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

Luther Visualized 7 – Trial and Excommunication

The Papal Bull Threatening Luther’s Excommunication

Manuscript of the papal bull Exsurge Domine in which Luther is threatened with excommunication (Vatican Secret Archives, Reg. Vat., 1160, f. 251r)

This is a manuscript of the infamous papal bull (edict) threatening to excommunicate Martin Luther, proclaimed on July 24, 1520. It begins:

Leo etc. For future memory of the matter. Arise, O Lord, and judge your cause. Recall to memory your reproaches of those things that are perpetrated by senseless men all day long. Bend your ear to our prayers, for foxes have arisen seeking to demolish the vineyard whose winepress you alone have trodden. … A wild boar from the forest is endeavoring to destroy it…

Luther had 60 days from September 29 to send a certified retraction of his errors to Rome. Instead, on December 10, Luther appeared with the bull, trembling and praying, before a pyre lit in the carrion pit at Holy Cross Chapel outside the eastern gate of Wittenberg. He cast the bull into the fire with the words, “Because you have confounded the Holy Place [or truth] of God, today he confounds you in this fire [or may eternal fire also confound you]. Amen.”

Pope Leo X issued the actual bull of excommunication, Decet Romanum Pontificem (It Is Proper for the Roman Pontiff), on January 3, 1521.

Sources
Vatican Secret Archives, “The Bull Exsurge Domine by Leo X with Which He Threatens to Excommunicate Martin Luther”

Weimarer Ausgabe 7:183ff

Max Perlbach and Johannes Luther, “Ein neuer Bericht über Luthers Verbrennung der Bannbulle,” in Sitzungsberichte der königlich preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Berlin, 1907), 1:95ff

Luther’s Works 48:192

The Vineyard of the Lord

Lucas Cranach the Younger, The Vineyard of the Lord, oil on panel, 1569, on the grave slab for Paul Eber in the Wittenberg Parish Church (photo by the Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt).

When Paul Eber (8 Nov 1511 – 10 Dec 1569) was 13, his horse bolted, throwing him from the saddle and dragging him along on the ground for half an hour, leaving him somewhat crooked for the rest of his life. He went on to be professor of Latin at the University of Wittenberg (1541), head preacher at the Castle Church (1557), head pastor of the City Church and general superintendent of the district (1558), and the most influential hymn writer of the Reformation after Luther. When he died, his children commissioned an epitaph from Lucas Cranach the Younger, who chose a vineyard as the theme of the accompanying painting (pictured), which is still on display in the City Church (St. Mary’s) in Wittenberg. In the painting, Eber and his family, including 13 children, are kneeling at the fence on the right hand side. Eber, whose name means “wild boar” (from the Latin aper meaning the same), is holding an open Bible which he has helped to translate. Luther (called a “wild boar” in the papal bull above), Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, and other fellow reformers labor faithfully in the Lord’s vineyard, while the pope and his cardinals, bishops, monks, and nuns do their best to ruin the vineyard.

For more on this painting, read here.

Strieter Autobiography: Johann Jacob Hoffmann

[Continued from Part 27. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Hardships and Happenings (continued)

I wrote to Professor Crämer for an assistant. He replied that he was sending me J. J. Hoffmann. He said that he was still young and unsteady [leicht angelegt]; he was not yet able to be independent. He needed to work under me for at least another year yet, and I was supposed to keep a good eye on him.

J. J. Hoffmann

J. J. Hoffmann

Hoffmann came.17 An impressive, youthful person, very gifted. I liked him a lot. But soon I notice that he is a light character. His favorite was idling away the time in the kitchen with the wife and the maid. I had him preach at Tagatz’s and told the congregation that this was my assistant. We would do the work together. He would work especially in Big Bull, but would also preach here, and I would go back up to Big Bull from time to time. Were they quite alright with that? They gave a unanimous “Yes.”

I now bought Fanny, a 5-year-old dark chestnut, a beautiful animal, for 120 dollars, a high price at the time and I had to pay in gold18 coin. But I obtained it on a one-year loan, and with zero interest. I now gave Hoffmann my good Rocky for 80 dollars, the price he cost me,19 also on a loan without interest, and for as long as it took him to get the money. I did that because Fanny was no riding horse, but was a fine runner in the buggy, easily trotting 12 miles an hour.

I now say to Hoffmann that he should go up to Big Bull and should stay 14 days and come back home. He went and came back after 14 days. I had him preach again at Schmidt’s. After the sermon he asked me on the way home how I had liked his sermon. On the previous Friday I had already given him Luther to study. But he soon set the book aside and went to find my wife and conversed with her, and not until Saturday evening did he jot a little bit down. I told him in answer to his question: “For sheer words, I have no idea what you said. Hoffmann, you’re going to turn into a miserable babbler this way. Why don’t you leave your studies of Greek and French” – for he had told me he was pursuing those – “and read Luther, so that you can preach something decent?”

He hung his head.

Corner of what is today Naugart Drive and Berlin Lane, c. 1909. The frame schoolhouse on the right replaced the original log schoolhouse where Hoffmann was called and organized the first Lutheran congregation in the area on March 11, 1861.

Corner of what is today Naugart Drive and Berlin Lane, c. 1909. The frame schoolhouse on the right replaced the original log schoolhouse where Hoffmann was called as pastor and helped organize the first Lutheran congregation in the area, behind Strieter’s back, on March 11, 1861.

He went back to Big Bull, soon comes back, and said that he had had them call him as an independent pastor.20 I ask him how he could dare do that behind my back? Didn’t he know that the congregation belonged to me? I also now told him what Crämer had written me. He apologized to me. I now had to put a good face on the bad affair and install him.21 The man also came to a sad end. My dear old Strassen,22 long time president of the Wisconsin District of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States, can sing a sad song about Hoffmann. So can the dear Dr. Schwan, president of the synod at large at the time.23

Translator’s Postscript on J. J. Hoffmann

Just what the lyrics for the “sad song about Hoffmann” would say is difficult to surmise, in large part because the Concordia Historical Institute does not have any collection for Carl Strasen, and H. C. Schwan destroyed most of his correspondence before he died. What we know is as follows:

Johann Jacob Hoffmann (usually referred to by his middle name) was born on June 12, 1840, in Kuehndorf, Prussia, to Johann Valentin and Maria Christiane (Hohmann) Hoffmann. He was one of 17 children. He immigrated with his family to the United States around 1845 when he was around five or six years old. They lived for a while in Buffalo, New York, where his father worked as a tailor. Eventually the Hoffmanns moved to Michigan, where Jacob’s father farmed until his death.

Jacob began his studies for the public ministry of the gospel in Buffalo, then continued and finished them at the seminary in Fort Wayne. He was sent to serve as an assistant to Pastor Strieter in Marquette County early in 1861, where he was ordained on February 17. On March 11, the Lutherans in the town of Berlin northwest of Wausau called him to be their pastor and he accepted. As Strieter notes, this was somewhat rash on his part, but Strieter installed him on August 25. From his base in the town of Berlin, he served at least 20 preaching stations, traveling even as far as rural Neillsville, and making a mission trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in 1864.

Eduard Moldehnke

Eduard Moldehnke

In a December 2, 1861, report to the Johannes Bading, president of the Wisconsin Synod, traveling missionary Eduard Moldehnke wrote of a chance meeting with Hoffmann in Wausau on September 23, during a mission trip to the area. Moldehnke reported:

On September 23, I traveled 35 miles by stagecoach to Wausau, a village surrounded by a ring of black stumps. It has a charming location on the Wisconsin River and is basically the last village in that direction. I arranged to stay at the home of Mr. Paff. In the evening I preached to about 30 people. Earlier I had just so happened to meet a Missouri man, Hoffmann. He would like to live there, but the people are rejecting him. He has a congregation in the bush about 10 miles from Wausau, but he hurries by horse to about 30 stations and fails to accomplish anything substantial by splintering his efforts this way, meager as they already are. He was very rude to me, even though he is only about 21 years old. Naturally I repudiated his attacks, though too mildly, I fear. … With his domineering manner Hoffmann has caused scandal everywhere he’s preached. Even some in his own congregation would gladly be free of him. So he preached in Wausau in a private home and when Mr. Paff asked him how he managed to preach there without permission, he said that he was a preacher and had the right to preach anywhere, and so on.

On January 20, 1862, Jacob was united in marriage with Johanne Rosinalde Erneste von Anschuetz (in records, Jacob referred to her as Rosine or Rosa for short) by Rev. Friedrich Lochner in Milwaukee. Rosine was 18. God blessed their marriage with 11 children:

  1. Ernst August Wilhelm, b. October 7, 1862
  2. Johann Valentine Ernst, b. March 31, 1864
  3. Johann Jacob Ernst, b. December 10, 1865
  4. Ernst Georg Heinrich Martin, b. December 10, 1865
  5. Clara Renata Coeleste, b. January 13, 1868
  6. Theophilus Oscar Ernst, b. July 2, 1869
  7. Adolphe August Ernst, b. August 28, 1871
  8. Otto Wilhelm Ernst, b. January 15, 1874
  9. Eduard Oscar Arthur, b. December 31, 1875
  10. Wilhelm Philipp Ernst, b. August 18, 1878
  11. Harry Hubert, b. November 1, 1882

The first nine Hoffmann children had 6, 6, 8, 6, 8, 5, 7, 5, and 9 sponsors, respectively, including six different pastors and a schoolteacher. Rosa was a capable and intelligent mother, teaching her children in the evenings.

Hoffmann accepted a call to St. John’s in Portage in February 1867. There he took pride not only in preaching but also in teaching, writing in the back of their record book, “My attention was directed at the school above all.” When he began teaching in June of 1867, there were 22 children. By 1868 the congregation had erected a new schoolhouse and there were 75 children. At the dedication of the school in December, Pastor Hoffmann read a document he had composed in which he boasted of his accomplishments. In his concluding remarks he said:

I sincerely and earnestly ask that every father please send his children punctually and consistently each day when school is being held. I beg that every father please buy his children the necessary chalk tablets and books. I furthermore ask that every father please punctually pay the trivial amount for exercise books, ink, and quill pen, which I supply the children myself, just as I do the German books. That way they will come by them fairly and will always be provided with what they need.

One more note in closing: I will do my best to continue to hold school in the future as much as possible. I will also continue to do my best to do it as well as possible. I will do my best to teach every child what is necessary and beneficial at the proper time. But I ask you trust me enough to assume that I must know what is most necessary and what a child needs to learn first. Nevertheless, everyone may make his wishes known to me, and if they are acceptable, I will take them into consideration.

This excerpt is part of a 9-page feature that he wrote about himself in the back of St. John’s record book, after having devoted just over 1 page to all of his five predecessors combined.

St. John’s 150th anniversary booklet says that 1870 was a stormy time in the history of the congregation, supposedly owing to “great opposition to strict biblical practices.” It also reports that Pastor Hoffmann resigned “‘for the sake of peace’ and with broken health” sometime around the middle of July 1872. He appears to have moved to East Tawas, Michigan, near Tawas City. (This may have been where his parents were living.)

Hoffmann then accepted a call to St. Paul’s in Sheboygan Falls and St. John in Plymouth, Wisconsin, at the end of 1872 and was installed in January of 1873. His firstborn son Wilhelm died on June 4, 1873, at 3:30 p.m. from fever and smallpox. He was 10 years old. In recording his son’s death in the records, Hoffmann called him “a gem of a Lutheran and a gem of a Missourian.” It was probably not long before or after this that his second son Ernst, at age 9, fell down the cellar and broke his leg below his hip, which crippled him for life. What effect these tragedies had on Hoffmann’s psyche is not known.

In June of 1878, the 150th anniversary book for St. John, Plymouth, reports that Hoffmann went on a missionary tour through the Lake Superior region for several weeks. “Adverse reports occasion the resignation of Pastor Hoffmann from the Sheboygan Falls-Plymouth parish in November.” In the record book for St. Paul, Sheboygan Falls, Hoffmann made his final entry in the Confirmation section as follows:

On the 23rd of November, 1878 [a Saturday], the following children were confirmed by me in the Lutheran church in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, and admitted to the Holy Supper, by special, fervent request on the part of the children:

  1. Johann Jacob Ernst Hoffmann, born December 10, 1865 [12 years old]
  2. Ernst Georg Heinrich Martin Hoffmann, born December 10, 1865 [12 years old]
  3. Clara Renata Coeleste Hoffmann, born January 13, 1868 [10 years old]

The two twins had already finished confirmation instruction in 1875, and again in 1877, and had thoroughly learned all of Dietrich’s [edition of Luther’s] Catechism at that time. The girl had also taken part in all of the confirmation instruction in 1877 and had learned well the chief questions and all the passages in Dietrich’s Catechism. — All three of them were, as far as knowledge is concerned, some of the best of the confirmands, and just because of their young age had stay back from the Holy Supper, which all three of them have already desired most passionately. Therefore I was no longer able to refuse them given the situation. — God bless them in time and eternity. Amen. J. Jacob Hoffmann, Pastor.

A note was later added in the margin by Hoffmann’s successor:

J. J. Hoffmann was already deposed [from his office as pastor] at the time and consummated the action [of confirmation] without witnesses. J. M. Hieber

The following “Announcement and Warning” appeared in the July 15, 1879, edition of Der Lutheraner:

The Northwestern District of the Synod of Missouri, Ohio, and Other States hereby announces that J. J. Hoffmann, formerly pastor at Sheboygan Falls and Plymouth, Wisconsin, is no longer to be regarded as one of your own. He has been officially dismissed from his position because he has occasioned much scandal and offense by his conduct, in spite of all our admonition.

Representing the above-named synodical district
C. Strasen, President

Later reports from the The Lutheran Witness place him in New Orleans spreading slanders against the Missouri Synod and its leadership and ministering to a French Lutheran mission congregation. In 1882 he accepted a call back to Wisconsin, to serve some of the same members he had previously served. This occasioned a lasting split among the Lutherans in the area and the founding of Grace Lutheran Church in the town of Maine. Hoffmann served in the area until 1885. From 1890-1895 he served in Sheboygan and was unaffiliated with any synod. He appears to have returned to New Orleans in 1895, but he drops off the radar after 1897. By the time eight Lutheran congregations northwest of Wausau celebrated a joint 50th anniversary in 1910, the Wausau Daily Record-Herald reported that Hoffmann was deceased.

All of these pieces are part of the “sad song about Hoffmann” that Strasen and Schwan could sing once upon a time. There does not appear to have been one super-scandal that ruined Hoffmann’s ministry. Rather, his life and ministry seem to have been characterized by a steady buildup of headstrong activity. He thought of himself more highly than he ought to have (cf. Romans 12:3), craving attention, recognition, and praise, and wanting always to do things his own way, without concern for what his brothers in the ministry thought or what his members thought, whom he probably perceived as being ignorant and uninformed by comparison. He also seems to have been lacking in people skills. His knowledge, skill, and energy are undeniable, but so are his arrogance, lovelessness, and folly.

Endnotes

17 From the “Church News [Kirchliche Nachrichten]” section of the March 19, 1861, issue of Der Lutheraner: “Mr. J. Jacob Hoffmann, candidate for the holy preaching ministry [des heil. Predigtamtes], was recently sent to me from Fort Wayne as an assistant and, after receiving a call, he was ordained by me and solemnly bound to all the symbols of our church on Invocavit Sunday, the 17th of M., at the behest of the Mr. President of the Northland District. — J. Strieter. Address: Rev. J. Jacob Hoffmann, Stone Hill, Marquette Co., Wisc.” (p. 23). The “M.” was either a mistake by Strieter or a misprint by the editor of Der Lutheraner. Invocavit Sunday fell on February 17 in 1861, not March 17.

18 “or silver” was crossed out in lead and then in ink.

19 Strieter had traded a 60-dollar horse for Rocky, plus paid another 20 dollars.

20 A document has been preserved, titled “Formation of the Congregation in the Town of Berlin, Marathon County, Wisconsin,” apparently authored by the August Schmidt mentioned later in this footnote. It reads in part: “After the Lutherans in the vicinity of Wausau had asked Mr. Pastor J. Strieter from the towns of Newton, Christal [sic] Lake, and Shields, Marquette County, Wisconsin, to visit them and he had refreshed them with the word of God 3 times, Pastor Hoffmann, formerly a student at the seminary in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and assistant pastor of the aforementioned congregations, came to these people, and after he traveled through the area, a meeting for the purpose of founding a congregation was held on March 11, 1861, the proceedings of which are inserted here:

Proceedings of the congregational meeting for the towns of Berlin and Stettin, Marathon County, Wisconsin, assembled in the district schoolhouse near Mr. Heinrich Beilke on March 11, 1861.

The meeting was opened by Mr. Pastor Hoffmann with prayer. Mr. Friedrich Krentz was elected president, and Mr. August Schmidt was elected secretary. — After Mr. Pastor Hoffmann was given an explanation of his compensation…he was unanimously called by the following persons, who hereby organized themselves as an evangelical Lutheran congregation, to conduct the ministry among them according to the confessional writings of the Lutheran Church…” This is followed by the names of 58 adult males, not including the secretary himself, for a total of 59. The location of the district schoolhouse mentioned here (a log building at the time) is today occupied by an empty, unused brick schoolhouse on the southeast corner of Naugart Drive and Berlin Lane.

21 From the “Church News [Kirchliche Nachrichten]” section of the September 17, 1861, issue of Der Lutheraner: “Today, namely on the 13th Sunday after Trinity [August 25], Mr. Pastor J. Jacob Hoffmann, my former assistant preacher, after first being issued a call, was installed by me into his congregation by Wausau at the behest of the most honorable presidium of the Northern District. May the Lord make him a blessing for many. The address of the dear brother is: Rev. J. JACOB HOFFMANN, Box 38, Wausau, Wisc. — J. Strieter” (p. 23).

22 Strieter’s spelling of Strasen, i.e. Karl Johannes August Strasen (1827-1909), pastor in Watertown, Wisconsin, and president of the Northwestern District from 1875-1880 and of the Wisconsin District from 1880-1885.

23 Namely, at the time Hoffmann was ejected from the synod in 1879. H. C. Schwan was president of the Missouri Synod from 1878-1899.

[Read the next part here.]