Friday, September 01, 2017

Luther: It is a Duty to Suppress the Pope by Force

Over on the CARM boards, a participant with seemingly Anabaptist leanings has been actively posting against John Calvin and Martin Luther. The view being expressed is that Luther was "a demon possessed wicked butcher" (link),  and "His actions speak louder than his words, he was responsible for the death of untold thousands." This person put forth a number of Luther quotes, which I suspect were a direct cut-and-paste from a page like this or this. I'd like to look at some of these quotes. Maybe Luther won't be exonerated for each quote (for he was a sinner, and he did make some outrageous statements), but I don't think any of them prove he was a "a demon possessed wicked butcher" or "responsible for the death of untold thousands."

The Luther quotes offered begin with the preface, "Intolerance of Other Christians." Here's one from the set:
"It is a duty to suppress the Pope by force." 
Typical of the Internet, this quote is often used without any documentation. When it is documented (as it was on CARM), one particular string of references reoccurs: "Grisar, VI, 245; EN, IV, 298." We'll see that none of these references are actually to a writing from Luther. Then, we'll see that the quote isn't exactly a quote from Luther. Rather, it's someone's summary statement of what Luther meant.

"Grisar, VI, 245" is not a writing from Luther. It refers to the sixth volume in a lengthy biography of Luther by Roman Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar. The heading Grisar used for which he placed the quote is entitled, "Luther's Intolerance." The picture Grisar paints of Luther is that of a man who expressed religious toleration early in his career (when his views were under attack), and intolerance later (when he achieved notoriety and was part of the political establishment). In regard to the CARM participant's heading, "intolerance of other Christians," Luther did not consider the pope to be a Christian, but rather the Antichrist.

The documentation provided suggests the quote was originally taken from Grisar's book, not actually from a direct reading of Luther. Page 245 can be found here. The construction, ""Grisar, VI, 245; EN, IV, 298" appears to be based on Grisar's  documentation of the quote. Grisar states,
God Himself has abrogated "all authority and power where it is opposed to the Evangel," (5) so, as early as 1522, ran one of the principles he used for the violent suppression of Catholic worship. Of the Catholic foundations he says in the same year : "If the preacher does not make men pious (i.e. does not preach according to Luther s doctrine), the goods are no longer his." (6) Violent interference with the Mass was, according to him, no revolt when it came from the established authorities. (7) " It is the duty of the sovereign, as ruler and brother Christian, to drive away the wolves," (8) and those who do not preach the Evangel are "wolves"; it is "an urgent duty to drive away the wolf from the sheepfold." (9) The Pope himself, however, deserves the worst fate, for he is the "werwolf who devours everything. Just as all seek to kill the werwolf, and very rightly, so is it a duty to suppress the Pope by force." (1)
(5)  Above, vol. ii., p.311, and present vol., p. 240, n.1.
(6)  Ib., vol. ii., p. 318.
(7)  Ib., p. 381.
(8)  Ib., p. 319.
(9)  Ib., p. 318.
(1)  Above, vol. iv., p. 298.
Grisar's biography of Luther was originally written in German (3 volumes). This paragraph can be found here in German.

The mystery of the documentation is "EN, IV, 298." If you look carefully at the documentation on page 245, "IV, 298" is supposed to refer to the fourth volume page 298 in Grisar's biography of Luther.  I'm not exactly sure what "EN" refers to. It may refer to a collection of Luther's letters put together by Dr. E.L. Enders in the nineteenth century. If this is what is meant, Grisar's documentation was misread. Yes, there are some letters cited on page 245, but the particular quote in question is not from a letter, nor does Grisar say it is.

A closer look at Grisar IV:298 reveals the sources for the quote in question.  Grisar bases the quote on Luther's Circular disputation on the right of resistance against the Emperor (1539). Grisar states,
The Disputation, of which all that is known was published by Paul Drews in 1895, dealt principally with the question, which had become a vital one, of armed resistance to the forces of the Empire then intent on vindicating the rights of the Pope. The Theses solve the question in the affirmative. "The Pope is no authority ordained by God ... on the contrary he is a robber, a Bearwolf who gulps down everything. And just as everybody rightly seeks to destroy this monster, so also it is everyone's duty to suppress the Pope by force, indeed, penance must be done by those who neglect it. If anyone is killed in defending a wild beast it is his own fault. In the same way it is not wrong to offer resistance to those who defend the Pope, even should they be Princes or Emperors." 
This text from Grisar was originally in German:

At first glance, Grisar's Luther quotes appear to be a loose translation of a number of the disputation points taken from Paul Drews' publication of them.  Grisar though implies that they aren't exactly Luther quotes. Rather, in his overall footnote of these quotes he documents them, "They are thus summed up by Drews (p.533)" and the statements he's using are based on Theses 51-71.   So the quote, "It is a duty to suppress the Pope by force," isn't exactly a Luther quote. It's a summary statement from Paul Drews. Drews states:

When one compares Grisar's German text to Drew, the texts match up. Grisar is citing Drew, not Luther. The quote "It is a duty to suppress the Pope by force," can be found where Drews says,

The points for which Drews' summary statements are based  are from Luther's Circular disputation on the right of resistance against the Emperor (1539), and can be found at WA 39.2:42-43.  To my knowledge, this Disputation has not been translated into English, but will be included in a forthcoming edition of Luther's Works.

Since there is not an exact quote from Luther "It is a duty to suppress the Pope by force"  I thought it would be fitting to provide a helpful overview put together by Luther's bibliographer, Martin Brecht on this Disputation. He states:

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