Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Luther's Statement Concerning Roman Catholic Authorities "Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?" (Part Four)

Those of you stopping by here regularly realize I enjoy trying to document obscure Luther quotes as I come across them. The ones I come across are typically being used for polemical purposes. I do this first as an interest and hobby. It certainly is fascinating to see the history around a particular quote. Second, its an historical apologetic endeavor. If I can point people to a context, they can read it for themselves and make up their own minds as to what any particular quote means in the scheme of church history.

Even I have to search my blog for particular quotes. Recently I came across a Luther quote that sounded familiar, but yet did not sound familiar. I searched my own blog and discovered I did three specific entries on one particular quote back in 2008 very similar to what I was looking for:

Luther's Statement Concerning Roman Catholic Authorities  "Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?" (Part One)

Luther's Statement Concerning Roman Catholic Authorities  "Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?" (Part Two)

Luther's Statement Concerning Roman Catholic Authorities  "Why do we not rather assault them with arms and wash our hands in their blood?" (Part Three)

I came across another version of this quote being used on the CARM boards which was very similar:

After Hieronymus Emser advised Luther to be judicious in his challenge to the Church, that is not to go at it too strong. The advise evoked a strange and vicious response from Luther, “The devil take it! The affair was not begun on God’s account; neither shall it end on God’s account!” (Robert Herndon Fife, The Revolt of Martin Luther (1957), pp. 350-351, c. 403) Then we can just read his intent and mutinous frame of mind one of his flyers, "on the Papacy at Rome, June 25, 1520: 

"Now farewell, you unhappy, lost, and blasphemous Rome; the wrath of God has come upon you at last, as you have merited, for in spite of all prayer that have been said for you , you have become worse each day. We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed. . .If we punish thieves with the gallows, robbers with the sword, and heretics with fire, why should we not all the more assail with arms these master of perdition, these cardinals, these Popes, the whole dregs of the Roman Sodom. . ." 

What do we make of this, are the princes of peace are to be put to the attacked, put to the sword, and burned at the stake? As I said before, Christ freely spilt his own blood for His Church; Luther spilt the blood of Europe to ransack Christ's Church.

The quote is said to be from a "flyer" of Luther's entitled "On the Papacy at Rome, June 25, 1520." I've already documented this is a bogus reference. "On the Papacy at Rome" is probably a reference to the title of a book by the Dominican Sylvester Prierias in which Luther responded to. Unfortunately, Roman Catholic apologetics has been so sloppy with this quote, they often mis-document it. The exact title from which the quote comes from is Epitoma Responsionis ad Marinum Lutherum, and is found in WA, vol. 6, beginning on page 325 and ending on page 348. Luther's Works state:
Luther wrote these words in 1520 in the margin of a work written against him by Sylvester Prierias (ca. 1456–1523), a Dominican monk and official theological adviser to Pope Leo X. Luther did not formally reply to Prierias, but only reprinted the treatise, adding his own comments in the margin. Luther’s version was entitled Responsio ad Martinum Luther (per Fratrem Silvestrum de Prierto). Cf. WA 6, 329.[Luther, M. (1999, c1966). Vol. 41: Luther's works, vol. 41 : Church and Ministry III (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (41). Philadelphia: Fortress Press].
The first part of the quote is found on page 329 near the beginning of the treatise. The second part of the quote appears on page 347 as part of Luther's postscript (Ad Lectorem). The writing is scheduled to be translated for a forthcoming edition of Luther's Works [Early Works 1509-ca. 1521 (2 volumes)].

It's hard to determine who stuck these two quotes together, as both have been floating around the Internet separately. Sometimes the quotes are documented as -"Martin Luther, 'On the Papacy at Rome' June 25, 1520 and 'To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.'" This leads me to believe someone compiled the quote from Warren H. Carroll's The Cleaving of Christendom, a History of Christendom Vol. 4, page 1, where Carroll cites both quotes.

I refer anyone interested in the second half of the quote to one of my earlier entries. In regard to the first half, a source hostile to Luther provided an interesting overview of the context, Herbert Rix, Martin Luther: The Man and the Image, beginning on page 84, and citing both quotes.It should be obvious that Luther presented a highly polemical and rhetorical treatise. Rix mentions that Luther was predicting "he will go into schism if his conditions are not met and- by anticipation- bids farewell in a grand rhetorical flourish laced with scriptural illusions" (p.86), and then Rix cites the first quote.

Luther's Works likewise cites the first quote and states,
More and more he was convinced that the papacy could not be regarded as a neutral institution, but that it was Antichrist, a demonic institution striking at the Godgiven ordinances of the spiritual and temporal power. Nonetheless, Luther admitted that there had been true Christians in the Roman church in every generation: if the pope would and could go back to being the bishop of the church in Rome, he might still have his place within the Christian church. [Luther, M. (1999, c1966). Vol. 41: Luther's works, vol. 41 : Church and Ministry III (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald and H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (41). Philadelphia: Fortress Press].


Anonymous said...

Hi James

Two small q's. How much of luthers writings if any have not been translated into english and How much did luther actually write? Our school library has luthers works which seem to go on forever and recently someone told me that they are still being published. Is that true?

James Swan said...

I don't know the specific amount, but there is a large amount of Luther's writings not translated into English. The most contemporary English set used to stop at 55 volumes. Concordia has recently begun adding new volumes. Currently, 4 new volumes have been already been added, with one new volume planned every year. On my sidebar is a link entitled, "Luther's Works Complete Tables of Contents and Cross Listing." There you will find a listing of the planned volumes. Also on the sidebar see, "Luther's Works: Prospectus for New Volumes."

In regard to the untranslated material, after working through the 4 newest volumes of LW, it appears to me the most important of Luther's writings have been translated into English already. What Concordia is putting out now appears to me to be of secondary importance, but that's just my opinion.

In regard to the actual amount of Luther's writings, the German set, Weimarer Ausgabe (WA) (the critical complete edition of Luther's Works) has 121 volumes of around 80,000 pages. See:


Some of these pages may be duplicates- that is, some of Luther's writings are both in Latin and German, so WA has them both, if I recall.