Martin Luther writes to George Spalatin in Nuremberg, [1] reminding him of Luther’s request for Spalatin to write some hymns in German and sending some other news.


Master George Spalatin, court evangelist, my dearest friend in the Lord:

Grace and peace! I have no news to write you, my dear Spalatin, except that I am awaiting your German poems, of which I wrote you recently. [2]

Karlstad [3] keeps on, as is his wont. A book of his has been published by a new printer in Jena, [4] and he will publish eighteen more books, so it is said. Eck is not worth answering. [5] This is not only my opinion, but everybody thinks so. They believe that the sophist was among the Lapithae [6] and drunk when he spewed out this vomit. He is the right defender for the King of England, Defender of the Church, [7] and Emser, [8] in turn, would be the right defender for Eck. Let them defend each other, therefore. I am sending you a poem of Justus Jonas. [9]

Ferdinand’s [10] legate (or something else) has been here to I see what kind of a man I am and what I am doing. He said it was reported at his master’s court that I went about armed I and with an escort, and spent my time in the taverns with harlots and dice, and that I was adorned with all sorts of other honors at that court. But I have gotten used to lies. Farewell in the Lord, and pray for me.

Martin Luther


[1] Spalatin had accompanied Elector Frederick of Saxony to Nuremberg for the Third Imperial Diet of Nuremberg, which convened on this date. The principal issues on the Diet’s agenda were the Holy Roman Empire’s response to the Turkish conquest of most of Hungary and the pope’s demand that the Edict of Worms be enforced against Luther and his supporters. The Diet will renew the banishment of Luther. By this time, however, he is so popular it is unlikely he would be arrested. The Diet had been called on Nov. 11, 1523, but it took a long time for its members to assemble. The papal representative Cardinal Campeggio will not arrive until Feb. 14. Frederick the Wise is present at the opening of the Diet, but will leave on Feb. 24.

[2] See Luther’s letter to Spalatin of late December, 1523.

[3] Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt (1486-1541) had studied in Erfurt and Cologne before joining the faculty in Wittenberg in 1505. As dean of the theological faculty, he presided at Luther’s doctoral disputation in 1512. Initially opposed to Luther’s suggestions for reform, Karlstadt was persuaded by his study of St. Augustine (and the influence of Johannes von Staupitz) and became an avid supporter of Luther. In 1519, Karlstadt and Luther debated Johann Eck in Leipzig. While Luther was confined at the Wartburg (1521-22), Karlstadt led a somewhat radical revolt against traditional worship and piety in Wittenberg. Tensions between Luther and Karlstadt developed after Luther returned to Wittenberg and urged moderation and a slower pace of reforms. By 1523, Karlstadt had became antagonistic toward the Wittenberg faculty and, in May of that year, moved to Orlamünde where he assumed the pastorate and established a “puritanic” church system.

[4] Michael (or Michel) Buchführer had a press in Jena which published pamphlets both for and against the Reformation.

[5] Johann Eck (1486-1543), Professor of theology and vice-chancellor of the University of Ingostadt, had written a defense of Henry VIII against Luther. It was published in Rome in May, 1523. Eck had been Luther’s opponent in the Leipzig Disputation (June-July 1519) and then went to Rome where he successfully lobbied for the issuance of the bull (Exsurge Domine) threatening Luther with excommunication. Eck was then appointed to publish the bull in southern and central Germany. From 1518, he dedicated himself to refuting the theology of the Reformation and to organizing political opposition to it.

[6] Possibly an allusion to Cicero, In Pisonem 10:22: “Why need I speak of the banquets of those days, why of your joy and self-congratulation, why of your most intemperate drinking-bouts with your crew of infamous companions? Who in those days ever saw you sober, who ever saw you doing any thing which was worthy of a freeman; who, in short, ever saw you in public at all?” Or possibly a reference to Ovid’s Metamorphoses 12:210, 536; 14:670. The Laphiths were a fierce tribe in Greek mythology whose defeat of the Centaurs is reported by Ovid.

[7] Henry VIII had received from the Pope the title “Defender of the Faith,” after publication of his book On the Seven Sacraments, defending papal primacy against Luther’s arguments in On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church.

[8] Jerome (Hieronymus) Emser (1478-1527), secretary and chaplain to Duke George of Saxony had published a German translation of Henry VIII’s book On the Seven Sacraments in May, 1523. Emser, who regarded himself the chosen defender of the papacy, had initiated a literary conflict with Luther in Jan 1521 with his Against the Un-Christian Book of the Augustinian Martin Luther, Addressed to the German Nobility, which attacked Luther’s To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, which had been published in Aug 1520. Luther had published several partial replies before he wrote a comprehensive response in Mar 1521, Answer to the Hyperchristian, Hyperspiritual, and Hyperlearned Book By Goat Emser in Leipzig — Including Some Thoughts Regarding His Companion, The Fool Murner.

[9] Probably Wo Gott der Herr nich bei uns hält, a versification of Psalm 124. At this time, Justus Jonas (1493 – 1555) Dean of the Wittenberg Theological Faculty and Provost of the All Saints Foundation, the canons who served at the Castle Church in Wittenberg

[10] Archduke Ferdinand of Austria (1503-1564), brother of Emperor Charles V. He presided over the Diets of Nuremberg of 1522 and 1524.

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