Friday, January 18, 2008

A Curious Luther Citation (On Councils) Examined in Extreme Depth (Part One)

By Dave Armstrong (1-18-08)
If the world lasts for a long time, it will again be necessary, on account of the many interpretations which are now given to the Scriptures, to receive the decrees of councils, and take refuge in them, in order to preserve the unity of faith. 
(Epis. ad. Zwingli, ap. Balmes, p. 423) --- Martin Luther

I. Introduction and Luther in Latin 

This has been quite the literary adventure! Secondary sources (including historian Balmes) utilized a primary Latin source. The citation in question is from Luther's 1527 treatise: That These Word of Christ, "This Is My Body," etc., Still Stand Firm Against the Fanatics (found in LW, vol. 37).

Martin Bucer, Georg Spalatin and others translated Luther's German writings into Latin. Catholic apologist Steve Ray has shown that Balmes' citation included the entire quotation in Latin, thus showing that this was where it came from. For that matter, it may have originally been in This is My Body, but from the Latin rather than the German. This could easily account for textual difference. 

Rumble and Carty describe it as "writing to Zwinglius," but this doesn't necessitate it being a personal letter (just as I can say I am "writing to James White" when I refute his arguments).
It could also be a treatise against Zwingli (which is my own opinion, and has been all along). He describes it that way, because it is indeed written to him. St. Francis describes it as against Zwingli and Oecolampadius because it was a response to both. But one can describe it by one recipient only, just as, e.g., we usually speak of "Norman Geisler's" book about Catholicism, even though he wrote with a co-author (because he is the main guy).

Now we must inquire about Latin Luther volumes in the 16th century. One source (pp. 5-6), states that Latin editions were widely available, and for 214 of 682 Luther titles. These two being major treatises on an important subject (of supreme importance to Luther and Lutherans), would surely mean they were available in Latin.

We know that St. Francis de Sales cited our quotation around 1596. The Wikipedia article on him states that "He was a notably clear and gracious stylist in French, Italian and Latin." Perhaps he didn't even know German. So he was citing the Latin translation of this tract (whichever one it was). The Catholic Controversy itself was written in French. So were, apparently, most of his works.

Hartmann Grisar, in the first volume of his six-volume biography Luther, lists early Latin Luther collections (p. xxv):

Jena ed., 8 vols, of German and 4 vols, of Latin writings, 1555-1558 ; re-edited later. 

Wittenberg ed., 12 vols, of German (1539-1559) and 7 vols. of Latin writings (1545-1558). 

He also lists 19th-century collections of Latin writings, from the 67-volume Erlangen edition (1826-1868):

("Opp. Lat. exeg."), " M. Lutheri Exegetica opera latina," cur. C. Elsperger, 28 voll., Erlangse, 1829 sqq. (also published apart), " D. M. Lutheri Commentarius in Epistolam ad Galatas," ed. I. A. Irmischer, 3 voll., Erlangse, 1843, sq.

("Opp. Lat. var."), " M. Lutheri Opera latina varii argumenti ad reformationis historiam imprimis pertinentia," cur. H. Schmidt, voll. 1-7, Francofurti, 1865 sqq. (part of the Erlangen ed. of Luther's works). 
This appears to show that Latin works make up 35 of 67 volumes, or more than half. The huge standard Weimar collection also contains much Latin also. All of these writers were citing an original Latin edition of Luther's works (probably put together by a Protestant). There is nothing wrong with that whatever. Nor is it a terrible sin to cite a secondary source. 

An article entitled "The Lost Luther Reference" gives an idea of how difficult it is to locate early Latin Luther writings. It is referring to a reference in the Lutheran Book of Concord (Solid Declaration):
The German version, after the reference to Luther, has in the text this reference, "Tom. IV, Jena." The reference to the Jena edition of Luther's works has fallen by the wayside in the English translation so that we have here a lost Lutheran reference in SD VII.87. But then the Goettingen edition is not much help either, since the footnote in question has only the same references which Tappert reproduced. The unwary reader would be tempted to think that in "Tom. IV, Jena," there would be a reference to Luther's 1530 address to the clergy. Such, of course, is not the case. The Goettingen edition gives no information where this reference to volume four of the Jena edition could be found in modern editions of Luther. The Jena edition of Luther's Works is not found in the ordinary pastor's library; as a matter of fact, it probably is not in too many university and seminary libraries. After all, the German edition was first published in 1555 and the Latin edition in 1556. When one looks at the earlier editions of the Book of Concord, one finds the following: The 1580 edition of the Concord has it embedded in the text. The first Latin translation of the Concordia, done in 1580, gives the reference on the margin of the page, as it does all the other references. The reference also occurs in such recent editions of the Book of Concord as J. T. Mueller's, the Caspari-Johnson Norwegian translation of the Book of Concord, and the Triglot. Those of us who were raised in the Triglott edition of the Lutheran Confessions were at least given the privilege of being curious as to just what Luther said about the useful rule and norm in volume four of the Jena edition, something denied the reader of the Tappert edition. Not that we ever heard or read any comment about what Luther said in volume four of the Jena edition. A cursory reading of the conservatory theological material of the last hundred years does not yield any information as to what Luther said in this volume.

. . . The writer examined volume four of the Latin Jena edition (published in 1583) in the rare book room of Concordia Theological Seminary Library, Fort Wayne. . . . There can be no doubt that this is the lost Luther reference because it claries beyond question what the authors of the Formula had in mind. It is difcult to understand why the scholarly Goettingen edition did not have in its footnote to SD VII.87 the following notation, "WA, Br. 10,348, 349." The Weimar edition of Luther's letters correctly gives the Wolferinus reference to the Jena edition as "Jen. 4, 585 b."

. . . It is quite evident that when the formulators of the Solid Declaration added the specific reference in SD VII.87 to volume four of the Jena edition of Luther's Works, it was not an occult reference. . . . 


[ . . . ]

7 Jena, Latin edition, IV (emphasis added). The edition the writer examined was reprinted at Jena in 1583. It is to be found in the rare book room of Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, Indiana. The Latin text is to be found in De Wette 5:577 and in Enders 15:182. There is a German translation in St. L. 20:1604 f. I use the English translation in Peters, 209 f. (see note 6 above). Hardt, 286 f. (see note 5 above), supplies considerable information on the use made of the Luther-Wolferinus correspondence.

II. The Conspiracy Unravels: Lutherans Join in the Catholic Madness

(see a separate paper discussing the Leibniz quote and its significance)

(see Part II, section XII for Tim Enloe's translation of the Latin context of Leibniz)

Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz: a Lutheran philosopher, who had one of the most brilliant minds of all time, also cites the same source (in the form that we have seen, from the Latin). He has been described as follows:
"Leibniz was a polymath who made significant contributions in many areas of physics, logic, history, librarianship, and of course philosophy and theology, while also working on ideal languages, mechanical clocks, mining machinery..."[51] "A universal genius if ever there was one, and an inexhaustible source of original and fertile ideas, . . ."[52] "Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was maybe the last Universal Genius incessantly active in the fields of theology, philosophy, mathematics, physics, ...."[53] "Leibniz was perhaps the last great Renaissance man who in Bacon's words took all knowledge to be his province."[54]
Leibniz has been estimated to have possessed an IQ of 176 (with the highest being Isaac Newton and Ludwig Wittgenstein at 190). Another estimate places him at 205, with Goethe at 210 and Leonardo da Vinci at 220.

And, as a Lutheran, Leibniz would have little reason to misquote Luther; nor is it plausible to posit that he completely blew a citation of Luther, radically opposite from its own context, as some claim that Catholics have done with this citation. If Catholics were guilty of this, so was Leibniz. If he was not, they were not.

Renowned philosopher and political writer Jaime Balmes' works have been published in 33 volumes (Madrid: 1948-1950). We are led to believe by some Protestant critics that neither Leibniz nor Balmes could correctly and competently utilize a Latin citation from Martin Luther.

It is quite noteworthy that St. Robert Bellarmine also used the citation in his Controversiis: one of the greatest Catholic apologias against the errors of Protestantism ever written. The Catholic Encyclopedia stated in its article on this great Doctor of the Church:

[H]e quickly obtained a reputation both as a professor and a preacher, in the latter capacity drawing to his pulpit both Catholics and Protestants, even from distant parts. In 1576 he was recalled to Italy, and entrusted with the chair of Controversies recently founded at the Roman College. He proved himself equal to the arduous task, and the lectures thus delivered grew into the work "De Controversiis" which, amidst so much else of excellence, forms the chief title to his greatness. This monumental work was the earliest attempt to systematize the various controversies of the time, and made an immense impression throughout Europe, the blow it dealt to Protestantism being so acutely felt in Germany and England that special chairs were founded in order to provide replies to it. Nor has it even yet been superseded as the classical book on its subject-matter, though, as was to be expected, the progress of criticism has impaired the value of some of its historical arguments.

III. Comparison of Fifteen Latin Citations

(textual variations indicated in green and red; purple for a word not in other versions; capitalization is not considered a variation)

(see Part II, section XII for Tim Enloe's translation of the Latin context of Leibniz)

Johannes Cochlaeus, De Canonicae scripturae & Catholicae Ecclesiae autoritate, ad Henricum Bullingerum Iohannis Cochlaei libellus, Ingolstadt: 1543 [online link to the relevant snippet] [Catholic]:
"Si diutius steterit mundus, iterum erit necessarium, ut propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes, quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem, Conciliorum Decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus."

English translation: none provided.

Primary source listed: Quinimos et contras tuos amicos Zuinglius et Oecolampadius scribes, pro substantia et veritate corpis et sanguinis Christi in Eucharist stie sacramento.
St. Robert Bellarmine, Disputations About the Controversies of the Christian Faith Against the Heretics of This Time (Disputationes de Controversiis Christianae Fidei Adversus Hujus Temporis Haereticos), 3 volumes: Ingolstadt: 1586-1593 [published 1856; digitized 5 March 2007] [online link to the relevant section, p. 76] [Catholic]:
"Si diutius, inquit steterit mundus, iterum erit necessarium, ut propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem, conciliorum decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus."

English translation: none provided.

Primary source listed: lib. cont. Zuvinglium de verit. corp. Christ. in Euchar.
Bellarmine cites this again on p. 98 of the same work, and what is fascinating is that even his two citations are not identical:

"Si diutius steterit Mundus, iterum fore necessarium, propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes quae nunc sunt, ut ad conservandam Fidei unitatem, Conciliorum decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus."

English translation: none provided.

Primary source listed: "lib. 1. cont. Zwingli et Oecolampad."
St. Francis De Sales, The Catholic Controversy (French edition), c. 1596 [published in 1892; digitized 25 October 2006] [edited by Henry Benedict Mackey] [Catholic]:
"si diutius steterit mundus, iterum fore necessarium, propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes quae nunc sunt, ut ad conservandam fidei unitatem Conciliorum decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus."

English from 1989 TAN English edition, p. 155 (translated by Henry Benedict Mackey from the autograph manuscripts at Rome and at Annecy): "If the world last long it will be again necessary, on account of the different interpretations of Scripture which now exist, that to preserve the unity of the faith we should receive the Councils and decrees and fly to them for refuge."

Primary source listed: "Contr. Zuing. et Oecol" [Oecolampadius, a close friend of Zwingl's]

This citation is word-for-word identical to the Bellarmine quote of p. 98 above.
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, De Scriptura, Ecclesia, Trinitate, (written approximately between 1680-1684), in Philosophische Schriften 4, Number 403, p. 2288 [published in 2006 by Akademie Verlag] [see the cover] [Lutheran]:
"si diutius steterit mundus iterum fore necessarium propter diversas sacrae scripturae interpretationes quae nunc sunt, ut ad conservandam fidei unitatem Conciliorum decreta recipiamus et ad ea confugiamus."

English translation: none provided.

Primary source listed: "Luther lib. 1. contra Zwinglium et Oecolampadium . . . Zur Sache vgl. Luthers Erste Vorrede zum Schwabischem Syngramm von 1526 (WA 19, S. 461)"

The context appears to follow Bellarmine's context, suggesting derivation from the latter.
Philipp Neri Chrismann, Regula Fidei Catholicae et Collectio Dogmatum Credendorum, published in 1792, [digitized 14 August 2006], p. 68 [Catholic]:

"Si diutius [mundus steterit *], iterum erit necessarium, ut ob divinas Scripturae interpretationes, quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem concilii decreta recipiamus [ . . . ]."

English translation: none provided.

Primary source listed: "Noverat hoc exitiosissimum periculum iam ipsemet LUTHERUS, qui teste Cochlaeo in l. de canon. Script. auctoritate c. II ingenue sassus est . . ."

* word order reversed, compared to other versions.
[see more analysis of the Cochlaeus reference established here, in Part II, section XIII]

Jaime Luciano Balmes
, European Civilization. Protestantism and Catholicity Compared in their Effects on the Civilization of Europe [online link], 1854 edition, p. 423 [digitized 9 August 2006; translated by C.J. Hanford and Robert Kershaw] [Catholic]:

"si diutius steterit mundus, iterum erit necessarium, propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem, ut conciliorum decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus."

English given: "If the world lasts for a long time, it will be again necessary, on account of the different interpretations which are now given to the Scriptures, to receive the decrees of Councils, and take refuge in them, in order to preserve the unity of the faith."

Primary source listed: none, but the writer describes it as: "Luther, writing to Zwinglius . . ."

The context probably follows Philipp Neri Chrismann (above), insofar as both also cite the Protestants Beza and Grotius stating things similar to Luther, but the Luther citation is different: thus very likely not from Cochlaeus, as is Chrismann's version.
The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, 3rd Series, Vol. III, p. 236, "Modern Erroneous Systems of Biblical Interpretation," by D. Hallinan, from the year 1883 [digitized 9 October 2006] [Catholic]:
"si diutius steterit mundus, iterum esset necessarium, ut propter diversas scripturae interpretationes quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem concilii decreta recipiamus atque ad ea confugiamus."

English translation: none provided.

Primary source listed: "De Veritate Corporis Christi contra Zwinglium".
Someone noted that the Latin version was entitled contra fanaticos Sacramentariorum spiritus. This would account for the widely differing source names, according to whether one was citing a Latin or German version. Of course, the main "fanatical Sacramentarians" Luther is responding to were Zwingli and Oecolampadius; thus in common usage we can see how it could become known as simply Contra Zwingli and Oecolampadius or variation thereof. Bellarmine above combines both things in his title, as does D. Hallinan, and Brunati (below).

Giuseppe Brunati cites our text in 1827 in an all-Latin work:

"Si diutius steterit mundus, iterum [necessarium erit *], ut propter diversas scripturae interpretationes, quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam Fidei unitatem Conciliorum decreta (Tridentini videlicet **) recipiamus atque ad ea confugiamus."

Primary source listed (footnote on p. 71): "De veritate corporis Christi contra Zwunglium."

* word order reversed, compared to other versions.
** appears to be an editorial interpoltaion; it is non-italicized in the original, compared to italics in the rest of the text.
Likewise, Giuseppe Zama Mellini, in an 1841 Latin work:

"Si diutius steterit mundus, iterum fore necessarium, propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes, quae nunc sunt, ut ad conservandam fidei unitatem, Conciliorum decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus."

Primary source listed: "contra Zwinglium et Oecolampadium I., 1."

This is identical to Bellarmine's p. 98 version.
And, Guglielmo Audisio follows suit in an 1853 Latin book:
"Si diutius steterit mundus, iterum erit necessarium, propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes quae nunc sunt, ad conservandam fidei unitatem, ut conciliorum decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus."

Primary source listed: "initio. Zwinglius ad Lutherum."

Moreover, Stefan Buszczyński in an 1867 French work:
"Si mundus* diutius steterit, [ad conservandam fidei unitatem **], iterum erit necessarium, propter diversas Scripturae interpretationes [ . . . ] ut conciliorum decreta recipiamus, atque ad ea confugiamus."

Primary source listed: "une lettre a Zwingle"

* this word is out of order compared to all the other versions
** phrase is out of order compared to all the other versions

This writer cites Beza and Grotius, following Balmes and Chrismann, and also Leibniz, Melanchthon, and Calvin.
Here's another from British biographer and journalist Dominic Bevan Wyndham Lewis (1891-1969), from his book, Charles of Europe (1931). He converted to Catholicism in 1921. See the top entry on this Google Book Search result page. Here is the text in a footnote:
And he is willing in his despair to take refuge from the anarchy he has made in the decrees of the Catholic Councils. . . .

[footnote 12] “Erit necessarium [ . . . ], ad conservandum fidei unitatem, ut Conciliorum decreta recipiamus atque ad ea confugiamus.”

English translation: none provided.

Primary source listed: Opera Luth., Edit. Wittenberg, II, 281, 387, etc.; "Letter to Zwingli"
Another web page, which describes the text as a "spurious Latin gloss on Luther's statement, as instigated by Cochlaeus and perpetuated by Bellarmine," provides additional Latin texts from Bacuez & Vigouroux, and Ranolder.

IV. Additional Notable Quotations in English
Luther said: If the world should stand any long time, we must receive again (which he thought absurd) the Decrees of the Councils, for preserving the unity of faith, because of so divers interpretations of the Scriptures.

(Preface to the Rheims New Testament, 1582, in Documents of the English Reformation, Gerald Lewis Bray, James Clark & Co., 2004, p. 381)
Catholic William John Fitzpatrick, also cites our text in his 1861 work, The Life, Times, and Correspondence of the Right Rev. Dr. Doyle (p. 521):
Luther himself says (Cont. Zuing.): "If the world endureth much longer, we shall be forced, by reason of the contrary interpretations of the Bible which now prevail, to adopt again and take refuge in the decrees of the councils, if we have a mind to maintain unity of faith."
Everett Pomeroy, another Catholic, utilizes it, in 1912. Renowned Anglican scholar Brooke Foss Westcott cited this same passage, from the preface (see the whole document; and another version with some archaic language and spelling), as did the Protestant scholar Thomas Graves Law (see more on him from The Cambridge History of English and American Literature); also the non-Catholic Will Converse Wood.

English Protestant anti-Catholic William Chillingworth (1602-1644) also made note of the quote in English (apparently cited by a Catholic opponent), in his book, The Religion of Protestants a Safeway to Salvation (on p. 120, #81-82):
If the world last longer, it will be again necessary to receive the decrees of councils, by reason of divers interpretations of Scripture which now reign.
The interesting thing here is that he is a dedicated opponent of Catholicism, yet he doesn't question the validity of the citation itself at all. Rather, he decides to take potshots at Luther for writing it, and to undermine its significance:
And what if Luther, having a pope in his belly (as he was wont to say that most men had), and desiring perhaps to have his own interpretations pass without examining, spake such words in heat of argument? . . . why do you trouble us with what Luther says, and what Calvin says?
V. The Disputed German Text and Its Translations Into English

The key text at the center of this dispute (though it wasn't always completely clear because of textual variations, discussed in more depth below) is the following, from LW, vol. 37, p. 17:
If the world lasts much longer, men will, as the ancients did, once more turn to human schemes on account of this dissension, and again issue laws and regulations to keep the people in the unity of the faith.
Hartmann Grisar (and his translator E.M. Lamond) render the same passage as follows:
And if the world is to last much longer, we shall on account of such dissensions again be obliged, like the ancients, to seek for human contrivances and to set up new laws and ordinances in order to preserve the people in the unity of the faith.

(Luther, Vol. IV, p. 410)
Here is the original German, from the standard German collection Werke (Kritische Gefammtausgabe), Weimar: Hermann Bohlaus Nachfolger, 1901; BR 330.A2 1883 at the library of the University of Detroit, main campus; Vol. 23, p. 69 (printed version on the right side, as opposed to the almost identical "handwritten version" on the left):
Und wo die wellt solt lenger stehen, wird man widderumb, wie die alten gethan haben, umb solche zwitracht willen auch menschliche anschlege suchen und abermal gesetze und gebot stellen, die leute ynn eintracht des glaubens zuerhalten, das wird denn auch gelingen, wie es zubor [zuvor?] gelungen ist.

(any discovered mistakes are strictly my own, in transcribing from the difficult Fraktur font)
The German Erlangen edition (1841: Vol. 30: p. 14 ff.; citation on p. 19), reads (spelling and capitalization and punctuation variations from WA in blue):
Und wo die Welt sollt langer stehen, wird man wiederumb, wie die Alten gethan haben, umb solche Zwietracht willen, auch menschliche Anschlage suchen, und abermal Gesetze und Gebot stellen, die Leute in Eintracht des Glaubens zu erhalten; das wird denn auch gelingen, wie es zuvor gelungen ist.
The Walch edition (St. Louis: 1890: Vol. 20, p. 762 ff.; citation on p. 766) is similar (spelling and capitalization and punctuation variations from WA in blue, and from the Erlangen edition, in green):
Und wo die Welt sollt langer stehen, wird man wiederumb, wie die Alten gethan haben, um solcher Zwietracht willen, auch menschliche Anschlage suchen, und abermal Gesetze und Gebot stellen, die Leute in Eintracht des Glaubens zu erhalten; das wird denn auch gelingen, wie es zuvor gelungen ist.

[footnote indicates that solcher is rendered solch in the Wittenberg and Jena collections; it is solche in the Erlangen and Weimar editions]
These are not significantly different (no real textual difference; only spelling and capitalization and a few commas; in a single case, one word in WA becomes two in the other versions), and thus of little further use in our textual research (except to show how modern German has evolved from Old German). The last two texts were examined by myself, Steve Ray, and John McAlpine (Master's Degree in Linguistics, U of M) at the Concordia University library in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on 3 January 2008. Photocopies of the relevant sections are in my possession (as is the section of the Weimar edition, cited above).

We see that the German differs from the Latin in important points. The Latin has the following conceptual and syntactical structure:
1. If the world lasts much longer . . .

2. It will again be necessary . . . (necessarium)

3. Because of different Scriptural interpretations . . . (diversas Scripturae interpretationes)

4. In order to preserve the unity of the faith . . . (conservandam fidei unitatem)

5. To receive the decrees of councils . . . (Conciliorum decreta recipiamus)

6. And take refuge in them. (confugiamus)
The German version (matching the syntactical order with the Latin for the purpose of direct comparison) differs significantly:
1. If the world lasts much longer . . .

2. Men will (like the ancients) . . .

prediction, as opposed to it being described as "necessary"; but Grisar's "be obliged" is closer to the Latin version]

3. Because of dissension . . .

[as opposed to differing biblical interpretations]

4. To keep people in the unity of the faith . . .

5. Turn again to human schemes . . .
[or "human contrivances" rather than the more neutral, descriptive "conciliar decrees"]

6. And again issue laws and regulations . . .

[a "legalistic" and hostile description, as opposed to the notion of "refuge"]
We see, then, that four of the six concepts are altered to such an extent that a different specific meaning applies. In turn, two-third of the six distinct concepts having been seen to be changed, the entire paragraph acquires a considerably altered sense and leaves a different impression.

Note additionally, that the citations of this quote in English, as seen from the Rheims NT preface, and the Chillingworth excerpt above, are also from the Latin translation, because they contain elements that appear in the Latin but not the German text, as just demonstrated (necessity rather than mere action, councils rather than "schemes", and mention of conflicting Scripture interpretation).

VI. What Accounts For the Difference Between the German and Latin Versions?

Robert Kolb, in his book Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero, (p. 146) noted the frequent appearance of the treatise under consideration in various collections of Luther's writings, and how it was also sometimes edited for the purpose of polemics, with Luther's words sometimes even manipulated or otherwise changed.

Therein could quite possibly be our explanation as to why the texts are so different from each other. Was it Catholic polemical incompetence and dishonesty? Not at all; it was (at least arguably) Protestant polemics and textual disputes. Catholics (and some Protestants, like Leibniz) have merely cited Luther from his collected works, put together by Protestants. Is it their fault that there was confusion in these works?

I have found a great deal more information about possible partisan theological bias affecting early Luther collections and translations. Some of what I discovered again comes from Robert Kolb, in his book, Bound Choice, Election, and Wittenberg Theological Method (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005; p. 135). He refers to the " 'Gnesio-Lutheran' Jena edition" and the "Philippist" Wittenberg collection. The Philippists were followers of Luther's successor Philip Melanchthon. Like him, they held a less realist view of the Eucharist (akin to the Calvinist opinion), whereas the Gnesio-Lutherans adopted a view more like Luther's own (Real Presence).

This bias even resulted in a felt need for a second collection in the 16th century, according to Kolb and others, in a new version of the Book of Concord (Fortress Press: 2000):
Gnesio-Lutheran reservations about elements of this Wittenberg edition gave rise to a second "complete edition," the Jena edition . . . This became the more widely used edition in the sixteenth century and is the edition that the Formula [i.e., the Lutheran Book of Concord] itself uses.

(p. 528)
Robert Kolb, in another major work of Luther scholarship, published by Cambridge University Press, calls the Jena edition "a rival undertaking" and says that its "Gnesio-Lutheran creators suspected that the Philippist editors of the Wittenberg set had altered certain passages too freely (an exaggerated verdict)".

For example, Christian Walther was "sub-editor" of Wittenberg, and was accused (unjustly, some argue) of purposely altering Luther passages to reflect crypto-Calvinist leanings (possibly including the very book in question, according to one reference source, which also states that both versions were "sometimes incorrect").

Something must account for textual variation. I offer mere speculation and possibility; I am not claiming much for it. I welcome a better and more proven explanation. But in the end it is really not a problem, concern, or difficulty for Catholics, but rather, for the editors of these collections, and no one else. St. Robert Bellarmine and St. Francis de Sales were citing these works already in the 16th century, and (Lutheran) Leibniz in the next.

Are they all to be blamed because Luther texts differed widely between German and Latin? Clearly not. Translation bias is not out of the question, even today, though scholars typically pride themselves as being "above" traditional partisan theological differences. For instance, take a look at how one passage in Luther's Table-Talk, from autumn 1533 has been translated differently:
Our manner of life is as evil as is that of the papists. (William Hazlitt: Protestant)

Our manner of life is as evil as that of the papists. (Edwin Doak Mead: Protestant)

Life is as evil among us as among the papists, . . . (Heiko Oberman: Protestant Luther scholar, 1982; translated by Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbart in 1990)

Life is bad among us, as it is among the papists, . . . (LW: Vol. 54:110)
Does that last one seem a bit off? It sure does to me. Since all these translations were done by Protestants (many of them Lutheran), it is no Catholic conspiracy in play. This is real difference, and not insignificant.

In fact, it may very well be that variations in Luther translations are analogous to those in Bible translation. There are different methodologies: from very literal, to free paraphrase, and all points in between. The fascinating question to resolve at this point is: why is the Latin that we have seen for this Luther text so different? From whence came this big difference? The Latin version seems to paraphrase the German rather than literally translate it (or vice versa, but I think there is enough evidence to conclude that the original was in German).

So, to use the Bible analogy, the Latin would be sort of like the New English Bible or Phillips translation. That might be how the translator would justify it. He (if this is correct) was translating thoughts rather than words, just as some Bible translations do. And a paraphrase generally exhibits more theological bias, by the nature of the case (which is why I favor a more literal approach in both cases: I read the RSV).

At any rate, these are two tentative theories for textual variation (theological bias and differing translation methodologies). Also, languages differ in the latitude and multiple meanings of their words. We see this all the time in English translations of Koine Greek biblical texts and in exegetical argumentation that takes the Greek into consideration.

As to the quote itself, I think it is beyond chance that both versions have six parts that coincide in the main, and that the difference is one of degree and expression within the broad agreement. They read like two Bible passages might read in different translation. But those Bible passages can still be understood as the same passage in different versions. This is my own opinion, based on my textual comparisons above.

VII. Interpretation of Martin Luther's Utterance in Light of His Very Strong Appeal to the Authority of the Church and Unanimous Tradition

It's inaccurate to contend that Luther despises councils altogether. Rather, he denies their infallibility and makes them formally subordinate to Scripture, which alone is infallible. This perhaps explains (at least in part) how Luther can rail against councils in one breath and espouse a quasi-Catholic principle of authority and tradition in the next.

He has been known to speak in two different senses. When he criticizes (even excoriates) councils, it is in the sense that they do not override the authoritative rule of faith of sola Scriptura, and when he thinks they are made a vehicle for unsavory and unbiblical traditions of men. When he alludes to them in a positive way, on the other hand, it is when he thinks they teach the truth according to Scripture, and over against the Zwinglian and Anabaptist sectarians, who are far more revolutionary with regard to previous Christian tradition.

Paul Althaus, in the standard work, The Theology of Martin Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966; translated by Robert C. Schultz, pp. 340-341), provides a succinct summary of Luther's view of councils (Luther's own words in quotes):
"Even though saints are present in the council, even though there are many saints, and even though angels are there, still we do not trust personalities but only God's word, since even saints can make mistakes." [WA 39-I, 186]

When a council does not err but bears witness to the truth, we should not take it for granted . . . when a council does so, that is an empirical and "accidental" fact . . . Truth is not guaranteed by the authority of the council, but Christ's free gift of truth in a specific instance gives a council its authority. [WA 39-I, 185]

. . . The ecclesiastical legitimacy of such a gathering does not necessarily include its spiritual legitimacy. This latter depends completely on the apostolicity of its doctrines and resolutions. [WA 39-I, 187]
Luther's doctrine of the historical, apostolic Church and of apostolic tradition is surprisingly strong, and quite different from that of many evangelical Protestants today (though by no means identical with a fully Catholic view). Althaus summarizes:
For Luther, the Christian church is, without detriment to it spiritual nature, a historical reality, which constantly existed all through the centuries from the time of the apostles till his own time. The Evangelicals are not another and a new church but "the true old church, one body with the entire holy Christian church, and one community of saints." [WA 51, 487] In spite of all his heartfelt criticism of the Roman Church, Luther remained certain that God had, in spite of everything, miraculously preserved the true church even in the midst of its Babylonian captivity. [WA 38, 220] . . .

Thus Luther thankfully received not only biblical substance in the direct sense of the term from the hands of the ancient and medieval church but also elements of ecclesiastical tradition . . . Luther asserts: The consensus of the entire church in a doctrine or a custom is binding insofar as it is not contrary to Scripture . . .

Luther did not, as is obvious, in any sense advocate an absolute biblicism. He did not absolutize the Bible in opposition to tradition. He limits neither Christian dogma nor the ethical implications of the gospel to what is expressly stated in Scripture. He does not demand that the truth of Christianity be reduced to biblical doctrine.

(Althaus, pp. 333-335)
How, then, in light of this information, are we aided in interpreting the text under consideration? We must keep in mind Protestant historian Philip Schaff's advice about Luther interpretation:
Luther's words especially must not be weighed too nicely, else any and every thing can be proved by him, and the most irreconcilable contradictions shown in his writings. We must always judge him according to the moment in which, and that against which, he spoke, and duly remember also his bluntness and his stormy, warlike nature.

(The Life and Labours of St. Augustine, Oxford University: 1854, p. 94)
Schaff refers to:
. . . Luther's otherwise evident churchly and historical feeling, and by many expressions like that in a letter to Albert of Prussia (A.D. 1532), where he declares the importance of tradition in matters of faith, as strongly even as any Catholic.

(Ibid., pp. 94-95; emphasis mine)
Schaff, on page 95 cites Luther's letter to Albrecht (or Albert), Margrave of Brandenburg and Duke of Prussia, dated April 1532 by some and February or early March by others (cf. another Schaff reference to the quote). The well-known Luther biographer Roland H. Bainton cites the following portion of it:
This testimony of the universal holy Christian Church, even if we had nothing else, would be a sufficient warrant for holding this article [on the sacrament] and refusing to suffer or listen to a sectary, for it is dangerous and fearful to hear or believe anything against the unanimous testimony, belief, and teaching of the universal holy Christian churches, unanimously held in all the world from the beginning until now over fifteen hundred years.
(Studies on the Reformation, Boston: Beacon Press, 1963, p. 26; primary source: WA [Werke, Weimar edition in German], Vol. XXX, 552)

This letter, apparently passed over by Luther's Works, Vol. 50 (Letters III), was, thankfully, cited at some length by Schaff on his page 95, and refers to, as Schaff notes, "the real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper":
Moreover, this article has been unanimously believed and held from the beginning of the Christian Church to the present hour, as may be shown from the books and writings of the dear fathers, both in the Greek and Latin languages, -- which testimony of the entire holy Christian Church ought to be sufficient for us, even if we had nothing more. For it is dangerous and dreadful to hear or believe anything against the unanimous testimony, faith, and doctrine of the entire holy Christian Church, as it has been held unanimously in all the world up to this year 1500. Whoever now doubts of this, he does just as much as if he believed in no Christian Church, and condemns not only the entire holy Christian Church as a damnable heresy, but Christ Himself, and all the Apostles and Prophets, who founded this article, when we say, 'I believe in a holy Christian Church,' to which Christ bears powerful testimony in Matt. 28.20: 'Lo, I am with you alway, to the end of the world,' and Paul, in 1 Tim. 3.15: 'The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.'

(italics are Schaff's own; cf. abridged [?] version in Preserved Smith, The Life and Letters of Martin Luther [Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911], pp. 290-292; Johann Adam Mohler, Symbolism, 1844, p. 400)
Philip Schaff, writing in The Reformed Quarterly Review, July, 1888, p. 295, cites the passage yet again, and reiterates:
Luther combined with the boldest independence a strong reverence for the historical faith. He derives from the unbroken tradition of the church an argument against the Zwinglians for the real presence in the Eucharist . . . A Roman controversialist could not lay more stress on tradition than Luther does in this passage.
He translates one portion a little differently (my italics):
The testimony of the entire holy Christian Church (even without any other proof) should be sufficient for us to abide by this article and to listen to no sectaries against it.
Since this is referring to the issue of the Eucharist, which divided Luther and Zwingli, we may rightfully deem it relevant to the interpretation of another text having to do with the same issue, and recourse to Church authority, from five years previously. A thinker's statements must be interpreted in light of their overall thought.

If this weren't enough to establish Luther's positive opinion of authoritative tradition, then perhaps Luther's treatise Concerning Rebaptism, written against the Anabaptists in January 1528, a mere ten months after the disputed text which is the center of the present controversy, will suffice. It was translated by Conrad Bergendoff and published in Luther's Works, Vol. 40, pp. 229-262, from the original German in WA (Weimar Werke), Vol. 26:144-174:
[p. 231] …Christ himself came upon the errors of scribes and Pharisees among the Jewish people, but he did not on that account reject everything they had and thought (Matt. 23[:3]). We on our part confess that there is much that is Christian and good under the papacy; indeed everything that is Christian and good is to be found there and has come to us from this source. For instance we confess that in the papal church there are the true holy Scriptures, true baptism, the true sacrament of the altar, the true keys to the forgiveness of sins, the true office of the ministry, the true catechism in the form of the Lord’s Prayer, [p. 232] the Ten Commandments, and the articles of the creed … I contend that in the papacy there is true Christianity, even the right kind of Christianity and many great and devoted saints. . . .

Listen to what St. Paul says to the Thessalonians [II Thess. 2:4]: “The Antichrist takes his seat in the temple of God.” If now the pope is (and I cannot believe otherwise) the veritable Antichrist, he will not sit or reign in the devil’s stall, but in the temple of God. No, he will not sit where there are only devils and unbelievers, or where no Christ or Christendom exist. For he is an Antichrist and must thus be among Christians. And since he is to sit and reign there it is necessary that there be Christians under him. God’s temple is not the description for a pile of stones, but for the holy Christendom (I Cor. 3[:17]), in which he is to reign. The Christendom that now is under the papacy is truly the body of Christ and a member of it. If it is his body, then it has the true spirit, gospel, faith, baptism, sacrament, keys, the office of the ministry, prayer, holy Scripture, and everything that pertains to Christendom. So we are all still under the papacy and therefrom have received our Christian treasures.

. . . We do not rave as do the rebellious spirits, so as to reject everything that is found in the papal church. For then we would east out even Christendom from the temple of God, and all that it contained of Christ. But when we oppose and reject the pope it is because he does not keep to these treasures of Christendom which he has inherited from the apostles. Instead he makes additions of the devil and does not use these treasures for the improvement of the temple. Rather he works [p. 233] toward its destruction, in setting his commandments and ordinances above the ordinance of Christ. But Christ preserves his Christendom even in the midst of such destruction, just as he rescued Lot at Sodom, as St. Peter recounts (I Pet. 2 [II Pet. 2:6]). In fact both remain, the Antichrist sits in the temple of God through the action of the devil, while the temple still is and remains the temple of God through the power of Christ . . .

. . . They take a severe stand against the pope, but they miss their mark and murder the more terribly the Christendom under the pope. For if they would permit baptism and the sacrament of the altar to stand as they are, Christians under the pope might yet escape with their souls and be saved, as has been the case hitherto. But now when the sacraments are taken from them, they will most likely be lost, since even Christ himself is thereby taken away.
Luther did argue (in very strong terms) that Church tradition alone and unanimous adherence through history was sufficient to do resolve this controversy, as we just observed in Schaff's rendering of Luther's words from 1532:
The testimony of the entire holy Christian Church (even without any other proof) should be sufficient for us to abide by this article and to listen to no sectaries against it.

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