Zwinglius Redivivus

Redimentes tempus quoniam dies mali sunt.

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Today With Calvin: Troubles with the Libertines

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calv_luther_zwiCalvin and the libertines were frequently at odds.  Indeed,

The two parties became more and more enraged against each other. Calvin’s eloquence gave him a decided superiority in the little republic. On the 24th of July 1547 he wrote to Viret:

—“I continue to employ my usual severity while laboring to correct the prevailing vices, and especially those of the young. The right-thinking tell me of the dangers by which I am surrounded, but I take no heed of this, lest I should seem too careful for my personal safety. The Lord will provide such means of escape for me as He sees good.”

The families which belonged to the libertine party took a very formidable position; but Calvin remained master of the field, and never ceased to avail himself of his office as a preacher to attack his opponents. Somewhat later, that is August 21, 1547, he states in a letter to Farel that

–“letters were daily brought him from Lyons, from which he learned that he had been killed ten times over.” “Amadeus is in France; his wife is with her father, where she plays the Bacchanal according to her usual fashion. We besought the council that, if she showed true repentance, all the past might be forgotten. But this has not occurred, and she is so far gone as to have cut off all hopes of pardon. I will seek Penthesilea, when the season for administering the Lord’s Supper arrives.”*

Sadly Calvin eventually lost the war against the Libertines and so did Luther and Zwingli.  There are more of them than there are the faithful to this very day.

*The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer (Vol. 2, p. 61).

Written by Jim

21 Aug 2018 at 5:51 am

Posted in Calvin, Luther, Zwingli

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Encouragement From Luther to End Your Day

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A natural donkey, which carries sacks to the mill and eats thistles, can judge you – indeed, all creatures can! For a donkey knows it is a donkey and not a cow. A stone knows it is a stone; water is water, and so on through all the creatures. But you mad asses do not know you are asses. — Martin Luther

Written by Jim

19 Aug 2018 at 8:18 pm

Posted in Luther

Encouragement from Martin Luther

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Truly, I never imagined, and at the same time was shocked, to see how deeply you still cling to your errors. — Martin Luther

Written by Jim

17 Aug 2018 at 7:10 pm

Posted in Luther

Luther: On the Papacy

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The word Papa, Pope, comes, as I think, of the word Abba, repeated twice, meaning father of fathers. Of old, the bishops were called Papa; Jerome, writing to Augustine, who was bishop of Hippo, calls him Holy Pope: and in the legend of St. Cyprian, martyr, we read that the judge asked him: Art thou the Cyprian whom the Christians call their pope? It seems to me to have been a term applied to all the bishops. Children call their fathers papa; the bishops were the spiritual papas of the people.  Who, thirty years ago, would have dared to say of the pope what we now say of him? None then ventured to express himself respecting him in other terms than those of veneration and supplication.  — Martin Luther

Written by Jim

16 Aug 2018 at 10:06 am

Posted in Luther

Quote of the Day

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“Philip [Melanchthon] stabs, too, but only with pins and needles. The pricks are hard to heal and they hurt. But when I stab I do it with a heavy pike used to hunt boars.” — Martin Luther


Written by Jim

11 Aug 2018 at 9:26 am

Posted in Luther, Melanchthon

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Luther’s Advice to the Angry Atheists

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It is presumptuous for people who are as ignorant as you are not to take up the work of a herdsman. — Martin Luther

Written by Jim

9 Aug 2018 at 8:19 am

Posted in Luther

A Dose of Luther to Cheer Your Heart and Brighten Your Day

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God has punished you by making you incapable of understanding truth, virtue, or honor, thus handing you over to the devil to tell nothing but lies, indeed, to do all that is evil, and to upset all that is good. — Martin Luther

Written by Jim

8 Aug 2018 at 10:06 am

Posted in Luther

Luther’s Bible Was Sent to the Printer on this Day in 1534…

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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.


Written by Jim

6 Aug 2018 at 8:13 am

Posted in Bible, Luther

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The Reticence of the Editors of Luther’s Works in English to Publish his Book on the Jews

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In the preface, the editors of the American Edition of Luther’s works write

The fact that Luther, during the last years of his life, wrote treatises harshly condemnatory of the Jews and Judaism is rather widely known. The treatises themselves, however, have not previously been available in English. The publication here of the longest and most infamous of them, On the Jews and Their Lies, will no doubt prove dismaying to many readers, not only because it shows Luther at his least attractive, but also because of the potential misuse of this material. The risk to Luther’s reputation is gladly borne, since the exposure of a broader range of his writings to modern critical judgment is an inherent purpose of this American edition. However, the thought of possible misuse of this material, to the detriment either of the Jewish people or of Jewish-Christian relations today, has occasioned great misgivings. Both editor and publisher, therefore, wish to make clear at the very outset that publication of this treatise is being undertaken only to make available the necessary documents for scholarly study of this aspect of Luther’s thought, which has played so fateful a role in the development of anti-Semitism in Western culture. Such publication is in no way intended as an endorsement of the distorted views of Jewish faith and practice or the defamation of the Jewish people which this treatise contains.*

Luther’s book doesn’t just make us squirm today, it was also viewed negatively in Luther’s own day, among his own supporters!

Already upon its first appearance in the year 1543, Luther’s treatise caused widespread dismay, not only among contemporary Jews but also in Protestant circles. Melanchthon and Osiander are known to have been unhappy with its severity. Henry Bullinger, in correspondence with Martin Bucer, remarked that Luther’s views reminded him of those of the Inquisitors. And a subsequent document prepared by the churches of Zurich declared (speaking specifically of the treatise Vom Schem Hamphoras, published later in 1543), that “if it had been written by a swineherd, rather than by a celebrated shepherd of souls, it might have some—but very little—justification.”*   [The Zurich document is cited in WA 53, 574. For the views of Melanchthon, Osiander, Bullinger, and other Reformers, see Lewin, Luthers Stellung zu den Juden (cited above, p. 96, n. 35), pp. 97 ff.]


(WA 53,574)

*Luther’s works, vol. 47: The Christian in Society IV.

Written by Jim

5 Aug 2018 at 7:46 am

How Much Would A Luther Bible Cost when It Was First Published?

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lbOur Saxon friends write

Did you know that when Luther’s Bible was published in 1534, the Bible cost a equivalent of 17 fat geese?

So I asked- how much is that?  They replied

The September Testament one and a half Gulden. Two Gulden acht Groschen the complete Bible. (60 Gulden was a equivalent to a small farm).  One and a half Gulden was an annual salary of a maidservant. A teacher’s 3 3/4.

Concerning Luther’s own salary they remark

As preacher at the City Church Luther had been receiving an annual salary of 9 Gulden since approx. 1514. In 1523 this sum was still the only cash at his disposal, since his Augustian professorship gave him free lodgings, together with brewing rights, a claim to payment in kind, but not to a salary. It was only in 1524 that Elector Frederick granted him an annual salary of one hundred Gulden. The new elector John ultimately accorded him two hundred Gulden so that Luther would earn as much as Philipp Melanchthon. This sum was a top salary for a Wittenberg Professor at the time, but the big house, the runaway monks and nuns the Luthers took in, and the continual guests made the household expensive to run. Luther calculated his annual expenses at about five hundred Gulden (Btw Luther never earned anything from his writing, he refused to accept a penny from them).

Neat, right?!?!  And we think books are expensive today!  It cost over a year’s salary for the goodly maid to buy a single Bible.  Astonishing.

I bought a two volume facsimile of the 1534 Bible and I think it cost around $199.  So, quite a bargain!

Written by Jim

29 Jul 2018 at 7:28 am

Posted in Bible, Luther

Bucer, Luther, Zwingli, and Translation Bias: Or, Be Careful Who Does Your Translation For You

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bucerThe situation between Bucer and Wittenberg was further exacerbated by Bucer’s translation of Luther’s Church Postil. Before the theological differences between Bucer and Wittenberg had become manifest, Luther himself had requested, through the Strassburg publisher Johann Herwagen, that Bucer should undertake the translation of Luther’s Postil into Latin, especially for the use of Evangelicals in France and Italy.

Bucer’s translation was issued from Herwagen’s press in six volumes from 1525–27. Luther was well pleased with the first three volumes of the translation. Bucer’s translation of the fourth volume, however, which appeared on July 27, 1526, provoked a new crisis.

luther4At this point in the work, having become inclined to Zwingli’s views on the Lord’s Supper, Bucer had hesitated about how to continue. He felt obligated to the publisher, Herwagen, to complete the translation, and in general he found Luther’s teaching excellent, but he did not want to spread Luther’s views on the Lord’s Supper to the churches of France and Italy.

Despite another warning from Zwingli, and even though he knew the Wittenbergers were already angry about his interpolations in Bugenhagen’s work, Bucer proceeded to make his own additions to Luther’s text, offering his own opinions on the Supper, though this time clearly distinguished from Luther’s view. Bucer’s insertions took three forms: a preface “to the brethren in Italy”; notes on some of Luther’s statements in the postil sermons; and a letter to the reader giving an exegesis of 1 Cor. 9:24–10:5 (in opposition to Luther’s sermon on the Epistle for Septuagesima Sunday).

zwingli_opitzThe preface was especially irritating to Luther. On one hand, Bucer spoke of Luther as a great man, and on the other hand, he tried to discredit Luther as fallible and to spread his own views on the Lord’s Supper instead.*

It’s always best to get a sympathetic translator.  Otherwise…

*Open Letter to Johann Herwagen and Preface to the Fourth Volume of Martin Bucer’s Latin Translation of the Church Postil (LW Vol. 59, pp. 164–165).

Written by Jim

27 Jul 2018 at 10:18 am

Posted in Luther, Zwingli

Luther on Certainty

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We Do Not Make God’s Word True or Untrue

“The objectivity and certainty of the Word remain even if it isn’t believed. Everything depends on one’s having the true sacrament of the altar, likewise true baptism, and also on [the] preaching [of] the true Word of God. I stake my soul on it and am ready to die for it. If you believe without doubting, you’ll be saved; if not, you’ll be damned. I put my confidence in no other faith, but in the Word of God.

“Let me give an example. If I gave you one hundred florins and hid them from you under the table and you believed and said that they were merely lead or a lead alloy, what difference would that make to me, who offered you gold? It’s your fault that you don’t believe. The gold’s gold, even if you don’t think so. God doesn’t lie when he promises eternal life. Only let us be sure that we appropriate it for ourselves in faith. For our unbelief doesn’t make God’s promise empty. — Martin Luther

Written by Jim

26 Jul 2018 at 1:53 pm

Posted in Luther, Theology

Luther Was Wrong About Mary, Wrong About The Supper, Wrong About Baptism, And Wrong About Blessed St Jerome

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Oh.  So.  Wrong.

I know no doctor whom I hate so much, although I once loved him ardently and read him voraciously. Surely there’s more learning in Aesop than in all of Jerome. If only Jerome had encouraged the works of faith and the fruits of the gospel! But he spoke only of fasting, etc. My dear Staupitz once said, ‘I’d like to know how that man was saved!’ And his predecessor Dr. Proles said, ‘I should not like to have had St. Jerome as my prior!’ ”  — Martin Luther

Jerome would be an awesome Prior!  Bad Luther.  Very bad.  Get to your room without your supper.

Written by Jim

25 Jul 2018 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Jerome, Luther

Luther to The Goat Emser

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Have you never heard the fable about the roaring match between the ass and the lion? When some animals fled at the sound of the ass’s braying, the lion turned to him, saying, “If I didn’t know you are an ass, I myself would have been afraid of you.” Every day you can see that I am not afraid of those who have more skill and intelligence in one hair than you have in your whole body and soul together, and yet you dare defy me and try to scare me! Thus you really prove that you confuse stupidity with reason and have changed from a man into a goat. — Martin Luther

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25 Jul 2018 at 6:53 am

Posted in Luther

Luther: On the Hypocrites

A scorpion thinks when his head lies hid under a leaf, that he cannot be seen; even so the hypocrites and false saints think, when they have hoisted up one or two good works, that all their sins therewith are covered and hid. — Martin Luther

Written by Jim

21 Jul 2018 at 9:08 am

Posted in Luther

Gentle Luther, Meek and Mild

Caspar Schwenckfeld sent one of his silly books to Luther and asked his opinion of it.  When the messenger dropped it off Luther didn’t let him leave until he gave his this response to pass on to his master-

The stupid fool, [Caspar Schwenckfeld], who is possessed by the devil, has no understanding, and doesn’t know what he’s mumbling about. If he won’t stop, at least let him not bother me with his books, which the devil is spitting up and spewing out of him. Let him have this as my final judgment and answer.  

The Lord rebuke you, Satan! And the spirit who called you, the course which you take, and all the sacramentarians and Eutychians who side with you in your blasphemies—to hell with you!

As it is written, ‘I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied’ [Jer. 23:21].” — Martin Luther

Luther would say the same thing to so many today.  So many.

Written by Jim

19 Jul 2018 at 6:35 am

Posted in Luther

Did You Know That Towards the End of His Life, Luther Disliked Wittenberg, Very Much…

lutherAnd that Luther was so angry at the people of Wittenberg that, in 1545 while away on business, he determined never to return to the place?

He told Katie that she should make all the arrangements and join him in Zeitz.  She could, if she liked, ask the town pastor, John Bugenhagen, to say farewell for him and inform Master Philip Melanchthon as well.  But he would not come back.  “My heart has become cold, so that I do not like to be there any longer”.*

He had grown disheartened both because of the stinginess of the town and the immorality of its residents.  But what may have pushed him over the edge was that…

One of Luther’s own maids, who had worked her way into their household with a phony story, was now pregnant and abandoned by her lover.  He [Luther] called the city Sodom after the biblical city that so displeased God.*

Who doesn’t understand that sentiment?

It seemed increasingly true that his long work, especially his preaching, had been in vain in the very place where he had labored the longest and the hardest.*

His friends were able to talk him out of abandoning the city.  He would, however, be dead within a year. So he was able to leave anyway. Much to his relief, no doubt.

* Excerpts from the introductory chapter of Resilient Reformer.

Written by Jim

18 Jul 2018 at 6:59 am

Posted in Luther

Luther Gets the Last Word

And I would answer you with this, that you are, both father and son, incorrigible, shameless, and perjuring scoundrels in saying that I have called my most gracious lord “Hanswurst.” Such wurst-tricks require no further answer. Some people probably suppose that you regard my gracious lord as Hanswurst because by God’s (that is, your enemy’s) grace he is strong, plump, and somewhat round. But think what you will, so make in your pants, hang it round your neck, then make a jelly of it and eat it like the vulgar sows and asses you are!*

*Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 41: Church and Ministry III, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 41 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 187.

Written by Jim

17 Jul 2018 at 9:15 pm

Posted in Luther

Zwingli, Calvin, and Luther on the Jews: Decidedly Not Three Peas in a Pod

Die Schweizer Reformatoren Ulrich Zwingli und Johannes Calvin seien weniger aggressiv gegenüber Juden gewesen als der deutsche Reformator Martin Luther. Dies teilte Serge Fornerod, Projektleiter Reformationsjubiläum 2017 beim Schweizerischen Evangelischen Kirchenbund (SEK), auf Anfrage von mit. Hintergrund ist eine Diskussion in der Evangelischen Kirche Deutschland (EKD) über eine Einbindung von Vertretern des Judentums in das Reformationsgedenken, weil Luther sich sehr verletzend über das Judentum geäussert haben soll.

That’s absolutely right.  Even Melanchthon was very displeased with Luther because of the latter’s anti-Jewish polemic.  Our essayist is also correct to observe

Im Vergleich zu Luther seien die Schweizer Reformatoren Zwingli und besonders Calvin «viel freundlicher zu den Juden gewesen, oder genauer gesagt viel weniger aggressiv», so Fornerod gegenüber Man finde bei ihnen keine Schriften zum Judentum wie bei Luther, was daher komme, dass die Schweizer Reformatoren stärker als Luther durch den Humanismus geprägt worden seien. «Das bedeutete unter anderem, dass man die Texte in der originalen Sprache lesen wollte, und dem ‘Alten’ Testament genauso die Qualität des ‘Gottes-Wortes’ gab wie dem Neuen Testament.»

Laut einem Lexikonartikel über Zwinglis Haltung gegenüber dem Judentum auf der Homepage der reformierten Kirche des Kantons Zürich ging Luther «offenbar ganz traditionell davon aus, dass die Kirche das Judentum als auserwähltes Volk ersetzt habe.» Zwingli sei dieser Tradition nicht gefolgt.

It’s a better essay than most on the subject.  Give it a read.

Written by Jim

17 Jul 2018 at 8:49 am

Posted in Calvin, Luther, Zwingli

The Differences Between a True Theologian (One Worthy of the Name) and a False Theologian (One Unworthy of the Name)

A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.

This is clear: He who does not know Christ does not know God hidden in suffering. Therefore he prefers works to suffering, glory to the cross, strength to weakness, wisdom to folly, and, in general, good to evil. These are the people whom the apostle calls “enemies of the cross of Christ” [Phil. 3:18], for they hate the cross and suffering and love works and the glory of works. Thus they call the good of the cross evil and the evil of a deed good. God can be found only in suffering and the cross, as has already been said. Therefore the friends of the cross say that the cross is good and works are evil, for through the cross works are destroyed and the old Adam, who is especially edified by works, is crucified. It is impossible for a person not to be puffed up by his good works unless he has first been deflated and destroyed by suffering and evil until he knows that he is worthless and that his works are not his but God’s.*

*Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 31: Career of the Reformer I, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 31 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 53.

Written by Jim

16 Jul 2018 at 9:28 pm

Posted in Luther