Daily Archives: 6 Aug 2017
And it was published the next day. The. Next. Day. Putting to shame all publishers today who take half a year to get a book printed.
Martin Luther started work on his famous translation of the Bible in 1521, and on August 6, 1534 permission to print was obtained from the Elector of Saxony. The first complete copy left the press of Hans Lufft at Wittenberg, the next day, August 7, 1534.
To be sure, prep work was done in the months leading up to the publication- but permission was granted one day and the volumes were out the next. It’s astonishing what one can achieve when one has a herd of compulsive Germans on the job.
That said, it is a beautiful edition. I have a facsimile of it and it’s just simply gorgeous. I got it when it came out in 2011. If you want to obtain one these days… the two volumes may be a bit harder to find.
Luther’s work on Ps 9-147 appeared on this date in 1521. It’s evidence of the early Luther’s still evolving theological thought. As the American editor remarks of this volume,
… on August 6, 1521, it appeared in print. Its German title is “Deutsche Auslegung des 67. Psalms”; from Psalm 9 to Psalm 147, as they are counted in our versions and in the Hebrew, there is a discrepancy of one between those versions and the Septuagint and the Vulgate. At this stage Luther was still following the numeration of the Latin version.*
Here’s a sampling- from Ps 68:21
21. But God will shatter the heads of His enemies, the hairy crown of him who walks in his guilty ways.
It is known well enough that the Jews have at all times been Christ’s greatest enemies, their claim to be God’s most loyal friends notwithstanding. It is undeniable that this verse chronicles their fate: their head is shattered; they no longer have a kingdom, a government, a priesthood. Soon after Christ’s ascent they lost that head and never regained it, which is the result of but one crime, namely, their hostility to Christ and their refusal to let Him be God. Their government is called “heads” and “hairy crown,” i.e., a handsome curly head. The Jewish priesthood was an attractive order, rich and respected. Their splendor is intimated by Absalom’s beautiful hair (2 Sam. 14:26). The head is the highest position in any nation; the hair on the head represents the great men in this highest position. They enhance the power of the head; they embellish it with their riches, honor, and might. But now the Jewish government has been destroyed; their head has been shorn bald. In Isaiah 3:24 God expresses this figuratively, when He says that He would give “baldness instead of wellset hair.”
All this is the consequence of their refusal to believe in Him who takes away both sin and death, and of their persistence to remain in their guilty ways, as our text declares. To be sure, they are not aware of their sin or of the reason for their total destruction. In times past they had experienced repeated captivity; but still they had always retained their head and government, or at least a prophet or priest. Never before have they been shorn as bald as after Christ’s ascension.
Luther fails here as an exegete. He’s still far too tied to the exegetical method of the Medieval period. He gets better, fortunately, but it has to be admitted even by his staunchest defenders that the 1521 exposition of the Psalms is bad at many points.
*Selected Psalms II, (LW Vol. 13, pp. ix–x).
Many have the idea that doubt belongs to life and cannot be helped, that it belongs even to the Christian life. But the truth is that so long as we are in bondage to this doubt we are not yet Christians. For to doubt eternal life is to dismiss the promises of God, to be dis- obedient to the Word of God, to put our trust in our own understanding and senses. God’s Word is not sufficient guarantee, we want something more certain. But this desire for something more certain than God’s Word is doubt, crass, naked doubt; crass, naked paganism; crass, naked Godlessness. — Emil Brunner