16”. This refers to pages 16-18 of the first part of C. F. W. Walther’s Der Concordienformel Kern und Stern (2nd ed., St. Louis: M. C. Barthel, 1877), which contains the historical background for the Formula of Concord. Walther’s citation there reads: “Rf. Unschuldige Nachrichten, 1702, p. 364, ff.”

The Unschuldige Nachrichten, or Innocent News, was published by Valentin Ernst Loescher, the great opponent of Pietism, in the first half of the 18th century. Thankfully, the Rare Books Room of the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary had a copy of Loescher’s News for 1702, which I was able to locate this past summer.

There was one more problem though. Walther cited pages 364 and following, but those pages did not contain Johann Friedrich’s Confession. By checking the indexes, however, I found the entire confession reproduced on pages 393 and following under the title, “Churfürst Johann Friedrichs zu Sachsen Bekäntnüß auff das Interim” (translated below). The problem was that Walther’s excerpt began on page 394, which was misprinted as 364.

Loescher says that he is reproducing the Confession “ex MSTO,” short for “ex manuscripto” – “from the manuscript.” How he came to possess the manuscript is unclear, but it is known that he was a collector of rare books and manuscripts. For example, what is today termed Codex Solger 13, which contains a number of valuable, anonymous transcripts of Luther sermons, was once in Loescher’s possession (rf. here). And in fact, if I were into serious research and wanted to attempt to locate the manuscript Loescher once had, I would begin by searching the Solger collection in the Nuremberg City Library (Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg), since I know that at least some of Loescher’s collection ended up in Solger’s collection.

At any rate, we have no reason to doubt the authenticity of Loescher’s manuscript.

  1. Loescher was an earnest and honest confessional Lutheran Christian.
  2. The Confession’s content is in perfect agreement with the historical context delineated above.
  3. Its style and vocabulary is consistent with Johann Friedrich’s upbringing, and with similar writings of the same time period in general.

I am therefore happy to present to you, the reader, this profoundly beautiful confession of the once-powerful Lutheran Saxon prince, Johann Friedrich I. It is extremely difficult to imagine any politician writing something so full of biblical conviction today. The only negative of the Confession I can find is that in one spot it could give the impression of improper Church-State entanglement. (But one finds it difficult to fix blame for any such entanglement that may have existed in reality, if the Lutheran princes of the time were even half the kind of man this confession indicates Johann Friedrich was.)

May the triune God grant us all such a love for Divine Scripture, and for the Unaltered Augsburg Confession and the other Lutheran Confessions, which are squarely founded on it, and a conviction to match.

Elector Johann Friedrich of Saxony’s Confession Against the Interim
From the manuscript

I listened obediently when I was told that the Roman Imperial and Royal Majesty1 and the electors, princes, and estates of the empire had resolved2 how affairs will proceed in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation with regard to the Christian religion until a council should be held, and that the Imperial Majesty earnestly desires of me that I too would consent to the just-mentioned resolution and subscribe to the same.

Now, I am able to recall that when the most highly esteemed Imperial Majesty drew up the Capitulation,3 at first he also included an article saying that I was to obligate myself to whatever what would be decided in a council or that I would accept whatever Your Majesty would decree in matters of faith and not be opposed to the same. But when it was humbly announced to Your Majesty that I could not make such an agreement for many fitting reasons having to do with my conscience, and that no threat to body or life would bring me to do so, Your Majesty commanded that the aforementioned article be stricken and did not pursue any further dealings with me with respect to religion, which I also thus received with humble thanksgiving. And after I was relieved of this burdening of my conscience, everything else in person and possession was humbly surrendered to Your Imperial Majesty’s supremely gracious will and pleasure that much more readily. And after the Capitulation was formalized in all good faith, no further demands were supposed to be made of me, but I was to be permitted to continue in the religion I had embraced and professed. But since the Roman Imperial Majesty is now once again desiring of me that I give my consent to the prepared Interim or legal proposal [Rathschlag], I therefore, in humility, cannot leave Your Majesty uninformed that I have been thoroughly taught and instructed by the servants of the Divine Word from youth onward, and by diligently searching the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures I have come to know – and with God’s help I attest that I maintain this in my conscience without any wavering – that the articles as comprised in the Augsburg Confession, and whatever is in the same vein, are the correct, true, Christian, pure doctrine and are confirmed and founded in the writings of the holy prophets and apostles, and in the writings of the teachers who have followed in their footsteps, to such a degree that nothing conclusive can be produced against them.

It is for this reason that formerly my gracious, dear lord father, of blessed memory,4 and others, out of good and sufficient intelligence and learning, also for their part made us adhere to this Confession many years ago through legitimate ways and means, until a free, Christian, and impartial council should reach a decision. And by God’s grace and mercy, my pious lord father and I have stood by this confession – he to his grave, and I to the present day. And also as part of our governance, before and after the Confession, we have had this doctrine taught and preached, and we have known no other way – even as I still know no other way – to have the eternal, imperishable truth of God announced and expounded to our subjects than in this way. Since then I am now firmly convinced of this in my conscience, I owe God this gratitude and obedience in response to this inexpressible grace which he has shown me, namely that I do not fall away from the truth I have come to know and have confessed, the truth of his almighty will, the will he has revealed to all the world through his Word – so great is my desire to inherit eternal salvation and to escape eternal damnation. For this is what it says in that comforting and terrifying passage of God’s Word: “Whoever confesses me before other people, him I will confess before my heavenly Father. But whoever disowns me before other people, him I will also disown before my heavenly Father” [Matthew 10:32-33]. But if I were to acknowledge and accept the Interim as something Christian and godly, then I would have to go against my conscience and deliberately and intentionally condemn and disown the Augsburg Confession and that which I have hitherto maintained and believed about the gospel of Jesus Christ in many chief articles of doctrine on which salvation depends, and I would have to approve with my mouth that which I considered in my heart and conscience to be completely and utterly contrary to the holy and divine Scriptures. Oh, God in heaven, that would be a misuse and horrible blaspheming of your holy name, and it would be like I was trying to deceive and mislead both you on high in your exalted majesty and my secular jurisdiction here below on earth with fancy words, for which I would have to pay dearly, and all too dearly, with my soul. For that is the true sin against the Holy Spirit, concerning which Christ makes clear that it shall never be forgiven, neither in this world nor in the next, that is, into eternity. Since then I am tied up and imprisoned in my conscience (according to my perception of its voice) and since I know better from the instruction of proven testimonies of Divine Scripture, I therefore ask in all submissiveness and humility, through the mercy of God which he has shown to the entire human race through the incarnation and death of his only and beloved Son, our Savior and Redeemer Jesus Christ, that the Imperial Majesty would not be put out by me for not agreeing to the Interim and instead stubbornly persisting in the Augsburg Confession, and for setting everything else aside and considering only how I might partake of eternal joys after this life of misery and trouble.

For the Imperial Majesty seems to have the idea that what I really want has nothing to do with religion or faith, but with some hoped-for reputation and other temporal things along with it5 – as if anything, out all the temporal possessions available, could be more desirable to me than my freedom and, above all, the prospect of going with my heavy and enfeebled body to be with wife and child in peace and ease.6 These are thoughts of the heart, which no one can know but God himself. But I testify before the face of God, and wish to testify at the Last Judgment, when God will demand an account from me and all people as to how we have spent our lives here in thoughts, words, and actions, that I am seeking nothing in this matter except the glory of his omnipotence and how I might be received as a child and heir of eternal life. As far as external matters are concerned, I have always been eager to render humble obedience to the Imperial Majesty, as God knows, and I will continue to do that and to keep inviolable what I have promised, vowed, and sworn to the Imperial Majesty, with all the integrity of a prince. I pray that the almighty God would soften Your Majesty’s heart toward me, that I might one day obtain favor with respect to my protracted imprisonment and be paternally released from the same, lest I be allowed to be the first prince and blood relative of Your Majesty7 to spend his life in prison during the reign of Your Majesty: to whom I let myself be herewith commended in all humility.

Johann Friedrich the Elder

Endnotes

1 Charles V (1500-1558), Holy Roman Emperor from 1519 to 1556

2 I.e., at the 1548 Diet of Augsburg

3 The Capitulation of Wittenberg is detailed in the preface above.

4 Johann the Steadfast (1468-1532) was Elector and Duke of Saxony from the death of his brother Friedrich the Wise in 1525 until his own death in 1532.

5 German: Denn daß / die mich belanget [sic] / in die Käyserliche Maj. gebildet / als solte es mir nicht umb die Religion oder Glauben / sondern umb eine verhoffte Reputation und andre zeitliche Dinge hiermit zu thun seyn:

6 Johann Friedrich and his wife, Sibylle of Cleves, had four sons. At the time this letter was written, the first, Johann Friedrich II, was 19 years old; the second, Johann Wilhelm, was 18; the third, Johann Ernst, had died in infancy; and the fourth, Johann Friedrich III, was 10. Thus he is probably referring to his wife and youngest son here, though he may be using “wife and child” as a more general expression for “wife and children”.

7 One of Johann Friedrich’s great-grandfathers – the father of his grandmother, Margaret of Austria – was Duke Ernst the Iron of Inner Austria (1377-1424), who was also a great-great-grandfather of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V.

German Original

Churfürst Johann Friedrichs zu Sachsen Bekäntnüß auff das Interim,
ex MSTO.

Ich habe unterthäniglichen angehöret / daß Römisch Käyserliche auch Königliche Majestät / desgleichen Chur-Fürsten / Fürsten und Stände des Reichs sich entschlossen / wie es im Heil. Reich Deutscher Nation / die Christliche Religion betreffend / biß auff ein Concilium gehalten werden solle / und daß die Käyserliche Majestät ernstlich an mich begehret / in gemeldten Beschluß auch zu willigen / und mich demselben zu unterschreiben.

Nun weiß ich mich zu erinnern / daß höchst gedachte Käyserliche Majestät in Auffrichtung der Capitulation anfänglich auch einen Articul hat setzen lassen / ich solte mich verpflichten / was in einem Concilio erkannt / oder Eur. Majestät in Glaubens-Sachen verordnen würden / das wolle ich annehmen / demselben nicht entgegen seyn; Als aber Ihrer Majestät in Unterthänigkeit vermeldet worden / daß ich aus vielen stattlichen Ursachen meines Gewissens halber solche Bewilligung nicht thun könte / und mich keine Gefahr meines Leibes und Lebens dahin bringen lassen würde; Derhalben Ihre Majestät gedachten Articul wieder aus zulöschen befohlen und fürtan wegen der Religion weiter Handlung mit mir nicht gepflogen / welches ich auch also mit unterthäniger Dancksagung angenommen / und nachdem ich diese Beschwerung meines Gewissens entladen / das übrige alles an Leib und Gut in Ihr. Käyserl. Majestät allergnädigsten Willen und Gefallen desto leichtlicher unterthäniglichen ergeben / und darauff die Capitulation vollzogen / in gäntzlichen Vertrauen / es solte forthin desgleichen an mich nicht gemuthet / sondern mir gelassen werden / bey der angenommenen und bekandten Religion zu verharren. Dieweil aber die Römische Käyserliche Majestät ietzo abermahls bey mir ernstlich suchen läst / daß ich zu dem gestalten Interim oder Rathschlag meine Verwilligung geben soll: So kan Ihrer Majestät ich in Unterthänigkeit unangezeigt nicht lassen / daß ich von den Dienern des Göttlichen Wortes von meiner Jugend auff dermassen unterrichtet und unterwiesen / auch durch fleißige Nachforschung der Prophetischen und Apostolischen Schrifften habe erkandt / und es / wie ich mit GOTT bezeuge / in meinem Gewissen ohn alles Wancken halte / daß die Articul / wie sie in der Augspurgischen Confeßion begriffen / und was daran hanget / die rechte wahre Christl. reine Lehre / und in den Schrifften der Heil. Propheten und Apostel und Lehrer / welche deren Fußtapffen nachgefolget / dermassen bestätiget und ergründet / daß darwider nichts schließlichs kan auffgebracht werden.

Darumb sich auch Weyland mein gnädiger lieber Herr Vater Gottseeligen Gedächtnüß / auch andere / aus guten satten Verstande und Wissenschaft derselbigen Confeßion vor vielen Jahren durch ordentliche Wege und Mittel biß auff Erkäntnüß eines freyen Christlichen und unparteyischen Concilii uns anhängig gemacht / dabey denn mein Gottseeliger Herr Vater biß in seine Gruben und ich / biß auff heutigen Tag durch GOttes Gnade und Barmhertzigkeit bestanden / und / auch bey unser Regierung vor und nach der Confeßion also haben lassen lehren und predigen / und anders nicht gewust / wie ich auch nicht anders weiß / denn daß wir damit unsern Unterthanen die ewige unvergängliche Warheit Gottes haben anzeigen und fürtragen lassen. Wann ich dann nun dessen in meinem Gewissen beständiglichen überzeiget / so bin ich GOTT gegen diese unaussprechliche Gnade / die Er mir erzeiget hat / diese Danckbarkeit und Gehorsam schuldig / daß ich von der erkandten und bekandten Wahrheit seines allmächtigen Willen / den Er durch sein Wort aller Welt offenbaret / nicht abfalle / so lieb mir ist die ewige Seeligkeit zu ererben / und das ewige Verdammnüß zu vermeiden. Denn also lautet es / das tröstliche und erschröckliche Wort Gottes: Wer mich bekennet für den Menschen / den will ich bekennen für meinem himmlischen Vater; Wer mich aber verläugnet für den Menschen / den will ich auch verläugnen für meinem himmlischen Vater. Aber wenn ich das Interim vor Christlich und Gottseelig erkennen und annehmen solte / so müste ich die Augspurgische Confeßion und was ich bißhero von dem Evangelio JESU Christi gehalten und geglaubet / in vielen trefflichen Articuln an denen die Seeligkeit gelegen / wider mein eigen Gewissen bedächtlich und vorsetzlich verdammen und verläugnen / und mit dem Munde das billigen / das ich in meinem Hertzen und Gewissen dafür hielte / daß es der heil. Göttlichen Schrifft gantz und gar zuwider wäre. Ey GOTT im Himmel das wolte deinen heiligen Nahmen gemißbraucht und grausamlich gelästert heissen / auch dafür zu achten seyn / daß ich dich droben in der hohen Majestät und meine Welt-Obrigkeit hunten auff Erden mit gefärbten Worten betrügen und umbführen wolte / welches ich doch in meiner Seelen theuer und allzutheuer würde bezahlen müssen. Denn das ist die rechte Sünde in den Heil. Geist / davon Christus deutet / daß sie weder in dieser / noch in jener Welt / das ist in Ewigkeit nimmermehr soll vergeben werden. So ich denn nun in meinem Gewissen / wie ich gehöret / verstrickt und gefangen bin / und eines bessern mit bewehrten Gezeugnüssen Göttlicher Schrifft berichtet werde; Alß bitte ich in aller Unterthänigkeit und Demuth / durch die Barmhertzigkeit Gottes / die Er durch die Menschwerdung und Sterben seines einigen und geliebten Sohnes / unsers Heylandes und Seeligmachers JESU Christi / dem gantzen menschlichen Geschlecht bewiesen hat / Käyserl. Majestät wollen es von mir zu Ungnaden nicht auffnehmen / daß ich in das Interim nicht bewillige / sondern bey der Augspurgischen Confeßion endlichen verharre / und alles andere hindan gesetzt / allein dahin sehe / wie ich nach diesen armseeligen und betrübten Leben der ewigen Freuden theilhafftig werden möge.

Denn daß / die mich belanget / in die Käyserliche Maj. gebildet / als solte es mir nicht umb die Religion oder Glauben / sondern umb eine verhoffte Reputation und andre zeitliche Dinge hiermit zu thun seyn: Gleich als ob mir unter allen zeitlichen Gütern etwas liebers seyn könte / denn meine Erledigung / und daß ich fürnehmlich meines schweren und unvermüglichen Leibes bey Weib und Kind in Ruhe und Gemach seyn könte. Solches sind Gedancken der Hertzen / welche niemand erkennen kan / denn GOtt selbst. Aber ich bezeuge für dem Angesicht GOttes / und will es bezeugen am jüngsten Gericht / wenn GOTT von mir und allen Menschen Rechenschafft wird fordern / wie wir unser Leben allhier mit Gedancken / Worten und Wercken haben zugebracht / daß ich hierinnen nichts anders suche / denn die Ehre seiner Allmächtigkeit / und wie ich möge auffgenommen werden zu einem Kinde und Erben des ewigen Lebens. Was äusserliche Sachen anbelangen / bin ich allzeit begierig gewesen / Käyserliche Mj. unterthänig Gehorsam zu leisten / das weiß GOtt / das will ich forthin auch thun / und was ich Käyserl. Majest. zugesaget / gelobet und geschworen / Fürstlich / auffrichtig / und unverbrüchlich halten. Der Allmächtige GOTT wolle Ihrer Majest. Hertz gegen mir erweichen / daß ich doch dermahleinst meiner langwierigen Gefängnüß halben Gnade erlangen / und derselben Väterlich erlediget werden möge / auff daß ich der erste Fürst und Bluts-Verwandte Ihrer Majestät nicht seyn dürffe / der sein Leben bey Ihrer Majest. gefänglichen zubringe: Deren thue ich mich hiermit in aller Unterthänigkeit befehlen.

Johann Friederich der Aeltere.