Paul's Terrible Influence Over Luther
Boasting and Arrogance of Luther in Imitation of Paul's Language
In a letter of 1530 by Luther, all the terrible examples of bullying by Paul provided in his letters is replicated by Luther. In this letter, Luther defends the fact he added a word not present to Romans 3:28 in his Bible translation to make his doctrine of faith alone that much stronger. When criticized for this, Luther used all of Paul's worst tactics to deflect criticism. This excursion helps us recognize the terrible influence of Paul over Luther for the worse -- a poor role model. (This corroborates our negative opinion of Paul.)
Luther in his translation of Romans 3:28 tampered with the text, and added the word "alone" to support his reading of a "faith alone" soteriology into Paul's writings. So Luther had Paul say "a man is justified without the works of the Law but by faith alone."
The Roman Catholics excoriated Luther for his addition to the text.
Rather than humbly accept their criticism as valid -- as a translator cannot add words to the text, Luther fulminated in a lengthy letter from 1530. In this response, Luther paraphrases several letters of Paul, and uses Paul
- to justify boasting
- to condemn enemies (not to gently correct in love),
- to heap open contempt for enemies (not love),
- to curse others, and
- finally repeatedly belittling others as idiots and "asses."
Luther commits every deplorable act which a bullying theologian can commit. This letter from Luther thus starkly reveals what a heart set upon Paul's example to the neglect of the teachings of Jesus will produce.
Here are Luther's own words from 1530, per the translation at Gutenberg etexts:
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 written!
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 another'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 iron."
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. ****
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.... 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.
The dangers confronting the people also compel it [i.e., adding "alone"] 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.
"Sendbrief von Dolmetschen" in Dr. Martin Luther's Werke (Weimar: Hermann Boehlaus Nachfolger, 1909) Band 30, Teil II, at 632-646 translated by Gary Mann, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Religion/Theology Augustana College Rock Island, Illinois available as "On Translating" from Luther translated by Gary Mann at  Bibliography first at this CCEL link and  the letter at this CCEL link.
Luther's Wishing Destruction Over Opponents in Imitation of Paul's Curses and Death Sentences
Luther, in his Table Talk (Ger. Tischreden), is quoted as saying:
|"If I had all the Franciscan monks together in one house, I would set the house on fire.
For the kernel is gone from the monks, only the chaff is still at hand. So into the fire with them!" And what of that? The religious "are not worth being called human beings; they should not so much as be called swine!"
Luther and Lutherdom, Heinrich Denifle, at 381,
Luther’s Latin (in part) was:
“Si ego omnes monachis Franciscanos haberem in unis aedibus, [ignem] subjicerem, ut Strocola, fecit mendicis.”
Tischreden in der mathesischen Sammlung Aus einer Handschrift der Leipziger Stadtbibliothek, Martin Luther, Ernst Kroker, Johann Mathesius, No. 305, at 180.
Si ego omnes monachos Franciscanos haberem in unis