His contempt for Holy Scripture does not end at just the book of James, but also extends to attacking even the book of Esther and Jonah in the Hebrew Bible, which he supposedly based his version of the Bible on for the Old Testament. Here are his words on the matter: “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 foolishness.” (‘The Facts About Luther’, O’Hare, TAN Books, 1987, p202) And also: “The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible.” (Ibid.) Are we not surprised therefore that Lutheranism was the first to succumb to the blasphemous and ridiculous theories of Higher and Lower Criticism, and also to find her priests wanting to eliminate both James and Revelation? Let us not forget the earlier example of the Lutheran pastor/priest who stated on a radio program that both the Epistle of James and the Apocalypse/Revelation should be eliminated from our Bible. They are only following their wicked founder! Luther has in fact incurred God’s anathema on himself already. Many of these modern day Lutherans have become twice the sons of hell than Luther. Let us be warned.
This blog entry is going to cover Shoebat's Esther quote. For responses to Shoebat.com on Luther's view of James and Revelation, see these links: Luther: We should throw the Epistle of James out of this school [Wittenberg] and Luther on Revelation: "I feel an aversion to it, and to me this is sufficient reason for rejecting it.". For an exposition on the Jonah quote, see: Shoebat: Luther Attacked the book of Jonah in the Hebrew Bible.
Shoebat.com cites this Luther quote from: "The Facts About Luther’, O’Hare, TAN Books, 1987, p202." I've mentioned this book often throughout the years (it has been a perpetual source of propaganda for Rome's defenders). In an earlier paper, I documented Father O’Hare's analysis of Luther: Luther was crazy, depraved, and corrupt. He was in contact with Satan. He lived indecently and sanctioned adultery. He dishonored marriage and authorized prostitution and polygamy. He was a drunkard blasphemer, and a revolutionary. To learn more about Father O'Hare, see this link. For this present quote, O'Hare states:
But even for the books he chose to retain, he showed little or no respect. Here are some examples of his judgments on them. Of the Pentateuch he says: "We have no wish either to see or hear Moses." "Judith is a good, serious, brave tragedy." "Tobias is an elegant, pleasing, godly comedy." "Ecclesiasticus is a profitable book for an ordinary man." "Of very little worth is the book of Baruch, whoever the worthy Baruch may be." "Esdras I would not translate, because there is nothing in it which you might not find better in Aesop." "Job spoke not as it stands written in his book; but only had such thoughts. It is merely the argument of a fable. It is probable that Solomon wrote and made this book." "The book entitled 'Ecclesiastes' ought to have been more complete. There is too much incoherent matter in it. It has neither boots nor spurs; but rides only in socks as I myself did when an inmate of the cloister. Solomon did not, therefore, write this book, which was made in the days of the Maccabees of Sirach. It is like a Talmud, compiled from many books, perhaps in Egypt at the desire of King Evergetes." "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." "The first book of the Maccabees might have been taken into the Scriptures, but the second is rightly cast out, though there is some good in it."O'Hare provides no exact documentation for these quotes. He does say on page 201-202, "In his prefaces to these books [the apocrypha] he gives at length his opinion as to their character and authority," and then a little later, "But even for the books he chose to retain, he showed little or no respect. Here are some examples of his judgments on them." The assumption therefore, is that these comments come from Luther's Prefaces to the books of the Bible. When one looks at the Prefaces though, the quote is not there. The statement appears to find its genesis in 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. O'Hare probably didn't mine these quotes out of Luther's writings.
If the quote cited by Father O'Hare is not in the Prefaces, the Table Talk is probably the culprit. The source used originally may have been the text that now exists in WA TR 1:208 (it was probably an earlier edition of Luther's works used). If so, it would have been from a comment made between 1531 and 1533 recorded by Veit Dietrich, from lines 3 and lines 29-31. It isn't really one quote. It's actually from two different Table Talk entries.:
This text has been translated into in English in older versions of the Table Talk (It is not in LW). For instance, it can be found in William Hazlitt's 19th century Table Talk translation.
Line 3 is supposed to be "The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe." (Das dritte Buch Esdrae werfe ich in die Elbe), but note the German text says "dritte Buch Esdras" (third book of Esdras). The English translation is bogus. It doesn't say "Esther" at all. Julius Charles Hare speculates "Esdras" became "Esther" because old English translations of the Table Talk read, "the third book of Hester." I was not able to locate one to verify this. Regardless, the German text says "Esdras" not Esther. Here's how the text of lines 3-6 read in English:
The third book of Esdras I throw into the Elbe; there are, in the fourth, pretty knacks enough; as, “The wine is strong, the king is stronger, women strongest of all; but the truth is stronger than all these.” (source)
Line 30-31 is supposed to be "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" (Und da er, der Doctor, das ander Buch der Maccabaer corrigirte, sprach er: Ich bin dem Buch und Esther so feind, das ich wollte, sie waren gar nicht vorhanden; denn sie judenzen zu sehr, und haben viel heidnische Unart). Here's how lines 29-32 read in English:
When the Doctor was correcting the translation of the second Book of the Maccabees, he said, I dislike this book and that of Esther so much, that I wish they did not exist; for they Judaize too much, and have much heathenish extravagance. Then Master Forster said, The Jews esteem the book of Esther more than any of the prophets, though they were forbidden to read it before they had attained the age of thirty, by reason of the mystic matters it contains. (source)(source).
Notice that Maccabees was not included in Father O'Hare's rendering. In this case, "Esther" is in the German (line 30). Julius Charles Hare speculates once again that contextually "Esdras" is meant because it's combined with "Maccabees": "The combination of the book with that of the Maccabees,... as well as Forster's remark, leaves no doubt that Luther spoke of the book of Esdras. These blunders shew how unsafe it is to build any conclusions on the authority of the Tabletalk." This is speculation on Hare's part, but his conclusion makes sense, particularly if one reads the entirety of the Table Talk entry being cited. Luther's comment goes in this order: Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus, 3 Esdras, 4 Esdras, Judith, Tobit, 2 Maccabees, Esther. Proverbs receives no criticism, but the other books mentioned do.
One other interesting clue as to whether "Esdras" was meant instead of "Esther" are Foster's words, "The Jews esteem the book of Esther more than any of the prophets, though they were forbidden to read it before they had attained the age of thirty, by reason of the mystic matters it contains." First, this fact, if indeed it's about the book Esther, appears quite strange given the importance of Esther to the Feast of Purim in Judaism. Esther is read during Purim! Second, as far as I can tell, Esther does not contain overt "mystic matters" but the Books of Esdras do. On the other hand, there were Jewish allegorical interpretations of Esther as well, and some Jewish interpreters see her as a prophet. The final deciding factor would be to find out if there's any Jewish tradition as that recorded in Foster's words to either Esther or Esdras. I searched around a bit, and came up with nothing either way.
ConclusionIn my view, there is only one legitimate Luther quote speaking poorly of Esther in regard to canonicity. It comes from The Bondage of the Will:
“...[T]hough I could rightly reject this book [Ecclesiasticus], for the time being I accept it so as not to waste time by getting involved in a dispute about the books received in the Hebrew canon. For you poke more than a little sarcastic fun at this when you compare Proverbs and The Song of Solomon (which with a sneering innuendo you call the “Love Song”) with the two books of Esdras, Judith, the story of Susanna and the Dragon, and Esther (which despite their inclusion of it in the canon deserves more than all the rest in my judgment to be regarded as noncanonical)." [LW 33:110].This quote was a direct response to the following from Erasmus:
I do not think anyone will object against the authority of this work that it was not, as Jerome points out, regarded as canonical by the Hebrews, since the Church of Christ has received it by common consent into its canon; nor do I see any reason why the Hebrews felt they must exclude the book from theirs, seeing they accepted the Proverbs of Solomon and the Love Song. As to the fact that they did not receive into their canon the last two books of Esdras, the story in Daniel about Susanna and Bel the dragon, Judith, Esther, and several others, but reckoned them among the hagiographa, anyone who reads those books carefully can easily see what their reasons were. But in this work there is nothing of that kind to disturb the Reader” [Erasmus, The Diatribe, as cited in Luther's Works 33:110].Luther prefaces his comment by granting the canonicty of Ecclesiasticus so as not waste time on tangents with Erasmus. In both quotes above, It seems to me the apocryphal books (including Esther) are being compared to Proverbs and the Song of Solomon. I say this because his comment is a direct response to Erasmus, who indeed compared Proverbs and the Song of Solomon to the "two books of Esdras, the story in Daniel about Susanna and Bel the dragon, Judith, Esther, and several others." That is, Luther is simply repeating back what Erasmus said in his response. If the it of "despite their inclusion of it in the canon" refers to Esther and not the group of apocryphal book in general being discussed, Luther would be admitting that the Jews considered Esther canonical, but his opinion was that it should not have been.
Luther translated Esther in his Bible without offering any negative criticism as to its non-canonicity in his Bible prefaces (there is no Preface to Esther). In one place in his Bible prefaces, Luther distinguishes the particular noncanonical parts of Esther, and places them with the other apocryphal writings: "Preface to Parts of Esther and Daniel. Here follow several pieces which we did not wish to translate [and include] in the prophet Daniel and in the book of Esther. We have uprooted such cornflowers (because they do not appear in the Hebrew versions of Daniel and Esther)" [LW 35:353].
So, whatever Luther's gripe may have been in regard to the Book of Esther, he translated it, not with the apocryphal books, but with the canonical books, thus treating it as canonical. Shoebat.com says Luther's Tabletalk comment on Esther shows "contempt for Holy Scripture." This is a bit strong, considering the fact that the first part of the quote they use was mis-translated, and the second part may very well not refer to the book of Esther at all.