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.

A Prince’s Response to the Augsburg Interim

By Johann Friedrich the Elder (John Frederick I)
1548

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

Translator’s Preface

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

Friedrich Bente reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is where the Confession below comes in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Johann Friedrich the Elder

Endnotes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

German Original

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

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

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

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

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

Johann Friederich der Aeltere.

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.

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.

Luther the Matchmaker?

The following Luther story is often quoted in Luther biographies when talking about how Luther not only tolerated the note- and quote-takers in his house, but sometimes even encouraged them. However, the only English translation I’ve seen polishes Luther up (definitely not the first time that’s happened).

In my opinion, being faithful to Luther’s original rawness not only shows historical and factual integrity, but it also helps people to be more circumspect analysts of Luther – admiring only the admirable (of which there is plenty) and rejecting the reprehensible (which is also not lacking). In other words, it helps to keep Lutherans from being Lutherans for the wrong reasons. Presenting the original, raw Luther does not mean that one approves of him that way.

However, in this particular case, I really don’t see why the original was cleaned up. The original bares Luther’s heart better and is more entertaining.

I translated this story from the Weimar edition (WA) of Luther’s Works (Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1913), TR 2:123, #1525. It was recorded by Johann Schlaginhaufen (his Latinized name is Turbicida – tur-bi-CHEE-dah) between May 7 and 13, 1532. Schlaginhaufen had been a student at the University of Wittenberg (enrolled in 1520) and was a regular guest in Luther’s home from late 1531 to 1532, when he became a pastor in the village of Zahna near Wittenberg.

After the doctor [Luther] had climbed into his bed, a man came to the door, sent by a widow of a pastor in Belgern to ask for a husband. Luther said to the messenger, “Give me a break! She is not seven years old any more! She’s the one who must look for a man she can take; I do not have any man to give her.” When the messenger had left, he laughed and said to me, “For God’s sake, Turbicida, I beg you, write that one down! Isn’t it a nuisance? Am I really their first option for getting husbands for the women too? I think that they must take me for a brothel keeper! Phooey on you, you dumb world! Friend, write it and note it!”