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Luther’s “New Testament, that is, the Mass” of 1520

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For my dissertation Sword of the Spirit, Sword of Iron, I used Luther’s pamphlets themselves, instead of using the Weimar Edition, Otto Clemens version, or let alone Luther’s Works in English. I copied them from the micro-fiche edition of the Pamphlets of the Early Sixteenth Century, (Flugschriften des Fruehen 16. Jahrhunderts) by Hans Joachim Koehler, H. Hebenstreit, and Chr. Weismann.

Otto Clemen’s version was closer in script to the originally published, best selling pamphlets, especially since he included the virgula, the slash that was used for periods and commas and other breaks. If you would like a challenge, read some of the pages I have posted below.

I am preceding them by a a note that I wrote on November 8, 2000, about a creative misreading of some lines. I have posted the title page, pages Ai-Aiv and Bii, that is  skipped three pages between Aiv and Bii, which is the way the pamphlets were page numbered, and which is called their signatures. Surprisingly, I found that on page Bii, that is the last page below, Luther explicitly writes what I misread on page between Aii and Aiii (page 3 below). I will translate the section that explicitly states my mis-reading, which is not good scholarship, of course, and which I did not include in my dissertation, but it comes as a surprise to see that I could have quoted the top of Bii and made the point, “The mass, where it has become spirit, is our rightful worship service (Gottesdienst).” The pamphlet itself has about 30 pages or so.

November 8, 2000

A misreading of the pamphlet is really a happy insight. The copy is often very difficult to read. It really says: “die Mess, und wo die geuebt wird, da ist d’recht gottisdienst.” I read: “die Mess, und wo die geist wird, da ist d’recht gottisdienst.” The correct reading is: “The mass, and where it is practiced or exercised, is the rightful worship service (Gottesdeinst).” I read: “The mass, and where it becomes spirit, is the rightful worship service (Gottesdeinst).” I thought Luther was referring to John 4:23 “true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.”

We have to become those who worship in spirit and truth. That was a creative misreading, because Luther strips all externals away from the mass, tries to put aside in whatever ways the mass has become a human invention (das menschen ertichtet haben), and gives pride of place to the way God commanded to accomplish the mass, “in which the mass exists whole, with all its essence, work, use, and fruit, without which nothing is received from the mass” (page Aiii).

Luther does make the mass into spirit and truth and in this way has the mass transform all the worshipers into priests, indeed, even into the body of Christ in a powerful new movement of incarnation. Luther’s pureness of the divine word is not for greater abstraction and detachment, but for a new and more “beautiful incarnation” (See Luther’s Galatians Commentary, Luther’s Works, Vol. 26, page 272). The spirit and truth of the mass gives birth to the children of God.

Top of the above page: “Dan wir arme menschen/ weil wir in den funff synnen leben/ muessen yhe zum wenigsten/ ein eusserlich zeychen haben neben den worten daran wir uns halten und zusammen kummen muegen/ doch also/ das das selb seychen ein sacrament sey/ das ist/ eusserlich sey/ und doch geystlich ding hab und bedeut/ damit wir durch das eusserliche/ in das geystliche gezogen werden/ das eusserliche mit den augen des leybs/ das geystliche ynnerlich mit den augen des herzen  begreyffen.

To translate: “For we poor people/ since we have to live in the five senses/ have to have at least/ an external sign in addition to the words that we hang onto and can gather around/ but also/ that the same sign be a sacrament/ that is/ be external/ and yet have and mean a spiritual thing/ so that through the external/ we can be drawn into the spiritual/ and grasp the external with the eyes of our bodies/ and the spiritual internally with the eyes of our hearts.”

Note: in that the whole mass revolves around the sacrament, we are therefore drawn into worshiping the Father in spirit and truth. Amen.


Written by peterkrey

August 30, 2010 at 7:39 pm

Posted in Luther

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