Luther’s 1522 Blast Against Henry VIII: Extreme Anti-Traditionalism

Luther’s 1522 Blast Against Henry VIII: Extreme Anti-Traditionalism August 14, 2017

Luther-21

Luther posting his 95 theses in 1517 (1872), by Ferdinand Pauwels (1830-1904) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]

*****

(6-17-09)

***

Recently I discovered an entire online translation of Martin Luther’s tract, Against Henry [VIII], King of England (15 July 1522), translated by E. S. Buchanan, and published in New York by Charles A. Swift in 1928. It is hosted on the Project Canterbury Anglican website. This is great news, since it is a fun, interesting piece (from the few quotes I had seen from it), and the standard 55-volume set of Luther’s Works in English didn’t see fit (for some inexplicable reason) to include it.

I believe it is included in the scheduled ten-volume addition of all sorts of writings of Luther, previously unavailable in English. Better late than never . . . I’ve known for years that there were a lot of untranslated Luther writings in German (Fr. Hardon told me that back in 1990). Some folks who fancy themselves Luther experts / apologists didn’t know that, according to recent silly (and highly amusing) pronouncements, but now they do (or soon will), with the announcement of the expansion.

It should be noted in fairness that Luther later modified, tempered, or lessened this sort of rhetoric, and many pro-traditional or “Catholic-sounding” utterances of Luther can be found, too: so many that I compiled an entire book of them.

Here, then, are many fascinating, typically extreme and outrageous Luther utterances, from this work (but by all means read the whole thing, too, at the link above, to grasp the entire context):

* * * * *

1) Luther as Quasi-Prophet / God’s Unique Oracle and Man of the Hour, Etc.

***
For I have been given unto them by my Lord Christ as a sign that whether they spare me, or kill me, their infuriated conscience will have no grace, no peace, no solace.

* * *

For merely by my books in a short while (Christ helping me) I will bring it to pass that the Bohemians will be set free from their reproach, and that the Papists alone in the earth will have an abominable name, nay, will become a curse and an anathema. Not that I approve of all that the Bohemians do. I know nothing of their affairs and am told that there are sects among them; but I will bring it about that the Papists compared with them will be a world-wide disgust and nausea, since they themselves are nothing else but sects, the Franciscans alone having about six sects.

(Introductory Epistle)

* * *

If I have trampled down for Christ’s sake the idol of the Roman abomination after it had stood itself in the place of God and had made itself the ruler of Kings and of the whole world, who is this Henry, this new Thomist, this disciple of the idle monsters, that I should treat with respect his poisonous blasphemies? Let him be the Defender of the Church, but let him know that the Church which he boasts of and upholds, is the Church of the scarlet woman, drunk with the wine of her fornications. Both that Church and him, whom I consider its defender, I will attack with the same fierceness and, with Christ as my Leader, I will demolish them both. For I am certain that it is from heaven that I have my teachings; for they have triumphed against him [the devil] who in his little finger has more power and craftiness than have all Popes and Kings and Doctors put together. They will therefore accomplish nothing, who boast of their Bulls condemning me, with names and titles attached, and make much capital of their books attacking me, written by royal authors.

My teachings will stand, and the Pope will fall, although he should be supported by all the gates of hell and the powers of the air and the earth and the sea.

* * *

Ye will have Luther as a she-bear in your way and as a lioness in your path. He will attack you on all sides, and will give you no rest until he has broken in pieces your iron necks and brazen foreheads, either for your salvation or for your destruction.

* * *

For my teaching is in no particular contradictory, nor can be contradictory, because it is Christ’s.

* * *

And why does Christ Himself (Matt. XXIII) attack the Scribes and Pharisees with such vehemence and call them hypocrites, blind, fools, full of uncleanness, hypocrisy and murder? And Paul, how often he speaks with vehemence against the concision (as he calls them), and the false prophets, who adulterate and corrupt the word of God, calling them dogs, deceitful workers, apostles of Satan, children of the devil, full of guile and malice, deceivers, grandiloquent, frequenters of houses and leaders astray of women? And will the flippant Thomist accuse them as he accuses me of hatred and pride?

* * *

I do not ask them to believe me; but to believe the clear word of God.

* * *

It is not I that know but Christ alone knows, etc.

* * *

But I against the sayings of the Fathers, of men, of angels, of devils place not ancient usage, not multitudes of men, but the word of the one Eternal Majesty, the Gospel, which they are forced to approve, . . . Here I stand, here I sit, here I remain, here I glory, here I triumph, here I laugh at the Papists, Thomists, Henrys, Sophists and all the gates of hell, nay, at the sayings of men, however saintly, and at their fallacious customs.

2) The Unconquerable Luther and the Cowardly Catholic Wimps Deathly Afraid of Him

***

And yet this effeminate and cowardly crew dare to hope for a triumph, and a covering up of their shameful cowardice, by my flight into Bohemia, to which they give world-wide celebrity, while they themselves because of their mental unpreparedness and timidity do not dare to come out into the open against Luther by his lone half.

What do you think these feeble Bulls would avail them if they were compelled to stand themselves against the adversary of their Caesar, and against his powerful opponents? We should see them fleeing in all directions, these wretched creatures, who now whimper to one another in their holes like mice: Luther is planning flight!

(Introductory Epistle)

3) Catholics Who Hate Luther Will End Up in Hell

***
I await them therefore here, and am ready to meet their impotent rage. I will irritate and torment them as long as I live; and if they kill me, I will torment them many times more . . . They will have a double affliction, the torment of their present hatred, and that which it is earning for them,–the eternal torment of Gehenna.

* * *

So I shall not only make a flight into Bohemia, but I shall dwell there, even if this fury of the strange woman should burn me. But her hatred I shall at the same time both kindle and conquer in Christ. No more shall she prosper. Christ has so resolved. Amen.

(Introductory Epistle)

4) Anti-Papacy Motifs

***
For that senseless, ignorant and monstrous body of the Papacy,–after it perceives itself overcome by learning and truth, and sees the whole unclean, crowd of its dunces unable to stand against Luther alone,–torments itself and consumes itself with this one longing that I should flee into Bohemia. For so at last they may console themselves by abusing me as an alien, and representing themselves as terrible giants, who (thanks to their ignorance and evil conscience) none dare contend with.

* * *

The consummation of the abominable Papacy is at hand; from its fate it has no escape, and (as Daniel says) it is coming to its end and no man will help it. Thus we; are both of us boiling over, they with extreme madness, I with supreme contempt; but my courage in Christ will conquer their latest fury that is already waning.

(Introductory Epistle)

* * *

And so they have made the rock of the unconquerable faith to be the Papacy and the Pope, who have not only been overcome by disgusting errors and sins, but are being overwhelmed and absorbed by daily abominations.

* * *

Indeed I treated that crow at first very humbly and reverently, and was especially insistent that the Papacy was not a negligible thing; for I did not know then that it diametrically opposed all Scripture. I was content to expound the Scriptures only, and in the meantime to hold that the Papacy was in its character such as are the kingdoms and dominions of men. But they, hardened by long use of their tyranny and elated by the success up till now of their fraud (as Daniel calls it), despised my modesty and reverence and presumed to set up their idol in the place of God and intrude it into the very heart of the Scriptures. Then Christ gave me a spirit that despised both the fraud and the fury of the Papists, and brought it to pass that the more I saw into the Scriptures the more certainly I found this abomination had been foisted therein, . . .

* * *

And so, compelled by truth, I am driven to retract certain things that I have written, wherever I have written good things concerning the Papacy and concerning the things that are taught without Scripture warrant. Now at last I revoke these things, and am unfeignedly sorry that I ever wrote one syllable concerning the good of the Papacy, and of its rule. And I beg my readers diligently and wisely to beware of those errors of mine.

* * *

More truly I speak of the Papacy: The Papacy is the most pestilent abomination of Satan, its leader, that there ever was, or will be, under heaven.

* * *

In truth, while I live I will be the enemy of the Papacy; if I am burned, I will be twice its enemy.

* * *

This rather is the meaning of conflicting dogmas, when at one and the same time you teach contradictory things, at the same time defending and maintaining both of them, and refusing to revoke, or condemn, either one of them. This is the way the insane Papists act when (in Matt. XVI) they make the Rock both Christ and the Pope, when Christ is holy and the Pope impious, and when holiness has as much in common with impiety as light with darkness, and Christ with Belial. For the Papacy only stands (or rather falls) by its inconsistent, contradictory and lying dogmas, which teach, assert and maintain both of these conflicting teachings at the same time.

* * *

I believe the papacy to be anti-Christ’s Kingdom, which even Job (III, 6) commands should be cursed by those who were ready to raise up Leviathan.

* * *

For this papal kingdom, engendered by lies, can do nothing else, in keeping with its character, except deceive, pretend, mock and trample upon the golden grain, and then glory in all these things and boast of them as triumphs.

5) “Papist Monsters”

***
Although my soul burns to see Bohemia, and the religion so hated by our papist monsters, . . .

* * *

I do not fear the shame of the name Bohemian, which is glorious in the sight of God; but Christ has placed me here that I may torment the papist monsters, while they find nothing in me of which they can make public use in vomiting forth their unbelievable animosity. Christ wishes them to be tormented by their own hatred, and destroyed by their own malice.

(Introductory Epistle)

* * *

But I, who hitherto have been somewhat lenient toward the papist monsters, in the hope of their coming to their senses, now when I see of what kind of nature they are, given over to a reprobate mind and deplorably wilful, going to their own place with Pharoah their leader, I am resolved to use towards them no more modesty, no more pity. (Nor will I any longer permit my friends to bridle their pens, but will quietly despise them if they should do so.) If I have to treat with them, I will do it with all the violence that I can in order properly to irritate and anger them, the stupid blocks, the silly asses, the fatted swine, since they deserve no other consideration than to be brought to their punishment.

* * *

And what shall I say to these sacrilegious monsters, who show by such arguments how that they have written thus out of impotent hatred, so that nothing more foolish and senseless can be imagined?

6) “Papist Abomination”

**
With such blindness and madness has our Lord Jesus Christ stricken the whole kingdom of the papist abomination, . . .

* * *

It is only the Papists and Thomists, this worst of new abominations, who have taken on the brazen manner of the strumpet, so that they confess that thus and thus the sacred Scriptures state, and yet they will not allow men thus to think. Not even Satan himself so openly blasphemes and gives the lie to what is right, even in the very face of the Divine Majesty.

* * *

. . . this Babylon, this abomination worthy of these last days.

7) Catholic “Murderers and Antichrists”

***
For the Bohemians had a most just reason for deserting those murderers and anti-christs after they, who were themselves sevenfold heretics, had burned that innocent man, John Huss, and had sacrilegiously condemned the two kinds in the Sacrament as instituted by Christ. This is why this nation is hated by the Papists, who never acknowledge the cruel murder done by the scarlet woman, . . .

(Introductory Epistle)

* * *

For what Henry calls the Church we call the scarlet woman. For although the Church cannot do without rites and ceremonies, it does not make laws and ensnare men’s souls with them. They do this, who boast the name of Church, those swine and asses, those followers of Henry, those Papists and Sophists, who are deceivers of their fellow men and Anti-Christs.

8) Catholic Church is “Satan’s Sect”
***

My second crime is that I have covered with my abuse the Pope and the Church, that is, have abused Satan’s procurer and procuress and his sect, of which King Henry has lately been declared the Defender,–with indulgences!

* * *

. . . tares sown by Satan, by means of the brains of his Roman idol, in the Lord’s field. . . . A lie is worshipped in place of the truth, an idol instead of God, and an abomination in lieu of holiness.

* * *

. . . establishing in its [Scripture’s] place the reign of a doctrine that is written out of the Roman heart, a heart possessed by that most wicked Satan.

* * *

As they were carrying on their abominations the Lord drew me in my rashness into the middle of the crowds, and in the matter of lying indulgences enabled me to extort certain passages of Scripture from Satan, as one might wrench the club from the hand of Hercules, and to restore the Scripture interpretation to its rightful meaning.

* * *

9) This Church is not Christ’s Church; . . .
***

* * *

Plainly he is a chosen vessel of Satan, and a most worthy Defender of the papal Church.

* * *

Wherefore we see by this that all Bishops, all Councils, all Schools, who teach anything else in the Church besides the word of the only God, are wolves, ministers of Satan, and false prophets.

* * *

The Church of the Papists places its unity in the unity of its outward idol the Pope, while inwardly it is broken up by a vast confusion of errors in order to fulfill all the will of Satan.

10) Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon / Scarlet Woman

***
. . . I became convinced by the clear and pure Scriptures that the Pope, the Cardinals, the Bishops, the Priests, the Monks, the Monasteries, the Masses and the whole of that organization, with their dogmas and rituals, was nothing else than mere shews, idols, gew-gaws, lies, and that abomination standing in the holy place, showing itself as though it were the true bishops and the real church, while all the time it was that same scarlet woman, who sits on the many-headed beast and makes the kings of the earth drunk with the cup of her fornications and abominations.

* * *

. . . our Papist neighbours and friends have repeated vainly, to wit, The Mass is a work and a sacrifice; for the daily usage of many has it so; So the Church (that is, the harlot of Babylon) thinks; It must be so; Our Teachers have taught us so; The Fathers have said so.

* * *

. . . to the Church (that is, to the Romish harlot, who is neither Church nor Christian except in name) . . .

11) Lying, Idolatrous Catholics Hate Holy Scripture

***
When therefore the sacred Scripture says nothing at all concerning these things, the mad Papists, the masters of lies and framers of idols, have started a business, worthy of themselves, which is to twist the whole of Scripture and deprave it into poisons and lies, so that those passages which taught us concerning faith had to have a Papacy created to interpret them; those which taught humility had to have set up beside them the pomp of tyranny, until they have succeeded with their unlimited lying in throwing everything into confusion, in abolishing the whole Scripture . . .

* * *

They demand that we believe the worm-eaten product of their brain, old wives’ tales; and they despise the word of God.

* * *

But all this is done by that restless Satan in order that he may, by his wicked Henrys and sacrilegious Thomists, turn us away from the Scriptures, and fix our faith on the lies of men. For there is no longer any need of sacred Scripture, if it is sufficient for us to be supported by some new sayings of men found outside of the Scriptures.

12) Catholics Condemned the Gospel (?)

***
. . . their sacrilege in condemning the Gospel; . . .

(Introductory Epistle)

13) Catholics Are Pelagian and Believe in Salvation by Works (?)

***
This sacrilegious people have all one obsession; they wish to justify themselves in God’s presence by works, and not by faith alone. Whence it is necessary that Christ be denied and faith made of none effect, while lucre is increased, and the wealth of the whole world absorbed for their Masses and their Vigils. For thus do the perverse followers of the abomination pervert everything; the works, which they ought to use toward men, they offer to God; the faith, by which alone God is served, they offer to men.

14) Dubious and Ridiculous Assertions About the Church Fathers

***
But when they come to apply their teaching, they do nothing except viciously beg the question. And so when I exclaim: The Gospel, the Gospel, Christ, Christ; they reply, The Fathers, the Fathers, use, use, statute, statute!

When I say, the Fathers, use, statute have often erred; we must have a stronger and surer authority–Christ cannot err; then they are like the mute fishes, and become as the Scripture saith, like deaf adders that shut their ears lest they hear the voice of the charmer. Or they reply thus to me, in words which they always have on the tip of their tongue: Ambrose saith so; art thou wiser than Ambrose? Do you alone know? And this is all they have to say. As though the question was between Ambrose’s teaching and mine; or as though I could not answer: You misunderstand and misinterpret Ambrose. What is gained, I ask, by disputing with those who are blind and bad-tempered and utterly senseless?

* * *

In vain, I say, I have kept on singing to these deaf adders, who endlessly repeat and gabble their silly talk: Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome says so and so! Therefore Luther is a heretic, for the sayings of Augustine and Ambrose are articles of faith. Yet those holy men wished nothing less than this sacrilegious worship given to them by Henry and his fellow dunces, by whom their sayings are equated with articles of faith, desiring as they did all their sayings to be free, and placed at the disposal, or rejection, of every believer. Nay, the swinish Thomists themselves are forced to admit that holy men have often erred, and therefore the use of their words for establishing the faith, and burdening the conscience, cannot be of sufficient authority even by the judgment of common sense.

* * *

Furthermore the glorious Lord King, after his manner, lies quite arrantly when he makes Jerome a defender of the papacy; for that writer does not call his own Roman church the mother-church of the world, but inveighs more bitterly than all others against her monarchical ambition.

* * *

The word of God is above all. The divine Majesty makes me care not at all though a thousand Augustines, a thousand Cyprians, or a thousand of Henry’s Churches should stand against me. God cannot err, or be deceived. Augustine and Cyprian and all the elect could err, and have erred.

* * *

Briefly, even if Augustine should have asserted in round words that any one in the Church has the right to make laws, who is Augustine? Who compels us to believe him? By what authority is his word an article of faith? I confess that his saying has come to my notice; but it is not safe enough, nor firm enough. The right of making a law must be proved by a saying of God, not by a saying of man.

* * *

For I do not ask what Ambrose, Augustine, or the Councils, and use of the centuries say; nor was there any need for King Henry to teach me these things; for I knew them so well that I once before even attacked them,

15) A Bit of Projection?

***
He does not come forth to battle with a royal mind, or with any drop of royal blood, but with a slavish and impudent and strumpet-like insolence and silliness, proving nothing by argument but only by cursings. And what is more disgraceful in a man, and especially in a man in the highest position, than openly and deliberately to be, so that you can recognize him as a Sophist, a creature of ignorance and virulence?

16) Thomist “Sophists” and “Hogs”

***
. . . it is agreed that the Thomists are such a stupid and clearly lazy kind of Sophists, . . .

* * *

Do what ye can, ye Thomist swine.

* * *

Let the reader then see from this one argument how asinine is the ignorance of the Thomists, and how mentally puerile is their insolence, which does not allow them to understand their own words. And yet they dare to write a Defence of the Sacraments, and to boast of their fine bombast, which is the proof of their incredible lack of knowledge. For I think this book of the King’s was written for this reason, that the world might never believe I had falsely accused the Sophists of folly and ignorance, especially the hogs that are among them (I mean the Thomists).

* * *

. . . sordid fellow-Thomists . . .

* * *

. . . he has chosen to act the Thomist hypocrite and masquerader . . .

* * *

. . . Aristotle, who is the God of the Thomists . . .

* * *

. . . these lethargic Thomists . . .

* * *

. . . this senseless Thomist crew . . .

* * *

. . . in his Thomist folly . . .

* * *

. . . a senseless Thomist . . .

* * *

. . . this Thomist straw and stubble, . . . this demented Thomist . . .

* * *

. . . Thomists and Papists and their impure, foul, filthy, wicked and sacrilegious associates . . .

* * *

. . . these blots and corruptions of men, these Thomists and Henrys . . .

* * *

. . . I should be arguing to no purpose with such stupid and dull block-heads. How much less would they understand me if I argued this matter according to the divine Scriptures?

* * *

. . . as befits a Thomist, he omits the Scriptures . . .

* * *

. . . the Thomist scum . . .

* * *

As I said before, nothing under the sun is born more thick and stupid than the Thomists, these monstrous creatures.

* * *

. . . in the dignified manner of the Thomists, whose custom is to pass over the rule for understanding Scripture (which is to take notice of the consequences, circumstances and objections), and to pick up and twist some word, and then assert anything you have a mind to.

* * *

. . . there is no judgment, no discernment, no diligence in the whole Thomist body; but all things are said and transacted and done with incredible rashness and presumption and arrogance, so that they can kill with tediousness both readers and listeners.

* * *

. . . nevertheless the worthiness of this reasoning is beyond all price, and could dwell and flourish in Thomist and asinine brains and nowhere else.

* * *

. . . We have therefore this article, although never with much concern exacted by me before, now greatly confirmed by the assertions of the Papists themselves,–that is by their lies and stupidity and blasphemies,–so that now we are very sure that it is the merest figment that which these impious and blind Thomists babble concerning this transubstantiation,

* * *

. . . the dullness of the Thomists . . .

* * *

. . . The Thomist asses have nothing they can bring forward but the number of men and the antiquity of the use, and then they say to one who brings forward Scripture, Are you the wisest of all?

* * *

. . . mere Thomist wickedness, forcing all words to mean all things . . .

* * *

But it is not to be wondered that the Thomist asses are so ridiculous; for God has willed that they should show no sign of sanity, or even of right thinking.

17) Luther Consigns Henry VIII to Hell

***
The offering of the viper keeps the inborn qualities of its nature, and imitates the example of its parents. For even against Paul, when he had taught that all the sons of Adam were justified without works, his enemies made the same accusation, as he writes in Romans (Chapter III): Some say we teach, Let us do evil that good may come. But what is the judgment upon them? Their damnation (he says) is just.

And what can I pronounce against my King, concerning his lie, except the same judgment of damnation?

18) St. Paul Was Self-Contradictory?

***
If this is to conflict in dogmas, as the Thomist King declares, if a man should think otherwise, when he knows the truth and revokes his error, than he thought before, I ask which of our wisest and most holy men was ever consistent? We shall damn the whole epistles of Paul because after his conversion he calls dung what before, when he was in Judaism, he had considered to be gain.

19) Violent Rhetoric

***
What are we to do now? except to let even fools see that our Thomist Henrys, in their notorious ignorance, have turned our faith into a subject of ridicule; and have strengthened the wickedness of the world; deserving therefore to have their tongue and hands cut off, so that they might never either speak or write again.

20) Goofy, Universally Rejected, Anti-Petrine Interpretation of Matthew 16

***
Therefore we will cleave to the Defender of our Church who says (Matt. XVI): I will build My Church,–and build it not on the length of time, nor on the multitude of men, nor on It must be so, nor on the use and sayings of the saints, not even on John the Baptist, nor on Elijah, nor on Jeremiah, nor on any of the prophets;–but upon that only and solid rock, upon Christ, the Son of God.

21) Extreme Bible-Only Position

***
. . . Scripture requires that we believe nothing except Scripture.

22) Extreme Private Judgment Position

***
To know and judge concerning doctrine belongs to all men, even to individual Christians; and in such a way belongs that, Let him be anathema who shall injure this right, even in the least particular. . . . And here Christ has established not only the right, but the commandment to judge, so that this sole authority can be sufficient against the opinions of all the Fathers, of all the Councils, and of all the Schools,. . .

* * *

We have it established then beyond all controversy that the right of discerning and judging doctrines, or of approving teachers, is within our power, and not in the power of Councils, or Bishops, or Fathers, or Doctors. But it does not follow from this that at the same time we have the right to make laws; for this belongs to God alone. Our duty is to recognize His law (and His word), to approve it, judge and separate it from all other laws; but in no wise to make laws or make commands.

23) “Sacrilegious and Abominable Councils”

***
You now see of what spirit were those sacrilegious and abominable Councils, which against so many clear fulminations of Scripture, and such uncontrovertible opinions, have dared to arrogate to themselves as Bishops the right of judging and discerning, and, above all, of commanding and constructing. Without doubt from Satan came those thoughts, whereby he has inundated the world with the workings of error, and has set up an abomination in the sacred place;. . .

24) Luther Even Goes After the Council of Nicaea (!!!)

***
For in the Council of Nicaea itself, the best of all the Councils, even then they were beginning to make laws and claim that right for themselves. And from that time till the present, it has been in force, so that nothing is more worthy to be received, nor can anything be more firmly proved on the theory of numbers and duration than this usurpation. So much so that there is no one today who does not think it to be wholesome, right, and divine. Nevertheless you see how this thing is sacrilege and impiety against the clear and invincible Scriptures of God.

Wherefore if such error, and such sacrilege, for such length of time has reigned among such great numbers of men who were either consenting, or seduced, or approving, and has reigned against the truth of God, I wish here, once for all, that, as regards the Sophists and Papists, their chief argument from duration and numbers should be trampled in the dust, and their mouths stopped, that they may see why God wills that we should believe in no creature whatever, however continuous, or numerous, or stupendous it may be, but only in His infallible word.

25) “Sacrilegious and Abominable Mass”

***
Having triumphed over the Mass, I think we have triumphed over the whole papacy. For upon the Mass as upon a rock is built the whole papacy with its monasteries, its bishoprics, its colleges, its altars, its ministers, its doctrines, and leans on it with its whole weight. And all these things must fall with the sacrilegious and abominable Mass.

***

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