Friday, November 10, 2006

The Prophecies of Martin Luther

Recently I posted a link to a rare Luther book: Martin Luther’s Letters by Margaret A. Currie (London, 1908). I pointed out that the website hosting the link seems a bit wacky. If you explore the site use some caution and discretion.

One of the other documents they host drew my interest:

Several choice prophecyes of the incomparable and famous Dr. Martin Luther, as also, The remarkable prophecy of the learned and reverend Dr. Musculus

The website hosting this link refers to it as one of Luther’s writings. It is not. It is the work of one of Luther’s students: Andreas Musculus (1514-1581). Musculus’ writing is interesting, as it represents a trend which occurred as the result of Luther’s impact during the 16th-17th Centuries. Musculus viewed Luther as a genuine prophet sent from God. In examining Malachi 4:5 and the return of Elijah before the “last day”, Musculus reasoned that Luther, like John the Baptist, was the returned Elijah, signaling the end of the world. The link above is an example of 16th Century apocalyptic literature. Musculus was certain the end was near.

The link above is about 32 pages and is an interesting read.Much of the information is biographical, presenting a recounting of Luther’s life. Also one finds an emphasis on the Turks and the papacy. For instance:

"Antichrist must fall, and it plainly and clearly appeareth, saith Luther, that the Pope is true Antichrist; those that transgresse his Decrees and Statutes, are farr more feverely and diligently punished, then those who offend the Laws and the word of God: In such a sort doth the Pope exalt himself over, and above God, and he is therefore most properly called Antichrist, in regard that he fitteth in the Temple, and in the Church of God, and boasteth himself above all that is called God. The Turk is not this Antichrist, saith Luther, for he fitteth not in Gods Church; he is but the Battle-Axe of God, whereby he executeth is Vengeance upon the Nations, he is a wicked Beast; out of Gods Church, there is not Antichrist; now the Pope fitteth in the Holy Church, and taketh unto him that Honour and Worship which is due unto God onely, therefore the Pope must be the true Antichrist. It is but a cold, and an idle dream of the Papists, that Antichrist should be a single, and unattended person that should govern in a wilde way by suborning, and scattering of moneys in the streets, and that he should do Miracles, and carry about him a fiery Oven, and that he should destroy the Saints, Eliah, and Enoch. There are too many (said Luther) who complain and think, I am too fierce and too violent against the Pope, when alas I conceive my self to be too milde; I do with that I could breath out thunder-bolts against the Pope and Popery, and that every word were a clap of thunder."

For Luther it was also the end of the world in the 16th Century. The entirety of his Reformation career embraced an impending consummation of history. Mark Edwards points out:

In general Luther viewed the history of his own time as the realization of the apocalyptic predictions of Daniel and Revelation. The events of his age, he was convinced, were certain signs that the End Time was at hand. The 1530 foreword to his translation of Daniel makes clear how firmly set this conviction was. Following traditional exegesis, Luther identified Daniels ‘kingdom of iron’ with the Roman Empire, which, through its transference to the Germans, had survived into Luther’s own time and would persist until the last day. The papacy was the antichrist alluded to in the eleventh chapter of Daniel, and the Turk was the small horn that replaced three horns of the beast in the seventh chapter. The appearance of the papal antichrist and the success of the Turk left no doubt in Luther’s mind that the apocalyptic drama was in its final act” [Source: Mark U Edwards, Luther’s Last Battles (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), 97].

Those of you who know me, know that I do not argue against Rome by using prophecy or identifying the Pope and papacy as the anti-Christ. I do though find this type of historical information very helpful in trying to get a sense for the "mood" of the 16th Century.

Musculus actually went further with his respect and admiration for Martin Luther than many of his contemporaries. For Musculus, Luther’s writings were from God’s special servant: God’s prophet. Luther’s words were thus that vehicle by which to interpret Scripture by. In a 1573 work by Musculus, he noted he daily meditated on the Bible joined with a careful study of Luther’s writings. While ultimate authority was found in the Bible, interpretation of the Scripture was to be guided by Luther’s writings.

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