An Open Letter on
Translated from Sendbrief von Dolmetschen By Dr. Martin Luther
Wenceslas Link to all believers in Christ:
The wise Solomon says in Proverbs 11: "The people who withhold grain
curse him. But there is a blessing on those who sell it." This verse
speaks truly concerning all that can serve the common good or the
well-being of Christendom. This is the reason the master in the gospel
reprimands the unfaithful servant like a lazy scoundrel for having hidden
and buried his money in the ground. So that this curse of the Lord and the
entire Church might be avoided, I must publish this letter which came into
my possession through a good friend. I could not withhold it, as there has
been much discussion about the translating of the Old and New Testaments.
It has been charged by the despisers of truth that the text has been
modified and even falsified in many places, which has shocked and startled
many simple Christians, even among the educated who do not know any Hebrew
or Greek. It is devoutly hoped that with this publication the slander of
the godless will be stopped and the scruples of the devout removed, at
least in part. It may even give rise to more writing on such matters and
questions such as these. So I ask all friends of the Truth to seriously
take this work to heart and faithfully pray to God for a proper
understanding of the divine Scriptures towards the improvement and
increase of our common Christendom. Amen.
Nuremberg Sept. 15, 1530.
To the Honorable and Worthy N., my favorite lord and friend.
Grace and peace in Christ, honorable, worthy and dear Lord and friend.
I received your writing with the two questions or queries requesting my
response. In the first place, you ask why I, in the 3rd chapter of Romans,
translated the words of St. Paul: "Arbitramur hominem iustificari ex fide
absque operibus" as "We hold that the human will be justified without the
works of the law but only by faith." You also tell me that the Papists are
causing a great fuss because St. Paul's text does not contain the word
sola (alone), and that my changing of the words of God is not to be
tolerated. Secondly, you ask if the departed saints intercede for us.
Regarding the first question, you can give the papists this answer from me
- if you so desire.
On the first hand, if I, Dr. Luther, had thought that all the Papists
together were capable of translating even one passage of Scripture
correctly and well, I would have gathered up enough humility to ask for
their aid and assistance in translating the New Testament into German.
However, I spared them and myself the trouble, as I knew and still see
with my own eyes that not one of them knows how to speak or translate
German. It is obvious, however, that they are learning to speak and write
German from my translations. Thus, they are stealing my language from me -
a language they had little knowledge of before this. However, they do not
thank me for this but instead use it against me. Yet I readily grant them
this as it tickles me to know that I have taught my ungrateful students,
even my enemies, to speak.
Secondly, you might say that I have conscientiously translated the New
Testament into German to the best of my ability, and that I have not
forced anyone to read it. Rather I have left it open, only doing the
translation as a service to those who could not do it as well. No one is
forbidden to do it better. If someone does not wish to read it, he can let
it lie, for I do not ask anyone to read it or praise anyone who does! It
is my Testament and my translation - and it shall remain mine. If I have
made errors within it (although I am not aware of any and would most
certainly be unwilling to intentionally mistranslate a single letter) I
will not allow the papists to judge for their ears continue to be too long
and their hee-haws too weak for them to be critical of my translating. I
know quite well how much skill, hard work, understanding and intelligence
is needed for a good translation. They know it less than even the miller's
donkey for they have never tried it.
It is said, "The one who builds along the pathway has many masters." It
is like this with me. Those who have not ever been able to speak correctly
(to say nothing of translating) have all at once become my masters and I
their pupil. If I were to have asked them how to translate the first two
words of Matthew "Liber Generationis" into German, not one of them would
have been able to say "Quack!" And they judge all my works! Fine fellows!
It was also like this for St. Jerome when he translated the Bible.
Everyone was his master. He alone was entirely incompetent as people, who
were not good enough to clean his boots, judged his works. This is why it
takes a great deal of patience to do good things in public for the world
believes itself to be the Master of Knowledge, always putting the bit
under the horse's tail, and not judging itself for that is the world's
nature. It can do nothing else.
I would gladly see a papist come forward and translate into German an
epistle of St. Paul's or one of the prophets and, in doing so, not make
use of Luther's German or translation. Then one might see a fine,
beautiful and noteworthy translation into German.
We have seen that bungler from Dresden play master to my New Testament.
(I will not mention his name in my books as he has his judge and is
already well- known). He does admit that my German is good and sweet and
that he could not improve it. Yet, anxious to dishonor it, he took my New
Testament word for word as it was written, and removed my prefaces and
glosses, replacing them with his own. Then he published my New Testament
under his name! Dear Children, how it pained me when his prince in a
detestable preface condemned my work and forbid all from reading Luther's
New Testament, while at the same time commending the Bungler's New
Testament to be read - even though it was the very same one Luther had
So no one thinks I am lying, put Luther's and the Bungler's New
Testaments side by side and compare them. You will see who did the
translation for both. He has patched it in places and reordered it (and
although it does not all please me) I can still leave it be for it does me
no particular harm as far as the document is concerned. That is why I
never intended to write in opposition to it. But I did have a laugh at the
great wisdom that so terribly slandered, condemned and forbade my New
Testament, when it was published under my name, but required its reading
when published under an other's name! What type of virtue is this that
slanders and heaps shame on someone else's work, and then steals it, and
publishes it under one's own name, thereby seeking glory and esteem
through the slandered work of someone else! I leave that for his judge to
say. I am glad and satisfied that my work (as St. Paul also boasts ) is
furthered by my enemies, and that Luther's work, without Luther's name but
that of his enemy, is to be read. What better vengeance?!
Returning to the issue at hand, if your Papist wishes to make a great
fuss about the word "alone" (sola), say this to him: "Dr. Martin Luther
will have it so and he says that a papist and an ass are the same thing."
Sic volo, sic iubeo, sit pro ratione voluntas. (I will it, I command it;
my will is reason enough) For we are not going to become students and
followers of the papists. Rather we will become their judge and master.
We, too, are going to be proud and brag with these blockheads; and just as
St. Paul brags against his madly raving saints, I will brag over these
asses of mine! They are doctors? Me too. They are scholars? I am as well.
They are philosophers? And I. They are dialecticians? I am too. They are
lecturers? So am I. They write books? So do I.
I will go even further with my bragging: I can exegete the psalms and
the prophets, and they cannot. I can translate, and they cannot. I can
read Holy Scriptures, and they cannot. I can pray, they cannot. Coming
down to their level, I can do their dialectics and philosophy better than
all of them put together. Plus I know that not one of them understands
Aristotle. If, in fact, any one of them can correctly understand one part
or chapter of Aristotle, I will eat my hat! No, I am not overdoing it for
I have been educated in and have practiced their science since my
childhood. I recognize how broad and deep it is. They, too, know that
everything they can do, I can do. Yet they handle me like a stranger in
their discipline, these incurable fellows, as if I had just arrived this
morning and had never seen or heard what they know and teach. How they do
so brilliantly parade around with their science, teaching me what I grew
beyond twenty years ago! To all their shouting and screaming I join the
harlot in singing: "I have known for seven years that horseshoe nails are
So this can be the answer to your first question. Please do not give
these asses any other answer to their useless braying about that word
"sola" than simply "Luther will have it so, and he says that he is a
doctor above all the papal doctors." Let it remain at that. I will, from
now on, hold them in contempt, and have already held them in contempt, as
long as they are the kind of people that they are - asses, I should say.
And there are brazen idiots among them who have never learned their own
art of sophistry - like Dr. Schmidt and Snot-Nose, and such like them.
They set themselves against me in this matter, which not only transcends
sophistry, but as St. Paul writes, all the wisdom and understanding in the
world as well. An ass truly does not have to sing much as he is already
known for his ears.
For you and our people, however, I shall show why I used the word
"sola" - even though in Romans 3 it wasn't "sola" I used but "solum" or
"tantum". That is how closely those asses have looked at my text! However,
I have used "sola fides" in other places, and I want to use both "solum"
and "sola". I have continually tried translating in a pure and accurate
German. It has happened that I have sometimes searched and inquired about
a single word for three or four weeks. Sometimes I have not found it even
then. I have worked Meister Philip and Aurogallus so hard in translating
Job, sometimes barely translating 3 lines after four days. Now that it has
been translated into German and completed, all can read and criticize it.
One can now read three or four pages without stumbling one time - without
realizing just what rocks and hindrances had once been where now one
travels as as if over a smoothly-cut plank. We had to sweat and toil there
before we removed those rocks and hindrances, so one could go along
nicely. The plowing goes nicely in a clear field. But nobody wants the
task of digging out the rocks and hindrances. There is no such thing as
earning the world's thanks. Even God cannot earn thanks, not with the sun,
nor with heaven and earth, or even the death of his Son. It just is and
remains as it is, in the devil's name, as it will not be anything else.
I also know that in Rom. 3, the word "solum" is not present in either
Greek or Latin text - the papists did not have to teach me that - it is
fact! The letters s-o-l-a are not there. And these knotheads stare at them
like cows at a new gate, while at the same time they do not recognize that
it conveys the sense of the text - if the translation is to be clear and
accurate, it belongs there. I wanted to speak German since it was German I
had spoken in translation - not Latin or Greek. But it is the nature of
our language that in speaking about two things, one which is affirmed, the
other denied, we use the word "solum" only along with the word "not"
(nicht) or "no" (kein). For example, we say "the farmer brings only
(allein) grain and no money"; or "No, I really have no money, but only
(allein) grain"; I have only eaten and not yet drunk"; "Did you write it
only and not read it over?" There are a vast number of such everyday
In all these phrases, this is a German usage, even though it is not the
Latin or Greek usage. It is the nature of the German tongue to add
"allein" in order that "nicht" or "kein" may be clearer and more complete.
To be sure, I can also say "The farmer brings grain and no (kein) money,
but the words "kein money" do not sound as full and clear as if I were to
say, "the farmer brings allein grain and kein money." Here the word
"allein" helps the word "kein" so much that it becomes a clear and
complete German expression.
We do not have to ask about the literal Latin or how we are to speak
German - as these asses do. Rather we must ask the mother in the home, the
children on the street, the common person in the market about this. We
must be guided by their tongue, the manner of their speech, and do our
translating accordingly. Then they will understand it and recognize that
we are speaking German to them.
For instance, Christ says: Ex abundatia cordis os loquitur. If I am to
follow these asses, they will lay the original before me literally and
translate it as: "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." Is
that speaking with a German tongue? What German could understand something
like that? What is this "abundance of the heart?" No German can say that;
unless, of course, he was trying to say that someone was altogether too
magnanimous, or too courageous, though even that would not yet be correct,
as "abundance of the heart" is not German, not any more than "abundance of
the house, "abundance of the stove" or "abundance of the bench" is German.
But the mother in the home and the common man say this: "What fills the
heart overflows the mouth." That is speaking with the proper German tongue
of the kind I have tried for, although unfortunately not always
successfully. The literal Latin is a great barrier to speaking proper
So, as the traitor Judas says in Matthew 26: "Ut quid perditio haec?"
and in Mark 14: "Ut quid perditio iste unguenti facta est?" Subsequently,
for these literalist asses I would have to translate it: "Why has this
loss of salve occurred?" But what kind of German is this? What German says
"loss of salve occurred"? And if he does understand it at all, he would
think that the salve is lost and must be looked for and found again; even
though that is still obscure and uncertain. Now if that is good German why
do they not come out and make us a fine, new German testament and let
Luther's testament be? I think that would really bring out their talents.
But a German would say "Ut quid, etc.." as "Why this waste?" or "Why this
extravagance?" Even "it is a shame about the ointment" - these are good
German, in which one can understand that Magdalene had wasted the salve
she poured out and had done wrong. That was what Judas meant as he thought
he could have used it better.
Now when the angel greets Mary, he says: "Greetings to you, Mary, full
of grace, the Lord is with you." Well up to this point, this has simply
been translated from the simple Latin, but tell me is that good German?
Since when does a German speak like that - being "full of grace"? One
would have to think about a keg "full of" beer or a purse "full of" money.
So I translated it: "You gracious one". This way a German can at last
think about what the angel meant by his greeting. Yet the papists rant
about me corrupting the angelic greeting - and I still have not used the
most satisfactory German translation. What if I had used the most
satisfactory German and translated the salutation: "God says hello, Mary
dear" (for that is what the angel was intending to say and what he would
have said had he even been German!). If I had, I believe that they would
have hanged themselves out of their great devotion to dear Mary and
because I have destroyed the greeting.
Yet why should I be concerned about their ranting and raving? I will
not stop them from translating as they want. But I too shall translate as
I want and not to please them, and whoever does not like it can just
ignore it and keep his criticism to himself, for I will neither look at
nor listen to it. They do not have to answer for or bear responsibility
for my translation. Listen up, I shall say "gracious Mary" and "dear
Mary", and they can say "Mary full of grace". Anyone who knows German also
knows what an expressive word "dear"(liebe) is: dear Mary, dear God, the
dear emperor, the dear prince, the dear man, the dear child. I do not know
if one can say this word "liebe" in Latin or in other languages with so
much depth of emotion that it pierces the heart and echoes throughout as
it does in our tongue.
I think that St. Luke, as a master of the Hebrew and Greek tongues,
wanted to clarify and articulate the Greek word "kecharitomene" that the
angel used. And I think that the angel Gabriel spoke with Mary just as he
spoke with Daniel, when he called him "Chamudoth" and "Ish chamudoth, vir
desiriorum", that is "Dear Daniel." That is the way Gabriel speaks, as we
can see in Daniel. Now if I were to literally translate the words of the
angel, and use the skills of these asses, I would have to translate it as
"Daniel, you man of desires" or "Daniel, you man of lust". Oh, that would
be beautiful German! A German would, of course, recognize "Man", "Lueste"
and "begirunge" as being German words, although not altogether pure as
"lust" and "begir" would be better. But when those words are put together
you get "you man of desires" and no German is going to understand that. He
might even think that Daniel is full of lustful desires. Now wouldn't that
be a fine translation! So I have to let the literal words go and try to
discover how the German says what the Hebrew "ish chamudoth" expresses. I
discover that the German says this, "You dear Daniel", "you dear Mary", or
"you gracious maiden", "you lovely maiden", "you gentle girl" and so on. A
translator must have a large vocabulary so he can have more words for when
a particular one just does not fit in the context.
Why should I talk about translating so much? I would need an entire
year were I to point out the reasons and concerns behind my words. I have
learned what an art and job translating is by experience, so I will not
tolerate some papal ass or mule as my critic, or judge. They have not
tried the task. If anyone does not like my translations, they can ignore
it; and may the devil repay the one who dislikes or criticizes my
translations without my knowledge or permission. Should it be criticized,
I will do it myself. If I do not do it, then they can leave my
translations in peace. They can each do a translation that suits them -
what do I care?
To this I can, with good conscience, give witness - that I gave my
utmost effort and care and I had no ulterior motives. I have not taken or
wanted even a small coin in return. Neither have I made any by it. God
knows that I have not even sought honor by it, but I have done it as a
service to the blessed Christians and to the honor of the One who sits
above who blesses me every hour of my life that had I translated a
thousand times more diligently, I should not have deserved to live or have
a sound eye for even a single hour. All I am and have to offer is from his
mercy and grace - indeed of his precious blood and bitter sweat.
Therefore, God willing, all of it will also serve to his honor, joyfully
and sincerely. I may be insulted by the scribblers and papists but true
Christians, along with Christ, their Lord, bless me. Further, I am more
than amply rewarded if just one Christian acknowledge me as a workman with
integrity. I do not care about the papists, as they are not good enough to
acknowledge my work and, if they were to bless me, it would break my
heart. I may be insulted by their highest praise and honor, but I will
still be a doctor, even a distinguished one. I am certain that they shall
never take from me until the final day.
Yet I have not just gone ahead, ignoring the exact wording in the
original. Instead, with great care, I have, along with my helpers, gone
ahead and have kept literally to the original, without the slightest
deviation, wherever it appeared that a passage was crucial. For instance,
in John 6 Christ says: "Him has God the Father set his seal upon
(versiegelt)." It would be more clear in German to say "Him has God the
Father signified (gezeiehent)" or even "God the Father means him." But
rather than doing violence to the original, I have done violence to the
German tongue. Ah, translating is not every one's skill as some mad saints
think. A right, devout, honest, sincere, God-fearing Christian, trained,
educated, and experienced heart is required. So I hold that no false
Christian or divisive spirit can be a good translator. That is obvious
given the translation of the Prophets at Worms which although carefully
done and approximating my own German quite closely, does not show much
reverence for Christ due to the Jews who shared in the translation. Aside
from that it shows plenty of skill and craftsmanship there.
So much for translating and the nature of language. However, I was not
depending upon or following the nature of language when I inserted the
word "solum" (alone) in Rom. 3 as the text itself, and St. Paul's meaning,
urgently necessitated and demanded it. He is dealing with the main point
of Christian doctrine in this passage - namely that we are justified by
faith in Christ without any works of the Law. In fact, he rejects all
works so completely as to say that the works of the Law, though it is
God's law and word, do not aid us in justification. Using Abraham as an
example, he argues that Abraham was so justified without works that even
the highest work, which had been commanded by God, over and above all
others, namely circumcision, did not aid him in justification. Instead,
Abraham was justified without circumcision and without any works, but by
faith, as he says in Chapter 4: "If Abraham is justified by works, he may
boast, but not before God." However, when all works are so completely
rejected - which must mean faith alone justifies - whoever would speak
plainly and clearly about this rejection of works would have to say "Faith
alone justifies and not works." The matter itself and the nature of
language necessitates it.
"Yet", they say, "it has such an offensive tone that people infer from
it that they need not do any good works." Dear, what are we to say? IS it
not more offensive for St. Paul himself to not use the term "faith alone"
but spell it even more clearly, putting the finishing touches on it by
saying "Without the works of the Law?" Gal. 1 [2.16] says that "not by
works of the law' (as well as in many other places) for the phrase
"without the works of the law" is so ever offensive, and scandalous that
no amount of revision can help it. How much more might people learn from
"that they need not do any good works", when all they hear is preaching
about the works themselves, stated in such a clear strong way: "No works",
"without works", "not by works"! If it is not offensive to preach "without
works", "not by works"!, "no works", why is it offensive to preach "by
Still more offensive is that St. Paul does not reject just ordinary
works, but works of the law! It follows that one could take offense at
that all the more and say that the law is condemned and cursed before God
and one ought only do what is contrary to the law as it is said in Rom. 3:
"Why not do evil so that there might be more good?" which is what that one
divisive spirit of our time was doing. Should one reject St. Paul's word
because of such `offense' or refrain from speaking freely about faith?
Gracious, St. Paul and I want to offend like this for we preach so
strongly against works, insisting on faith alone for no other reason than
to offend people that they might stumble and fall and learn that they are
not saved by good works but only by Christ's death and resurrection.
Knowing that they cannot be saved by their good works of the law, how much
more will they realize that they shall not be saved by bad works, or
without the law! Therefore, it does not follow that because good works do
not help, bad works will; just as it does not follow that because the sun
cannot help a blind person see, the night and darkness must help him see.
It astounds me that one can be offended by something as obvious as
this! Just tell me, is Christ's death and resurrection our work, what we
do, or not? It is obviously not our work, nor is it the work of the law.
Now it is Christ's death and resurrection alone which saves and frees us
from sin, as Paul writes in Rom. 4: "He died for our sin and arose for our
righteousness." Tell me more! What is the work by which we take hold of
Christ's death and resurrection? It must not be an external work but only
the eternal faith in the heart that alone, indeed all alone, which takes
hold of this death and resurrection when it is preached through the
gospel. Then why all this ranting and raving, this making of heretics and
burning of them, when it is clear at its very core, proving that faith
alone takes hold of Christ's death and resurrection, without any works,
and that his death and resurrection are our life and righteousness? As
this fact is so obvious, that faith alone gives, brings, and takes a hold
of this life and righteousness - why should we not say so? It is not
heretical that faith alone holds on to Christ and gives life; and yet it
seems to be heresy if someone mentions it. Are they not insane, foolish
and ridiculous? They will say that one thing is right but brand the
telling of this right thing as wrong - even though something cannot be
simultaneously right and wrong.
Furthermore, I am not the only one, nor the first, to say that faith
alone makes one righteous. There was Ambrose, Augustine and many others
who said it before me. And if one is to read and understand St. Paul, the
same thing must be said and not anything else. His words, as well, are
blunt - "no works" - none at all! If it is not works, it must be faith
alone. Oh what a marvelous, constructive and inoffensive teaching that
would be, to be taught that one can be saved by works as well as by faith.
That would be like saying that it is not Christ's death alone that takes
away our sin but that our works have something to do with it. Now that
would be a fine way of honoring Christ's death, saying that it is helped
by our works, and that whatever it does our works can also do - that we
are his equal in goodness and power. This is the devil itself for he
cannot ever stop abusing the blood of Christ.
Therefore the matter itself, at its very core, necessitates that one
say: "Faith alone makes one righteous." The nature of the German tongue
teaches us to say it in the same way. In addition, I have the examples of
the holy fathers. The dangers confronting the people also compel it so
they do not continue to hang onto works and wander away from faith, losing
Christ, especially at this time when they have been so accustomed to works
they have to be pulled away from them by force. It is for these reasons
that it is not only right but also necessary to say it as plainly and
forcefully as possible: "Faith alone saves without works!" I am only sorry
I did not add "alle" and "aller", and said "without any (alle) works or
any (aller) laws." That would have stated it most effectively. Therefore,
it will remain in the New Testament, and though all the papal asses rant
and rave at me, they shall not take it away from me. Let this be enough
for now. I will have to speak more about this in the treatise "On
Justification" (if God grants me grace).
On the other question as to whether the departed saints intercede for
us. For the present I am only going to give a brief answer as I am
considering publishing a sermon on the beloved angels in which I will
respond more fully on this matter (God willing).
First, you know that under the papacy it is not only taught that the
saints in heaven intercede for us - even though we cannot know this as the
Scripture does not tell us such - but the saints have been made into gods,
and that they are to be our patrons to whom we should call. Some of them
have never existed! To each of these saints a particular power and might
has been given - one over fire, another over water, another over
pestilence, fever and all sorts of plagues. Indeed, God must have been
altogether idle to have let the saints work in his place. Of this atrocity
the papists themselves are aware, as they quietly take up their pipes and
preen and primp themselves over this doctrine of the intercession of the
saints. I will leave this subject for now - but you can count on my not
forgetting it and allowing this primping and preening to continue without
And again, you know that there is not a single passage from God
demanding us to call upon either saints or angels to intercede for us, and
that there is no example of such in the Scriptures. One finds that the
beloved angels spoke with the fathers and the prophets, but that none of
them had ever been asked to intercede for them. Why even Jacob the
patriarch did not ask the angel with whom he wrestled for any
intercession. Instead, he only took from him a blessing. In fact, one
finds the very opposite in revelation as the angel will not allow itself
to be worshipped by John. [Rev. 22] So the worship of saints shows itself
as nothing but human nonsense, our own invention separated from the word
of God and the Scriptures.
As it is not proper in the matter of divine worship for us to do
anything that is not commanded by God (and that whoever does is putting
God to the test), it is therefore also not advisable or tolerable for one
to call upon the saints for intercession or to teach others to do so. In
fact, it is to be condemned and people taught to avoid it. Therefore, I
also will not advise it and burden my conscience with the iniquities of
others. It was difficult for me to stop from worshipping the saints as I
was so steeped in it to have nearly drowned. But the light of the gospel
is now shining so brightly that from now on no one has an excuse for
remaining in the darkness. We all very well know what we are to do.
This is itself a very risky and blasphemous way to worship for people
are easily accustomed to turning away from Christ. They learn quickly to
trust more in the saints than in Christ himself. When our nature is
already all too prone to run from God and Christ, and trust in humanity,
it is indeed difficult to learn to trust in God and Christ, even though we
have vowed to do so and are therefore obligated to do so. Therefore, this
offense is not to be tolerated whereby those who are weak and of the flesh
participate in idolatry, against the first commandment and our baptism.
Even if one tries nothing other than to switch their trust from the saints
to Christ, through teaching and practice, it will be difficult to
accomplish, that one should come to him and rightly take hold of him. One
need not paint the Devil on the door - he will already be present.
We can finally be certain that God is not angry with us, and that even
if we do not call on the saints for intercession, we are secure for God
has never commanded it. God says that God is a jealous God granting their
iniquities on those who do not keep his commandments [Ex.20]; but there is
no commandment here and, therefore, no anger to be feared. Since, then,
there is on this side security and on the other side great risk and
offense against the Word of God, why should we go from security into
danger where we do not have the Word of God to sustain, comfort and save
us in the times of trial? For it is written, "Whoever loves danger will
perish by it" [Ecclus. 3], and God's commandment says, "You shall not put
the Lord your God to the test" [Matt. 4].
"But," they say, "this way you condemn all of Christendom which has
always maintained this - until now." I answer: I know very well that the
priests and monks seek this cloak for their blasphemies. They want to give
to Christendom the damage caused by their own negligence. Then, when we
say, "Christendom does not err," we shall also be saying that they do not
err, since Christendom believes it to be so. So no pilgrimage can be
wrong, no matter how obviously the Devil is a participant in it. No
indulgence can be wrong, regardless of how horrible the lies involved. In
other words, there is nothing there but holiness! Therefore to this you
reply, "It is not a question of who is and who is not condemned." They
inject this irrelevant idea in order to divert us from the topic at hand.
We are now discussing the Word of God. What Christendom is or does belongs
somewhere else. The question here is: "What is or is not the Word of God?
What is not the Word of God does not make Christendom.
We read that in the days of Elijah the prophet there was apparently no
word from God and no worship of God in Israel. For Elijah says, "Lord,
they have killed your prophets and destroyed your altars, and I am left
totally alone" [I Kings 19]. Here King Ahab and others could have said,
"Elijah, with talk like that you are condemning all the people of God."
However God had at the same time kept seven thousand [I Kings 19]. How? Do
you not also think that God could now, under the papacy, have preserved
his own, even though the priests and monks of Christendom have been
teachers of the devil and gone to hell? Many children and young people
have died in Christ. For even under the anti-Christ, Christ has strongly
sustained baptism, the bare text of the gospel in the pulpit, the Lord's
Prayer, and the Creed. By this means he sustained many of his Christians,
and therefore also his Christendom, and said nothing about it to these
Now even though Christians have done some parts of the papal blasphemy,
the papal asses have not yet proved that they did it gladly. Still less
does it prove that they even did the right thing. All Christians can err
and sin, but God has taught them to pray in the Lord's Prayer for the
forgiveness of sins. God could very well forgive the sins they had to
unwillingly, unknowingly, and under the coercion of the Antichrist commit,
without saying anything about it to the priests and monks! It can,
however, be easily proven that there has always been a great deal of
secret murmuring and complaining against the clergy throughout the world,
and that they are not treating Christendom properly. And the papal asses
have courageously withstood such complaining with fire and sword, even to
the present day. This murmuring proves how happy Christians have been over
these blasphemies, and how right they have been in doing them!
So out with it, you papal asses! Say that this is the teaching of
Christendom: these stinking lies which you villains and traitors have
forced upon Christendom and for the sake of which you murderers have
killed many Christians. Why each letter of every papal law gives testimony
to the fact that nothing has ever been taught by the counsel and the
consent of Christendom. There is nothing there but "districte precipiendo
mandamus" ["we teach and strictly command"]. That has been your Holy
Spirit. Christendom has had to suffer this tyranny. This tyranny has
robbed it of the sacrament and, not by its own fault, has been held in
captivity. And still the asses would pawn off on us this intolerable
tyranny of their own wickedness as a willing act and example of
Christendom - and thereby acquit themselves!
But this is getting too long. Let this be enough of an answer to your
questions for now. More another time. Excuse this long letter. Christ our
Lord be with us all. Amen.
Your good friend.
The Wilderness, September 8, 1530