Friday, June 10, 2011

The Prophet Martin Luther

Browsing through Robert Kolb's For all the Saints (1987), I saw that he identifies three writers in the mid-16th century who treat Martin Luther as a foreteller of the future and see Luther's writings as predictions that correspond to their present moment or to the world's end. "How many more examples of Lutheran writers treating Luther as a prophet are there?" I asked myself. So I turned to VD16/17 to see what a quick search would turn up.

I thought it would only take a moment.

Instead, it turns out that there is an explosion of Luther-as-Prophet after 1550 from the most esteemed and the most marginal writers of the time. Even excluding works that merely praise Luther as a prophet, there are several dozen editons. A preliminary search finds the following, in roughly chronological order:

  1. Johannes Timann (Amsterdamus), Prophetiae aliquot verae... (1550, plus another Latin edition and a German translation in 1552)
  2. Georg Buchholzer, Drei Sermon D. Martini Lutheri... (1552)
  3. Anton Otto, Etliche Prophecezsprüche D. Martini Lutheri... (1552)
  4. Andreas Musculus, Weissagung D. Martini Lutheri... (1556)
  5. Martin Glaser, Hundert und zwanzig Propheceyunge oder Weissagung... (1557, with an expansion to 200 prophecies in 1574, and a reprint of the 120 prophecies in 1628)
  6. Georg Walther, Prophezeiungen D. Martini Lutheri (1559)
  7. Ein newes Lied...Prophecey D. Lutheri seligen von dem damals noch verborgenen / numehr aber geoffenbarten Eseln...(1560)
  8. Nicolaus von Amsdorff, Ein Predigt aus den Schrifften Lutheri uber die Propheten gezogen... (1562)
  9. Eyne Prophetische warninge / und gelick alse eyn Testament D. M. Luthers (1562)
  10. Basilius Faber, Allerley Christliche nötige und nützliche unterrichtungen von den letzten Hendeln der Welt... (1564, 1565, 1567)
  11. Cyriacus Spangenberg, Die Vierde Predigt Von dem grossen Propheten Gottes / Doctore Martino Luthero... (1564, and many other sermons that might just be praising Luther as a prophet)
  12. Practica und Prognosticon / Oder Schreckliche Propheceiung D. Martin Luthers... (1578, three 1592 editions, 1593, 1595, 1608)
  13. Johannes Lapaeus, Warhafftige Prophezeiungen des thewren Propheten / und heiligen Manns Gottes / D. Martini Lutheri... (1578, 1592)
  14. Propheceyunge Doctor Martini Lutheri / von hernach gefolgten Irrthumben... (1579)
I'll stop there, but the list keeps going much farther. Quite possibly someone has already collected all this material and figured out how all the works relate to each other. If not, someone should write an article about it.

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[UPDATE] In fact, Robert Kolb wrote a whole book about it: Kolb, Robert. Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero: Images of the Reformer, 1520-1620. Baker Academic, 1999.

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