Here are a few general comments in regard to Luther and the book of Esther.
Blog reader Brigitte stated, Let's play "Who has the strongest 'you will never convince me attitude." This is a ridiculous thread. Bottom line, knowing Luther, he could have easily said either or both. If the book did not preach Christ or have prophecies, etc. it just simply is not on par with those who do. This is a good rule.
Those are good points from Brigitte in regard to Luther studies, and not to be tossed into the Elbe. I've been maintaining that the information is simply to vague and sparse to come down strongly either way. It could easily be as Brigitte describes. What Luther thought about this or that ultimately doesn't matter anyway.
It's the polemical nature of things like this that I find fascinating. What troubles me is when Roman Catholics like Paul Hoffer say, "And to top it off, all this huffing and puffing is over a quote that probably accurately reflects Luther's disdain for Esther even if the quote itself is inaccurate." That's a big assumption, and I'd simply have to ask Paul if he's surveyed the entire corpus of Luther's writings. It could "probably" be a number of possibilities. It doesn't surprise me at all that Mr. Hoffer would lean towards a negative perspective on Luther's view. We are all motivated by our presuppositions.
Last night I briefly went through some archived web pages saved on an extra hard drive. Some of the web pages go back almost 10 years. I found a number of instances of Roman Catholics citing the very bogus quote in question. One old page stated, "Martin Luther, in accord with his posture of supreme self-importance as restorer of Christianity, even presumed, inconsistently, to judge various books of the Bible, God's holy Word." Patrick O'Hare was then cited:
"Of the Pentateuch he says: 'We have no wish either to see or hear Moses. Job . . . is merely the argument of a fable . . . Ecclesiastes ought to have been more complete. There is too much incoherent matter in it . . . Solomon did not, therefore, write this book . . . The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe. I am such an enemy to the book of Esther that I wish it did not exist, for it Judaizes too much and has in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness . . . The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible . . ."Now if anyone were to search this blog, you'll find I've probably worked through all of the quotes, and in each instance, O'Hare proved to be a propagandist. Go ahead and Google search any of the quotes above. This was only one instance from one old web page. I can post more examples if needed from various Roman Catholic websites and discussion boards. Regardless of who was responsible for rendering this Table Talk quote inaccurate, this has been a favorite quote of Roman Catholic Internet apologists. That is simply the truth. When I looked back on my older entries about this quote, you'll notice I never picked a fight with anyone specifically about this quote.
It was after I posted this second link that a Roman Catholic left a comment stating, "See my thorough refutation." To which I responded, “Refute what? Stop being silly. To refute this would be to prove Luther meant Esther and not Esdras in this comment. I don't think even you would be foolish enough to attempt this, but you never know. Good luck slaying windmills.” So, I never picked any fight over this quote. I simply posted the facts of the matter.
I began responding to Paul Hoffer's comment below, but it became so long I thought it best to post as part of this entry. Paul's words will be in blue.
Hi Mr. Swan,
you quote Fr. O'Hare as if his works are on the bedstand of every Catholic apologist.
As I mentioned, the book was quite popular for awhile with Roman Catholic Internet apologists, and even some of the bigger name Roman apologists. Here's a sample:
Steve Ray, Crossing the Tiber, page 46.
Steve Ray, Upon This Rock, page 104.
Steve Ray: Book Recommendations "Even though this book is a bit polemic, it is nevertheless, an important read, telling the whole story of Luther that Protestant authors and historians have failed to tell. This book is a sobering, eye-opening, record-straightening analysis of the life, thought, and work of Martin Luther"
Phil Porvaznik: Recommended Catholic and Christian Books
Catholic Culture: The MOST Theological Collection
These were only a few hits from among dozens, go ahead and check for yourself. As I mentioned previously, I became interested in Luther quotes while dialoging with Roman Catholics on discussion boards. I found over and over again that if O'Hare wasn't being cited directly, he was often the source from which many Luther quotes were being taken. Now with so much more available on the Internet, O'Hare isn't as popular as he once was amongst those on your side of the Tiber. If you search my blog, you'll notice that over the years I spent a lot of time on O'Hare's book.
In this link, you'll notice this:
Luther was not content even to let the matter rest there, and proceeded to cast doubt on many other books of the Bible which are accepted as canonical by all Protestants. He considered Job and Jonah mere fables, and Ecclesiastes incoherent and incomplete. He wished that Esther (along with 2 Maccabees) "did not exist," and wanted to "toss it into the Elbe" river.
The text above contains no bibliographic references, but its similarities are so similar to O’Hare’s work, I would be surprised if another source other than O’Hare was being used. Compare it to this. While every Roman apologist doesn't have O'Hare's book, it obvious to me that a lot of Roman Catholics do indeed have the book. The Esther / Esdras quote was just one of a number of quotes taken primarily from O'Hare's book over the last 10 years, and popularized on the Internet. I recently went through the Roman Catholic web page, Luther Exposing the Myth. The Esther quote is cited from O'Hare's book (see footnote #64). The Catholic Apologist Network cites it here. These are only a few examples. Search some of the discussion boards, or even the Catholic Answers boards. you'll simply have to trust me on this one: I've had the Esther / Esdras quote cited to me a more than a few times, along with many other quotes taken from O'Hare. Go ahead and blame Protestants for the origin of the quote (which I think is ridiculous), it still doesn't excuse the fact that many in your camp simply take Luther quotes from secondary sources without ever looking them up.
I do not own any books written by him nor have I ever read any of his books. Thus your linking of my comments with his is not well placed.
They were actually two different thoughts. Notice I began by saying I was posting "a few general comments." I was not inferring that you were an O'Hare supporter.
I would note in passing that my opinion was formed in part by reading Bondage of the Will, statements made by folks like Bainton, Bruce, and Filson as well as something a guy who went by the appellation of Tertiumquid wrote in 2004. Perhaps you have may have heard of that last gentleman?
While I respect scholarship, I don't worship scholarship. For instance, Bruce is certainly in error when he quoted Luther as follows, "he is reported as saying, ‘I hate Esther and 2 Maccabees so much that I wish they did not exist; they contain too much Judaism and no little heathen vice' ". On the other hand Bruce is certainly correct when he immediately adds this footnote: "too much weight should not be laid on many of the obiter dicta in Luther’s collected Table Talk."
More importantly, please note I did not challenge if Fr. Luther thought Esther was canonical.
That's refreshing. Your friend appears to think differently. As I've looked at this issue off and on for a number of years, I simply don't know.
Obviously, he must have thought part of it was since he included it in his Bible and thought enough of the "added" parts that Catholics like to print them in his Bible as well in a different part.
Why, that would be the same point I've been making for a number of years now.
My comment that you quote reflects the fact that based on what I know of the matter, (which is very little to be sure) Fr. Luther did not think very highly of it, a fact borne out by his words in "Bondage of the Will" and some other works of his besides Table Talk.
I don't really put much weight on the Table Talk utterances in general, and certainly not the one in question specifically. The quote from Bondage of the Will though is certainly the only quote worth taking seriously, and even that quote has ambiguity. Nor do we know if Luther's view of Esther was in flux throughout his career (it can be proven that his opinion of Revelation and Hebrews certainly varied over the years, so why not Esther?).
One of the few favorable references I recall Luther ever make about Esther has to do with the deuterocanonical parts which he called "cornflowers" deserving to be planted in its own garden, if memory serves. Fr. Luther may have included Esther in his canon, but he was probably pinching his nose shut when he did so.
The cornflowers reference can be found here. One line of evidence I have not quoted (if I recall my own blog posts) is Luther's citing of Esther, which he did occasionally throughout his career. I guess one could consider some of those instances as "favorable." I don't think though that such favorable references mean all that much, because Luther also cites from the Apocrypha in a favorable way throughout his career.
Nope, the problem I had was not whether Fr. Luther considered the work to be canonical, but the fact that you denigrated the work of someone who once had used the maligned quote in a book which he himself later acknowledged to be a false quote and had withdrawn it from later editions of his work, a small fact that you gloss over if mention at all.
That's quite a sentence, to read out loud, one must take a good deep breath.
I think you've missed my real target here Paul. If you go back and read my post (which I really hope you will), you'll notice my target was an Anglican who primarily regurgitated someone else's work. He referred to one of my arguments as "lame" and denigrates me throughout his posts. I'm portrayed quite negatively, as if I don't know what I'm talking about. He puts forth your friend's article as a "must read." Well if I'm such an idiot according to this Anglican (who at one point mocks me for my desire to have solid references), I think it's highly comical that the first thing he cites by regurgitation is a direct benefit from one of my blog posts. Of course, you wouldn't know that from reading this, which, if I recall originally said the following, but now no longer does:
“I accept this as a legitimate gripe, and the "Esdras" version of this particular quote. Mea culpa on behalf of all those (including yours truly) who have wrongly used this false citation in the past or present, and kudos to James for correcting the error. Falsehood of any sort (whether inadvertant [sic] or not) does no one any good.”As I stated in my blog entry, my Anglican detractor appears to think the Roman e-pologist he cited simply was hit with a cosmic meatball of clarity one day and posted a correction to his previous years of error. Don't you get it Paul? My target was a far different person than you think. It was the Anglican who portrayed me quite negatively. That Anglican didn't even realize that the very first thing he cited was a direct benefit from something I put together.
My problem was that there was a high road to present your information and a low one and you chose the latter.
I'm hopeful my comment above cleared this up for you. As to low and high roads, you need to deal with the people on your side of the Tiber first before you even look my way and attempt to be a moral guide of Internet discourse. You've certainly got your work cut out for you. I should not have to explain myself here. Simply look for the blog that posts pictures of toilet paper.
Now you point fingers at how others treat you as justification for treating someone else poorly,
I was hopeful you'd see the very person you defend and want me to treat fairly (whatever that means) had no problem accepting Richard's comments. I don't recall ever talking about Romanist families, or family members. In my opinion, that little Facebook banter was despicable. Shame on all of you for the little laugh.
but if one were to reflect upon it, that is merely a rationalization or an excuse for not treating others as Our Lord commanded us to do.
I've explained my intended target. It's up to you now to re-read my post, the entire thing, and ask yourself who Swan was after, and what was the overall point of the entire entry? None of you seemed to even notice 99% of the entry was about specific Luther quotes.
If you do not like what some Catholic apologists and commentators say about you, why not lead the way and show them how people should be treated, not repeat what you point to as a poor example. Perhaps a dip in the Elbe would well serve all of us who tend to get all worked up over what others write about us. Would you like to join me?
Actually, it's you guys that made a big deal about all of this. I simply pointed out to the anonymous Anglican that I'm not as clueless as he thinks. If you guys couldn't interpret that properly, that's your problem, not mine. As to Internet discourse, I wrote on that recently here. I know this sounds like I'm ending on a sour note, but this entire discussion has gone on long enough.