Sunday, October 04, 2009

Luther's Income

...A tidbit from a Roman Catholic on the CARM boards:

"You can pray for a soul in purgatory and never spend a dime! But how is the selling of Luther's bibles any different? He put the money in his pocket. Show me where he did differently. The Catholic Church would read "the words of God" to the poor and illiterate and explain anything they didn't understand. NO CHARGE! But Luther sold "the words of God" in bible form. This is better?"

Luther preached for many years, doing just as described above: reading "the words of God" to the poor and illiterate and explaining anything they didn't understand.

Luther didn't really make much money (if any) from any of his books, the publishers did. On the specifics of Luther's income, see this link, page 367.

"[Luther's] view of property is thoroughly mediaeval. It is identical with that of the scholastic doctors. Nummus non paret nummum (Money does not produce money), was for him, as for them, a fixed principle. Any effort to make money productive seemed to him to be sinful, contrary to the law of nature, and a violation of the laws of God, contained in the Old and the New Testaments. It had its roots in avarice, and the fruit of avarice is usury. That many of the practices which he rebuked are fundamentally dishonest, is a fact that no one will deny; but it is also a fact that Luther had no more idea of economic laws, as we understand them, than he had of the law of gravitation.

In estimating his views, we have also to take account of his own personal attitude toward wealth. Few men have ever lived who were more utterly indifferent to money. For him it was not a thing to be striven after, but only a means of livelihood and a resource with which to relieve the necessities of others. For this reason he was sure to see avarice where others might see only prudence."- editors comment, Works of Martin Luther, Volume IV (Philadelphia: The Muhlenberg Press, 1931),10.

Roman Catholics followed Luther's lead, and likewise published Bibles during the 16th Century. In fact, in one case, a Roman Catholic published a Bible in which he plagiarized Luther's translation:

Ever since its first publication in 1522 Luther’s translation of the New Testament had been drawing not only wide approval but also certain narrow and often envious criticism. Among his sharpest critics was the notorious Jerome Emser (1478–1527), theologian, lawyer, and for over twenty years secretary to Duke George of Saxony. Like certain other rulers in the empire, Duke George had forbidden the circulation of Luther’s German New Testament in his territory. However not to be left without a New Testament in German, the Duke had commissioned Emser to provide a reliable Roman version. Emser obliged and, in the year of his death, lived to see the publication of his traditionalist version of the New Testament in German.

Outwardly it looked almost identical with the folio edition of Luther’s translation, even down to some of the Cranach woodcuts. But its introductions and glosses were all designed to cancel out those which accompanied Luther’s version. The text of Emser’s New Testament was based not on the original Greek text of Erasmus, which Luther had used, but on the Latin Vulgate and the late medieval German Bible. With these traditional sources as his base, Emser proceeded to “correct” the errors in Luther’s German New Testament; he did not claim to offer wholly a “new” version.

Emser’s translation, however, was not as traditional as might be supposed. Actually he had plagiarized much of Luther’s translation and then palmed off the finished product as his own. Hence the deep scorn and hostility which surges through Luther’s [Open letter on translating]. (LW 35:179)

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