Emperor Maximilian I dies in Wels in Upper Austria. Frederick the Wise receives the news of the emperor’s death on Jan 24. The election of a new emperor is set for Jun 17. Until the election of the new emperor, Elector Frederick will serve as imperial vicar (acting emperor). From the election until the coronation of the emperor, the Elector of the Palatinate will be imperial vicar. This means that, until the new emperor is crowned, there will be no imperial action against Dr. Luther and the pope’s attention will be on getting his candidate elected emperor. Luther, therefore, returns to his teaching and pastoral duties, as in the lecture on Psalm 8 quoted today.


Commentary on Psalm 8:2. Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger. …  From this it follows that all those laws and rites of men and also all those dumb and sleepy systems of theology drawn up by mere oppositionists, were never the strength that was perfected out of the mouth of babies and infants, and that they have nothing whatever in them that agrees with the description given in this verse, because not one of all such compilers [of theology books] was ever known to suffer any evil or persecution on account of their profession or writings; unless perhaps it was a little abuse in bickering or quarrelling, like that of women, for they are never compelled by mere opinions to suffer the peril of fire and death, until they have been brought forth and instructed in the Scriptures, and have begun to preach the Word of God. No, rather, such are adorned with titles and honors and high places and names; they are saluted in the market place, and are called Rabbi,[Mt. 23:5-7] as is the case with all our great doctors and teachers.

Such humanly constructed doctrines, therefore, have no enemies and persecutors, except in the same way as Pilate and Herod contended together,[Lk 23:12] and the Pharisees and Sadducees.[Acts 23:6-10] For it would not take much to stir up all the disciples of Thomas,[1] of Scotus,[2] of Modernus,[3] together with all the priests, bishops, and religionists at this day, and to bring them all to stand together against Christ, though they are always in a continual state of contention among each other. Thus, the prophet justly wonders, in the second Psalm, that all the kings of the earth, though the greatest enemies to each other, yet stood up against him.[Ps. 2:1-2] And so, all the princes and elders among priests, though completely divided among each other in mutual factions, yet all assemble together against the Lord and against his Christ.

These things I wished to say to those who desire to speak the Word of God and administer it purely, that they may know that, according to this verse, they will always have the more and greater enemies and avengers, the more corrupt these latter times are, and the more specious outside show there is of titles, names, dignities, offices, and rites, under the name of Christ. Let them, therefore, bear in mind that this truth is certain: “Out of the mouths of both babies and infants, says God, I only perfect strength; which shall have enemies, but which shall destroy the enemy and avenger.”[4]  (Second Lectures on the Psalms, published as Operationes in Psalmos, “Works on the Psalms”, beginning in Mar 1519)


[1] Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Dominican friar, priest, “Doctor of the Church”, and an extremely influential Scholastic philosopher, theologian, and jurist.

[2] John Duns Scotus (1265/66–1308) was one of the most important and influential philosopher-theologians of the High Middle Ages. His brilliantly complex and nuanced thought, which earned him the nickname “the Subtle Doctor,” left a mark on discussions of such disparate topics as the semantics of religious language, the problem of universals, divine illumination, and the nature of human freedom. (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

[3] Reference unclear (to me, at least). It may be to William of Ockham (c. 1287–1347) whose followers were known as the Moderni (followers of the via moderna) and who opposed the teachings of, among others, Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus. Ockham (or Occam) “is, along with Thomas Aquinas and John Duns Scotus, among the most prominent figures in the history of philosophy during the High Middle Ages. He is probably best known today for his espousal of metaphysical nominalism; indeed, the methodological principle known as “Ockham’s Razor” is named after him. But Ockham held important, often influential views not only in metaphysics but also in all other major areas of medieval philosophy—logic, physics or natural philosophy, theory of knowledge, ethics, and political philosophy—as well as in theology.” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy) Ockham’s views were sufficiently controversial that he was called to Avignon (the seat of one of the popes at the time) in May, 1324 to answer charges of heresy.

[4] This concludes Luther’s commentary on Psalm 8:2. For the other excerpts from the commentary on this verse see: here, here, here, and here.

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