James Swan Ignores Protestant Errors on Luther’s Canon

James Swan Ignores Protestant Errors on Luther’s Canon May 8, 2020

Instead, He Absurdly Blames Catholic Apologists for Historical Errors of Protestant Writers

[Anti-Catholic Calvinist polemicist James Swan’s words will be in blue]


It’s simply amazing, the amount of misinformation, disinformation and propaganda James Swan dishes out. He can’t help himself. He’s so used to — in his profound anti-Catholic bigotry —  lying about and distorting anything that Catholic apologists do (above all, anything I do), that he literally could no sooner stop this than Niagara Falls could reverse its course.

His latest farcical entry is entitled Tossing Blog Comments Into the Elbe, Save One. He brings out his entire roster of sophistical tricks and unsavory tactics again, including the yawningly predictable obligatory citation of my papers (in this case, ancient, removed ones) without providing links or my name (not even an affectionate nickname: a courtesy I obviously extend to him).

Wasting no time in again attacking me (his favorite “apologetic obsession”), without naming me, of course (this is the game he has been playing for a while now), he writes:

Last night I briefly went through some archived web pages I have saved on an extra hard drive. Some of the web pages go back almost 10 years. I found a number of instances of Roman Catholics citing the very bogus quote in question. One old page stated, “Martin Luther, in accord with his posture of supreme self-importance as restorer of Christianity, even presumed, inconsistently, to judge various books of the Bible, God’s holy Word.”

Guess whom Swan chose, out of all the Catholic apologists in the world: to dredge up old “archived” papers? Yep, you got it. You’re reading his words right now. To comment briefly on the second part of the above: it is precisely correct. I stand by it wholeheartedly. Luther did judge books of the Bible (which is technically a different notion from which books he left in his canon in his own Bible), solely on his own arbitrary, self-proclaimed, pseudo-prophetic “authority.”

It’s not just us Catholics (oops, “Romanists”) who think this, but even some Lutherans and other Protestants: some of whom are troubled by Luther’s cavalier attitude towards the Bible.

I documented this almost seven years ago now, in my paper, Luther’s Radical Views on the Biblical Canon (His Outrageous Assertions, Protestant Scholars’ Opinions & “Debate” with John Warwick Montgomery). For example, non-Catholic Luther and “Reformation” scholar Preserved Smith wrote (this and other sources can be found in the aforementioned paper):

[F]ew of his followers have ever interpreted, commented on, and criticized the Bible with the freedom habitual to him. The books he judged according as they appealed to his own subjective nature, . . .

Lutheran Mark F. Bartling (WELS), stated:

It must be admitted that Luther did develop a personal criterion of canonicity that took its place along side of apostolicity and universality (those books unanimously accepted by the early church, homologoumena) . . . It was, of all people, Carlstadt who condemned Luther for this criterion. Carlstadt said: “One must appeal either to known apostolic authorship or to universal historical acceptance as to the test of a book’s canonicity, not to internal doctrinal considerations.” [De Canonicis Scripturis libellus, Wittenberg, 1520, p. 50]. This position of Carlstadt was also the position of Martin Chemnitz and of C. F. W. Walther [Compendium Theologiae Positivae, Vol. I. p. 149].

Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901), the great biblical scholar, was equally direct in his disagreement with Luther:

No Church could rest on a theory which makes private feeling the supreme authority as to doctrine and the source of doctrine. As a natural consequence the later Lutherans abandoned the teaching of their great master on the written Word.

Moral of the story: when Catholics say things like I did, in this respect, we are not saying anything that many Protestant (including Lutheran) or secularist critics of Luther (Carlstadt, Chemnitz, Walther, Smith, Westcott et al) have not already said. But when we do it, Swan says it is bad research and “propaganda.” When a Protestant says the same thing, it is profound truth. Orwellian doublespeak . . . The Catholic is always wrong and the Protestant always right, even when they agree with each other. I agree: it makes no rational sense. Yet this is how Swan “reasons.”

Now, to the matter of archived papers. Swan has had his fun for nearly ten years now, consistently “rescuing” from oblivion many of my older papers about Luther (absurdly thinking that this would somehow be an embarrassment to me and prove to the world that I am an unscrupulous dope). When I first converted to Catholicism in 1991 and did some critical writing about Luther, I had at my disposal far fewer sources and resources than I have now.

I wasn’t on the Internet yet (not for another five years, and six till I had my own website). I had one Catholic book about Luther of my own (the notorious, but not devil incarnate, Patrick O’Hare) and photocopies or handwritten notes from mostly two other early 20th century Catholic sources (Grisar and Janssen) from library research. Much of my earliest research utilizes these three sources. I also had Roland Bainton and some Protestant biographies of Luther as well. I had read Bainton’s famous Here I Stand in 1984.

My first paper on Luther dates from 1991. Needless to say, I have learned a great deal about Luther since that time (anyone can see how much I have written about him, including now two books [one / two]) and have refined many of my opinions, as I learned more and more. Swan knows this full well. He knows that I systematically purged virtually all references to O’Hare’s citations from my papers way back in 2002 (because he noted it in a post from 10 October 2006; the original version mentioned my name; the present one doesn’t, but still cites my words).

But  Swan loves to keep citing my old papers, knowing that I have modified many opinions in them. I continue to develop my beliefs about Luther on an ongoing basis, and remove old stuff; he keeps bringing it back, without noting (apart from a very rare and reluctant “nod” like the above paper) that I have changed my mind. This is unethical: pure and simple. It’s one of the many cynical tactics he uses to try to discredit my Luther research: a thing that has obsessed him, lo these past nine years. Thus, as soon as he wants to make a point about “Romanist Luther research” he dredges up an old Luther paper of mine. One tires of this; but I am happy to be able to expose his nefarious methods, as presently. If he keeps doing the same old stupid, tired thing, I will expose it for what it is.

The old paper of mine that he chooses here was entitled, Martin Luther: Beyond Mythology to Historical Fact. (the original URL can be traced on Internet Archive). The first version was dated 14 January 1991. There was a “5th Revised Edition” dated 11 November 2002. In the fifth edition, all the material on the biblical canon (that he cites in his latest paper) had been removed. The third edition of 18 January 2000 still contained it, and also the words above that Swan cites, without either attribution or URL. So did the fourth edition of 27 January 2002. But since November 2002, these quotes have not been on my website, in this paper. That’s how far back Swan has to go to make me an example of what he considers shoddy Luther research.

The last time the paper was online, according to Internet Archive, was 11 October 2003, so it’s been gone almost eight years. Sometime between then and 6 December 2003 it was voluntarily removed as outdated (which is not the same as discredited) research. It never made it to my blog, because that was begun in 2004. This is the paper Swan chooses to use as an example of Catholic ineptitude. Then when we look at  the particulars he presents to make his case, they uniformly fail to do so, since they all go back to Protestant sources, in terms of origin in English, and continued use.

Obviously, then, I was refining the paper as I learned more things. Most people would think that is a good and normal thing in legitimate research and inquiry (since all noted researchers and authors make revisions). Not Swan, though; he mocks this; has dozens of times through the years. He makes fun of the fact that I revise my opinions and research, as the facts and further knowledge warrant. He frequently claims that it is only because of his stellar, oh-so-superior Luther research, that I ever do so. He attributes to me the lowest possible motives for doing so. This is mostly why (by his own report) he keeps citing my older, removed papers (rather than my many current ones): to try to make some point that I am incompetent: when the facts suggest the exact opposite conclusion. Here are a few examples of how he interprets revisions in my Luther (and general) research:

If you visit DA’s blog, you know his entries can appear, disappear, or change hour to hour. . . . I think Dave will probably edit his use of Luther in this instance, . . . Dave‘s blog is often now you see it, now you don’t. (6-18-07 on James White’s blog, where he hasn’t been able to remove my name)

A Roman Catholic recently blogged a large amount of material on John Calvin. I held out reading any of it and waited to see what he’d put forth in a published book. So I recently received his book on Calvin. Material on a blog can be edited or deleted as if by magic. A published work though sets one’s opinion and research concretely. (3-22-10: one of Doe’s several ludicrous book reviews of my book without mentioning my name)

It’s rather childish and obnoxious, in equal measure. Swan acts like the snot-nosed prepubescent kid who happened to get something right over against an opponent of some sort and goes around triumphantly (with an expression of supreme stupidity) proclaiming “I told you so” for months afterward. Swan does the proverbial kid even better: he does it for years. And the funniest thing is that usually what he “told” is most often a distortion of the facts in the first place.

Swan proceeds to cite my ancient paper, where I cited O’Hare at length:

Of the Pentateuch he says: ‘We have no wish either to see or hear Moses. Job . . . is merely the argument of a fable . . . Ecclesiastes ought to have been more complete. There is too much incoherent matter in it . . . Solomon did not, therefore, write this book . . . The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe. I am such an enemy to the book of Esther that I wish it did not exist, for it Judaizes too much and has in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness . . . The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible . . .

Now if anyone were to search this blog, you’ll find I’ve probably worked through all of the quotes, and in each instance, O’Hare proved to be a propagandist.

The last statement is untrue, in terms of O’Hare not being the source of these things (in English).  I already documented that the source of this material in English (far as I could determine) was Sir William Hamilton: a Scottish Protestant philosopher, in 1834. He was utilizing and translating the standard edition of Luther’s Works in the 18th century (the state of the art at that time): Johann Georg Walch (24 volumes: Halle: 1740-1753). Walch in turn cited the Aurifaber version of Table-Talk, dating from 1566. Swan himself wrote a lengthy post describing the Walch edition.

Those three Protestant men are the originators of this material, not the Catholic O’Hare, who was writing in 1916 and utilizing the statements of Hamilton. Thus, O’Hare and other evil, wicked, wascally “Romanists cannot be uniquely blamed for this, as if it is poor research and a polemical motivation alone that caused them to pull things out of thin air in the effort to defame Martin Luther. It’s just not so. O’Hare wasn’t solely at fault. It wasn’t simply “propaganda.” It had a quite legitimate, scholarly  Protestant textual history.

If O’Hare was a propagandist by using these words (and I myself by using his, which are Walch’s translated into English), then so were Hamilton and Walch and Aurifaber. But Swan doesn’t tell his readers that. No; he merely bashes O’Hare and the embodiment of evil and bad research, Dave Armstrong. O’Hare does indeed often engage in empty “anti-Luther” polemics and lousy research, which is why I don’t use him anymore, but this instance is not an example of it.

In the previous paper I already made a lengthy comparison of Hamilton’s section about Luther and the canon (translated from Walch, who cited Luther friend Aurifaber), and O’Hare’s. I guess this went right over Swan’s head: assuming he read my paper at all.  Here I’ll do it line-by-line (using O’Hare portions that I cited in my old Luther paper), hoping and praying that Swan will “get it” this time; that it will sink in:

[Catholic] O’Hare, 1916: Job . . . is merely the argument of a fable . . .

[Protestant] Hamilton, 1834:  Job spake not, therefore, as it stands written in his book, but hath had such cogitations . . . It is a sheer argumentum fabulae. . . .

[many Protestants (usually liberals who were biblical skeptics) picked this up — so we observe in a Google Books search — and noted that Luther regarded the book of Job as a fable or mere dramatic story without factual basis; see also a general Google search along these lines]

O’Hare, 1916: Ecclesiastes ought to have been more complete. There is too much incoherent matter in it . . . Solomon did not, therefore, write this book . . .

Hamilton, 1834: This book (Ecclesiastes) ought to have been more full; there is too much of broken matter in it; it has neither boots nor spurs, but rides only in socks, as I myself when in the cloister . . . Solomon hath not therefore written this book. 

O’Hare, 1916: The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe. I am such an enemy to the book of Esther that I wish it did not exist, for it Judaizes too much and has in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness . . .

Hamilton, 1834: The book of Esther, I toss into the Elbe.” [Ib.] [“And when the Doctor was correcting the second book of Maccabees, he said: –] . . . I am so an enemy to the book of Esther, that I would it did not exist; for it Judaizes too much, and hath in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness. 

O’Hare, 1916: The history of Jonah is so monstrous that it is absolutely incredible . . .

Hamilton, 1834: The history of Jonah is so monstrous, that it is absolutely incredible.

[a Google Books search of this phrase reveals that many Protestants cited it throughout the 19th century: several noting that it came from the Protestant Hamilton. It was in common use before O’Hare was even yet born]

It wasn’t only the Catholic O’Hare citing or paraphrasing these sections from Hamilton: not by a long shot. I have linked above to examples found in Google Books searches. Secularist Luther scholar (oops, “propagandist” according to Swan) Preserved Smith also did, just five years before O’Hare:

[H]e declared Job to be an allegory; Jonah was so childish that he was almost inclined to laugh at it; the books of Kings were “a thousand paces ahead of Chronicles and more to be believed.” “Ecclesiastes has neither boots nor spurs, but rides in socks, as I did when I was in the cloister.” (The Life and Letters of Martin Luther, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1911, 268)

The only section that couldn’t be traced back to Hamilton was “We have no wish either to see or hear Moses.” Very well, then; let’s do a search on Google Books, since Swan (the world’s greatest Luther researcher: so he insinuates at every opportunity) encouraged us all to do so, by writing, “Go ahead and Google search any of the quotes above.” I did, but not much turned up. Since Swan had said he wrote a paper about the phrase, I checked out what the Master Researcher had to say.

All O’Hare stated was, “Of the Pentateuch he says: ‘We have no wish either to see or hear Moses.'” I agree that this is inadequate, because it has no context at all and could easily be misinterpreted (especially knowing Luther and his frequent rhetorical exaggerations and oft-used sarcastic, non-literal mode of argumentation). On the other hand, O’Hare has not interpreted it himself. Swan claims this is part of O’Hare’s propaganda. But the words themselves do exist in Luther, and in that sense, this is not “propaganda” per se, but the reporting of a fact.

Swan has found some very interesting stuff on this. He speculated in his paper on the topic, that this utterance was “from Luther’s treatise Against The Heavenly Prophets In The Matter Of Images And Sacraments,” and cited the context (my bolding):

Now then, let us get to the bottom of it all and say that these teachers of sin and Mosaic prophets are not to confuse us with Moses. We don’t want to see or hear Moses. How do you like that, my dear rebels? We say further, that all such Mosaic teachers deny the gospel, banish Christ, and annul the whole New Testament. I now speak as a Christian for Christians. For Moses is given to the Jewish people alone, and does not concern us Gentiles and Christians. We have our gospel and New Testament. If they can prove from them that images must be put away, we will gladly follow them. If they, however, through Moses would make us Jews, we will not endure it. (Luther’s Works 40:92)

Good.  But this dates from after 1955, and wasn’t available to O’Hare. Swan himself  wondered if it is the right one, because he found another. The Master stated:

In the excellent old volume Luther Vindicated by Charles Hastings Collette, he puts forth an extended snippet of the same quote, which is quite different than the context I cited. He states:

There is a passage quoted by Dr. McCave, as reported in his Lecture in The Midland Counties Express, as follows :—”It was Luther who said of the Pentateuch ‘We neither wish to see nor hear this Moses; he is master of all hangmen, and no one can surpass him when there is a question of terrifying, torturing, or tyrannizing.’ ” I have utterly failed to trace this passage.

Collette’s book was published in 1884, and he was a Protestant. This could very well be O’Hare’s source (the reference to “the Pentateuch” strongly suggests it), in which case again it is a matter of O’Hare citing a Protestant, who is not hostile to Luther at all; a book, in fact, where he is expressly defended. “Dr. McCave” appears to be Canon James McCave, D.D.: a Catholic; Collette is not necessarily agreeing with what he cited, and couldn’t trace it. Thus we have:

[Catholic] O’Hare, 1916: Of the Pentateuch he says: ‘We have no wish either to see or hear Moses.’

[Protestant] Collette, 1884 (citing Catholic McCave):  It was Luther who said of the Pentateuch ‘We neither wish to see nor hear this Moses . . .’

This was only one instance from one old web page. I can post more examples if needed from various Roman Catholic websites and discussion boards.

Right.  But for some reason, whenever Swan wants to give an example of what he thinks is terrible Catholic research, he almost always cites me (unattributed, undocumented). And it’s always — invariably — a bum rap.

When I looked back on my older entries about this quote, you’ll notice I never picked a fight with anyone specifically about this quote:

Luther: “The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe…”

Luther: “The book of Esther I toss into the Elbe”….Revisited

This is a lie. Swan doesn’t even know what he did in his own papers. In the first paper above, he states, “Look for instance at this citation from a Catholic apologist” and then quotes my paper (by title, with the old website URL): The Apocrypha: Why It’s Part of the Bible. Also, previously, Swan would usually mention my name when doing critiques, but he has been “de-Armstrongizing” his website. That was likely the case here. Yet he spins and plays the sophist now and informs his readers and lackeys that he didn’t have any Catholic in mind “specifically.”

This paragraph is nothing more than an O’Hare summary, and it’s filled with inaccurate information.

And that is talking about me, folks!

Luther did not consider Job to be a “fable.”

According to Walch, he did. It came right from him, as Hamilton stated. According to Preserved Smith (writing in 1911), he thought it was “allegory.” I await with baited breath, Swan’s paper excoriating Walch as an anti-Luther polemicist.

And of course, finally, this Catholic apologist informs us Luther wanted to toss Esther into the Elbe river. Did he really? I am not convinced Luther ever said it. It is up to Roman Catholic apologists to present proof for their facts when challenged.

That’s referring to yours truly again.  But Swan says he had no one in particular in mind. Right.

So, I never picked any fight over this quote. I simply posted the facts of the matter.

Sheer nonsense, as shown. It’s a remarkable phenomenon: that a man would shamelessly lie about what he clearly stated in his own paper. That takes some considerable chutzpah.

The Esther / Esdras quote was just one of a number of quotes taken primarily from O’Hare’s book over the last 10 years, and popularized on the Internet. . . . Go ahead and blame Protestants for the origin of the quote (which I think is ridiculous), . . .

How in the world is it ridiculous to note that O’Hare drew directly from Protestant Hamilton, who translated into English the official Luther compiler Walch, who included Table-Talk from Luther contemporary and personal secretary Aurifaber? But this is O’Hare’s fault that he dared to trust Protestants for accurately reporting the words of their hero Luther? And it’s our fault for citing him, doing so? As if Swan has never utilized older pro-Luther research (he does all the time) and in so doing, trusted it implicitly for accuracy?

I was hopeful you’d see the very person you defend and want me to treat fairly (whatever that means) had no problem accepting Richard’s comments. I don’t recall ever talking about Romanist families, or family members. In my opinion, that little Facebook banter was despicable. Shame on all of you for the little laugh.

Swan has been making a big deal about some comments made on my Facebook page,  in the cross-posted thread of my last reply to him. In the combox of his previous paper on Luther and Esther, he had written, replying to my friend, Paul Hoffer:

Why don’t you put your high standards into practice over here. Explain to me why you don’t chastise your friends as the [sic] mock the relationship between me and my father. . . . If you want to keep company with such people, who can mock in such a way, and then come over here in shining virtue, you’ll have to forgive me for being a bit skeptical.

As usual, it is a case of a Calvinist with no sense of humor whatever (and of Swan’s notoriously thin skin and drama queen histrionics). I went through this same silliness with Swan crony Steve Hays in the last few days, and have many times with Bishop James White: the Grand Poobah of Anti-Catholicism, and a man utterly unable (like Swan) to take any humor whatsoever about himself. They all savagely mock others but can’t handle the slightest “comeback” humor at their expense. It’s quite hilarious to observe. Let’s see the actual comment that Swan is overreacting to. Richard Marquis wrote in my Facebook combox for the same cross-posted paper about Swan:

According to my PSY 101 days, you remind him of his dad, Dave! : – )

Note the smiley icon (sideways smiley face). That means it was a humorous remark, folks (standard Internet protocol; understood by one and all). I replied:

Is that what it is, Richard? :-) I’ve tried to figure out his obsession with my work for many years. I do have some theories . . .

Note the smiley icon. That means it was a humorous reply: not to be taken seriously. A smiley icon has no place in a serious remark: intended literally. This proves it was humor. And again, Richard wrote:

That’s the verdict of this barracks psychologist, mein freund. If his dad had only played catch with him as a kid, you wouldn’t have to now! LOL

See the “LOL”? That means “laughing out loud.”  So we have one smiley icon at first, followed by mine when I replied, and now “LOL.” All that, yet Swan takes it dead seriously and gets all up on his ear, with big-time pouting and complaints.

Flat-out amazing . . . And this from the man who has heaped entire continents of insults on me for 7-8 years now, including saying that I suffer from “psychosis”. Those were without question dead-serious charges, not mere jokes and tongue-in-cheek remarks. Swan doesn’t recall ever talking about “Romanist families, or family members.” That’s funny. I remember well how he implied that I am not supporting mine, since I supposedly don’t have a job:

This is a big difference between DA and I. I’ve never been bored. I actually have a job, . . . On the other hand, I think DA considers sitting up in his attic tapping away on a computer all day an actual job. Oh that’s right, he’s a professional Catholic apologist. Part of his “job” must’ve been to post a large number of comments on my blog throughout the day. Sorry, this isn’t “a job.” . . . I fully accept the idea that someone can be a full time Catholic apologist. I don’t think though, someone simply proclaims themselves [sic] to be one, at least these days. I would consider Hahn, Kreft [sic], Pacwa, professional Catholic apologists. They’ve been trained, and tested. A guy posting massive amounts of stupid comments on a blog is not a professional Catholic apologist. I could never justify that to my family, that’s for sure. Wife comes in: Hi honey how was work today? Husband: today I spent all day posting inane blog comments and compiling a list of someone else’s blog posts about me. Wife: That’s great dear… how much did you get paid for doing it? Husband: well, um, err, um… (7-17-09; removed in the dead of night with no one looking, but never publicly retracted)

Isn’t Catholic apologetics fun? This is the sort of crap I hear back from our anti-Catholic intellectual giants on a weekly, sometimes daily, basis. Mockery, incorporating lies, is the fastest tactic of the pathetic fool who is unable to rationally defend his viewpoints.


(originally 8-27-11)


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