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.

Strieter Autobiography: Newburgh

[Continued from Part 19. If you have not yet read Part 1, click here.]

Newburgh

The first St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Newburgh, Ohio, with parsonage in the background (today St. John's Lutheran, Garfield Heights)

The first St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church in Newburgh, Ohio, with parsonage in the background (today St. John Lutheran, Garfield Heights)

In 1854 a small portion of Zion’s Church in Cleveland, Mr. Pastor Schwan’s congregation, branched off and formed an independent congregation in Independence, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, near Newburgh, two miles south, and named it St. John Church.1 Twenty or so families combined to form it. They built a little frame church and a small parsonage behind it. They called me to be their pastor. In October 1854 I moved there with my young wife, Mother-in-law Ernst, and her five younger little daughters.2 On the 18th Sunday after Trinity I was installed by Pastor Schwan, with Pastor Kühn from Euclid and Pastor Steinbach from Liverpool assisting. The church was dedicated at the same time. Pastor Kühn delivered the sermon. Pastor Steinbach presided at the rite of dedication.3 On the 19th Sunday after Trinity I delivered my inaugural sermon.

I preached and taught school during the week to twenty or so children. With the exception of one family and a widow Z. they were all Hanoverians. Father H. H. Böhning was the senior member. When we met to elect our Board of Elders and determine the salary (I was to be paid two hundred dollars per year), Father Böhning said, “I will give this much.” And he went through the ranks this way, and asked at the end if they were happy with that. “Yes,” they said, cheerfully and unanimously. Besides the two hundred dollars they also gave wood for fuel and a lot of other stuff. They took very good care of us. There I had it very nice for a change. The people loved me and bore with my weakness4 very patiently. They also loved my wife very much. The girls M. B. and M. B. gave her a new dress every year. They also liked Mother-in-law Ernst and the girls. The dear people came to church very regularly, and the same was true for Catechism instruction and the men’s attendance at congregational meetings. There was a very brotherly spirit among us.

My church attendees [Kirchkinder] enjoyed listening to God’s Word. It also had its fruit. One time Widow Z. came to me and said that her neighborlady had brought her an entire basketful of goodies, and when she asked why she was doing this, she had answered, “On Sunday the pastor preached about love, and it went to my heart.”

One time H. B.5 spoke his mind to me rather quite freely and definitely said more than he should have. The next day he came: “Mr. Pastor, I am sorry. I have as many regrets about what I said as I have hairs on my head.”

One time I noticed that a certain man had peered into the glass a little too deeply. The next morning there was a knock at the door. I said, “In here [Herein]!” which is what we said back then. In comes my man So-and-so. I say, “Have a seat, sir!” He sits down. I say, “Now, my dear man, what brings you to me this early?”

He says, “Oh, sir, you know that already!” and he started to cry and pleaded with me to forgive him anyway.

One time I stayed overnight at Father Böhning’s. Before going to bed he read from the Bible, prayed, and sang with his family the entire hymn, “Now Rest Beneath Night’s Shadow,”6 and my, how lovely! My Newburgers, as they called us, were good singers overall. We would also sing in four parts. My Ernst Böhning sang a splendid bass, and my Friedrich Tönsing a fine tenor. Mary Böhning and Mary Borges and several others sang the first part and W[ilhel]m and John Böhning sang alto.

Almost every Sunday we were taken along as guests after the service. Often we ended up at Father Böhning’s. The good old mother boiled us pea beans [Vicebauna] with a long sausage in there and meat. Beforehand there would be a milk soup with these tiny little dumplings. My, that was delicious! The Borges family also invited us often and took us along, and many others did too.

I received a call from the vicinity of Baltimore, but the Newburgers would not release me. Another one from the vicinity of Columbus, Ohio, but again I was not released, and yet another from old Frankentrost, but they would not release me then either.

Now my Jüngel7 came to me one day. I say, “What brings you to me so unexpectedly?”

He says, “Tomorrow morning I will tell you.” In the morning he took a letter from Dr. Sihler out of his pocket with an enclosed call and accompanying note from W[ilhel]m Stelter, from Crystal Lake, Marquette County, Wisconsin. In it was stated that over 300 families had been deserted by their preacher and had been left for the fanatics and Albright Brethren there. Help had to be provided immediately. Dr. Sihler had thought of us both.

Jüngel said, “I cannot and I dare not leave. I have recently received a United congregation in Amherst, which I dare not abandon. You must go.”

I presented it to my congregation. Fritz Tönsing was chairman. It was discussed back and forth, all of it in favor of my staying. Finally the chairman says, “I will call the question now, so that we know where we stand. All in favor of letting our pastor move, say Yes!”

Everybody was silent.

“All opposed, No.”

“No,” everybody called out.

Tönsing smiled and said, “I am going to ask again, but a bit differently: All who are convinced in their conscience that we should let our pastor move, say Yes.”

“Yes,” they said, though very meekly. That was in November 1859.

With my neighboring ministers [Amtsnachbarn] I was on good terms. I visited them and they me. Held conferences with each other regularly. In Cleveland was Schwan. He was our senior. In Ohio City, now West Cleveland, my dear Lindemann. Already at the seminary we had gotten along very well.8 In Euclid was Kühn. In Liverpool first Steinbach, then Jüngel. He was also at the seminary with me and we were always close friends.

I know that one time Schwan and Lindemann marched the five miles out to me. I walked to Schwan after school almost every Monday. We also went to take baths together in Lake Erie and often went for walks. After these recreations we would set about on our sermon for the next Sunday. Schwan had the Latin Harmony9 and I had Luther. He would read, then I would read. At this point he would ask, “Strieter, what should we use?” I would then have to start outlining, and he would laugh sometimes, but he also often commended me. One time he said, “Your outline is absolutely excellent. If Walther had it, he would turn it into a sensational sermon, but you, sir, are too stiff.”

I said, “Yeah, how does one go about becoming more smooth?”

He said, “Copy someone else’s sermons, so that you get into a different channel. Take Fresenius.10” I buy myself Fresenius right away11 and start copying, word for word in fact, and I commit it to memory. Sunday I mount the pulpit and repeat everything beautifully up through half of the first part; at this point I lose my line of thought. My Tönsing was sitting close to the front and looking me right in the eye. As I was losing it, he looked down at his feet. I didn’t get back on track; everything got jumbled together. Finally in my anxiety I say, “Amen!” Before everyone left, I signal my Tönsing: “Did you notice something today, sir?”

He says, “Yes sir, I did. You lost your spot.”

I put my Fresenius in the corner though and went back to making my own sermon, after I had made my usual study of Luther, especially his House Postil.12 This was my method: When I was finished with Luther, I started thinking and prepared the whole thing in my mind right up to the Amen, and then I wrote it and delivered it that way.

One time conference was held by me. Jüngel brought his neighboring United minister along. He already had all sorts of United ideas during the conference. Theology was also discussed during dinner. After Lindemann had spoken, the United gentleman said, “That all depends on how you look at it.”

Lindemann lifted his plate into the air: “How you look at it!? This is a plate, no matter how I might look at it.”

The gentleman was silent, but after the meal he took his hat and left.

One time Lindemann and I had to go to Holmes County, Ohio, where I had been together with B[esel], in order to dedicate a church. Engelbert was there now.13 Lindemann preached in the morning and I in the afternoon. Because of the sermon I gave, I continued to get quite a bit of razzing. That’s because I was betrayed.14 I had my dear old Pennslyvania Dutchmen in front of me and was going right along in my sermon and said that on the Last Day our dear Lord would call out, “Jack, John, George, come out!” and just like that they would be standing there with glorified bodies. To my Pennsylvania-Dutchmen it wasn’t funny at all; they all had on completely serious faces. The dear old Arnold had already told me earlier, “I think you are a pretty smart guy [Ich denk, du bist a ziemlich smarter Kerl].”

Endnotes

1 Today this is St. John Lutheran Church of Garfield Heights.

2 Henry F. Rahe, Johannes and Elizabeth’s eventual nephew (a son of Elizabeth’s next oldest sister Martha), in his previously cited “Sketch of the Parents of the Ernst Girls” (rf. endnote 21 here), writes: “When they got to Newburgh, Rev. Strieter could not support the Widow Ernst and her five daughters, and besides the parsonage was too small. Aunt Martha worked out and they farmed out three of the girls to other pastors. Aunt Sophie, Aunt Sarah and my mother, Anna, all of them under eleven years of age were the ones placed in pastors’ families and they had a hard life of it. Aunt Sophie, who resembled her mother in stature, temperament and will power more than any of the other girls, would not put up with this farming out proposition and they had to take her home and keep her there until after her confirmation. She then went to work for Rev. H. C. Schwan. It no doubt was a hard thing for Grandmother Ernst to send her young girls, eight, nine, and ten years old, to other people even if they were ministers. It was her own doing, and Uncle Strieter was to blame for much of it. All relatives, both from the Ernst and Wittig sides, opposed her determination to go with Strieters, and promised her all the help she would need to raise her family. This act estranged her from all her relatives, especially her brother. She never corresponded with any of them or visited them. She was the one who was estranged and not the relatives. In later years and especially in her last illness (Uncle Leutner in whose home she died told me this), conscience pangs bothered her, on account of her conduct toward her relatives, especially her brother and the separation from her husband. I once spoke to Uncle John Strieter about this moving of the family from Vermilion and he admitted that it probably would have kept the family together had they remained in Vermilion and would have been ‘better according to human reason, but what was to be, was to be.’”

3 From the “Church News [Kirchliche Nachricht]” section of the November 21, 1854, issue of Der Lutheraner: “After a number of members of the Cleveland congregation formed their own parish with our consent, St. John’s Congregation in Independence, and issued an orderly call to Mr. Pastor J. Strieter, who had been in Elyria and Vermillion [sic], he was committed by me to his new office, at the behest of the Most Reverend President of the Middle District of our synod, Mr. Dr. and Prof. Sihler, on the 18th Sunday after Trinity, with Mr. Pastors Kühn and Steinbach assisting, and the newly erected church was dedicated at the same time. — Now may our dear fellow believers include also this congregation in their prayers. — H. C. Schwan. Address: Revd. J. Strieter, Newburgh P. O., Cuyahoga Co., O[hio]” (p. 56).

4 Strieter more than once mentions “his weakness,” and he seems to be referring to something in particular. Later in this chapter he specifies this weakness by referring to the delivery of his sermons.

5 This is perhaps the “Father H. H. Böhning” he mentions earlier, but since Johannes always uses his last name elsewhere, it is more likely someone else.

6 The original hymn has nine stanzas.

7 Heinrich Jüngel, originally from Hesse-Darmstadt, was pastor in Valley City, town of Liverpool, Medina County, Ohio.

8 Wilhelm Lindemann, originally from Hanover, had enrolled at Fort Wayne during the 1851-1852 school year.

9 This refers to the Harmonia Quatuor Evangelistarum or Harmony of the Four Evangelists, a harmonizing of and commentary on the four Gospels begun by Martin Chemnitz, continued by Polycarp Leyser, and completed by Johann Gerhard in 1627.

10 Johann Philipp Fresenius (1705-1761) was a pietistic Lutheran pastor at Nieder-Wiesen, Giessen, Darmstadt, and Frankfurt am Main, who remained loyal to the Lutheran Confessions and opposed the Moravians.

11 Since it appears that Schwan and Strieter studied and preached on the Gospels together, the book Strieter bought was probably Heilsame Betrachtungen über die Sonn- und Festtags-Evangelia (Beneficial Reflections on the Sunday and Festival Gospels), first published in 1750. Fresenius also had a book of sermons on Epistle texts published in 1754.

12 There were two editions of Luther’s House Postil (a postil is a book of sermons). The first was published in 1544 by Veit Dietrich, formerly Luther’s personal secretary. The second was published in 1559 by Andreas Poach, a former student of Luther, on the basis of the notebooks of Georg Rörer, a deacon at the Wittenberg parish church and tireless transcriber and copier of Luther’s sermons. (Thus Poach’s edition is sometimes also called Rörer’s edition.) From the next chapter we know that Strieter possessed the German volumes of the first Erlangen edition of Luther’s works (1826-1857). Volumes 1-6 of that edition (1826) contained Luther’s House Postil, interspersing the sermons found in both Dietrich’s and Poach’s original editions.

13 Wilhelm Engelbert, originally from Nassau, had enrolled at Fort Wayne during the 1852-1853 school year and had graduated in 1855.

14 Namely, Pastor Lindemann told the other pastors about Strieter’s sermon when they got back. Pastor Engelbert’s account of this dedication was published in the February 18, 1859, issue of Der Lutheraner (vol. 15, no. 13): “This past 17th Sunday after Trinity [September 26, 1858] was a day of celebration for St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Holmes County, Ohio, for they had the great joy of consecrating their newly erected frame church. In the morning Pastor Lindemann preached on Galatians 2:16 and presented on that basis: What the true adornment of an evangelical Lutheran church is, namely 1. the pure message about justification, and 2. the listeners who make this message their own in true faith. In the afternoon Pastor Strieter preached on Luke 19:1-10 and showed from that text: 1. how Christ has moved into this church, and 2. how we should serve as his hosts” (p. 103).

[Read the next part here.]

Luther Sermon Reader, Be Aware

Here’s both a humorous line from one of Martin Luther’s sermons, and an illustration of how it got tweaked and expanded (and distorted) over time.

Luther preached a sermon on Luke 7:11-17 in his home on Trinity 16, September 15, 1532. The second part of his sermon was that we should learn compassion from Jesus’ example. Luther emphasizes that showing compassion does not mean leaving sin unpunished. To underscore his point, he cites his own course of action. Here’s his original line (WA 36:329):

If a maidservant is disobedient, then I bring out the oak version of the butter log and spread a nice piece of buttered bread for her with it.

Veit Dietrich’s edition from his 1545 House Postil (WA 52:482):

So if there are wicked children or servants in the house, it is a payment from God when a person takes an oaken butter log in his hand and smears their hide with it.

Andreas Poach’s edition from his 1559 House Postil (EA2 6:54):

So if there are wicked children or servants in the house, it is also a work of mercy, which God is pleased to reward, when a person takes an oaken butter log in his hand and spreads a nice piece of buttered bread on their hide with it, to soften it up.

Klug’s English edition of Poach’s edition (Sermons of Martin Luther: The House Postils [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996], p. 27-28):

It is, therefore, an act of mercifulness, chastisement from God, when, in the case of wicked children or household servants, an oaken butter switch is taken in hand and a little bit of pastry is applied to their hide, in order to soften it up a little.

I’ve been reading Klug’s edition for some of my devotions, and it’s certainly edifying. But it’s kind of frustrating when you read a memorable line like this, and you’re reasonably certain that you’re going to find something different when you go back and read the original.

Luther’s Great Pentecost Hymn

Translator’s Preface

The first stanza of Martin Luther’s hymn, “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott” was originally a Latin antiphon (a responsive prayer or exclamation, either spoken or chanted at the beginning of the service) for Vespers on the evening before Pentecost, in use from the 11th century. Currently, in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, we still use the first part of this antiphon as a refrain for the Psalm appointed for Pentecost (Psalm 51b, Christian Worship p. 87), as the Verse of the Day for Pentecost, and there are hints of it in the Prayer of the Day for Pentecost. The antiphon, in its entirety, went thus (in English):

Come, Holy Spirit, fill up the hearts of your believers, and kindle in them the fire of your love: You who have gathered the nations in the unity of the faith through all the diverse languages. Alleluia, Alleluia.”

In the 15th century, even before Luther was born, more hymns and songs were beginning to appear in German, including a paraphrase of this antiphon with its own melody.

In the early 1520s, Luther repeatedly appealled to men like Georg Spalatin for scripturally sound, clear, and appropriate Psalm arrangements and hymns in German. His appeals basically fell on deaf ears, so Luther himself took up his pen and composed more than 20 hymns between 1523 and 1524 that appeared in the first evangelical hymnals of 1524. One of them was, “Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott,” which is known at least in Wisconsin Synod circles as, “Come, Holy Ghost, God and Lord” (Christian Worship 176).

For this hymn, Luther tweaked the already existing German stanza and set it to an adapted and simplified version of its customary melody. The earliest printed version of the original German stanza went thus (in English prose):

Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God
Fill up with the pot [or kettle] of your grace
The heart and mind of those believers of yours.
Your burning love kindle in them,
You who through the radiance of your light
Have gathered in one faith
The people from all the world’s tongues,
For which may praise and honor to you be sung,
Alleluia, Alleluia.

This was one of Luther’s favorite hymns, as he made clear in 1539, when he told his companions, “The hymn, ‘Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God,’ the Holy Spirit himself composed about himself, both the text and the melody” (WA TR, #4478).

One of Luther’s changes was to begin the fifth line with, “O Lord,” probably both to tie this original stanza with the two new ones he composed (whose fifth lines also begin, “O Lord”) and to emphasize the divinity of the Holy Spirit.

The most notable change to the original German stanza was the sixth line. The original stanza, as also the older Latin antiphon, emphasized the unity of the Church’s faith, into which the Spirit had gathered people from all nations and tongues. But Luther relegated the concept of unity to the word “gathered” itself, and he substituted “to the faith” for “in one faith.” Thereby he meant either to emphasize the purenesscorrectness, and truth of that faith, or to reinforce the truth that we are saved by faith alone; the gathering work of the Holy Spirit is a gathering primarily to faith. (Good works will always follow faith as a matter of course.)

Luther’s three stanzas went thus (in English prose):

Come, Holy Spirit, Lord God,
Fill up with the blessing of your grace
Your believers’ heart, disposition, and mind;
Your burning love kindle in them.
O Lord, through the radiance of your light,
You have gathered to the faith
The people from all the world’s tongues.
May this, Lord, to your praise be sung.
Alleluia. Alleluia.

You Holy Light, Precious Protection,
Cause the Word of Life to shine on us
And teach us to know God correctly,
To call him Father from our hearts.
O Lord, protect from foreign doctrine,
That we seek no other master
Than Jesus with correct faith
And trust in him with all our might.
Alleluia. Alleluia.

You Holy Fiery Burning, Sweet Cheer,
Now help us joyfully and cheeredly
Steadfastly to remain in your service,
[And help] the tribulation not to drive us away.
O Lord, through your power prepare us
And fortify the timidity of the flesh,
That we here valiantly contend
And through death and life press on to you.
Alleluia. Alleluia.

With his additional two stanzas, the hymn, while not reflecting Luther’s best poetry, nonetheless is a treasure of biblical, and thus Lutheran, theology. He highlights salvation by grace alone, apprehended through faith in Jesus alone, worked through the Word alone. The doctrine and importance of the means of grace – the gospel of Jesus in Word and sacraments – is especially highlighted in st. 2. This doctrine is the driving force behind Luther’s prayer in that stanza for purity and correctness of teaching. The theology of the cross, another hallmark of Lutheranism, is highlighted in st. 3 in gripping terms.

The English translation in Christian Worship is unfortunate on a number of levels. Here is a sampling:

  • “All your graces” in line 2 of st. 1 is a misunderstanding of Luther’s “deiner Gnaden Gut,” which is really just a poetic way of saying, “your grace.” It thus misses the stress on God’s saving love in Christ.
  • Lines 6 & 7 of st. 1 turn Luther’s accomplished historical, gospel fact into a plea for something as-yet unrealized to be realized.
  • Luther’s original address, “Precious Protection” (could also be translated “Noble Refuge”), in line 1 of st. 2 somehow got turned into “Guide divine.” Thus the connection between that name and the second half of the verse is lost. (That connection is sort of redirected to the first half of the verse.)
  • “Call him Father with delight” in line 4 of st. 2 is a little unfortunate, though perhaps necessary in our modern world of broken homes and failed fatherhood in abundance. Luther’s original emphasis was simply on knowing and calling on God as a Father, period, as opposed to knowing him as an angry judge and being afraid to call on him or to have anything to do with him.
  • The translation that personally bothers me the most is the rendering of Luther’s, “rechtem Glauben” (“correct faith”), as, “living faith.” Certainly we want a living faith (as St. James makes clear), but perhaps now more than ever we need to emphasis that there is also a correct believing and an incorrect believing, and it is only correct believing (that is, believing in the truth) that can and will be living faith in the truest form. That this is the proper way to understand Luther’s phrase is probably best proved by the German compound noun which combines precisely these two words, Rechtgläubigkeit, which we would translate as orthodoxy, but many of us don’t know what orthodoxy means either – teaching and believing the right way (which implies there is a wrong way – contrary to the popular American expression, “You just gotta have faith…”).
  • “Grant us the will your work to do” in line 2 of st. 3 neither captures the connection between “süsser Trost” (line 1) and “getrost” (line 2) in Luther’s original nor the meaning and beauty of line 2 as a whole.
  • It’s always unfortunate when the concept of steadfastness gets lost in translation, as it does in line 3 of st. 3.

I was asked by a committee within our synod to study this hymn, and I found that I could not really meditate on it properly or with full edification without at least making my own attempt to rectify these problems. My own opinion is that my rendition of st. 3 below is the best of the three, while the rendition of st. 1 could probably use the most improvement (for which I will gladly take advice from readers).

The hymn itself is a prayer – a prayer especially appropriate for Pentecost, but also for every day of our lives. This powerful prayer is also my own in presenting a new translation of it below.

Come, Holy Spirit, God and Lord

Come, Holy Spirit, God and Lord!
In your believers’ hearts be stored
The fullness of your grace and light;
Your burning love in them ignite.
O Lord, what has your radiance done!
Within the faith you’ve made as one
People and realms of ev’ry tongue!
For this, O Lord, your praises e’er be sung!
Alleluia! Alleluia!

O Holy Light, Shield Supreme!
The Word of life upon us beam
And teach us all the highest art—
To call God, “Father,” from the heart.
O Lord, keep us from falsehood free;
Let Jesus our sole master be,
That with a faith correct and right
We place our trust in him with all our might.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

O Holy Fire, Cheer so sweet!
Help us, with joy and cheer replete,
To serve you steadfast, come what may,
Nor by our trials be driv’n away.
O Lord, lend power for the fight,
Repress for us Old Adam’s fright,
That we as knights wage battle brave,
Press on to you in heav’n through grief and grave.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Codex Solger 13

By Professor Dr. Paul Pietsch, from the Weimar edition of Luther’s works, vol. 27, p. xvii-xviii
and the staff of the Stadtbibliothek Nürnberg (Nuremberg City Library)

Translator’s Preface

One of the manuscripts vital to Martin Luther research and to the publication of his sermons is the Codex Solger 13. This is marked with an “N” in the Weimar edition of Luther’s works, since it is in the possession of the Nuremberg City Library.

I didn’t know a lot about this codex, and needed to know more about it for the introduction to the forthcoming English publication of Luther’s 1531 Christmas sermons on Isaiah 9:6.

To sum up the content below, it appears that an anonymous copier recorded a number of Luther’s sermons as they were being preached from October 1528 to February 1532. That copier either was, or became, acquainted with Friedrich Myconius (1491-1546), Luther’s fellow reformer and intimate friend, so that Myconius ended up in possession of his transcripts, along with other transcripts. After Myconius’ death, the codex came into the possession of Joannes Aurifaber of Weimar (1519-1575), who is most famous for his 1566 edition of Luther’s Table Talk.

Who obtained the codex from Aurifaber’s library is not known, but at some point it was bound in pressed leather, came into the possession of a certain Seidel, and was appraised at the costly sum of 12 Reichsthaler.

Regarding this Seidel, I would appreciate any further information any readers might have. There appear to be three well-known Seidels – 1) an Andreas Erasmus Seidel (1650-1693), a representative of the Republic of Venice, 2) an Erasmus Seidel (1594-1655), a jurist and statesman in Brandenburg who attended the University of Wittenberg and died in Berlin, and 3) an Andrew Erasmus Seidel (d. 1718?) who is responsible for bringing Codex Seidelianus I and II to Germany from the East. (I suspect it is #3, but I cannot find any further biographical information on him.)

Dr. Valentin Ernst Loescher (1673-1749), who is known especially in Wisconsin Synod circles for his The Complete Timotheus Verinus (Milwaukee: NPH, 1998), got a good deal on the codex in Berlin, purchasing it for 10 Reichsthaler, 20 groschen, “from the Storeroom of Seidel Manuscripts.”

It appears that the codex went straight from Loescher’s library to that of Adam Rudolph Solger (1693-1770), another Lutheran preacher who collected books. In 1766, prior to his death, the City Council of Nuremberg purchased his collection from him. Solger had already had his collection catalogued, and the Nuremberg City Library presumably followed this catalogue when doing their own cataloguing – whence the codex in question obtained the name Codex Solger 13.

It appears that the Codex basically went unexamined until publication of the Weimar edition of Luther’s works toward the end of the 1800s. It is probably best known for containing a number of Luther’s exhortations to the congregation that he gave after some of his sermons. These exhortations give us a good idea of what was going on outside of church at the time.

As more of a scholarly rather than a devotional or edifying post, my prayer in providing what follows is that interested Luther scholars will be able to spend less time on the externals of Luther’s works and be able to focus more on digesting and communicating their Christ-centered content.

Excerpt from Volume 27 of the Weimar Edition

6) N = Codex Solger 13 in the City Library in Nuremberg. 523 pages in quarto, in a single old volume bound in pressed leather. The first 36 pages have been marked with a pencil in modern handwriting as 1a, 1b, 2-34, and 1a again. The marking on the next 132 pages is probably contemporaneous with the text itself, since the same ink was used for both: 1-133 (132 is omitted). The next (blank) page is designated 125 in older handwriting, but in darker ink than the text, and the same goes for the pages after that, designated 126-471, though there is no page 153 or 364. Thus there are only 344 pages. In order to establish an accurate numbering for the entire volume, in more recent times the old blank page marked with 125 has been designated 133, and the following pages 134-477. After this portion of the manuscript with the double-marked pages there are 10 more pages that only have the modern numbering of 478-487.

Pages (1b)b, 16, 17, and (1a)b of the first modern numbering and pages 369b, 370, 477b, 486b, and 487 of the second modern numbering are blank.

Contents

Page (1a)a b contains a biblical inscription by Melanchthon.

Page (1b)a reads: Idem ab alio dictum non est idem. [The same thing when spoken by another is not the same.] Beneath that: IN CONCIONES DOMINI(C) || CALES D M L ORDO || P M1 || [AN ORDER FOR THE SUNDAY SERMONS OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER BY PHILIPP MELANCHTHON1] The next 9 lines contain a discussion of how one should read the church fathers correctly and profitably. It begins: Cuiuscumque artis et scientiae autores lecturus… [“The one who is going to read the authors of any branch of art or science whatsoever…”] It concludes: …ut omnia didascalice et methodice proponantur. [“…in order that everything may be set forth didactically and methodically.”] (There is also a German sentence in the middle of the Latin text.) Beneath that: NB Rarissimum hoc cimelium Manuscriptum constat: 12 R. [“Note well: This extremely rare heirloom manuscript is valued at: 12 Reichsthaler.”] Beneath that remark: CONCIONES LVTHERI et BVGEN- || HAGII. || Manuscriptum Friderici || Myconii,2 Pastoris ac || Superintendentis Gothani || Lutheri familiarissi || mi || ex Bibliotheca Aurifa || bri. || [SERMONS OF LUTHER and BUGENHAGEN. Manuscript of Friedrich Myconius,2 Pastor and Superintendent in Gotha, Luther’s very close friend, from the Library of (Joannes) Aurifaber.] On the left, next to this last entry, there is also: V. E. Loescherus D. || ex Penu Manuscriptorum Seide- || lianorum Berol. emit || 10 R. 20 g [right after the g there is a symbol that is not reproducible]. [Dr. Valentin Ernst Loescher purchased (this manuscript) from the Storeroom of Seidel Manuscripts in Berlin for 10 Reichsthaler, 20 groschen.]3

Pages 2a-3b contain an index of the sermons in the order that they appear in the volume.

Page 4a b contains an index of the sermons arranged according to the church year.

Pages 5a-14b contain an alphabetical index of topics and names for the sermons.

Page 15a has a list of the Exhortaciones post concionem [Exhortations following the sermon].

Page 15a b has some Exhortaciones [Exhortations] of Luther and Bugenhagen.

Pages 18a-31b contain the ΚΑΤΕΧΗΣΜΟΣ a Doctore Martino Luthero praedicatus [CATECHISM as preached by Doctor Martin Luther]. This is Luther’s third series of sermons from 1528 on the Catechism (Buchwald, Die Entstehung der Katechismen Luthers und die Grundlage des Grossen Katechismus, p. XI).

Pages 32a-34b contain the κατεχίσμος Froschelio praedicatus infirmante D. Martino [Catechism preached by (the deacon Sebastian) Fröschel when Dr. Martin was ill].

Page (1a)a reads (in red): CONCIONES DOMINICE D M L Anno domini 1528  15 die Octobris [THE SUNDAY SERMONS of Dr. Martin Luther in year of the Lord 1528  On October 15].

The following pages, (1b)a-477a, contain these sermons, which extend to February 11, 1532.

Pages 478a-482b have the Catechismus a domino Ioanne Pomerano praedicatus tempore Pentecostes 1532 [Catechism as preached by Lord Johannes Pomeranus (Bugenhagen) at the time of Pentecost 1532].

Pages 482b-483a contain an introduction to the Epistle to Titus dealing with the person of Titus, after which there is information about the contents of chapters 1 and 2 under the heading Argumentum [Theme].

Page 483b contains a note on a Psalm passage.

Pages 484a-486a contain a sermon by Bugenhagen from St. Michael’s Day [September 29] 1529.

Cf. Georg Buchwald in Theologische Studien und Kritiken, vol. 65 (1892), p. 339ff; vol. 72 (1899), p. 118ff; Beiträge zur Reformationsgeschichte (Festschrift for Prof. Dr. J. Köstlin, 1896), p. 49ff; Oscar Germann in Beiträge zur sächsischen Kirchengeschichte, Heft 14 (1899), p. 114ff.

This manuscript contains nos. 75, 76, and 78-91 in the present volume of sermons [namely vol. 27 of the Weimar edition, containing Luther’s sermons from 1528].

Excerpt from “Private Libraries” on the Nuremberg City Library’s Website

Library of the Preacher and Book-Collector Adam Rudolph Solger (1693-1770)

Purchased in 1766 by the City Council [of Nuremberg].

Call number: Solg.; Contents: 6,750 books and 96 manuscripts.

This collection is mainly comprised of theological literature, including a large number of valuable editions of the Bible. The real significance of the collection in found in costly manuscripts and in rare and collectible books.

The contents of the collection are listed in a printed three-volume catalog, Nuremberg 1760-1762.

Endnotes

1 It is also remotely possible that the “P M” stands for piae memoriae (“of blessed memory,” in reference to Luther). I have taken it as referring to Philipp Melanchthon because of the “D M L” referring to Dr. Martin Luther and because of the preceding biblical inscription by Melanchthon. – trans.

2 Even Georg Buchwald in his several articles pertaining to this codex (see the end) seems to attribute the actual sermon transcripts in this codex to Friedrich Myconius. But since, as evidenced from the information that follows, the sermons go from October 15, 1528, to February 11, 1532, this is impossible, since Myconius was a reformer and pastor in Gotha from 1524, almost 150 miles distant from Wittenberg by road. He was also active from time to time in Thuringia, e.g. participating in visitations there in 1528 and 1533, but that region, though closer, is also separate from the Saxony of Wittenberg. Thus it would be more correct to understand “Manuscript of Friedrich Myconius” as “Manuscript belonging to or in the possession of Friedrich Myconius,” and to attribute the sermon transcripts themselves to an anonymous copier who, at least eventually, became acquainted with Myconius. – trans.

3 We are indebted to the director of the University Library in Leipzig, Prof. Dr. Oscar von Gebhardt, for graciously communicating to us the precise information about the numbering of the Nuremberg Manuscript and the contents of the title page.

Amsdorf Preface from 1557

By Nikolaus von Amsdorf (1483-1565)

Translator’s Preface

In Friedrich Bente’s Historical Introductions to the Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis: CPH, 2005; also printed at the beginning of the Concordia Triglotta), he discusses the Majoristic Controversy in chapter 13. This controversy, which took place after Luther’s death, centered around the proposition that good works are necessary for salvation. In response to this erroneous proposition, Bente says that Nikolaus von Amsdorf, “the intimate and trusted friend of Luther,” reacted absurdly and that “the momentum of his uncontrolled zeal carried him a step too far—over the precipice. He declared that good works are detrimental and injurious to salvation” (p. 285).

But in supporting this accusation against Amsdorf, Bente only cites Amsdorf’s infamous 1559 publication, That the Proposition “Good Works Are Harmful to Salvation” Is a Correct, True, and Christian Proposition. But on the very next page (286) Bente writes:

Melanchthon refers to the proposition of Amsdorf as “filthy speech, unflaetige Rede.” In 1557, at Worms, he wrote: “Now Amsdorf writes: Good works are detrimental to salvation… The Antinomians and their like must avoid the filthy speech, ‘Good works are detrimental to salvation.'”

Bente does not explain how Melanchthon could react to Amsdorf’s proposition in 1557, when Amsdorf did not publish his infamous work until 1559.

The answer is below, translated from vol. 28 of the Weimar edition of Luther’s works (D. Martin Luthers Werke: kritische Gesammtausgabe [sic] [Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1903], p. 765-767). In 1557, the Erfurt pastor Andreas Poach was ready to have his first edition of Luther’s sermons on John 18-20 published in Jena, on the basis of Georg Rörer’s shorthand transcripts. Nikolaus von Amsdorf wrote the preface for that edition, in which, to our knowledge, he came out publicly with the proposition “that good works not only are not necessary for salvation, but are also harmful to salvation” for the first time.

Article IV of the Formula of Concord eventually dealt with both erroneous propositions (see Endnote 4 below).

For more on Poach’s first edition of Luther’s sermons on John 18-20, see here.

I was informed via email by the staff of Concordia Publishing House (CPH) that this preface is also included in vol. 69 of the American edition of Luther’s Works. (Volume 69 is one of the new volumes that CPH is publishing in anticipation of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.) However, I do not own this volume, nor have I touched it, seen it, or consulted it. Any similarities between that translation and the one below are purely coincidental.

Though Amsdorf goes too far in this preface, he also has many fine things to say. His second to last paragraph and final two sentences are my prayer in providing this translation.

Preface by Amsdorf (1557)

To all pious Christians I, Nikolaus von Amsdorf, wish God’s grace, understanding, Spirit, and wisdom, so that they continually remain and persist in the pure doctrine of the holy gospel until their end. Amen.

Many beautiful and glorious sermons preached by the holy and cherished man Doctor Martin Luther of blessed memory on several chapters of the two Evangelists John and Matthew were taken down as Luther was speaking by the worthy and well educated Mr. Georg Rörer. Another man1 has put these on paper and dispatched them to press faithfully, diligently, and in the best possible way. Until now they have never been printed or published. They are not like the other writings which Luther himself produced and had published, but in these last and dangerous present times, when all sorts of error and heresies are once again being freshly stirred up and are appearing in abundance, they are still very necessary, beneficial, and comforting for guarding oneself and standing firmly against them.

Therefore the illustrious, highborn princes and lords, the brothers Lord Johann Friedrich, Lord Johann Wilhelm, and Lord Johann Friedrich the Younger, dukes of Saxony, landgraves in Thuringia, and margraves of Meissen, my gracious princes and lords, have decreed and commanded that these sermones or sermons be specially printed. (They have done this out of the their special desire and love for having the Holy Scriptures brought to light according to their pure, natural, and correct understanding.) For in these sermons many articles of our holy Christian faith are dealt with and explained according to the contents of the pure doctrine of the holy gospel.

Their Princely Graces likewise wanted to have the special confessiones, that is, the glorious and Christian confessions, both of their dear lord and father, the formerly most illustrious, highborn Elector of Saxony, Lord Johann Friedrich of Christian and praiseworthy memory, and of Doctor Martin2 printed and published along with the above-mentioned sermons, for compelling and weighty reasons.

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

For he did not rant and rave, he did not disparage the Imperial Majesty or his counselors who urged him to accept the Interim, nor give them empty prattle. Instead, with due honor and reverence, he humbly and submissively requested, and yet at the same time announced, that he could not and would not accept such an Interim in good conscience, just as everyone will see and read in this confession of his.3

Likewise everyone can also see and note from the confession of Dr. Martin Luther that he agrees with neither sects nor factions nor fanatics alike, but condemns and rejects them all, including those that have arisen after his Christian departure from this world, whoever they may be – Interimists, Adiaphorists, or Majorists. Therefore they are quite unjust and shameless in availing themselves of Dr. Martin and in crying out, writing, and boasting that Doctor Martin has taught and written just as they write and teach, even though the opposite is found in his books for all to see. To point out the one worst, most pressing, and most dangerous article: All those who teach and write that good works are necessary for salvation are going directly against Luther, yes, directly against themselves. For Luther of blessed and holy memory writes everywhere and especially on Galatians that good works not only are not necessary for salvation, but are also harmful to salvation. For this is what he says:

When one just considers the matter at its foundation and in the light, then it is certain and is found that such teaching and emphasizing of works as necessary for salvation does more and greater damage than any human reason could ever comprehend or understand. For in so doing not only is the knowledge of grace clouded, but Christ with all his benefits is ripped away and the entire gospel is turned upside down, as Paul here testifies.4

And they themselves also write and cry out that we obtain forgiveness of sins and eternal salvation by pure grace, without our works or merit, purely for free. Now if this, their own confession, is true, how then can our good works be necessary for salvation (which we have already obtained for free, by grace, before any good work, as they themselves confess)? This is contrary to their very own confession.

I therefore ask all Christians for the sake of God to read diligently and take to heart these sermons of Luther, along with the two confessions. Then they will experience and take away from them sure comfort, strength, and power, so that they will persist and remain in the pure doctrine of the gospel and will avoid and condemn all Adiaphoristic and Majoristic doctrines. This is now highly necessary at this time, for people are rashly wanting to hold a convention with the Zwinglians, with the idea that we should settle our differences, join forces, and reach an agreement with them. But to do this without harm to religion and our conscience is impossible. This is no more an option for us than is settling our differences or reaching an agreement with the papists or Adiaphorists.

Thus any conventions, colloquies, or conferences are vain and pointless, for there can be no agreement or unity in these matters. Rather, as soon as we undertake a negotiation or colloquy, the truth has already been suppressed and defeated. For the persuasibilia verba humanae sapientiae [persuasive words of human wisdom]5 (which are nothing more than words and ink) do not diminish in value but stay on top, so that they and their dreams win out in the end.

This is exactly what I have not only read in histories and chronicles, but also seen and experienced in our colloquies which I have attended. Therefore there is nothing better or safer than to remain with the pure word of God without any comment, interpretation, or exposition of human reason. This is what the holy man of God has offered and given us in these sermons and his other writings and also in this last confession of his. In this way we are sure and certain that we cannot go astray or be in error.

May God, the Father of all mercy, help us from heaven to this end, so that we ever remain with the pure Word without any gloss, exposition, or human interpretation.

For as soon as we depart from the Word and follow the Adiaphorists’ interpretation and exposition, we are already gone and eternally lost. For Christ does not want to be preached persuasibilibus verbis humanae sapientiae [with persuasive words of human wisdom], as Paul says. He does not want to have his Church built, planted, and watered by great scholars, but by fishermen and uneducated people who have a correct faith, no matter how lowly and despised they might be on earth.

Endnotes

1 Andreas Poach – trans.

2 The “special confessiones” referred to are the confession of Elector Johann Friedrich I against the Augsburg Interim of Emperor Charles V (1548) and the Brief Confession concerning the Holy Sacrament of Martin Luther (1544). – trans.

3 Amsdorf almost makes it sound as though this confession of the elector was going to be published with Luther’s sermons in the same volume, but that did not happen. It was published by Valentin Ernst Loescher “from the manuscript” (“ex M[anu]S[crip]TO”) in his Unschuldige Nachrichten von Alten und Neuen Theologischen Sachen, Büchern, Uhrkunden, Controversien, Veränderungen, Anmerckungen, Vorschlägen, u. d. g. zur Heil. Sonntags-Ubung, Verfertiget von Einigen Dienern des Göttlichen Wortes. Auff das Jahr 1702. Andere Aufflage. (Leipzig: Bei den Großischen Erben, Druckts Martin Fulde, 1705), p. 393-398. (Loescher was, among other things, a collector of rare books, codices, and manuscripts.) Bente quotes a good portion of the elector’s confession on p. 224-225 in the work cited in my Translator’s Preface above. Bente took the quote from C. F. W. Walther’s Der Concordienformel Kern und Stern (Heart and Soul of the Formula of Concord), who in turn took it from Loescher’s printing in the Unschuldige Nachrichten. However, Walther’s citation there – “S. 364ff” – is incorrect; it should read “S. 394ff”. It just so happens that p. 394 was misprinted as 364; the other page numbers were printed correctly. – trans.

4 This assertion by Amsdorf thus predates his infamous writing from 1559, “Daß die Propositio (Gute Werk sind zur Seligkeit schädlich) ein rechte wahre christliche Propositio sei” (“That the Proposition ‘Good Works Are Harmful to Salvation’ Is a Correct, True, and Christian Proposition”). Amsdorf could put on a show appealing to Luther’s Commentarius in Epistolam ad Galatas (Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians); he is probably thinking of: “Cum igiturmea iustitia coram Deo mihi non prosit sed plus obsit…” (“Since therefore…my own righteousness before God does not help me, but hurts me much more…” (Johann Konrad Irmischer, D. Martini Luther Commentarium in Epistolam S. Pauli ad Galatas [Erlangen: Carl Heyder, 1843], 1:59). Amsdorf probably did not use the German translation of these lectures on Galatians by Justus Menius (his opponent at the time), which used to be the section that was cut out and printed in the Erlangen edition, 2nd ed., 20/II:145f, even though it is simply not a sermon; q. v. p. 156. – G. Koffmane.

Note that in the quote Koffmane cites Luther does not actually say flatly that good works are harmful to salvation, but that good works hurt us when we attempt to use them to earn righteousness before God or gain salvation from him. Even in the Luther quote Amsdorf cites, which is apparently an adaptation and not a quotation according to Koffmane, it is the teaching and emphasizing of good works as necessary for salvation that does the harm, not the good works themselves. Cf. Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article IV, §37ff. – trans.

5 Rf. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5. – trans.

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.