Luther Visualized 5 – The Tower Discovery

Luther Rediscovers the Gospel

Martin Luther, from his preface to Tomus Primus Omnium Operum Reverendi Domini Martini Lutheri, Doctoris Theologiae, etc. (Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1545)

This is the seventh and final page of Martin Luther’s preface to the first volume of the first attempted compilation of his works, published in 1545. The page begins:

At last, by the mercy of God, as I was earnestly meditating days and nights, I started paying attention to the context of the words [in Romans 1:17], namely, “The righteousness of God is revealed in it [viz., the gospel], just as it is written: ‘The righteous person lives by faith.’” There I began to understand that the righteousness of God is that by which the righteous person lives by a gift of God, namely by faith…

Sources
Lewis W. Spitz and Helmut T. Lehmann, eds., Luther’s Works, trans. Lewis. W. Spitz, Sr. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1960), 34:323-338

Weimarer Ausgabe, Tischreden 2:177, no. 1681 (recorded by Schlaginhaufen in 1532); 3:228, no. 3232abc (recorded by Cordatus in 1532); 4:72-73, no. 4007 (recorded by Lauterbach in 1538); 5:26, no. 5247 (recorded by Mathesius in 1540); 5:210,234-235, nos. 5518,5553 (recorded by Heydenreich in the winter of 1542-1543)

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985), pp. 221-227

Archeological excavation of the basement of “the tower,” © Red Brick Parsonage, 2013

The published preface mentioned above was the first time Luther made his gospel rediscovery public. From the Table Talk sources cited above, however, you can see that he had often talked about it privately with his friends before 1545. Most of Luther’s retellings focus exclusively on the content of his discovery. But the 1532 retelling, recorded by both Johannes Schlaginhaufen and Conrad Cordatus, is different. There Luther also makes a point of identifying the location (one gets the impression the group was near the site of the famous discovery at the time): “But when I was in this tower one time (in which there was a privy for the monks), I was speculating on those words [in Romans 1:17].” Another copy of Cordatus’ transcription has: “But when I was in this tower and sweating room…” And after describing his epiphany, he concludes, according to both of his transcribers, “The Holy Spirit introduced this art to me on this latrine” or “on this tower” or “on this latrine on the tower.”

What are we to make of this? I cannot make anything of it except to take Luther at his words. Consider the following:

  1.  The plain language of Luther’s description (with several references varying in explicitness) recorded by two different transcribers
  2. The effort at covering up the location in Johannes Aurifaber’s famous 1566 edition of Luther’s Table Talk, which has Luther concluding: “The Holy Spirit alone introduced this art to me” (emphasis mine). Such cover-up would be unnecessary if Luther’s companions understood that he was referring to his study, where scholars will frequently try to locate his discovery.
  3. We know that Luther’s study was on the third floor of the tower (Brecht, 227). The latrine, as you can see from the picture, was clearly not. How could Luther and his conversational transcribers confuse the two, or use the basement latrine to refer to the entire tower, including Luther’s study?
  4. We can only verify that Luther used the tower as his study from 1522 onwards (info marker outside the excavation), but his epiphany most likely took place in early 1518 (some scholars date it earlier).
  5. In all of his descriptions of his epiphany, Luther never once says he was at his desk or reading; he always says he was speculating or meditating.
  6. The ground floor of the tower had under-floor heating. The warm air from a small stove was led through the pictured conduit under the floor slabs (info marker). Considering that this conduit went right above the latrine, it would have indeed made it a “sweating room.”
  7. According to an info marker outside the excavation, at some point the tower was demolished and earth was deposited over the top for a garden, preserving the ground floor and basement underneath. (Ironically, it was in an attempt to plant another garden there that the latrine was discovered in 2004.) This fits perfectly with Georg Rörer’s copy of Schlaginhaufen’s transcript; either he or someone else wrote “in the garden” above “on this latrine.”
  8. According to an info marker outside the excavation, the tower with the latrine “could only be reached from the monastery” (later Luther’s house after the monastery was gifted to him). This accords with its description in Cordatus’ transcription as “a privy [or private place] for the monks.”
  9. Finally – and this is admittedly more speculative – the basement had another, larger room in addition to the latrine. Luther’s 1532 retelling took place in the summer between June 12 and July 12. Would it not make sense for Luther and his companions to be conversing in the basement to get away from the heat, thus enabling Luther to say in effect, “It happened right here” (without us having to imagine a more awkward setting)? To those who would think this unlikely due to some lingering smell down there, an info marker outside the latrine says, “A small drain served to take the sewage waste from the latrine out of the building. At the time it was in use, the land sloped down quite considerably from east to west and from north to south so that the majority of the sewage was washed away.”

Many of course who are convinced that Luther’s famous discovery happened on the toilet, and who are not sympathetic to his reforms and teachings, love to make crude jokes about “the 95 Feces” and Luther going to discharge his waste and having something even worse come out, namely Lutheranism. Never mind all that. The Bible consistently testifies that the triune God’s modus operandi is to bring order and glory out of disorder and shame (creation, Judah and Tamar, crossing of the Red Sea, the Messiah’s birth, etc.) and to hide the truth behind weakness, shame, offense/scandal, and foolishness (Jesus’ choice of apostles, crucifixion, the means of grace, the theology of the cross, etc.), so that only those who are earnestly and genuinely seeking the truth find and remain with the truth (Jeremiah 29:13; Matthew 5:6; 13:11-15). Luther’s tower discovery on the toilet, then, really isn’t all that surprising. If you want to find the truth, you often have to look in the least likely places, according to our natural human reason. And if you want to find the truth of the gospel in 1518, you have to look in the bathroom at a monk from an ordinary copper miner’s family performing one of life’s less attractive chores. If you care nothing for the truth, you will run away disgusted. But to those who love the truth, that bathroom is one of the most attractive places on earth.

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Luther Visualized 4 – The 95 Theses

Luther Posts the Ninety-Five Theses on Indulgences

Anonymous, Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony’s Dream in Schweinitz on October 31, 1517, woodcut, 1717

This scene, itself a recasting of an earlier one from 1617, depicts a later tradition (dating to 1591), supposedly related thirdhand, that, on the night before Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Elector Frederick the Wise had a dream which he related to his brother John the following morning. In the dream, a monk wrote something on the door of his Castle Church with a pen whose quill stretched all the way to Rome and threatened to knock the tiara from the pope’s head.

Source
Johann Georg Theodor Gräße, Der Sagenschatz des Königreichs Sachsen (Dresden: Verlag von G. Schönfeld’s Buchhandlung, 1855), pp. 29-32

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Church of the Foundation of All Saints (Castle Church), woodcut, 1509 (coloring subsequent)

On the evening of October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. Or did he? Philipp Melanchthon was the first to report on the posting of the theses as we commonly depict it, but he was not in Wittenberg in 1517 and he didn’t report on the posting of the theses until after Luther’s death. The closest report we get that may have been recorded during Luther’s lifetime is a handwritten note by Georg Rörer in a 1540 copy of the New Testament that was also used by Luther for making translation revisions, but that note says that Luther posted his theses on October 31 on the doors of both churches in Wittenberg. Plus, Rörer later wrote another note that matched Melanchthon’s information, apparently after he had read Melanchthon’s account. We do know that Luther included a copy of the theses with a letter to Archbishop Albrecht of Mainz on October 31, and that he himself reckoned the “treading underfoot” of indulgences from that day, but his own correspondence from 1518 strongly implies that he did not immediately make the theses public. Historian Martin Brecht suggests that Luther did not post the theses until perhaps the middle of November 1517. This woodcut of the Castle Church appeared in Das Wittenberger Heiltumsbuch of 1509, which depicted Elector Frederick the Wise’s extensive relic collection and was illustrated with numerous woodcuts by Lucas Cranach. In 1760 the Castle Church, including the wooden doors on which Luther had allegedly posted the theses, was destroyed by fire. In 1858 commemorative bronze doors inscribed with the original Latin theses were mounted where the old wooden doors stood.

Sources
Philipp Melanchthon’s preface to Tomus Secundus Omnium Operum Reverendi Domini Martini Lutheri, Doctoris Theologiae, etc. (Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1546), par. 24 (third par. on the linked page)

Volker Leppin and Timothy J. Wengert, “Sources for and against the Posting of the Ninety-Five Theses,” Lutheran Quarterly, vol. 29 (Winter 2015), pp. 373-398

Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1985), pp. 190-202

Luther in Need of Every Comfort

Letter from Martin Luther to Nikolaus von Amsdorf in Magdeburg
Wittenberg, November 1, 1527

Sources

Translated from the WA Br, no. 1164; De Wette, no. 910; Enders, no. 1219. The German translation in StL-Walch, no. 1137, was also consulted.

Letter

Grace and peace. As it pleases the Lord, so it happens, my Amsdorf, that I who used to comfort everyone else up till now, am now in need of every comfort myself. This one thing I ask, and you will ask it with me, that my Christ may do with me as he has pleased, only may he keep me from becoming an ingrate and an enemy of him whom I have preached and worshiped with such great zeal and fervor up till now, though not without sins many and great have I offended him during that same time.1 Satan is asking for a Job to be given to him once again,2 and to sift Peter with his brothers,3 but may Christ see fit to say to him, “Spare his life,”4 and to me, “I am your salvation,”5 even as I continue to hope that he will not be angry at my sins to the end. I wish to respond to the Sacramentarians, but until I get stronger in spirit, I can do nothing. I will keep your copy of the book,6 but will return it in due time.

A hospital has started up in my house. Augustin’s Hanna7 has been nursing the plague inside of her, but she is getting back on her feet. Margaretha Mochinna8 caused us some fright with a suspicious abscess and other symptoms, although she too is getting better. I am very fearful for my Katy, who is close to delivering,9 for my little son10 has also been sick for three days now and is not eating anything and is doing poorly; they say it’s violence of the teeth,11 and they believe that both are at very high risk.12 For Deacon Georg’s wife, also close to delivering herself, has been seized by the plague and is now busy trying to find out if there is any way the infant can be rescued.13 May the Lord Jesus mercifully stand by her side. Thus there are conflicts without, anxieties within,14 and sufficiently rough ones at that; Christ is visiting us. There is one consolation that we set against Satan as he rages, namely that at least we have the word of God for preserving the souls of believers, no matter how he may devour their bodies. Accordingly you may commend us to the brothers and to yourself, in order that you all might pray for us to endure the Lord’s hand bravely and to prevail against Satan’s might and cunning, whether through death or through life, Amen. At Wittenberg on the day of All Saints, in the tenth year of indulgences having been tread underfoot, in memory of which we are drinking at this hour, comforted on both sides, 1527.

Your Martin Luther.

Endnotes

1 This double negative construction seems to be as awkward in Latin as it is in English. A footnote in the St. Louis edition reads: “The reading non sine is so repulsive [anstößig] to us that we have employed sane [‘certainly’] in its place. It did not seem right to the former translator either” (21/1:1028, no. 1137). However, it is highly unlikely that sane was the original reading.

2 Cf. Job 1:9-11; 2:4-5.

3 Cf. Luke 22:31-32.

4 Job 2:6

5 Psalm 35:3 (34:3 Vulgate)

6 The book Das dise wort Jesu Christi / Das ist min lychnam der für üch hinggeben wirt / ewigklich den alten eynigen sinn haben werdend / und M. Luter mit seinem letsten büch sinen und des Bapsts sinn / gar nit gelert noch bewärt hat. Huldrych Zuinglis Christenlich Antwurt. (That These Words of Jesus Christ, “This Is My Body Which Is Given For You,” Will Forever Retain Their Ancient, Single Meaning, And Martin Luther With His Latest Book Has By No Means Proved or Established His Own and the Pope’s View: Ulrich Zwingli’s Christian Answer), published in Zurich in June 1527. Cf. Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the Reformation (1521-1532), p. 313-315.

7 Hanna or Anna, the daughter of the Torgau burgomaster Matthäus Moschwitz or Muschwitz, had married Augustin Schurf, professor of medicine in Wittenberg, prior to the fall of 1522. She died on January 26 or 27, 1540. Rf. Nikolaus Müller, Die Wittenberger Bewegung, p. 332.

8 Margaretha of Mochau from Seegrehna, probably a sister of Karlstadt’s wife

9 She gave birth to Elisabeth on December 10.

10 Johannes (Hans) Luther

11 That is, teething

12 That is, of falling victim to the plague

13 Deacon Georg Rörer had married Johannes Bugenhagen’s sister, Hanna, in 1525. She had given birth to their first son, Paul, on January 27, 1527. She died from the plague the day after Luther wrote this letter, a few hours after giving birth to a stillborn child. Cf. Brecht, op. cit., p. 208-209. As far as Hanna Rörer’s efforts to save her infant, performing a cesarean section on pregnant women who had passed away was already stipulated in the Royal Law (Lex Regia) at the time of Numa Pompilius. The Medieval Church firmly adhered to that stipulation, but this operation was not performed on living women until the 16th century (Heinrich Haeser, Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Medizin und der epidemischen Krankheiten, 1:803; 2:209).

14 Cf. 2 Corinthians 7:5.

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

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

Translator’s Preface

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Sermons on John 16-20
1528-1529

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rörer’s Transcript

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

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

Cruciger’s Version of the Sermons on John 17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endnotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unravelling Luther’s House Postils, Part 2

Introduction to Volume 52 of the Weimar Edition of Luther’s Works
By Georg Buchwald
Superintendent of St. Peter’s and St. Kunigunde in Rochlitz in Saxony

Translator’s Preface

Dr. Georg Buchwald in 1908, while serving as pastor of St. Michaelis Church in Leipzig

Dr. Georg Buchwald in 1908, while serving as pastor of St. Michaelis Church in Leipzig

During his lifetime, Georg Buchwald was one of the foremost scholars on Luther’s works. It was he who rediscovered Georg Rörer’s transcripts of Luther’s sermons in 1893 in Jena, after their location had been unknown for nearly 300 years. He was the chief editor for Luther’s sermons for the Weimar edition of Luther’s works.

The Introduction below is found on p. VII-XI of vol. 52 of the Weimar edition (D. Martin Luthers Werke: kritische Gesamtausgabe [Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1915]). Everything is original except for the weblink in endnote 1. In the original book, this introduction is followed by an “Overview” (Übersicht), referred to in the introduction below, in which Buchwald meticulously compares each sermon in the two editions of Luther’s House Postil and their sources.

The information below does dispel some somewhat less-than-thorough scholarship imparted, for example, in “‘Fragments and Crumbs’ for the Preachers: Luther’s House Postils” in Logia. There the author says, for example, that “Luther preached his sermons at home later in the day, apparently when he felt stronger,” which is dispelled by the report from Georg Rörer’s widow below. The author of that Logia article also attempts to support his general bias in favor of Rörer’s edition of the House Postil, but Buchwald makes clear that this bias is by no means unqualifiedly justified.

Most interesting to me is the disputing that took place and the parties that formed over the two different editions of Luther’s House Postil. The late Georg Rörer’s widow was even interrogated as a result. Even though we know about the three Lutheran parties that developed between Luther’s death and the Formula of Concord, it still easy for us Lutherans (or at least for me) to look upon this era with stars in our eyes and to wish for the “good old days” of the Lutheran Church. But many Lutherans at this time seem to have been looking for even the most inconsequential reasons, in retrospect, to bicker with each other. It’s a good reminder that law and gospel have always needed to be preached in every age, to combat the Old Adam and to build up the new man.

I translated this in preparation for my work with Northwestern Publishing House, especially for my work on the preface. I think I am finally starting to get a handle on the history of Luther’s House Postil in general and of Luther’s 1531 Christmas sermons on Isaiah 9:6 in particular. (These are even highlighted by Buchwald toward the end of his introduction.)

May the triune God use this background information about these particular sermons of Luther to help Christians read his sermons intelligently and understand them in context, that they might also better understand the gospel that Luther preached.

Introduction

After the publication of the Church Postil had been completed in 1543, the House Postil appeared in 1544, edited by Veit Dietrich, containing “the house sermons that Luther preached at home, in his house, to his children and the members of his household on Sundays when he was not able to preach in the church on account of frailty” (p. 5, lines 36ff below). In his dedication letter addressed to the mayor and council of the city of Nuremberg (p. 3ff below), Dietrich declares more than once that these were sermons he “alone” had “taken down in shorthand” (p. 5, line 38; cf. p. 8, lines 14f). By publishing these sermons Dietrich was hoping to be of service to the heads of households, in case “they are not able to get to church on Sunday because of sickness or some other necessity, since no one should be so negligent; if he cannot listen to God’s word in church, he should still listen to it at home or read it by himself” (p. 6, lines 21ff). But he also wanted to lend a hand to the “poor pastors” who “are sometimes unfit for preaching” (p. 7, lines 2ff). He certainly had it in mind that they should be read out loud from the pulpit; he himself even acknowledges that he “has preached [them] publicly” in his parish church (p. 6, line 30). Finally, he wanted the House Postil to serve those who were not able to listen to any pure evangelical preaching. “They can read it at home, in their house” (p. 8, line 9).

Dietrich declares openly that he has “added many sermons that were omitted by [Luther], especially on the festivals that are not observed in the Saxon Order, so that this work would be complete throughout the entire year and therefore that much more useful and beneficial for everyone” (p. 8, lines 17ff). This gave Andreas Poach1 occasion to issue another edition of the House Postil in 1559. In the preface to this edition Amsdorf testifies about Dietrich’s postil that it has indeed “explained and interpreted the dear gospel in a pure and unadulterated fashion, and also [has] dealt with it in a nice, brief way.” But then he goes on to add: “Since however some, even many, of Luther’s sermons have been left out or partially altered, and other sermons have also been added, and since My Most Gracious Princes and Lords, the three brothers, dukes of Saxony, have acquired at no small cost the notebooks which Master Rörer of blessed memory has filled from Luther’s mouth, from these the lack may not only be covered and filled, but even enlarged with many sermons that are available in the books just mentioned, and those that are not Luther’s may be left out. In this way and so that Luther’s sermons alone may be found within from now on, their Princely Graces, in order that this treasure may remain with us and not be lost or suppressed, have in turn graciously entrusted it to the presses, to the praise and honor of God and to the use and benefit of their subjects and anyone else who desires it. From it everyone who but wishes can easily grasp and learn the summary and content of the gospel.”

The editor, Andreas Poach himself, expresses himself in even more detail, in an address “To the Christian reader” at the end of the House Postil, regarding the occasion and the guiding principles for his version:

But now it is obvious and as clear as day that in the previous House Postil many sermons have been mixed in that do not belong to the blessed man of God, Dr. Martin Luther. One may observe this from the fact that these foreign sermons have no indication of the year and the time in the margin, as the other sermons belonging to the man of God do. Then too, they also cannot be found in the notebooks of Master Georg Rörer, like the others can, namely those that have an indication of the year and the time in the margin. In addition, Master Veit Dietrich himself acknowledges in the preface of the previous House Postil that he has added many sermons, especially on the festivals that are not observed in the Wittenberg Order.2 And in the preface for the thirteen sermons on the Passion, addressed to Mrs. Baumgartnerin, he acknowledges that these thirteen sermons are his and not Dr. Martin Luther’s,3 and these 13 sermons are also included in the previous House Postil.4

Since then many Christians have wished and desired that the sermons and writings of Dr. Martin Luther of blessed memory might be printed by themselves and without any foreign material added, and also since it was partially for these reasons that the tomes in Jena are being newly issued and printed, I have let myself be prevailed upon by several pious Christians to oversee a new edition of the House Postil and to confer with the notebooks of Master Georg Rörer. For the purpose of carrying out this work I had also occasionally received from Master Rörer himself, while he was still alive, several notebooks in which such house- and church-sermons were taken down; I had taken up this work and now with God’s help I have finished it.

First, the foreign sermons which were not Dr. Martin Luther’s I have left out and in their place I have inserted others which are Dr. Martin Luther’s, and for every sermon I have included in the margin an indication of what year and where it was preached. Accordingly, in this present House Postil there are no foreign sermons to be found, but all of them are Dr. Martin Luther’s, prepared from Master Georg Rörer’s notebooks, faithfully and to the best of my ability.

Secondly, Christ says that the leftover pieces should be picked up, in order that nothing might go to waste. Dr. Martin Luther delivered the house sermons for three years in a row, so that in the second and third year he often preached in his house on exactly the same Gospel. So I have included these in this edition, in order that they may not go to waste, so that now there are often two or three sermons for one Gospel.

Thirdly, Master Veit Dietrich often combined two or three sermons that were not even preached in the same year into one sermon, so that he sometimes cut out the beginning, sometimes the end, sometimes even left something out in the middle, so that the sermon would not be too long. But this method is absurd, for the man of God had different thoughts in different years, and he adjusted his interpretation elsewhere when he had the opportunity. So I have left every single sermon just the way it was, and have included all two or three sermons, each with their beginning, middle, and end, as God has given them on each occasion through his human instrument.

Fourthly, the previous House Postil followed the Nuremberg and Brandenburg Church Orders, even though Dr. Martin Luther did not preach on the festivals observed in these orders, both of which facts Master Veit acknowledges in his preface.5 So I have arranged this present House Postil according to the Wittenberg Church Order, as it was observed by the man of God, so that it would not be necessary to mix in foreign sermons, and so that our descendants might see what the order was like that the man of God observed in church with regard to the festivals.”

The overview presented below shows down to the last detail how Poach went about following the guiding principles that he articulated here.

Poach had declared at the close of his remarks: “In saying all this, however, I do not mean to keep anyone from using the previous House Postil if he is more fond of that version.” Nevertheless his judgment of Dietrich’s postil did not remain without opposition. Already in the same year, 1559, Christoph Walther had a sharp writing published – “Reply to the Flacianistic Lies and False Report against the House Postil of Doctor Martin Luther.”6 He contested that Rörer “could have taken down the house-sermons from Luther’s mouth,” since he had to “serve at church while Luther was preaching these house-sermons.” Rörer had indeed “often” put forth the utmost effort to transcribe “during sermons and lectures,” “but none of it would have made any sense without Doctor [Caspar] Cruciger’s help.” With regard to the festival sermons that Dietrich composed himself and included in the House Postil, Walther maintains that they are all Luther’s sermons, just that they were delivered in church instead of at home. “For Dietrich collected all the sermons that were preached both in Luther’s house and in church and had plenty of Luther’s sermons, so that he certainly did not need to insert any foreign sermons.” Besides that, Luther himself had assigned Rörer the task of overseeing the Wittenberg printing of the House Postil. “Master Georg accepted and performed this task willingly and gladly. He thoroughly proofread and corrected this House Postil himself and took great pleasure and joy in it, also praising it in the highest terms.”

In the camp of the Jena theologians the defender of Dietrich’s House Postil was unknown. At Poach’s bidding inquiries were made of Rörer’s widow about him.7 At the same time she was asked whether her husband had been able to transcribe Luther’s house-sermons himself. She explained that Rörer was indeed working in the church at the time, but that, even if he was the one on duty that week, during the pastor’s sermon he would customarily take off his vestment and then go to the monastery in order to listen to Luther preach in his house.8 We do not wish to call into question what Rörer’s widow asserted about something that lay about 25 years in the past, but it does remain questionable, even according to her assertion, whether Rörer also transcribed Luther’s house-sermons. Dietrich certainly maintained on more than one occasion that he alone had done this. In addition the notes of the house-sermons taken down from Rörer’s hand show at first glance that they are copies of original transcripts [Abschriften von Nachschriften]; they also have a different character than his other transcripts.9

It is not necessary for us to pursue this dispute further10 since, having discovered Rörer’s transcripts in the library in Jena, we are in a position where we can determine the precise relationship between the two House Postils and the sermons that Luther actually delivered, independent of the viewpoints of those parties. If we draw a summary from what is noted for each individual sermon in the overview provided below, we end up with the following information:

1. Dietrich’s House Postil

For a critical examination of the relationship to the sermons actually delivered by Luther, we are almost exclusively directed to Rörer’s collection of transcripts, which lays claim to completeness, so that Poach considers himself justified in declaring a sermon from Dietrich’s House Postil to be inauthentic simply because it “cannot be found in the notebooks of Master Georg Rörer” (quoted above). But Rörer could not have transcribed all of Luther’s sermons himself. As was already referred to above, the notes he took down on the house-sermons in particular are probably, at best, copies of the original transcripts of another person, and we can scarcely go wrong if we assume that these transcripts originated with Dietrich’s hand.

Even if Dietrich frequently follows his master copy, especially when that copy is his own transcript of the house-sermon, still it turns out that, in agreement with Poach’s judgment, quite often he worked several sermons, as many as three (e.g. nos. 52, 53), into one sermon, without concern for the fact that one was delivered domi (at home) and the other publice (publicly, at church). When no sermon of Luther is at his disposal, he knows how to help himself out by creating his own adaptation of the pericope in question using Luther’s Annotationes in aliquot capita Matthaei [Annotations on several chapters of Matthew] (nos. 16, 92) or by utilizing Luther’s thoughts in his Conciunculae quaedam D. Mart. Lutheri amico cuidam praescriptae [Some short sermons of Dr. Martin Luther written down for a certain friend] (as he did in the Ascension sermon, which is why we have refrained from printing it). Yes, Dietrich does not even shy away from sticking a sermon of Melanchthon into the mix when he is unable to procure one delivered by Luther (as he does for St. Bartholomew’s Day; we have not printed this sermon either). In one instance he utilizes a sermon that had already appeared in print by itself (no. 46). For a number of his sermons the source cannot be verified. Poach was probably correct in reproaching Dietrich for having inserted his own sermons here and there.

2. Rörer-Poach’s House Postil

It was Poach’s endeavor to reproduce Luther’s preaching as accurately as possible on the basis of Rörer’s transcripts. When several sermons for the same day are at his disposal, he gladly incorporates several sermons in the House Postil, without concern for whether they were delivered domi or publice. Once he borrows from the weekly sermons on the Gospel of Matthew for the Sunday sermon (p. XV at no. 18). Even when he, like Dietrich, makes use of a sermon already available in print by itself (no. 46), he does not fail to reach back to Rörer’s transcript. For Christmas sermons he brings in a series of sermons that Luther delivered in church on Isaiah 9:2ff (p. XXV at no. 77). His Passion sermons he puts together from sermons preached in various years, only one of which is a house-sermon (p. XXVII). Even though he truly does himself very proud on the precise dating of Luther’s sermons, one error does creep in on him (cf. p. XVII at no. 27).

Many portions in Dietrich’s and Rörer’s postils agree word for word. The explanation for this agreement is not that both men were making use of the same master copy, but simply that Poach, especially in the house-sermons, was transferring Dietrich’s work directly into his own. He does the same thing when Rörer’s transcript is deficient (nos. 51, 57).

*****

We are reproducing the first edition of Dietrich’s postil with the omission of a few portions (see above). We are foregoing providing the variants of later editions, since these just deviate further from the master copy, and we are foregoing printing the sermons that are contained in the later editions but are still missing in the first edition, since these have to be regarded as Dietrich’s own work. The Passio (Passion), which first appears in the edition no. 5 (in 1545, thus while Luther was still alive), we are including at the end. In the beginning we are imparting two portions from Rörer’s House Postil, since these supplements fit nicely with the sermons of Luther imparted in our edition.

Endnotes

1 Cf. General German Biography [Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie] s. v. (You can also read this entry here: Andreas Poach. – trans.)

2 P. 8, lines 17f below.

3 A copy of this work printed by itself:

(The call number for the book in the Nuremberg City Library at the time was provided here.)

“PASSIO. || Oder histori vom | leyden Christi Jhesu || unsers Heylands. || Durch || Vitum Dietrich. || [Holzschnitt: Jesus in Gethsemane] || Gedrückt zu Nürnberg, || Anno, M. D. LVI. ||” Erste und 5. Zeile schwarz, die übrigen rot. Bl. b 1 b in der Widmung an “Frawen Sibilla Jeronimus Baumgartnerin”: “Solche Historia hab ich in ewrem namen yetzund, auch andern Christen zum trost und besserung, wie ichs dise fasten uber gepredigt habe, wöllen im truck auß gehen lassen.”

“PASSION. Or history of the suffering of Christ Jesus our Savior. By Veit Dietrich. [Woodcut: Jesus in Gethsemane] Printed in Nuremberg, 1556.” The first and fifth lines are black; the rest are red. Page b 1 b in the dedication to “Mrs. Sibilla Jeronimus Baugartnerin”: “I wanted to have this history sent to press at the present time in your name, as well as for the comfort and improvement of other Christians, as I have preached it during this past Lent.”

According to the preface to the House Postil (p. 6, line 30 below), this does not exclude the possibility that they are Luther’s sermons, as is also able to be proven from one of them (cf. no. 34 below).

4 Cf. the bibliography below.

5 P. 8, lines 17ff below.

6 Printed in the Leipzig edition of the works of Luther, 15:3ff (in the Preliminary Remarks [Vorbericht]).

7 Andreas Poachs handschriftliche Sammlung ungedruckter Predigten D. Martin Luthers, 1/1:VI. Cp. the note Walther took down in his own hand in the book of Men Ordained in Wittenberg (1573-1589) [dem Wittenberger Ordiniertenbuch 1573-1589]: “I, Christoph Walther, from Döbeln in the territory of Meissen, the son of a cloth-maker, have been a corrector in Wittenberg for 39 years in the practice and method of Mr. Mayor Hans Lufft’s Print Shop. I have often thoroughly read the entire Bible, have also enjoyed reading the books of the honorable Mr. Doctor Martin Luther from little on, and did so diligently, and especially in the printing business I read them all several times. I have also heard the absolutely outstanding and learned men Dr. Martin Luther, Dr. Pomeranus [Bugenhagen], Dr. Cruciger, Dr. Eber, and Mr. Philipp Melanchthon lecture and preach. Since, however, the printing presses are greatly decreasing, I was advised by many good-hearted, pious people that I should join the ministry of the Church. Therefore I have most respectfully petitioned the most illustrious high-born prince and lord, Lord August, Duke of Saxony, Grand Marshal and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire and my Most Gracious Lord, and have asked him for the parish in Holzdorf located near the Schweinitz, and His Electoral Grace has most graciously granted me this parish. For this purpose I was ordained on June 9, 1574, by the worthy and highly learned Mr. Master Bernhard Api[ti]us, archdeacon in Wittenberg.”

8 Cf. Andreas Poachs handschriftliche Sammlung, 1/1:VIf.

9 Walther says, doubtless hitting upon something correct: “It may very well be that Master Georg Rörer had copied [abgeschrieben] and smeared such house-sermons, doing away with this and adding that as he pleased” (Leipzig edition, 15:5).

10 Cf. Andreas Poachs handschriftliche Sammlung, 1/1:VII (Emericus Sylvius to Poach): “I would like it if you wrote to Amsdorf and asked him for both of Walther’s writings against Rörer, as well as his (Amsdorf’s) two writings against Walther, one of which was printed while the other was merely written.” Our searches for these writings, one of which was utilized previously according to the printing in the Leipzig edition of the works of Luther, have been unsuccessful.

Unravelling Luther’s House Postils, Part 1

Foreword to Volume 1 of the Second Edition of the Erlangen Edition of Luther’s Works
By Ernst Ludwig Enders
Preacher in Frankfurt am Main and editor of Luther’s sermons

Translator’s Preface

The process of working with Northwestern Publishing House to publish Luther’s 1531 Christmas sermon series on Isaiah 9:6 has been somewhat mind-boggling. Part of the problem is trying to unravel the mystery of the history of, and relationship between, the various publications of Luther’s sermons.

This mystery is not without consequence for the modern-day reader of Luther’s sermons. For instance, I found out that the 20 new volumes of Luther’s works being put out by Concordia Publishing House are not going to include Luther’s House Postil(s), in part because these have already been published in a three-volume series by Baker Books in 1996, edited by Eugene F. A. Klug.

Klug’s translation itself flows well. But it is not based on the more critical Weimar edition of Luther’s works, and so the content is often incorrect (e.g. §15 in 3:215, which Luther did not actually say) or incomplete (e.g. §20 in 3:228, which is incomplete because it does not take the Nuremberg copy of the sermon into account, where Luther refers to his health and leaves the completion of the series in doubt; and §1 in 3:229, which omits the entire first part of Luther’s sermon when he preached on the Gospel before continuing with his series on Isaiah).

Until someone undertakes a complete re-translation of what has been previously known as Luther’s House Postil(s), on the basis of the Weimar edition instead of just on the basis of one of the German editions, this treasure trove of sermons will be in large part closed to the English-speaking public.

Read for yourself and see how these German editions came into being. I will also include an Afterword about the Rörer edition.

Foreword to Volume 1 of the Second Edition of the Erlangen Edition of Luther’s Works

Concerning the origin of the House Postil,1 J. G. Plochmann, of blessed memory, imparts the following information in the foreword to the first edition:

This collection of sermons bears the name House Postil…because by and large it contains sermons that Luther delivered at home on Sundays and festivals. Luther writes in the foreword that he prepared for Dietrich’s edition, “I delivered these sermons in my house at various times, to the members of my household, so that as the head of the household I might do my part in instructing those under me how to lead a Christian life.” Veit Dietrich, about whom we will say more later, confirms this in his dedication when he says that Luther preached these sermons at home, in his house, to his children and the members of his household on Sundays when he could not preach in the church on account of frailty.

Unfortunately the sermons contained in the House Postil do not come from Luther’s quill, but from his mouth, through the faithful, though often unsuccessful, diligence of two of his listeners, Veit Dietrich and Georg Rörer. That’s why it is that two editions of the House Postil gradually appeared that vary so widely from each other, which people have attempted to unite into one under the name “Doubled House Postil.” Veit Dietrich stayed with Luther in Wittenberg for a long time, enjoyed his special confidence, was his table and traveling companion, and carefully copied his lectures and sermons. He later served the Church as an evangelical preacher at St. Sebald in Nuremberg, where he died in 1549.2 Georg Rörer was the first man Luther ordained as an evangelical preacher and deacon in Wittenberg in 1525. He was a faithful assistant and coworker of Luther who took a special interest in correct editions of Luther’s writings. He died in 1557 in Halle. Both men copied, among other things, the sermons that Luther delivered in his house from 1530 to 1534, and from their manuscripts the two widely differing editions of Luther’s House Postil have appeared.

Dietrich’s edition appeared first. He oversaw it himself and sent it to press in Nuremberg in 1544, with a dedicatory epistle to the mayor and council of Nuremberg. In that epistle he as the editor says that he had taken down these house postils in shorthand and had kept them to himself, but now he also wanted to share them with other Christians, being the precious treasure that they are. He especially hoped that both the uneducated pastors in the country and the heads of households would be able to use them with great benefit. For this edition Luther wrote a foreword, also included in our edition, in which he not only acknowledges the sermons copied by Dietrich as his own, but also praises the efforts and the enterprise of the editor. This edition by Dietrich was also printed in Leipzig the same year, again a year later in both Nuremberg and Wittenberg under Luther’s oversight, and then many more times in Wittenberg, Frankfurt, Augsburg, Lüneberg, and in other places after that. It was translated into Latin already in 1545 by Michael Roting, professor of Greek and Latin at the Aegidian Preparatory School in Nuremberg3 and a trusted friend of Veit Dietrich.

In the dedication to the Nuremberg council Veit Dietrich had said, among other things, that he had added many sermons that were omitted by him (Luther), especially on the festivals which were not observed in the Saxon Order. He did this so that the work would be complete for the entire year, and therefore that much more useful and beneficial for everyone. By making this statement, there was the chance that after Luther’s death the authenticity of Dietrich’s edition of the House Postil might be thrown into doubt, since people would feel constrained to conclude from Dietrich’s own admission that he had added his own sermons to Luther’s. Therefore in 1559 a new edition of Luther’s House Postil appeared, which a certain Andreas Poach prepared from the manuscripts that the late Georg Rörer had left behind. Poach had also been a student of Luther, then the deacon at Halle, archdeacon at Jena, pastor at Nordhausen, and professor at Erfurt. He died in 1585 while serving as pastor at Utenbach.4 For Poach’s edition the famous Nikolaus von Amsdorf wrote a foreword in which he explained that this new House Postil had been sent to press by command of the three brother dukes in Saxony, who had acquired the notebooks of Master Rörer at no small cost.5 It too was later reprinted many more times, namely in Jena in 1562 and 1579, in Torgau in 1601, and in Leipzig in 1655, 1679, and 1702. Johann Wanckel, professor of history in Wittenberg, translated it into Latin, and in 1567 it was translated into Dutch (printed in Oberursel).

In the introduction to this edition of Luther’s House Postil, prepared in Jena by Andreas Poach, Poach reproaches Dietrich for mixing his own sermons into Luther’s House Postil, for frequently combining two or three sermons which Luther had not even delivered in the same year, and especially for inserting other sermons for the festivals for which no sermons of Luther were available. He, on the other hand, claimed to have avoided all of this in his edition. He left out the foreign sermons that were not Luther’s work. When Luther preached three years in succession and sometimes preached several times on the same Gospel in his house, Poach presented all of the sermons delivered by him. And Poach left the sermons entirely in the condition in which they were delivered by Luther. “So whoever wants Dr. Luther’s sermons and nothing more, this book is at your service.”

Soon, however, a certain Christoph Walther came out against these reproaches directed at the Dietrich edition of Luther’s House Postil with a writing entitled “Reply to the Flacianistic Lies and False Report against the House Postil of Doctor Martin Luther” (Wittenberg, 1559, in quarto).6 Walther was a typesetter in the Luft Print Shop [Luft’schen Buchdruckerei] in Wittenberg. In this writing he attempted not only to defend and vindicate the Dietrich edition, but also to call the authenticity of the new Jena House Postil into doubt in the most forceful way. “The precious, learned man, Master Veit Dietrich,” he says in this writing, “has taken down the House Postil of Luther in shorthand from the mouth of the reverend father in Christ, Dr. Martin Luther. And when he became the pastor in Nuremberg, he had it printed by the allowance and permission of our dear father Luther. Several times Luther began to have it printed also in Wittenberg and entrusted Master Georg Rörer with the task of correcting it. Therefore, as an old servant in the print shop and as someone who, in addition to Master George Rörer, also often helped to read and correct this house postil in Wittenberg, I feel obligated to reply to such malicious information of the Flacianists.” He then went on to affirm that Veit Dietrich had added nothing of his own work, and that the passage in the dedicatory epistle to the Nuremberg council, where Dietrich says that he has added many sermons that were omitted by Luther, was to be understood as saying that in the place of such omitted house sermons Dietrich had inserted several church sermons delivered by Luther, which he had copied from Luther just as he had the house sermons. Therefore the Poach edition of the House Postil was inauthentic, Walther claimed, because Veit Dietrich was the only one who transcribed the blessed Luther when he preached at home, not also Georg Rörer, because Rörer was still deacon in Wittenberg at the time, and he generally did not have the gift especially of copying and getting everything down with shorthand.

Be that as it may, at the same time it cannot be denied that these two widely differing editions of Luther’s House Postil each have their peculiar advantages and disadvantages. The Dietrich edition has Luther’s own preface as its seal of certification – a decided advantage over the Rörer edition. But it definitely cannot avoid the reproach that a number of the sermons contained in it have grown to an extraordinary length, so that one has no choice but to conclude that they are melted together from two or three discourses of Luther that were delivered at different times. On the other hand, the sermons in Rörer’s collection are shorter, and for every Sunday there are usually two, or even three, sermons recorded, which very likely could have been delivered by Luther and collected by Georg Rörer. For in both content and style, they have absolutely nothing that would contradict this assumption.7 But in the sermons common to both editions there are variant readings, both in individual words and in entire sentences and sections, whose origin or reason cannot be ascertained with any certainty whatsoever.

Only the two most recent editions of Luther’s complete works, the Leipzig and the Walch, have included the Doubled House Postil. In the former it comprises the 15th and 16th parts, in the latter the 13th part. Dr. Börner, the editor of the Leipzig edition, had each of the two house postils printed separately – the Dietrich edition in the 15th part and the Rörer edition in the 16th part. Walch on the other hand drew both postils together and combined them into one work in such a way that the entire sermons which are missing from the Dietrich edition are inserted at the proper spot from the Rörer edition. Also, for the sermons that can be found in both editions, the places where they vary from each other were carefully noted. This method has a very cumbersome element to it for the person who wants to read Luther’s sermons devotionally, since he will keep running into endless repetitions, and will often have to read the same thought two or three times on one page, and with completely inconsequential variants for the most part. The reader cannot stay in the train of thought at all.

As far as this new edition is concerned, I have returned to the arrangement of the Leipzig edition by providing the Dietrich House Postil first, followed by the Rörer, so that the Rörer sermons which were missing in the first edition will also have a place here. The Dietrich postil makes up the first three volumes, the Rörer postil the next three. Even though this has naturally resulted in a different pagination, an excerpt from the index volumes (vols. 66 & 67 of the entire edition) embracing these six volumes will be added at the end of the sixth volume. This arrangement has likewise made these six volumes larger. In order to save some space, the life of Luther that was added to the first edition has been left out, considering that there have been plenty of writings on Luther’s life that have appeared since 1826, and the one that was provided in the first edition is now available in a separate publication (from Liesching in Stuttgart).

The text itself has also been painstakingly revised according to the oldest printings. For the text of the Dietrich postil, however, the only editions referred to were those that appeared while Veit Dietrich was still alive, and thus could have been improved or supplemented by his own hand or perhaps from his papers. The following editions were compared for this purpose:

  1. Houspostil || D. Martin || Luther. || Nürnberg. || M. D. XLIIII. 243 Blatt Fol. und 12 Blatt Register. (Die Winter- und Sommerpostille enthaltend.) — Hauspostil || D. Martin || Luther, von für- || nemsten Festen || durchs Jar. || Nürnberg. 80 Bl. u. 3 Bl. Register. Am Schlusse: Gedruckt zu Nürnberg, durch Johann vom Berg und Ulrich Neuber, wonhafft auff den Newenbaw, bei der Kalchhütten. 1544. Auf der letzten Seite ist die Verklärung Christi auf dem Berge abgebildet, mit der Unterschrift: Psal. LXXXIX. Wol dem volck das jauchtzen kan.

    House Postil of Dr. Martin Luther. Nuremberg. 1544. 243 pages in folio and a 12-page index. (Containing the winter and summer postils.) — House Postil of Dr. Martin Luther, on the chief festivals throughout the year. Nuremberg. 80 pages and a 3-page index. At the end: Printed in Nuremberg, by Johann vom Berg and Ulrich Neuber, residing in the new building by the lime kilns. 1544. On the last page the transfiguration of Christ on the mountain is portrayed, with the inscription: Psalm 89. Blessed are the people who can shout with joy.

  2. Haus- || postill || D. M. Luth. || Wittenberg. || M D XLIIII. 2 Bde. in 8. Der erste Band enthält auf 274 Blatt die Predigten vom ersten Advent bis zum Karfreitag, sowie auf 88 Blatt: Hauspostill || D. M. Luthers || auf die fürnemesten || Feste, vom Ad- || vent bis auff || Ostern. || Wittenberg. || M. D. XLIIII. Am Schlusse: Gedruckt zu Leipzig, durch Nickel Wolrab. 1544. — Der zweite Band enthält auf 395 Blatt die übrigen Sonntagspredigten, ebenfalls bei Wolrab gedruckt; sowie auf 141 Blatt: Hauspostill || D. M. Luthers || auff die fürnemesten || Feste, von Ostern || bis aufs Ad- || vent. || Wittenberg. || M. D. XLIIII. Am Schlusse: Gedruckt zu Leipzig durch Jacob Berwald.

    House Postil of Dr. Martin Luther. Wittenberg. 1544. 2 volumes in octavo. The first volume contains the sermons from the first Sunday in Advent to Good Friday on 274 pages, as well as the following on 88 pages: House Postil of Dr. Martin Luther on the chief festivals, from Advent to Easter. Wittenberg. 1544. At the end: Printed in Leipzig, by Nickel Wolrab. 1544. — The second volume contains the remaining Sunday sermons on 395 pages, likewise printed by Wolrab, as well as the following on 141 pages: House Postil of Dr. Martin Luther on the chief festivals, from Easter to Advent. Wittenberg. 1544. At the end: Printed in Leipzig by Jacob Berwald.

  3. Haußpostil D. Mar || tin Luthers, uber die || Sonntags und der fürnembsten || Fest Euangelia, durch || das gantze Jar. || Mit fleis von newem corrigirt || und gemeret mit XIII. Pre- || digen, von der Passio oder || histori des leidens Christi. || Nürmberg || M. D. XLV. — Nach der Vorrede 4 Blatt Register und auf 170 Blatt den Wintertheil, auf dem letzten Blatt 3 Errata und das Bild wie bei Nr. 1. — Ferner: Haußpostil || D. Martin || Luth. von Ostern || biß auffs Ad- || vent. || Nurmberg 1545. Auf 163 Blatt den Sommertheil enthaltend, am Schluss dasselbe Bild, und als Druckort: Gedruckt zu Nürmberg, durch Johann vom Berg, und Ulrich Newber, wonhafft auff dem Newenbaw, bey der Kalckhütten, Anno &c. M. D. XLV. — Und endlich auf 111 Blatt: Haußpostil || D. Martin || Luther, von für- || nembsten Festen || durchs Jahr. || Nurmberg 1545. Am Schlusse Bild und Druckort wie vorher.

    House Postil of Dr. Martin Luther, on the Gospels for the Sundays and chief festivals throughout the year. Diligently and newly corrected and enlarged with 13 sermons on the Passion or history of the suffering of Christ. Nuremberg 1545. — After the Foreword there is a 4-page index and the winter portion on 170 pages. On the last page are printed 3 errors and the picture as with #1 above. — After that: House Postil of Dr. Martin Luther from Easter to Advent. Nuremberg 1545. Containing the summer portion on 163 pages, the same picture at the end, and the place of publication as follows: Printed in Nuremberg by Johann vom Berg and Ulrich Neuber, residing in the new building by the lime kilns. AD 1545. — And finally on 111 pages: House Postil of Dr. Martin Luther, on the chief festivals throughout the year. Nuremberg 1545. At the end the picture and place of publication as previously.

  4. Derselbe Titel wie bei Nr. 3, nur mit der Jahrszahl M. D. XLVII. Nach der Vorrede und 4 Blatt Register auf 175 Blatt den Winter-, auf 179 Blatt den Sommer- und auf 116 Blatt den Festtheil enthaltend. Auf dem letzten Blatt das Bild und der Druckort wie bei Nr. 3.

    The same title as with #3, except with the year 1547. After the Foreword and a 4-page index, contains the winter portion on 175 pages, the summer portion on 179 pages, and the festival portion on 116 pages. On the last page are printed the picture and the place of publication as with #3 above.

Edition #4 was chosen as the basic text since it is the last one to appear during Dietrich’s lifetime, as far as I know. The variants of the other three editions were noted under the text. There a. designated the 1544 Nuremberg edition, b. the 1544 Wittenberg edition, and c. the 1545 Nuremberg edition. Unfortunately the printing of the first volume had already begun when I obtained editions #1 and 2, so I had to relegate the variants for this volume to an appendix. Regarding the relationship of the individual editions to each other, generally speaking #1 and #2 agree with each other, and #3 and #4 agree with each other, but #2 and #3 have fuller forms than #1 and #4 (e.g. derselbige instead of derselbe, also instead of so, sondern instead of sonder, etc.).

For the Rörer edition of the postils the basic text chosen was:

Hauspostill || uber die Sontags und der für- || nemesten Feste Euangelien, durch das gantze Jar, || von D. Martino Luthero seligen gepredigt, aus M. Georgen Rö- || rers seligen geschriebenen Büchern, wie er die von jar zu jar aus sei- || nem des Doctors Mund auffgefasst und zusamen bracht, Trew- || lich on alle Enderung, Abbruch, oder Zusatz, auffs new || zugericht, und in Druck geben. || II. Petri I. || Wir haben ein festes Prophetisch Wort, Und jr thut wohl, das jr drauff achtet, als || auff ein Liecht, das da scheinet in einem tunckeln ort, bis der Tag anbreche, und der || Morgenstern auffgehe in ewren Hertzen. Und das soll jr für das erste wissen, Das || keine Weissagung in der Schrifft geschicht aus eigener Auslegung. Denn es ist noch || nie keine Weissagung aus menschlichem Willen erfür bracht, Sondern die heiligen || Menschen Gottes haben geredt, getrieben von dem heiligen Geist. || Gedruckt zu Jhena, durch Christian Rödingers Erben. || Anno M. D. LIX. — Nach der Vorrede von Niclas von Amsdorff auf 497 Blatt die 3 Theile enthaltend. Bl. 181. Titelblatt: Sommer Teil der Hauspostillen, Doctoris Martini Luther; ebenso Bl. 427: Das dritte Teil der Hauspostillen Doct. Martini Luther, von den fürnemesten Festen durchs Jar, nach der Wittenbergischen Kirchen ordnung. Sodann Bl. 498. ein Nachwort: „An den Christlichen Leser“, unterzeichnet: „Andreas Poach Prediger“, 6 Bl. Register und 1 Bl. Correctur. Am Schluß: Gedruckt zu Jhena durch Christian Rödingers Erben.

House Postil on the Gospels for the Sundays and chief festivals throughout the whole year, preached by Dr. Martin Luther of blessed memory, taken from the notebooks of Master Georg Rörer of blessed memory, as he took them down and collected them from year to year from his (the Doctor’s) mouth, newly and faithfully prepared and sent to press without any alterations, truncations, or additions. 2 Peter 1: We have a sure prophetic Word, and you do well to pay attention to it as to a light which shines in a dark place, until the Day dawns and the Morning Star rises in your hearts. And you should know this above all, that no prophecy in Scripture happened from private interpretation. For there has never been a prophecy produced from human will, but the holy men of God have spoken, moved by the Holy Spirit. Printed in Jena by the heirs of Christian Rödinger. 1559. — After the Foreword by Nikolaus von Amsdorf, it contains the three portions on 497 pages. The title page on p. 181 reads: Summer portion of the house postils of Doctor Martin Luther. Likewise on p. 427 it reads: The third part of the house postils of Doctor Martin Luther, on the chief festivals throughout the year, according to the Wittenberg Church Order. Then on p. 498 there is an Afterword “To the Christian reader,” signed, “Andreas Poach, Preacher,” a 6-page index and 1 page of corrections. At the end: Printed in Jena by the heirs of Christian Rödinger.

Since Rörer had already died by the time this edition was printed, it seemed superfluous to compare any later editions.

In regard to orthography, etc., I refer to the principles laid down by [Dr. Johann Konrad] Irmischer of blessed memory in the Foreword to the first volume of the reformatory-historical writings (vol. 24 of the entire edition), which were also the standard for this new edition.

Let me conclude with the same wish which the editor of the first edition expressed and which was certainly fulfilled for many people: “May the reader of this House Postil have the same blessed experience that was had already by the highly praiseworthy elector, Duke Johann Friedrich of Saxony, which he expressed in these words: Dr. Martin Luther’s books strengthen the heart. They pass through marrow and bone, and there is more savor and strength, also more comfort, on one little page than in the entire vault of other writers!”

Frankfurt am Main, on the [first] Sunday of Advent, 1862.

The editor

Endnotes

1 A postil can denote either a published book of sermons, or an individual sermon in such a book. Throughout this foreword it usually refers to the former. In Klug’s 1996 English edition, the entire work is referred to as The House Postils, apparently in reference to the individual sermons. – trans.

2 For more on him, rf. Herzog’s theological Real-Encyclopädie, 3:389ff.

3 So-called because of its proximity to St. Aegidius Church. Today this is the Melanchthon-Gymnasium, one of the last preparatory schools in Bavaria with an exclusively humanistic course of study. – trans.

4 According to Johann Hundorph, Poach did not die until April 2, 1605.

5 The three brother dukes were Johann Friedrich (John Frederick) II, Johann Wilhelm (John William), and Johann Friedrich (John Frederick) III. – trans.

6 Included in the Foreword to vol. 15 of the Leipzig edition of Luther’s works.

7 With the possible exception of the Latin citations that frequently occur in them.

Afterword

I can also speak from experience that, in spite of Andreas Poach’s best intentions, he did not in fact publish an edition of Luther’s sermons “without any alterations, truncations, or additions.” (Refer, however, to Georg Buchwald’s remarks on Poach’s edition in Part 2.) While he is generally faithful to Rörer’s notes, and generally does an excellent job filling them out so that they read and sound more like sermons and less like shorthand lecture notes, the fact is that he does fill them out, and sometimes he takes liberties that are distasteful (e.g. making Luther a little more uncouth than Rörer has him in his notes) or even completely incorrect. This is why, if a translation is to be made of any of the House Postils – and really, any work of Luther – it must at the very least seriously consult and compare the more critical Weimar edition, which takes the reader back to the original notes, instead of to any editor’s publication and interpretation of those notes.

Michael Schulteis: Student in Wittenberg

By Wilibald Gurlitt

Translator’s Preface

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Schulteis: Student in Wittenberg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Endnotes

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

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

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

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

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

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