Sunday, February 07, 2016

Luther: Moses is an Enemy of Christ

Here's an obscure Luther comment found on various web pages:

"I will not have Moses with his Law, for he is the enemy of the Lord Christ
(Tischreden (Table Talk), L.C.12.s.17)."

This quote can be found on various Internet discussion boards, as well as web pages like Martin Luther the Bare Truth UnfoldedJesus Christ and the antichrist "Martin Luther,  and many others. Typically, the quote is used to demonstrate Luther was an antinomian. For instance, notice how Shoebat.com prefaces this quote:

"As an extension to his rebellion, he also attacks the Holy Blessed Prophet Moses as well. In fact, due to his antinomianism, it was logical for him to attack the Blessed Prophet Moses, which clearly puts Luther under the rebuke of our Lord Jesus Christ, who stated: “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of Me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?”(John 5:46, 47)."

Documentation
As in the example above, the quote is often found documented as "Tischreden (Table Talk), L.C.12.s.17." It is correct that this comment comes from the "Tischreden," and that this refers to 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. It is not something he actually wrote, but rather contains utterances he's purported to have said. The remaining documentation, "L.C.12.s.17," is somewhat of a mystery.  It's my suspicion that this reference comes from Patrick O'Hare's The Facts About Luther. (though this text pre-dates O'Hare). O'Hare cites Luther saying,
"I will not have Moses with his law, for he is the enemy of the Lord Christ ... we must put away thoughts and disputes about the law, whenever the conscience becomes terrified and feels God's anger against sin. Instead of that it will be better to sing, to eat, to drink, to sleep, to be merry in spite of the devil." (Tischr. L. C. 12. §. 17.)
Notice that the documentation is almost similar, with the exception of O'Hare's use of the section symbol, "§" while above this has been changed to "s". O'Hare doesn't make much effort to explain his documentation, nor does he typically provide complete references. In order to unravel O'Hare's documentation, he assumes his reader is familiar with the numerous critical German (or Latin) editions of Luther's writings available previous to the 1900's (I doubt many of his readers were, both then and now). What O'Hare appears to be citing is D. M. Luthers Tischreden oder Colloquia v. K. E. Förstemann 1844-1848. So, "L.C." refers to a shortened version of the title: "Luthers Colloquia." "12" refers to chapter 12. "§. 17" refers to section 17 on page 101. There the text reads:


This text can also be found in WA TR 2:6-7 (1242).






Context
The quote in question (and the first part of O'Hare's use of it) can be found in English in  LW 54:128. It's a Table Talk recorded by John Schlaginhaufen.
No. 1242: Moses and Luther at the Last Judgment Before December 14, 1531
I won’t tolerate Moses because he is an enemy of Christ. If he appears with me before the judgment I’ll turn him away in the name of the devil and say, ‘Here stands Christ.’"In the last judgment Moses will look at me and say, ‘You have known and understood me correctly,’ and he will be favorably disposed to me.”
Rather than attacking Moses, the entirety of this statement appears to be just a hyperbolic way of Luther expressing law and gospel. For Luther, the law condemns. It drives one to see their sin and a need for a savior.That's why in this statement (if indeed Luther actually said it)  Moses says to Luther, "You have known and understood me correctly."


The Entirety of the Statement Cited by Patrick O'Hare's The Facts About Luther
The careful reader will notice that the quote as used by The Facts About Luther goes on to conclude much differently than that documented above:
"I will not have Moses with his law, for he is the enemy of the Lord Christ ... we must put away thoughts and disputes about the law, whenever the conscience becomes terrified and feels God's anger against sin. Instead of that it will be better to sing, to eat, to drink, to sleep, to be merry in spite of the devil." (Tischr. L. C. 12. §. 17.)
Everything after "..." is completely different-  this is because Father O'Hare chose to connect the first Table Talk statement he utilized with a different statement on the next page of D. M. Luthers Tischreden oder Colloquia. O'Hare goes on to cite the next Table Talk entry in section 17:


The English translation of this is included in a very old edition of the Table Talk, The Familiar Discourses of Dr. Martin Luther, pp. 167-168. It similarly connects the two statements (and adds yet another one!), I have placed the second sections of the quote cited by O'Hare in bold black lettering:
Of the Law.
I WILL have none of Moses with his Law, for he is an enemy to my Lord and Saviour Christ. If Moses will go to Law with me, I will give him his dispatch (not in God's name), but will say, Here standeth Christ.
At the day of judgment Moses will doubtless look upon me, and say, Thou didst understand me rightly, and hast well distinguished between me and the Law of Faith, therefore we are now friends.
We must expel the disputations of the Law at such time when it intenteth to affright the conscience, and when we feel God's anger against our sins: then we must eat, drink, sleep, and be cheerful, on purpose to spite the devil. But human wisdom is more inclinable to understand the Law of Moses, than the Law of the Gospel. Old Adam will not out.
Together with the Law Satan tormenteth the conscience, by picturing Christ before our eyes as an angry and a stern Judge and saith, God is an enemy to sinners, for he is a just God; Thou art a sinner, therefore God is thy enemy. Hereat is the conscience dejected, beaten down, and taken captive. Now he that can make a true difference in this case, and say, Devil! thou art deceived, it is not so as thou pretendeth; for God is not an enemy to all sinners, but only to the ungodly and impenitent sinners and persecutors of his Word, For even as sin is two-fold, even so is righteousness two-fold also.

Notice the distortion created by Father O'Hare by selective citation. The first part shocks the reader by declaring Moses and Christ are enemies. The second part (from a different Table Talk statement) is then colored to promote blatant antinomianism. Thus the caricature is created: The "faith alone" gospel Luther created was sin all you want to, with joy and glee. God still forgives you.

There isn't anything all that shocking about what Luther actually may have said with more of the Table Talk context included. When Luther trounces Moses, he does so in the context of justification, not sanctification. The section about "eating drinking and sleeping" refers to those Christians whose sins still plague them, questioning whether or not they really have peace with God. These questions are the work of the Devil. If one's righteousness is the righteousness of Christ, then simply live your life to spite the devil. Luther never promoted blatant lawlessness. He's describing Christians plagued by doubt, much like he was. He isn't describing the justification of blatant sinners who could care less about holy living.

Addendum
This blog entry is a revision of an entry I posted back in 2009. The original can be found here. Because so many sources are now available online, I'm revising older entries by adding additional materials and commentary, and also fixing or deleting dead hyperlinks. Nothing of any significant substance has changed in this entry from that presented in the former.

5 comments:

L P said...

Keep in mind, this is something Luther did not write. The Table Talk was written by those listening to Luther, transcribing what they heard. In many instances, what was recorded isn't reliable, and was also subject to later editors. I would speculate that the longer version was left out of the English edition of Luther's Works, it probably was a dubious snippet , or perhaps it was a repeat of sometihng implied elsewhere. If I were Roman Catholic and I wanted someone to take me seriously about mt Luther studies, I would avoid the Table Talk and seek to establish my points elsewhere in Luther's actual written corpus. Will this happen? Probably not, but if I keep beating the same point to death, perhaps I might get through to a few zealous Romanists.

Absolutely! Table Talk is not always a reliable source for Luther. This has been the consensus of Luther scholars.

At any rate, I believe Luther was prone to hyperbole, he was talking about the Law because Moses represents the Law. The Law does not have the last say on the Christian, but the Gospel has the last say. The Law always accuses - Lex Semper Acusat - a Lutheran slogan to state the point.

I think by now Romanists should stop these silly quotes because it does not promote their cause. It is really a sign of desperation.

Probably not, but if I keep beating the same point to death, perhaps I might get through to a few zealous Romanists

There are a few who are not fanatical so I hope you get through them.


LPC

Ronnie said...

It seems Luther is making the same point that Jesus made here:

John 5:45"But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.

And of course by Moses he is referring to the Law which is the standard for justification, and in the sense if it is not a friend of fallen man.

James Swan said...

At any rate, I believe Luther was prone to hyperbole

Indeed.

I think by now Romanists should stop these silly quotes because it does not promote their cause. It is really a sign of desperation.

I've noticed Roman Catholics using Google books has produced more out-of-context Luther quotes. I would've thought having a wealth of information would put me out of business. If anything, it gave me more things to look up.

See for instance:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/3935334/Martin-Luther-Quotes

L P said...

James,

You are still in business, there are many things to correct, they just could not help themselves.

I had a look, I though the dog that did its business on the grave of a Bishop was a laugh.

LPC.

beowulf2k8 said...

Why defend Luther so much? The guy was just a crazy drunk.