Sunday, June 07, 2020

The Loss of Steve Hays (1959-2020)

I don't completely recall how I first "met" Steve Hays. I think he e-mailed me sometime in the early 2000's in regard to something about John Calvin. What I remember about the e-mail is that the content was well-written and more complex than what I was able at the time to converse on.  That sort of summarizes how I've viewed Steve's writing abilities over the years. It's not that everything he wrote was above my academic level, it's that his writing demonstrated to me over and over that he was a much deeper thinker than I am. Bluntly: he was more intelligent and verbally capable than most of us. When someone, friend or enemy, would lump me in with Steve, I felt embarrassed. It's like putting a toddler next to the starting quarterback on the high school football team.

To his cyber-opponents,  watching them squirm at the end of his verbal sword,...well...  I enjoyed that probably more than I should have! Yes, it was a guilty pleasure. Steve would show up on my blog from time to time. He typically was able to find the exact spot of weakness that a detractor was fixated on and take them apart. I don't ever recall Steve losing his cool, at least it never came across that way.

One thing I've discovered over the years is that the people I become friends with or gravitate towards are those who can make me laugh. Steve had a great sense of humor. His wit, in both his planned out written blog posts and his random comments appears to have flowed naturally.  Easily, he could have made a living as a satirist!

Others have mentioned this already: as much as those of us in cyberspace "knew" Steve, I didn't know him at all. I also thought "Steve Hays" may have not been his real name! I never knew anything about him, how old he was, what his job was, if he had family... this never bothered me. Rather, I greatly appreciated that he wasn't a cyber-narcissist. I never recall him looking for any $$ or promoting himself.  He easily could have used Triablogue to earn a living. What he did though was allow us to benefit from his insight for free. He gave to us freely.

As I grow older, death creeps closer and closer. My parents have died. Some of my brothers have died. Close friends have died. My pets have died. Each loss now, however minor, really hits hard. The older we get, the more the words of Lord's Day 1 of the Heidelberg Catechism grow larger and larger on the page. They pulsate: they hit that certain spot each of us has when we consider our lives and all the gifts of family and friends loaned to us from the Lord. It all slowly gets peeled away, until finally, the only real solid thing you have for your comfort, never leaving you, is the Lord Jesus Christ. I'm not sure many of us would ever learn this truth if it were not for being "peeled."

I find it embarrassing in my own spiritual growth that often it's only by loss, even the loss of a blogger I've never met in-person, that I really take the time to consider the brevity of life and the eternal promises of God fulfilled in the life and death of Jesus Christ. This side of  eternity, I will miss Steve. I'm grateful to God to have given him to us for this brief time.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Luther: The Soul is Not Immortal?

Did Luther deny the immortality of the soul? Here's the "go to" Luther quote proving he did:
"But I permit the Pope to make articles of faith for himself and his faithful, such as [1]The Bread and wine are transubstantiated in the sacrament. [2] The essence of God neither generates, nor is generated. [3] The soul is the substantial form of the human body. [4] The Pope is the emperor of the world, and the king of heaven, and God upon earth. [5] The soul is immortal, with all those monstrous opinions to be found in the Roman dunghill of decretals, that such as his faith is, such may be his gospel, such his disciples, and such his church, that the mouth may have meat suitable for it, and the dish, a cover worthy of it."
This sort of historical polemic is typical of Seventh-Day Adventists (SDA). According to this group, at death, a person enters "soul sleep."  The soul sleeps in a state of hibernation until the resurrection.  When awakened, it is reunited with its body. The soul is either sent off to eternity or permanently annihilated. Therefore, the immortality of the soul is denied. Seventh-Day Adventists apologetics often claim Luther as a representative of this entire eschatological paradigm.

In the quote, Luther says "the Pope" declared it an article of faith that "the soul was immortal."  This article of faith, according to Luther, is found "in the Roman dunghill of decretals." A plain reading of this quote does blatantly appear to prove Luther denied the immortality of the soul.  Contrarily, this entry will argue against this plain reading: Luther did not deny the immortality of the soul. There's an ambiguity in the quote that only make sense in the light of Luther's harsh criticism of the "articles of faith" of Fifth Lateran Council, a council that took place only a short time before he made this statement.

This Luther quote is a popular cut-and-paste.  The form used above includes bracketed numbers, very similar to the version found in the pro-Seventh Day Adventist book The Conditionalist Faith of Our Fathers Vol. 2 (1955), by Le Roy Edwin Froom.  On Page 73 Froom articulates the typical SDA interpretation of the quote:
The implication is clear: These were distinctive Catholic doctrines, expressing the Roman faith, and consequently consistent with Catholic dogmas. But they were at variance with the Protestant scripturalism proclaimed by Luther, for the Biblical concept of the nature and the destiny of man had been woefully warped by the Papacy.
Froom probably did not sift out this Luther statement himself. A cursory search demonstrates a lengthy history of use of this anglicized quote. The form can be found as far back as 1772. Interestingly, in both Froom and the 1772 text, both authors capitalize Luther saying, "THE SOUL IS IMMORTAL." What are the odds of that? Whoever translated this quote into English from the Latin did so at least over two hundred years ago and it's been cut-and-pasted in roughly this same form ever since, first in books, now in cyber-space.

Froom and many SDA writings correctly say the quote is from Luther's response to the papal bull Exsurge Domine, in particular, Luther's Assertion of All the Articles Wrongly Condemned in the Roman Bull, November 29, 1520. What they often don't tell you is Luther actually penned four responses in rapid fire to Exsurge Domine. The one being cited is the third: Assertio omnium articulorum M. Lutheri per bummam Leonis X.  To my knowledge, no complete English translation exists. The text can be found in WA 7: 131-132.

Probo hunc sic: i. Corint, iii. Fundamentum aliud nemo potest ponere praeter id quod positum est, quod est Iesus Christus”. Hic habes fundamentum ab Apostolis positum. At omnis articulus fidei est pars huius fundamenti, quare poni alius articulus quam positus est nullus potest, Superaedificari autem potest, ut idem dicit. Et ideo Papa debet nobiscum poni et super aedificari, non autem ponere: omnia enim credenda sunt in scripturis exposita plene.
 Permitto tamen, quod Papa condat articulos suae fidei et suis fidelibus, quales sunt, panem et vinum transsubstantiari in sacramento, Essentiam dei nec generare nec generari, Animam esse formam substantialem corporis humani, Se esse Imperatorem mundi et regem coeli et deum terrenum, Animam esse immortalem, Et omnia illa infinita portenta in Romano sterquilinio Decretorum, ut, qualis est eius fides, tale sit Euangelium, tales et fideles, talis et Ecclesia, et habeant similem labra lactucam et dignum patella sit operculum.
Nos vero, qui non Papani sed Christiani sumus, scimus, quod nihil est fidei et bonorum morum, quod non abunde in literis sacris sit expositum, ut neque ius neque locus sit alia statuendi ullis hominibus.
It's obvious how someone would arrive at the conclusion from this text that Luther denied the immortality of the soul. Luther does blatantly say it is found "in the Roman dunghill of decretals." This obvious interpretation though is faulty. The quote has to be understood in light of Luther's criticism of the Fifth Lateran Council, particularly it's decree that the soul is immortal formulated at the eighth session of December 1513 under the jurisdiction of Pope Leo X. 

The Latin text above comes from Luther's third response to Exsurge Domine from late 1520. He went on only a few months later to write a fourth, Grund und Ursach aller Artikel D. Martin Luthers so durch römische Bulle unrechtlich verdammt sind (March, 1521), in English known as Defense and explanation of All the Articles.  According to LW 32, Luther considered the fourth "'smoother and simpler' than the preceding efforts" (LW 32:5; cf. Smith, 442-443). In the fourth version, Luther addresses the issue:
Hence the experts in Rome have recently pronounced a holy decree which establishes that the soul of man is immortal, acting as if we did not all say in our common Creed, “I believe in the life everlasting.” And, with the assistance of the mastermind Aristotle, they decreed further that the soul is “essentially the form of the human body,” and many other splendid articles of a similar nature. These decrees are, indeed, most appropriate to the papal church, for they make it possible for them to hold fast to human dreams and the doctrines of devils while they trample upon and destroy faith and the teaching of Christ (LW 32: 77–78). 
The "experts in Rome" refers to the recent pronouncement by the Fifth Lateran Council.  Luther's Works contains an interesting footnote at this point which states, "Luther objects to the substitution of philosophical ideas concerning the immortality of the soul for the biblical teaching of the resurrection and the life everlasting." According to LW, Luther is condemning philosophical speculation in the guise of infallible church pronouncements. He’s not denying the immortality of the soul. He makes this clear in the use of comparison to the "common creed." and the biblical doctrine of "life everlasting." Lest this interpretation seem post hoc, consider Luther's similar statements on the Fifth Lateran Council and the immortality of the soul found elsewhere in his written corpus:
Whoever has been in Rome knows that conditions are unfortunately worse there than anyone can say or believe. When the last Lateran council was to be concluded in Rome under Pope Leo, among other articles it was decreed that one must believe the soul to be immortal. From this one may gather that they make eternal life an object of sheer mockery and contempt. In this way they confess that it is a common belief among them that there is no eternal life, but that they now wish to proclaim this by means of a bull (LW 47:37-38).
The Roman See should do away with the officia, and cut down the creeping, crawling swarm of vermin at Rome, so that the pope’s household can be supported out of the pope’s own pocket. The pope should not allow his court to surpass the courts of all kings in pomp and extravagance, because this kind of thing not only has never been of any use to the cause of the Christian faith, but has kept the courtesans from study and prayer until they are hardly able to speak about the faith at all. This they proved quite flagrantly at this last Roman council, in which, among many other childish and frivolous things, they decreed that the soul of man is immortal and that every priest must say his prayers once a month unless he wants to lose his benefice. How can the affairs of Christendom and matters of faith be settled by men who are hardened and blinded by gross avarice, wealth, and worldly splendor, and who now for the first time decree that the soul is immortal? It is no small shame to the whole of Christendom that they deal so disgracefully with the faith at Rome. If they had less wealth and pomp, they could pray and study more diligently to be worthy and diligent in dealing with matters of faith, as was the case in ancient times when bishops did not presume to be the kings of kings (LW 44:163).
Notice in the first quote, Luther charges the papists,  "they confess that it is a common belief among them that there is no eternal life," and then in the second, he says, "now for the first time decree that the soul is immortal."  Why would Luther make such statements about the Fifth Lateran Council?  He explains in various places that the papists of his day did not believe in the resurrection:
And the Turks perform the same holy works as some of our monks and hope for everlasting life at the Judgment Day, for, holy people that they are, they believe in the resurrection of the dead, though few of the papists believe in it (LW 46:177).
But so as to not erase everything [decreed in the Fifth Lateran Council], [Pope Leo X] left in that sweetest decree, namely that one must henceforth believe, or at least teach, that the soul is immortal. With this decree it was not their intention to provide for themselves, but for the wretched Church of God. For neither Leo himself nor his Curia believed this; and still today they do not believe it. Rather, they consider those who believe and confess it to be fools (LW 60:306). [footnote #19, "...[I]t has been argued that he rejected the doctrine of the soul's immortality to which he opposed belief in the resurrection of the body. Luther however, did not see the two teachings in opposition, and his argument here suggests that materially he accepts the council's position on this point while being doubtful of the faith of the Roman prelates."]
Just as the Sadducees believed, so do the Papists believe that there is no resurrection of the dead (LW 58:247). [Footnote: Luther argued that the need to dogmatize the doctrine of the immortality of the soul in the bull Apostolici regiminis of the Fifth Lateran Council was an indication that the Roman theologians did not believe in eternal life].
Luther did actually affirm the immortality of the soul in his writings. In "the philosophers, like Socrates and others," Luther says they rightly believed the soul was immortal, even though the proofs they used were done "so coldly that they seem to be setting forth mere fables"  (LW 15:59). Luther maintained attempting to prove its immortality simply by "human reason" was folly because "it is not a thing 'under the sun' to believe that the soul is immortal. In the world it is neither seen nor understood as certain that souls are immortal" (LW 15:59).

In regard to the biblical testimony, Luther says the Genesis account has it in the resting of God on the seventh day: "this also implies the immortality of the human race" (LW 1:80). When commenting on Ecclesiastes 3:19-20 that at death all go back to dust, Luther says,
This passage cannot be twisted to refer to the mortality of the soul, for he is speaking about things under the sun. The world, of course, cannot understand or believe that the soul is immortal. (LW 15:59).
SDA apologists do not deny that some souls go on into eternity. Their contention is that some souls do not, and are annihilated at the final judgment. In fairness to them, Luther does use the phrase "eternal death" liberally and often ambiguously.  For instance, "Those who do not believe, then, who do not receive Him, will be punished with eternal death" (LW 12:57). Does he mean annihilation or eternal conscious punishment? 

A survey of his writings suggests the later. In LW 76:412, Luther said that "the godless goes from life and feels death eternally." In commenting on 1 Thes. 4:13-18, he says that those without hope "must expect that after this life they will receive eternal death and the wrath of God in hell and must fear to go there" (LW 53:325-326). In expounding on the death of Jesus, he had to "taste" eternal death in the place of sinners, "He must suffer everything that a condemned sinner has deserved and must suffer eternally" (LW 12:127). By implication, Luther was not presenting a Christology in which Christ ceases to exist!  One of the most explicit passages from Luther on conscious eternal torment occurs in his treatment of Psalm 21:9 (cf. WA 5:590-591):
Ver. 9. — Thou shalt put them into an oven of fire in the time of thy countenance : the Lord shall swallow them up in his wrath, and the fire shall devour them.
The prophet here beautifully sets the circumstances themselves before our eyes : for this is exactly how it is with the wicked when the hand of God finds them out on a sudden, and visits them: for then they are taken, and find themselves in the midst of their straits, so that they would, if they could, flee from the sight of his wrath, or from this revelation of a just and angry God; but they cannot flee from it; and therefore, they call like them in Hosea x. 8, 'Ye mountains, fall oh us, and ye hills, cover us." But all is in vain; for they are compelled to endure that day and that revelation of eternal wrath; and then there begins fear, trembling, flight, and intolerable horror, which makes them to burn in that unspeakable eternal fire. All external fire is nothing when compared with this eternal fire: and therefore, David very appropriately describes them as being made like unto an oven of fire ; or, as we say in Latin, a fiery oven; which has not only fire all around it, but scorches and burns within. And thus Abraham, Gen. xix. saw Sodom and Gomorrah burning, and the smoke of them going up as from a furnace.
And this mighty and intolerable punishment God brings on men by his "countenance" only: that is, by the revelation of his wrath; as David here says, " Thou shalt make them like unto a fiery oven in the time of thy countenance." And 2 Thess. i. 9, "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction, from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." And Psalm xxxiv. 16, " But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil." In a word, this is that punishment which none can understand, nor have any idea of, but the damned who feel it: so that it is even awful to meditate upon the words of this verse, so appropriately and descriptively does David set the whole forth. — This oven is set on fire by the intolerable sight of God only, and is to burn to all eternity. For the day of Judgment will not endure for a moment only, but will remain for ever: it will never set: the wicked will be judged for ever and ever, and will be tormented for ever and ever, and the oven will burn for ever and ever: that is, the wicked will be tormented inwardly with the extreme of all straits and tribulation.
Did Luther deny the immortality of the soul? Not at all. True, Luther did at times advocate "soul sleep." He did so in somewhat undogmatic terms, at times cautioning his readers that we don’t have full understanding of this subject. Some times he advocates it clearly,  other times he says things that contradict it (see my entry here). This is only a cursory glimpse into his writings. Much more could be added, but what is presented is enough to demonstrate that some Seventh-Day Adventist apologetics are not presenting a clear picture of the historical record.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Luther: "Oecolampadius, Calvin . . . and the other heretics have in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths."

Here's a Martin Luther quote that's made the cyber-rounds for a number of years. For instance, it appears in an eighty-seven page "conversion story" opus entitled, "Why I'm Catholic.":
In response to John Calvin's particular brand of Protestantism, Luther stated: "Calvin ... and the other heretics, they have in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths." (Werke (Walch), XX, 223, in Cath. En. IX, 456d). 
Another version from "Why I Converted to Catholicism" reads:
"Oecolampadius, Calvin . . . and the other heretics have in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths." 
While these converts use the quote intentionally to highlight disagreements among the original Reformers, the quote is also unique because Luther directly (and most negatively) singles out John Calvin. I know of no theological writings in which Luther directly wrote harshly against John Calvin. Some years back I looked at the "relationship" of Luther and Calvin, pointing out Calvin is mentioned in second-hand Table Talk statements and in a letter, but other than that, the older Luther doesn't appear all that all that interested in John Calvin. Have Rome's defenders located the key that determines Luther's perception of John  Calvin?

Let's look a little deeper into history and determine if Luther said Calvin was a lying corrupt-hearted heretic, thoroughly "in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled." Certainly there were differences and disagreements between Luther and the Reformed, and yes, he consigned them off to eternal judgment on more than one occasion.  With this quote though, we'll see that Luther never made this particular comment in reference to John Calvin.

Sparing the tedious details to prove it,  these two cyber-converts, whether they knew it or not, received this quote from historian Will Durant's volume on The Reformation.  Durant writes, 
Luther took no direct part in the pacific conferences of these his declining years; the princes rather than the theologians were now the Protestant leaders, for the issues concerned property and power far more than dogma and ritual. Luther was not made for negotiation, and he was getting too old to fight with weapons other than the pen. A papal envoy described him in 1535 as still vigorous and heartily humorous (“the first question he asked me was whether I had heard the report, current in Italy, that he was a German sot” 27); but his expanding frame harbored a dozen diseases—indigestion, insomnia, dizziness, colic, stones in the kidneys, abscesses in the ears, ulcers, gout, rheumatism, sciatica, and palpitation of the heart. He used alcoholic drinks to dull his pain and bring him sleep; he sampled the drugs that the doctors prescribed for him; and he tried impatient prayer; the diseases progressed. In 1537 he thought he would die of the stone, and he issued an ultimatum to the Deity: “If this pain lasts longer I shall go mad and fail to recognize Thy goodness.” 28 His deteriorating temper was in part an expression of his suffering. His friends increasingly avoided him, for “hardly one of us,” said a saddened votary, “can escape his anger and his public scourging”; and the patient Melanchthon winced under frequent humiliations by his rough-hewn idol. As for “Oecolampadius, Calvin .... and the other heretics,” said Luther, “they have in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths.”29
29 Werke (Walch), XX 223, in Cath. En., IX, 456d.
Durant first provides a reference to the Walch edition of Luther writings. His bibliography says he used the St. Louis version of Walch.  Here then is Walch XX 223, (St. Louis edition). There isn't though any mention of Oecolampadius or Calvin on the page. There is mention of "Karlstadtians," Dr. Karlstadt, and Peter Rültz (a fictional character).  That being referenced by Durant is Luther's Against the heavenly Prophets in the Matters of Images and Sacraments (1525). Checking that reference, not only is Oecolampadius not mentioned on page / column 223, he isn't mentioned in this particular writing.  Calvin isn't mentioned either, for an obvious reason: in 1525, Calvin was sixteen years old! The only thing remotely similar on page 223 to what Durant is citing is the line in which Luther says, in reference to the "Karlstadtians," that they exhibit a "lying tongue" (LW 40:166), but this seems more like a coincidence than the actual intended source.

Durant says the "Werke XX 223" reference came from the Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. IX, 456. This source states:
It was this "terrible temper" which brought on the tragedy of alienation, that drove from him his most devoted friends and zealous co-labourers. Every contradiction set him ablaze. "Hardly one of us", in the lament of one of his votaries, "can escape Luther's anger and his public scourging" (Corp. Ref., V, 314). Carlstadt parted with him in 1522, after what threatened to be a personal encounter; Melancthon in plaintive tones speaks of his passionate violence, self-will, and tyranny, and does not mince words in confessing the humiliation of his ignoble servitude; Bucer, prompted by political and diplomatic motives, prudently accepts the inevitable "just as the Lord bestowed him on us"; Zwingli "has become a pagan, Œcolampadius . . . and the other heretics have in-devilled, through-devilled, over-devilled corrupt hearts and lying mouths, and no one should pray for them", all of them "were brought to their death by the fiery darts and spears of the devil" (Walch, op. cit., XX, 223); Calvin and the Reformed are also the possessors of "in-deviled, over-devilled, and through-devilled hearts"; Schurf, the eminent jurist, was changed from an ally to an opponent, with a brutality that defies all explanation or apology; Agricola fell a prey to a repugnance that time did not soften; Schwenkfeld, Armsdorf, Cordatus, all incurred his ill will, forfeited his friendship, and became the butt of his stinging speech.
Durant utilized the Catholic Encyclopedia rather than Walch XX. The Catholic Encyclopedia though isn't helpful with documentation either. In fact, it makes it more confusing! There are a number of quotes being utilized. Some of the quotes are from Luther's Brief Confession Concerning the Holy Sacrament ("nor pray for them," Zwingli has become a "heathen" LW 38:291). One of the quotes is from The Private Mass and the Consecration of Priests ("...fiery darts and spears of the devil" LW 38:156).  In none of these writings is John Calvin mentioned.

The main aspect of the quote, the harsh sentiment about "in-devilled, through-devilled, over-devilled" and"corrupt hearts and lying mouths" is unique in that the Catholic Encyclopedia uses the "devilled" part twice in the same paragraph without actually providing a helpful reference. This comment comes from Luther's Brief Confession Concerning the Holy Sacrament (1544), also in Walch XX (pp.1764-1791), found specifically on page /column 1771, paragraph 17. This writing has been translated into English in LW 38:279-319. The quote can be found at LW 38:296. An older partial English translation can be found here.

Even if the impossible were true, and they were right that mere bread and wine are in the Lord’s Supper, should they for that reason rage and thunder thus against us with such hideous blasphemies, “baked God,” “God of bread,” etc.? Should they not spare the sacred words of Christ (which we have not invented), “This is my body,” by which he clearly calls the bread, that is being offered, his body? Thus they might also blaspheme him as being a God of cloths or made of cloths, or a woven or a sewn-up God because he went about in a robe and garments that were sewn and woven. Likewise they might call him a watery God because he was baptized in the Jordan, a God wrapped in clouds because he ascended into heaven in the clouds.
I, too, would have been able to designate their God in a corresponding way and I could still do it, if I would not want to spare the name of God. I could also give them their true name and say that they are not only devourers of bread and drinkers of wine but devourers of souls and murderers of souls and that they possess a bedeviled, thoroughly bedeviled, hyper-bedeviled heart and lying tongue. Thereby I would have spoken the truth because it cannot be contradicted that they have shamelessly lied by means of such blasphemies of theirs against their own consciences. Yet they are not repentant; in fact, they boast about themselves in their malice.
Therefore, no one among the Christians should and can pray for the fanatics or receive them. They have incurred their penalty and are committing “sin which is mortal” [1 John 5:16], as St. John says. I am talking about the leaders; may the dear Lord Christ deliver the poor people who are among them from such murderers of souls. They have (I say) been admonished sharply and often enough. They do not want to have anything to do with me; therefore, I do not want to have anything to do with them either. They have received nothing from me, they boast, for which I am thankful to God. Likewise, I have received much less from them, for which God be praised. Let that be as it may; the truth will come to light, if it has not already done so with a vengeance. (LW 38:295-296).
When the Catholic Encyclopedia mentions "Calvin and the Reformed," it appears they simply added "Calvin" in. Durant, simply copied from the Catholic Encyclopedia, and did not check Werke XX 223. The reference is not accurate in regard to the quote either. Perhaps the Catholic Encyclopedia's use of "op. cit" gives them a pass, for the bulk of the quote is found much later in Werke XX. Why they used "in-deviled, over-devilled, and through-devilled" twice doesn't make sense. Durant combined both of them together. 

Luther wrote his Brief Confession Concerning the Holy Sacrament in 1544. Luther did not mention John Calvin. Rather, Luther had Caspar Schwenckfeld, Zwingli, and Karlstadt, Oecolampadius,  directly in his line of fire (some of them were dead at the time he wrote it) when he said, "in-deviled, through-deviled, over-deviled, corrupt hearts and lying mouths" (sondern Seelfresser und Seel mörder wären, und sie ein eingeteufelt, durch teufelt, überteufelt, lästerlich Herz und Lugen maul hätten). Maybe one could argue by extension that because Calvin was in the "Reformed" camp, he likewise falls under Luther's condemnation. Some have said at this point Luther was agitated by Melanchthon and Bucer over the same issue, but chose not to include them in this writing, so if we're just speculating, let's throw Calvin in their as well.

I certainly understand how this historical exploration may seem trivial or tedious. Why bother? I do so to point out that Rome's defenders often claim to be deep into history. When it comes to Reformation history, the Internet is riddled with misinformation and mis-citation, often coming from their side of the Tiber.  

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Relics Anyone? Roman Catholic Piety in the Sixteenth Century, Before 1517

I came across a discussion in which a Lutheran was explaining the existence of relics to one of Rome's defenders:
"Luther commented on relics in his day. The one on the cross was something about having enough pieces to build the ark. He may of added many times over. It seems he said animal bones have been perpetrate as former saints too."
The response from the Roman Catholic side was, "what proof did Luther have for his comments of relics?" I don't have the time to track down where exactly Luther said this or that about relics. However: Luther's world was indeed filled with relics. I have in front of me a very interesting source book: Hans J. Hillerbrand, ed. The Reformation In Its Own Words (Harper and Row, Inc. 1964) pp. 47-49.  Hillerbrand cites a source that preceded Luther's battles against the church (1509). The text states:

The Castle Church at Wittenberg, where Luther probably posted his ninety-five theses, was famous for its extensive collection of relics, as the following excerpt from what might be called the 'official catalogue' shows.
... Three pieces of the city where the Virgin Mary was born. One piece of a yarn which she spun. One piece of the house where she lived at the age of fourteen. Two pieces of the city of Mt Zion where Mary lived. Two pieces of the room where Mary was greeted by the angel. Five particles of the milk of the Virgin Mary. One piece of the tree where Mary nursed the Lord near the Garden of Balsam. Four pieces of the hair of Mary. Three pieces of the shirt of Mary. Three pieces of one robe of Mary. Eight pieces of other robes of Mary. Four pieces of the belt of Mary. Seven pieces of the veil of Mary. Two pieces of the veil of Mary which was sprinkled with the blood of Christ under the Cross. One piece of the city where Mary died. One piece of the wax candle given to Our Lady when she died. Six pieces of the grave of Mary. Two pieces of the earth of the grave of Mary. One piece of the place where Mary ascended into heaven. VI. A silver picture of the little baby Jesus. Four pieces of the city where the Lord Jesus was born. One piece of the diaper in which he was wrapped. Thirteen pieces of the manger of Jesus. One piece of the cradle. Two pieces of the hay. One piece of the straw on which the Lord lay when he was born. One piece of the gold and of the myrrh which the Three Kings offered unto the Lord. One piece of the city where the Lord Jesus was circumcised. VII. Four pieces of the mountain on which the Lord Jesus fasted. Two pieces of the city where Christ preached the Lord's Prayer. One piece of the stone on which Jesus stood while weeping over Jerusalem. One piece of the stone from which Christ got on the donkey. Two pieces of the ground where the Lord Christ was arrested. VIII.... Five pieces of the table on which the Lord Christ held the Last Supper with his disciples. One piece of the bread of which Christ ate with his disciples during the Last Supper. IX.... One piece of the land which was bought for the thirty pieces of silver for which Christ was betrayed. One piece of the Holy Land. Three pieces of the stone where the Lord sweated blood. One piece of the ground where the Lord sweated blood. One piece of the stone sprinkled with the blood of Christ. X. Three pieces of the Mount of Olives and of the rod of Aaron. Two pieces of the rod of Moses. One piece of the burning bush which Moses saw. One piece of an object sprinkled with the blood of Christ. Eleven pieces of Mount Calvary. Two pieces of the Mount of Olives. XI. One piece of the cloth with which the Lord wiped his disciples' feet. One piece of the robe of Christ: One piece of the seamless robe of Christ. One piece of the robe of Christ. One piece of his purple robe. Two pieces of the cloth which St Veronica received from the Lord. Three pieces of the white robe in which the Lord was ridiculed by Herod . Three pieces of the cloth with which our Lord's holy eyes were blindfolded. One piece of the beard of the Lord Jesus. XII. One piece of the wax of the candles which touched the sudarium of Christ. One piece of the wedge with which the cross of Christ was held. Three pieces of the stone on which the cross stood. Three pieces of the place where the cross of Christ was found. Twelve pieces of the column where the Lord Christ was scourged and flogged.
The Eight Aisle.
I. One piece of the rope with which Jesus was tied. Three pieces of the rod with which the Lord Jesus was scourged. Three pieces of the whip with which the Lord Jesus was flogged. One piece of the stone upon which the Lord Jesus sat when he was crowned. One piece of the stone which was crushed while the Lord carried the cross. One piece of the sponge with which the Lord was given vinegar and gall.... III. Two pieces of the crown of the Lord Jesus. Eight complete thorns of the crown of the Lord Jesus. IV. One large piece of one nail which was driven through the hands or feet of the Lord Jesus. V. A thorn which wounded the holy head of the Lord Jesus. VI. One piece of the holy cross.... VII. Three pieces of the holy cross. VIII. Three pieces of the three kinds of wood of the cross of Christ. IX. A particularly large piece from the holy cross. X. Twenty-five pieces of the holy cross. XI. One piece of the stone which lay on the grave of Christ. Twenty-two pieces of the grave of Christ. One piece of the stone from which Christ descended into heaven. XII. A casket lined with silver in which are found sixteen hundred and seventy-eight pieces. Seventy-six pieces of holy remains. Bones from holy places which on account of faded writing can no longer be read and identified.
All in all : five thousand and five pieces. An indulgence of one hundred days for each piece. There are eight halls and each hall has an indulgence of one hundred and one days in addition. Blessed are those who participate therein.
Lucas Cranach, Wittemberger Heiligthumsbuch.
E iij, Eiij b, Fij, Fiiij, Hiiij b, I iiff.

Wittemberger Heiligthumsbuch, illustrirt von Lucas Cranach d. Alt (Wittenberg, 1509). The edition used is the facsimile edition of Munich 1884.
As per the Art Institute of Chicago:
Lucas Cranach produced this souvenir catalogue to promote the prized collection of relics and reliquaries of his patron, Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony. Copies were printed on paper and more luxurious vellum, although the paper printings are now scarcer. The sequence of woodcuts walks pilgrims through every stage of the yearly viewing; each relic offered a hundred days of indulgence. Pilgrims witnessing them all would have amassed an impressive 500,500 days (1,371 years) of respite from Purgatory. Yet Frederick’s protégé, the radical Martin Luther, would soon speak out against the practice of granting indulgences, and the relic collection would be shown for the last time in 1522. The pages visible here depict Mary Magdalene’s hair, nineteen particles of Saint Cecilia, and other relics.

Sunday, May 03, 2020

Bucer: "Calvin is a true mad dog. The man is wicked, and he judges of people according as he loves or hates them"

Here's a John Calvin tidbit that's made the cyber-rounds for a number of years:
Despite theological affinities, Bucer had quite a low opinion of Calvin: "Calvin is a true mad dog. The man is wicked, and he judges of people according as he loves or hates them."  (113;v.1:467)
This quote popped on my radar recently when it was presented in an on-line discussion group focusing on "debate" between Rome's defenders and the Reformation. The quote has traveled around the Internet for a number of years (at least twenty). Previous to that, it was very popular in nineteenth-century Roman Catholic polemical writings.

The quote is historically intriguing: it purports some sort of animosity between two prominent sixteenth century Reformers, Martin Bucer and John Calvin.  Basic Reformation history paints a much different picture: Bucer and Calvin had a cordial relationship,  a close and friendly relationship, especially during the period in which Calvin was on hiatus from Geneva, living in Strasbourg in the direct company of Bucer.

Which historical narrative is correct? Did Bucer criticize Calvin as "a true mad dog" judging people "as he loves or hates them," or did he have an amiable relationship with him? Or was it... both? Did Bucer think negatively on Calvin even while having a cordial relationship with him? Did he happen to disagree with Calvin on something, if only temporarily? Was Bucer having the proverbial "bad day"?  Let's trace back this quote for some answers. We'll see there's a good possibility Martin Bucer never said it. We'll see specifically there's no credible primary source that historically documents this Bucer comment. Rome's defenders have once again, not gone deep into history.

The documentation I was provided with was "113;v.1:467." A basic Google search leads to the probable cyber-source: a Roman Catholic apologetics web-page documenting, in part, the sixteenth century "intolerance" aspect of the Reformers against each other.  "113" corresponds to an entry in a web-page bibliography:  "Spalding, Martin J. {Archbishop of Baltimore}, The History of the Protestant Reformation, 2 vols., Baltimore: John Murphy, 1876." This information is accurate, as far as it goes, but unfortunately, it doesn't go that far to the actual primary source. Here is volume 1:467.

Spalding, a Roman Catholic,  included it as part of a litany of character assaults against Calvin. That's not such a strange occurrence: Spalding lived during a period of deep polemical interactions between Protestants and Roman Catholics. It's not uncommon to find books from both sides during that period attempting to point out the atrocities and inconsistencies of the other, coupled with character assaults (has anything really changed?).

As with many books from this period, documentation is sparse. It isn't odd then that Spalding does not document his source for the quote in question. A careful reader will notice that Spalding goes on to glowingly mention one of Calvin's enemies (Baudouin) immediately after citing the quote we're examining.  François Baudouin (1520–1573), will play a major role in the authenticity of this quote as we go on in our investigation.

One source that Spalding does cite elsewhere in his text is Jean François Marie Trévern, An Amicable Discussion on the Church of England and on the Reformation in General. This was an immensely popular book(s) at the time, particularly used by many Roman Catholic polemical writers. The quote we're examining is also found in Trévern's book in the exact English form, but also without documentation.  I suspect the English form of this quote may have directly come from the translation of Trévern's book from French into English (even if Spalding didn't utilize Trévern for it). The earliest use of the English version I located in my cursory search was an 1828 English edition of Trévern. It's not possible to know precisely, but that the English renderings are so consistent leads me to suspect this popular source as ground zero for the English-speaking world.

Trévern's book was originally in French. The edition I checked also did not document the quote. What's interesting is that searching the French phrase "chien enragé" ("mad dog") along with "Calvin" provides deeper historical roots into the seventeenth century for our quote. Here was one of the interesting hits:

What's fascinating about this excerpt is this old writer mentions a source for the quote we're looking for: the quote is said to come from a letter from Bucer to Calvin, but, according this author, the only person to have actually physically seen the letter is Calvin's enemy, François Baudouin! This old biography of Calvin explains that Baudouin was initially friendly with Calvin and was granted access to his library and papers. He then is said to have taken some of Calvin's papers, particularity a letter from Martin Bucer that was supposedly harsh toward Calvin. He ran off with the documents to France. Baudouin then used the documents to attack Calvin.  This contemporary source states that Baudouin eventually admitted he had never seen Bucer's letter, only a reply of Calvin to Bucer.  This old source similarly says Baudouin admitted to not actually seeing Bucer's letter, and adds a lot of detail, including Calvin's denial of Bucer's words:
Francis Baudouin, who lodged with Calvin, gave out, that, in Bucer's judgment, Calvin kept no measure either in his love or hatred; or that he either raised people above the heavens, or sunk them down to hell. But Calvin solemnly protested, that Bucer had never censured him in that manner. "I call GOD and his angels to witness, (says Calvin,) that what Baudouin recites of that matter, is a wicked fiction of his own. May GOD so prosper me, as I never heard any such thing from Bucer: On the contrary, Bucer, whom I revere as a father, cultivated a mutual brotherly friendship with me, with so much affection, that it grieved him very much when I left Strasburg. It is certain, he strove to the utmost to retain me by any means whatsoever. There is also a letter of his to our senate, wherein he complains that I was recalled hither to the great loss of the whole church; and in short goes so far, that he says, I am inferior to none of the ministers of sound doctrine, and have but few equals." Baudouin confesses, in his answer, that he had not seen what Bucer had wrote to Calvin; but he brags he had Calvin's answer to Bucer. Theodore Beza wrote to Baudouin, and made the following apology for Calvin; "You say Calvin cursed himself if ever he heard any such thing from Bucer: But why do you omit what is most to the purpose? For these are Calvin's words: "Baudouin says, that Bucer once told me that I kept no measure in my hatred or love; but was a man of that vehemence, that I either extolled a man above the skies, or debased him to hell." You see manifestly, though you are so blind with rage or hatred that you can see nothing, that what you wrote obscurely of Bucer's rebuke, Calvin under'stood as of some conversation; and, therefore, remembering the sweet and uninterrupted friendship that had been between him and Bucer, did not rashly break out into that expression; so that this is nothing at all to the letter, which you have corrupted too; for Bucer, whose letter I have in his own hand-writing, did not write, you judge as you love,  but we judge as we love, whereby he comprehended himself in the number, and deplored a  common fault of mankind.' Beza also remarks, that those two great men soon altered their style in writing to each other; and that there are letters of Bucer to Calvin of a later date, and full of mildness.
The above synopsis closely follows that done in Bayle's Dictionary. Bayle says, "There has been much Talk of a Letter which [Bucer] wrote to Calvin." Similarly, Bayle records that Calvin vehemently denied the contents of the alleged Bucer letter. Again, Baudouin is indicted for admitting he had actually not seen Bucer's letter, but only Calvin's letter to Bucer. Then Bayle similarly puts forth Beza's remarks.

Bayle cites only, "You judge according as you love, or according as you hate; or you love and hate from meer Fancy." Many of the older citations of this quote focus more on the sentence "he judges of people according as he loves or hates them" rather than the "mad dog" line.  As Beza implied above, the line from Bucer was actually,  "Our judgment depends on our love or our hate," but this line is only known through the debates back and forth between Calvin,  Baudouin, and Beza's testimony.

It appears some of the English quote in which Bucer calls Calvin a "mad dog" et al. does date back to the sixteenth century, but not to an actual verifiable context from Bucer.  To my knowledge, no such letter has ever been recovered in which Bucer is said to have written, "Calvin is a true mad dog. The man is wicked, and he judges of people according as he loves or hates them." It was the unproven and eventually retracted statement from Calvin's polemical enemy, François Baudouin. Only his testimony serves as the basis of this quote in the historical record.

There are some loose ends to this brief investigation. First, I've not come across any helpful information of how the words "true mad dog" entered the historical record. Second, I've not actually located exactly which source Baudouin originally claimed to know the contents of Bucer's letter.  Third, I've not actually provided any actual assessments of the relationship between Bucer and Calvin. According to this source,  there was disagreement, but not of the personal animosity level  that the polemical quote suggests. 

Regardless of these loose ends,  I'm confident that Roman Catholic polemicists are those ultimately responsible to substantiate the claim that "Bucer had quite a low opinion of Calvin." The proof they've used thus far, a spurious quote devoid of context, put forth by Calvin's known enemy, fails as evidence. 

Monday, April 27, 2020

Luther in the Thunderstorm, "Help me, Saint Anne, and I will become a monk." Fact or Fiction?

Martin Luther's dramatic decision to become a monk while cowering in a thunderstorm is popular in print and throughout cyber-space.  Examples could be endlessly multiplied, but for simplicity sake, let's use that provided on-line by Ligonier Ministires in which Stephen Nichols stands outside a building in Erfurt:
In 1505, Martin Luther was here in Erfurt. He had received his master’s degree in January, and he just spent a few months studying law. He thought he’d go home and pay a visit to his family, so he traveled about 90 kilometers to the north to the town of Mansfeld. On the way back, Luther was caught in a violent thunderstorm, in fact, he thought God had unleashed the very heavens to take his life. So Luther tried to get shelter, and he found this big granite rock, and he grasped it, and he cried out, “Help me, Saint Anne, and I will become a monk.”
The Ligonier link goes on, in essence, to describe the deficiencies of Luther's medieval Roman Catholic worldview.  This dramatic story captures Luther's unwavering youthful dedication to the church of Rome (via his reliance on a mediator other than Christ, Saint Anne), his fear of God, his anfechtungen, and his ultimate need for the Gospel. It's a powerful way to begin his story. Some have gone so far as comparing the story to Paul on the way to Damascus. This author goes to the extreme of speculating that perhaps Luther was also thrown off his horse during the storm! But is is true? Recently, I came across one of Rome's defenders challenging it:
What I can't fathom is that most protestants know very little about their "father", Martin Luther. He was a disobedient Augustinian monk; obedience to their Superiors and the Church is a vow he took. He was, in today's language, a wayward Catholic. This unbelievably arrogant man, who only became entered the Church after (as the fairytale goes) not being struck by lightning during a storm. He, apparently, saw this as a sign from God that he was protected to enter clerical life. This same man (the protestant father) had debates with the Devil. Imagine that a "good man" debating with Satan himself. 
Each sentence drips with blatant disdain for Luther.  Such vitriol is symptomatic of an absence of  rational Reformation research.  The "fairy-tale" statement though on Luther's vow to Saint Anne is intriguing: it unwittingly challenges a popular Protestant historical narrative used by professional historians. It can be found in the opening paragraph of Roland Bainton's of Here I Stand, as well as Heiko Obermann's Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, to name only two of perhaps thousands who treat the story credibly. Let's dig into Reformation history and figure out where this event was recorded and if the details are trustworthy or a fairy-tale.

Whether it's books or web-pages, the story is often told without a reference. Unlike a lot of Luther tidbits used by Rome's defenders,  the primary source for this one isn't too hard to track down. The story comes from the Tischreden, in English, the Table Talk. The Table Talk is a collection of second-hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students, published after his death. Luther didn't write the Table Talk. Since the statements contained therein are purported to have been made by Luther, they should serve more as corroborating second-hand testimony to something Luther is certain to have written.

The statement can be found in WA TR 4: 440, entry 4707.  The text reads,

This comment was taken down by Anthony Lauterbach, an eyewitness to the actual statement, whose collection dates from 1538-1539. LW 54 posits that he wasn't trying to document Luther's life, but rather his own! According to LW, Lauterbach was good with recording dates. The dating of this story does play a role in its veracity.

The dating of the story is tricky. As per WA, the date of the remark is listed as July 16,1539 ("16. Iulii").  In the actual remark, Luther says, "Today is the anniversary of my entrance into the monastery at Erfurt" (July 16). There's sometimes confusion here. Some sources say he entered on July 16, while the overwhelming majority say it was July 17. Most biographies point out he announced his intentions to join the monastery to his friends on July 16, in fact this very Table Talk comment mentions the gathering of Luther and friends on July 16. Technically, Luther is referring to the night before he entered the monastery as the anniversary date.

This story recorded by Lauterbach in 1539 is thirty-four years removed from when it was said to have occurred in 1505.  In many of the accounts, the thunderstorm date is calculated as July 2, 1505 because in the Table Talk comment itself, the story of the storm and his vow to Saint Anne is said to take place "two weeks earlier on his way through Stotternheim." That would therefore place the date at or around July 2, 1505.

Some scholars try to infer a dating error on the statement of July 16.  Ironically, St. Anne's feast day was on July 26. Grisar appears to follow this. When he cites the story, he references it as "Luther to his friends on the feast day of St. Anne, July 16 (?26), 1539." He refers to Bindseil's third volume of Luther's Colloquia, p.187, but that text clearly says it was the feast day of St. Alexius, July 16, 1539 (though the feast is on July 17!). Oddly, Grisar elsewhere notes it was the Feast for Alexius.  On the other hand, with the date of the storm on July 2, 1505, Franz Posset simply says "Oddly enough, the feast day of St. Anne is celebrated not on July 2, but on July 26" (p.53).

To my knowledge, there's been no "official" English translation of this Table Talk statement by the keepers of Luther's writings. Typically, the story has been used by authors expressing the comment in their own words. Some have extensive embellishments.  For instance, this author tells the story in a much greater detail than the actual original context provides.  Even the Ligonier version that began this entry has details not in the original context: "Luther tried to get shelter, and he found this big granite rock, and he grasped it...".  The "granite rock" and shelter seeking is not in the original context.

There are though extended English versions found here and here. These will serve as the English translation.

"Today is the anniversary of my entrance into the monastery at Erfurt"¬ and he began to tell the story of how he had vowed his vow. About two weeks earlier on his way through Stotternheim, not far from Erfurt, he had said in terror, "Help, Saint Anne, I promise to become a monk!" "But God heard my vow in Hebrew where Anna means by grace as opposed to by law."
And also:
On July 16, the day of [St.] Alexius, he said, "Today it is the anniversary of my entry into the monastery in Erfurt." And he began to recount the story how he had made a vow almost fourteen days earlier when underway he was upset by a lightening bolt near Stotternheim, not far From Erfurt. In his fear he had called out, "'Help me holy Anna, I want to become a monk.' At that time, however, God regarded my vow in Hebrew: Anna, that is to say, in grace and not under law. I regretted my vow, and many told me that I shouldn't keep it. I persisted, however, and on the day before [St.] Alexius, I invited my best friends to say goodbye so that they could accompany me to the monastery the next day. When they wanted to hold me back, I said 'Today you will see me for the last time.' Under tears they brought me away. Also, my father was very angry about the vow, but I stuck to my decision, I never considered leaving the monastery. I was completely dead to the world."

This basic historical inquiry shows Luther did not write down anywhere that he made a vow to Saint Anne. The historical veracity of the vow is based solely on a second-hand statement recorded by a former student and friend of Luther's, thirty-four years removed from the actual event. There's no reason though that I'm aware of to doubt that Anthony Lauterbach accurately transcribed what he heard Luther say,  nor is there any reason to suspect that Lauterbach put forth his own emendations.  On the other hand, the evidence of Table Talk statements should serve more as corroborating second-hand testimony to something Luther is certain to have written or stated elsewhere. I'm not aware of any corroborating witnesses recording the same vow to Saint Anne, nor am I aware of any others in Luther's lifetime that credibly attest to it.

A glaring problem some see with the vow to Saint Anne is Luther's statement, "But God heard my vow in Hebrew where Anna means by grace as opposed to by law."  Roman Catholic writer Franz Possett states,
A critical examination of the Table Talk shows that Luther said that God understood his "vow" as spoken in the Hebrew language because "Anna" in Hebrew means "under grace." [H]anna derived from the Hebrew root hen. Yet, is such linguistic and religious self-interpretation from hindsight in agreement with reality? One may have doubts. Luther at the time did not have an inkling of Hebrew. How could he have "spoken the vow in the Hebrew language"? Luther did not want to make a historical-biographical, but a theological statement. What he wanted to say is this: his life's journey is the outcome of God's grace" (p.53).
Possett based his comments on "Angelika Dörfler-Dierken: Luther und die heilige Anna, LUJ 64 (1997) 19-47." It's a meaningful observation: that Luther links the vow to a Hebrew exposition without actually knowing Hebrew speaks loudly of theological embellishment thirty-four years removed. Even if it's only asserted that Luther spoke in German and God understood it in Hebrew, it still points to interpolation. It can't be ruled out that all of Luther's vow to Saint Anne is an embellishment, but the Hebrew aspect of it certainly raises suspicion that Luther was pouring in meaning using insights he gleaned during the course of twenty years.

While the vow to Saint Anne has only one second-hand  attestation, there is evidence that Luther decided to become a monk during a storm. In a letter to his father in 1521, he says that he had been called by "terrors from heaven" and that he,
...did not become a monk of my own free will and desire, still less to gain any gratification of the flesh, but that I was walled in by the terror and the agony of sudden death and forced by necessity to take the vow. Then you said, "let us hope that it was not an illusion and deception" (LW 48:332).
This testimony does have corroborating Table Talk evidence:
No. 623: Father Criticizes Luther for Becoming Monk Fall, 1533
He [Martin Luther] became a monk against the will of his father. When he celebrated his first mass and asked his father why he was angry about the step he took, the father replied reproachfully, “Don’t you know that it’s written, Honor your father and your mother?” [Exod. 20:12]. When he excused himself by saying that he was so frightened by a storm that he was compelled to become a monk, his father answered, “Just so it wasn’t a phantom you saw!” (LW 54:109)
There is also a letter written to Luther from Crotus Rubeanus, October 16, 1519 that testifies to the storm. Notice that a comparison of Luther in the storm is compared to Paul on the road to Damascus.  Rubeanus states,
Whenever you, Martin, are mentioned, I am wont to call you the pater patriae, worthy of a golden statue and of annual feasts, for having first dared to deliver the people of the Lord from noxious opinions and to assert true piety. Go on as you have begun, leave an example to posterity; for what you do is not without the inspiration of the gods. Divine Providence intended this when, as you were returning from your parents, a thunderbolt from heaven prostrated you like another Paul on the ground before the town of Erfurt and forced you from our company, sad at your departure, into the walls of the Augustinian fold.
There is also a description of Luther's reasons for entering the monastery from Luther's friend Justus Jonas, though this testimony was taken down by an anonymous person. Similarly, the content does not mention a vow to Saint Anne, and only mentions the basic facts.

That a violent storm played a role in Luther's entering the monastery, and that it strongly influenced him seems most likely, it's at least better documented. Only the most bare historical treatments see Luther's entrance into the monastery due to a vow to Saint Anne as the sole direct cause. Better treatments mention quite a number of factors, the thunderstorm only playing a partial role.

Is Luther's vow to Saint Anne a fairy-tale? Not necessarily. Assume Luther was telling the truth, he had no reason to make up the story, and the story was transcribed correctly. It also does correspond to the better-attested storm details. The story does though demonstrate the difficulties of substantiating history.  In this case, Luther's vow to Saint Anne is based on a second-hand comment thirty-four years after it happened, and is never directly tied to anything Luther ever wrote or preached. The comment itself does appear to include embellishments. In fairness to Rome's defender, he unwittingly raised an interesting issue as to the basis of particular historical facts. A happy medium would be for those using Luther's vow to Saint Anne, to do so cautiously and not as the sole reason for Luther's decision.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Luther Believed in Mary's Perpetual Virginity?

A favorite tactic of Rome's apologists is to find quotes from Martin Luther in which he says things sounding blatantly Roman Catholic and confusingly un-Protestant at the same time. Luther's argumentation for Mary's perpetual virginity is a perfect example.  Below, a convert to Rome presents a typical version of Luther and perpetual virginity:
Not only do modern Protestants disagree with the early church...  they also disagree with their own forefathers, who affirmed Mary’s perpetual virginity. Take the following examples:
“When Matthew says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her… This babble… is without justification… he has neither noticed nor paid attention to either Scripture or to the common idiom” Martin Luther
“Christ, our Saviour, was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb… This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that… Christ… was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him… I am inclined to agree with those who declare that ‘brothers’ really mean ‘cousins’ here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers.” Martin Luther
Yes, it's true Luther adhered to Mary's perpetual virginity,  but, it's important to realize this convert has assumed the overarching context of a Roman Catholic historical interpretive paradigm. Many of Rome's defenders use a basic historical narrative: the early church testifies to to their beliefs only, those who don't are exceptions or heretics, if particulars of the early church don't quite fit their narrative, "development of doctrine" is brought in to smooth the rough edges over. If Luther testifies to a distinctively Roman Catholic belief, his testimony is put forth to demonstrate modern Protestants have deviated from their founder and the universal testimony of the ancient church. While a Roman Catholic historical paradigm smooths church history over for their own benefit, that same method is never offered to smooth over any of the differences with the early Reformers and modern Protestantism. Typically, they say modern Protestants have drifted far away from the ideals of their founders, implying not only separation with the "true" Church, but their very founders as well. Only by bowing the knee to Rome will one escape this historical quandary.

Challenge this assumption: Rome's pop-level historical paradigm is not the sine qua non for viewing the past, even within Roman Catholicism! It is simply one method in the cacophonous endeavor of interpreting the maze of history. Protestants also have an historical worldview that takes into account the early church and the incongruous beliefs of the Reformers.  Like Roman Catholicism, they also have multiple interpreters ranging from conservative to liberal. While a full exploration of either historical worldviews is beyond the scope of this entry, we'll focus here on the full context of Luther's quotes and then offer a counter-response that places Luther within a historical stream that doesn't assume Rome's view of history. Simply because Luther accepted perpetual virginity does not necessarily mean contemporary Protestants have to accept a distinctively Roman Catholic Marian dogma.

Documentation, Quote #1 ("When Matthew says that Joseph did not know Mary...")
No reference is provided.  This is a typical Roman Catholic cut-and-paste quote sifted from another web-page. The first quote is from Luther's treatise, That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew (1523). What's presented as one quote is actually spread out over two pages (pp.212-213), so it appears one of Rome's defenders did some not-so-fancy editing.

Documentation, Quote #2 ("Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit")
Again, no reference is given. The second quote is from Luther's Sermons on the Gospel of John (LW 22). What's presented as one quote is actually spread out, this time, over 190 pages! It appears one of Rome's defenders did some horrific editing (someone may have used Patrick Madrid as a source, or this source, changed the spelling of "savior" and morphed the quotes together). The first part of the quote is found on page 23 ("Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb… This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that").  The rest of the quote is found on pages 214-215.

Context, Quote #1
In 1523, rumor had it that Luther denied Mary's perpetual virginity: "Jesus was conceived of the seed of Joseph, and that Mary was not a virgin, but had many sons after Christ" (LW 45:197; cf. Smith, 156). Luther thought it was a joke: "Ferdinand has openly made [a charge] against me at Nuremberg, viz., that I teach the new doctrine that Christ is of the seed of Abraham. At first I took this crazy charge as a jest, but they are so insistent on it that I have been compelled to believe it is true" (Smith, 165; cf LW 45:197). The rumor provoked Luther to write That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew (LW 45:195-229). He took this very seriously. LW 45 says, " In view of the current adoration of the Virgin Mary, these were serious charges." One interesting aspect is that Luther blamed Roman Catholics for the rumor:
How these lies tickle my good friends, the papists! Indeed, because they condemn the gospel it serves them right that they should have to satisfy and feed their heart’s delight and joy with lies. I would venture to wager my neck that none of those very liars who allege such great things in honor of the mother of God believes in his heart a single one of these articles. Yet with their lies they pretend that they are greatly concerned about the Christian faith (LW 45:199).
Luther goes on to put forth a very typical Roman Catholic exposition of Mary's perpetual virginity, particularly that the biblical authors do not record what happened after the birth of Christ.
Thus, the words of the evangelist do not refer to anything that occurred after the birth, but only to what took place before it. For the prophet and the evangelist, and St. Paul as well, do not treat of this virgin beyond the point where they have from her that fruit for whose sake she is a virgin and everything else. After the child is born they dismiss the mother and speak not about her, what became of her, but only about her offspring. Therefore, one cannot from these words [Matt. 1:18, 25] conclude that Mary, after the birth of Christ, became a wife in the usual sense; it is therefore neither to be asserted nor believed. All the words are merely indicative of the marvelous fact that she was with child and gave birth before she had lain with a man  (LW 45:212).
Luther continues, and here is where the first quote is found:
The form of expression used by Matthew is the common idiom, as if I were to say, “Pharaoh believed not Moses, until he was drowned in the Red Sea.” Here it does not follow that Pharaoh believed later, after he had drowned; on the contrary, it means that he never did believe. Similarly when Matthew [1:25] says that Joseph did not know Mary carnally until she had brought forth her son, it does not follow that he knew her subsequently; on the contrary, it means that he never did know her. Again, the Red Sea overwhelmed Pharaoh before he got across. Here too it does not follow that Pharaoh got across later, after the Red Sea had overwhelmed him, but rather that he did not get across at all. In like manner, when Matthew [1:18] says, “She was found to be with child before they came together,” it does not follow that Mary subsequently lay with Joseph, but rather that she did not lie with him.
Elsewhere in Scripture the same manner of speech is employed. Psalm 110[:1] reads, “God says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, till I make your enemies your footstool.’ ” Here it does not follow that Christ does not continue to sit there after his enemies are placed beneath his feet. Again, in Genesis 28[:15], “I will not leave you until I have done all that of which I have spoken to you.” Here God did not leave him after the fulfillment had taken place. Again, in Isaiah 42[:4], “He shall not be sad, nor troublesome, till he has established justice in the earth.” There are many more similar expressions, so that this babble of Helvidius is without justification; in addition, he has neither noticed nor paid any attention to either Scripture or the common idiom (LW 45:212-213).
Context, Quote #2a
However, we do not let ourselves be troubled by the blasphemies which the devil, through the mouths of his lying servants, speaks against Christ the Lord—now against His divinity, now against His humanity—and by the attacks which he then makes against Christ’s office and work. But we cling to the Scriptures of the prophets and apostles, who spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Their testimony about Christ is clear. He is our Brother; we are members of His body, flesh and bone of His flesh and bone. According to His humanity, He, Christ, our Savior, was the real and natural fruit of Mary’s virginal womb (of which Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to her in Luke 1:42: “Blessed is the fruit of your womb!”). This was without the co-operation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that. Everything else that a mother [V 22, p 24]  imparts to a child was imparted by Mary, the mother of God’s eternal Son. Even the milk He sucked had no other source than the breasts of this holy and pure mother (LW 22:23-24).
Context, Quote #2b
Now the question may occupy us how Christ could have brothers, since He was the only Son of Mary, and the Virgin Mary bore no children besides Him. Some say that Joseph had been married before his marriage to Mary, and that the children of this first wife were later called Christ’s brothers. Others say that Joseph had another wife simultaneously with Mary, for it was permissible for the Jews to have two wives. In the Book of Ruth we hear that a poor daughter was often left on the shelf (Ruth 3:10 ff.). This displeased God; therefore He commanded that such daughters be provided for. Thus it became incumbent upon the nearest relative or friend to marry such a poor orphan girl. Mary, too, was a poor little orphan, whom Joseph was obligated to marry. She was so poor that no one else wanted her. Any children born to Joseph by other wives would have been half brothers of Christ. This is the explanation offered by some. But I am inclined to agree with those who declare that [V 22, p 215]  “brothers” really means “cousins” here, for Holy Writ and the Jews always call cousins brothers. Be that as it may, it matters little. It neither adds to nor detracts from faith. It is immaterial whether these men were Christ’s cousins or His brothers begotten by Joseph [LW 22:214-215].

These are obviously only a few Luther quotes pertaining to perpetual virginity. There are more scattered throughout his written corpus. Of interest, in Vom Schem Hamphoras, he mentions briefly that Mary didn't have other children so people would not be confused as to which one was the real Christ (Falk, 217). He held Mary retained her virginity during the birth of Christ (in partu) (LW 58:433-434). How was this possible? Luther held that Christ has a "spiritual mode"  "to which he neither occupies nor yields space but passes through everything created as he wills," including his mother (LW 37:222). As I've surveyed his vast writings, it isn't often that he launches into a detailed exposition of what happened to Mary's virginity after the birth of Christ. His comments in That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew may in fact be one his most detailed explanations of it, perhaps his most detailed.

Let's go a bit deeper into Reformation history than many of Rome's defenders do when they use these quotes. There's are curious nuances typically left out of their cut-and-pasted versions sifted from That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew. Previous to the words of Luther they cite, he makes some damning remarks of the "papist" understanding of Mary and perpetual virginity:
Now just take a look at the perverse lauders of the mother of God. If you ask them why they hold so strongly to the virginity of Mary, they truly could not say. These stupid idolators do nothing more than to glorify only the mother of God; they extol her for her virginity and practically make a false deity of her. But Scripture does not praise this virginity at all for the sake of the mother; neither was she saved on account of her virginity. Indeed, cursed be this and every other virginity if it exists for its own sake, and accomplishes nothing better than its own profit and praise (LW 45:205).  
For this reason, too, Scripture does not quibble or speak about the virginity of Mary after the birth of Christ, a matter about which the hypocrites are greatly concerned, as if it were something of the utmost importance on which our whole salvation depended. Actually, we should be satisfied simply to hold that she remained a virgin after the birth of Christ because Scripture does not state or indicate that she later lost her virginity. We certainly need not be so terribly afraid that someone will demonstrate, out of his own head apart from Scripture, that she did not remain a virgin. But the Scripture stops with this, that she was a virgin before and at the birth of Christ; for up to this point God had need of her virginity in order to give us the promised blessed seed without sin (LW 45:205-206). 
Three observations. First, Luther uses perpetual virginity to criticize his papal adversaries. He was keenly aware that when he spoke of Mary's perpetual virginity, it had different emphasis than Rome's version.  He calls them "perverse lauders of the mother of God" and "stupid idolators" that use Mary's perpetual virginity to "practically make a false deity of her." This theme runs throughout Luther's Mariology, that the "papists" had turned Mary into an idol and a deity. Don't let Rome's defenders respond by parsing out contemporary Mariology, as if everything has always been perfect.  Luther faced radical Mariolatry, and he vehemently spoke against it, often.

Scripture, according to Luther, isn't concerned with perpetual virginity, but the papal "hypocrites are greatly concerned." Perpetual virginity is not "something of the utmost importance on which our whole salvation depended[s]."  Luther points out that Mary fades from the biblical account after the birth, because the emphasis of the Scriptures are on her child. However dedicated Rome's defenders may think Luther was to perpetual virginity in the context of That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, he affirms it, but without much fanfare and also negatively juxtaposes it against popular sixteenth century Roman Catholic piety. Luther pulls the plug on honoring Mary because of perpetual virginity, indicting those concerned about it as idolaters. 

Second, in That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, Luther says "Scripture stops with this, that she was a virgin before and at the birth of Christ." He later goes on to say similarly, "the words of the evangelist do not refer to anything that occurred after the birth, but only to what took place before it." His explanation of biblical passages function as a means to demonstrate the Bible doesn't say what happened to Mary after the birth of Christ. True, he does refer to the position of Helvidius as "babble," but it is interesting to note his caution in his explanation, even while affirming perpetual virginity. 

Third, Luther will not have perpetual virginity extolled.  He condemns those who venerate this attribute, and holds it exists only to bring forth the Messiah. He says, "cursed be this and every other virginity if it exists for its own sake, and accomplishes nothing better than its own profit and praise." Why would he say this?  What other "virginity" was prevalent in the sixteenth century?  The most popular was the virginity achieved by celibacy from monastic vows. To become a monk, one needed to take a vow of celibacy.  Some of Rome's defenders argue that Mary herself made a lifelong vow of virginity at the Annunciation:
At the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, she asked, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34). From the earliest interpretations of the Bible we see that this was taken to mean that she had made a vow of lifelong virginity, even in marriage. If she had not taken a vow the question from the angel Gabriel would not have made sense.
In this view, Mary achieved the ascetic ideal.  From a Protestant perspective, Jaroslav Pelinkan posits, "The growth of the ascetic ideal in the church helped to give support to [the perpetual virginity] of Mary as the model of the ever virgin." Another historian notes that "with the sudden spread of the ascetic ideal and of the attempts to attain it either in solitude or in the monastic community, there is associated a novel and fervid praise of the perpetual virginity of Mary" (Giovanni Miegge, The Virgin Mary: The Roman Catholic Marian Doctrine (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1955), 40).

Contrarily, Luther's Mary did not want people to "exalt her virginity" (LW 21:321). In his view, "They, therefore do her an injustice who hold that she gloried, not indeed in her virginity, but in her humility. She gloried neither in the one or the other, but only in the gracious regard of God" (LW 21:314). Luther's Mary, described in his exposition of the Magnificat, is that of a lowly and humble maiden that did housework her entire life. She has done nothing. There was no free-will choice to become the mother of Jesus or give her virginity to God. She's serves as the example of what God can do. Roman Catholic historian Hilda Graef  aptly summarizes, "Luther's whole view of Mary as a rather pathetic young girl without intrinsic sanctity or merit is opposed to Catholic teaching." Graef is right: compare Luther's Mary with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Mary is celebrated as the "ever-virgin." It says that Mary gave her virginity as the "undivided gift of herself to God's will" and it is "the sign of her faith." "It is her faith that enables her to become the mother of the Savior." She is "more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ."

Despite these three considerations, none of them changes the fact that Luther believed in Mary's perpetual virginity. They do demonstrate though Luther's view of perpetual virginity is not exactly Rome's view. When Luther speaks on the subject, it has some different underpinnings. Here is where it's important to keep your eye on historical interpretive paradigms. Let Luther be Luther. There's no need to be embarrassed or confused when Rome's defenders bring up his comments on perpetual virginity.  I suspect the quotes would be most surprising to someone ignorant of church history, particularly those unaware of the ebb and flow of trends and traditions, both within Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.  It's true that the early Reformers, particularly Luther, made comments about Mary that current Protestants would not make. But similarly, there are comments made by Protestants today that would probably surprise Luther. This isn't, to use the cliché,  rocket science. The Marian climate of Luther's proto-Protestant world is not the Marian climate of the current theological landscape. When Luther broke with Rome, he was, in some regard, a transitional figure. To steal a concept from Alister McGrath: the Reformers demonstrated both continuity and discontinuity with the period which immediately preceded it. It shouldn't be at all surprising then to discover elements of Luther's Mariology that echoed the medieval theological worldview. Contrarily, it should also not be surprising to discover there were elements of Luther's understanding of Mary that broke with the medieval theological worldview. This excursus into an aspect of his Mariology demonstrates this with vigor: he retained perpetual virginity, but poured different nuances into it as he interacted with the theological culture around him.  

Related to this is that one needs to be aware of Rome's double standard on development of doctrine. Rome's view is that there is an "acorn" of doctrines found in the Biblical record that later turns into the full-blown oak tree. For instance, For Rome,  the Bible is said to make allusions to undeveloped Marian doctrines which then grew and expanded, infused by "Tradition" into full dogmas over the course of history. The guiding factor of how development occurs is the Roman magisterium. They ultimately determine if the acorn has developed into an oak tree.  For Rome's defenders, they have no problem creating elaborate development schemes when earlier historical testimonies don't match current doctrinal or dogmatic ideals. Yet, when it comes to Protestant history, all current forms of Protestantism that don't exactly match the earliest Reformers are put forth as not being true to the essence of Protestantism. Why? Why do they get to have development, and everyone else does not? Why could it not be that the correct stream of Mary's doctrinal "development" is that of a non-Roman pedigree? There's only one answer: because there is an underlying assumption that Rome is the determiner of development.   

This may be shocking to some Protestants: development of doctrine is not the sole property of Rome. For Protestants, doctrine also develops, but the guiding force that drives it is the Bible itself. It's not the outside influence of "Tradition" or an infallible outside source that solidifies it. The very Word of God has a rich depth that confronts each generation. Each generation produces keen minds that delve into the original languages of the Bible, analyzing the textual tradition, comparing scripture with scripture, challenge previous interpretations. If tradition plays a role, it's the role of being uncovered and rooted out if it's working as an interpretive blinder or force keeping the meaning of a biblical text shrouded. When Luther relies on an interpretive tradition to interpret the word "until" in his argumentation for perpetual virginity, or that "brothers" means "cousins," that interpretive tradition is to be called out, thrown on the table, and scrutinized closely, as the biblical discussions about the heos hou / ἕως οὗ construction demonstrate. 

This discussion only begins to scratch the surface. Wrangling with Rome's defenders over whose version of church history is correct and who determines the development of doctrine is opening a Pandora's box discussion in which one will eventually grow weary or at some point run, as fast as one can, for any door of escape. If you find yourself confronted by quotes from Luther sounding blatantly Roman Catholic and confusingly un-Protestant, there is a simple solution.  Say, yes the quotes from Luther are different from the way Protestants think today, however, Luther himself didn't want his readers to follow him. He directed people back to the Scriptures. Looking over his life’s work, Luther said:

I would have been quite content to see my books, one and all, remain in obscurity and go by the board. Among other reasons, I shudder to think of the example I am giving, for I am well aware how little the church has been profited since they have begun to collect many books and large libraries, in addition to and besides the Holy Scriptures, and especially since they have stored up, without discrimination, all sorts of writings by the church fathers, the councils, and teachers. Through this practice not only is precious time lost, which could be used for studying the Scriptures, but in the end the pure knowledge of the divine Word is also lost, so that the Bible lies forgotten in the dust under the bench (as happened to the book of Deuteronomy, in the time of the kings of Judah)…I cannot, however, prevent them from wanting to collect and publish my works through the press (small honor to me), although it is not my will. I have no choice but to let them risk the labor and the expense of this project. My consolation is that, in time, my books will lie forgotten in the dust anyhow, especially if I (by God’s grace) have written anything good. Non ere melior Patribus meis.  He who comes second should indeed be the first one forgotten. Inasmuch as they have been capable of leaving the Bible itself lying under the bench, and have also forgotten the fathers and the councils—the better ones all the faster—accordingly there is a good hope, once the overzealousness of this time has abeted, that my books also will not last long. There is especially good hope of this, since it has begun to rain and snow books and teachers, many of which already lie there forgotten and moldering. Even their names are not remembered any more, despite their confident hope that they would eternally be on sale in the market and rule churches. (LW 34:283-284).