The Closer to Luther the Better the Theologian

by August Pieper
translated by Andrew Hussman

This essay written by August Pieper, entitled Quo propior Luthero, eo melior theologus, appeared in volume 14 of Theologische Quartalschrift in 1917, in commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the 95 Theses and the Reformation. While holding true to the doctrine of sola Scriptura, Pieper distinguishes Martin Luther from great men of other eras by highlighting his simple, child-like faith and trust in God and the Word. He discusses why it is essential for both church leaders and laypeople to continue to study Luther and provides several different approaches to studying Luther effectively.

It is the intended and declared characteristic of this publication that it wants to promote direct Scripture theology––in contrast to the theology of quoting the fathers which is all too dominant among us. One will find in the previous thirteen issues of the “Quartalschrift” hardly thirteen citations––taking this word in its customary sense––from the fathers. This is not arrogance. We know very well that in theology we are pygmies compared to these giants. But with man’s present laziness the way it is, citation theology has the unavoidable result of putting faith in the words of men and pushing it away from the direct foundation of Scripture. It produces faith in tradition. It brings it about that one only really accepts a teaching of Scripture when it is proven to him that Luther, Chemnitz, Gerhard, Calov, Quenstedt, and Walther have taught it that way, with the result that one looks at the teaching of Scripture as a heretical change and resists when it follows Scripture itself in the manner of its presentation, instead of agreeing with the view which has been handed down and distorted in the course of time. Citation theology puts the veil of Moses1 over the face of Holy Scripture, so that we no longer recognize its clear words, or we arbitrarily read the fathers’ designs into it. Indeed, satisfied with the theological foundation we acquired at one time, we no longer actually study Scripture itself, we do not actually feel at home in it, we do not progress in knowledge. We only stir up again and again in conferences and synods what dogmatics has produced—something we have brought along from school and grasped more or less imperfectly. In the pulpit we always use the same phrases, run out of things to say, grow tired of our thoughts which have become stale and make our hearers tired of them too. It is well known how Luther bemoaned that theology of the fathers had put Scripture almost completely on the back burner, and how he urgently admonished letting his and all the fathers’ writings be merely a scaffolding for the study of Scripture as the only true source of theology and the real fountain of Israel. But the worst is that father theology all too lightly places faith in man’s word rather than in God’s word, favors idolatry and promotes trouble and strife in the church. As it concerns the latter, what Luther himself so often emphasized is and remains irrefutably true, that “on earth no clearer book has been written than Holy Scripture,” if one will simply study it diligently and with prayer to the Holy Spirit. It is also true that no theologian, not even Luther, always speaks everywhere precisely, definitely, in the same sense, and reliably. For example, it is a hundred times more difficult to understand Luther everywhere precisely, thoroughly and completely, than Holy Scripture itself. Indeed, that person is inevitably misled into many different errors, who swears by Luther but does not know him thoroughly, does not take into account his development, does not accurately pay attention to the differences and circumstances under which he writes, does not apply the standard of Scripture to him and does not know how to harmonize him with himself. People like Janssen, Denifle, and Grisar2 are proof that one can cover the greatest errors with Luther quotations, even rather long ones, and justify the most horrifying sins, when one possesses the proper ignorance or the necessary malice. Luther is in all his greatness a fallible man, writer, and preacher. Therefore we believe not in him and determine no doctrine through him. He is not even authoritative for what is Lutheran3, but only for that which Luther-an.4 The confessional writings determine the former, and that is only a fallible norma normata, while the norma normans remains the infallible Scripture alone. All theology, which proves and determines a doctrine from the fathers, even from Luther, is not Lutheran, not even Luther-an, and least of all true, but on principle it is imitation-theology, with which the church must break again and again if it wants to give God’s glory to no other and keep the light for their feet from being darkened. Scripture, the word of the great God himself, revealed from heaven, clear, infallible, prophetic and apostolic––which all on its own is a lamp for our feet and a light for our path––“so that your faith does not stand on man’s wisdom, but on God’s power,” 1 Corinthians 2:5.

And nevertheless we not only subscribe to with all our heart, but also emphasize with all our might the expression of the professor from Altdorf which is at the head of this article (cf. Walther’s Pastoral Theology, p. 13).5 Luther belongs among the great ones of this world, as God only gives them in the great crises, those who transform the world. If one disregards the distinction between inspiration and illumination, then Luther belongs in the same line with Moses, David, Isaiah, and Paul. Men like Jerome and Augustine, St. Bernard, also Calvin––not to mention Zwingli––disappear next to him; Flacius, Chemnitz, Gerhard, Calov, Walther are his lowly students. Luther belongs in the churchly realm, as in the worldly realm belong Cyrus, Alexander, Attila, Ghengis Khan, and Napoleon, to the special servants of God, who without resisting throw everything before themselves, because God wants to carry out a special work through them. Luther’s special task was the disclosure of the Antichrist, the Church’s liberation from Rome’s thousand-year yoke, which had finally also become external and unbearable, and the reestablishment of the Gospel of freedom for God’s children in the grace of Christ. He essentially achieved this task in hardly ten years––from the papal bull up to the Diet at Augsburg––and in fifteen more years secured it for all time to come.

In what did Luther’s greatness consist? Usually too much is ascribed to a great man; three-fourths of his greatness goes to the fullness of time, the ripeness of the conditions and circumstances. Luther would have, even if he had been a still greater man, accomplished little at the time of Innocent III. If the Lord Christ himself had come at the time of Philip II of Macedon, it would have been too early. Alexander’s work had to first create the koine dialect. Rome first had to lay its iron fist on the peoples, establish a world-wide system of transportation, an exchange of the peoples’ ideas and their wisdom, and the conditions for the best possible development of the natural culture of man, and its bankruptcy, before the Gospel could come into the heathen world and gain a footing. Thus Luther could only really carry through with his gospel after the papacy had been perceived as a curse in all areas of life––even though it was only dark and unclear to the world. Luther would still have shared the fate of Huss and Jerome von Prague at the time of the Council of Constance and accomplished just as little as they did, even though he would have stood better in the teaching of the church and predestination than they did.

But to be sure, the great man must come into the great time, if something right and great should come from the new thing to be born. If this person is lacking, then there is something different––just as today’s world-crisis quite certainly signifies a great turning in the life of nations––but not by far something better or even truly great. The world-crisis, which entered with the turn of the 15th-16th century, brought forth the greatest thing possible since the appearance of Christ, because it happened in the most important area of life—the spiritual, and because God, when his time had been fulfilled, gave to it the greatest man since Paul’s time. In what did Luther’s greatness consist? One would have to write a considerable book to explain that quite thoroughly and exhaustively. Here it can only matter for us to indicate Luther’s greatness in brief lines and where possible, to express it by a single word. It goes without saying that in a truly great man all sides of the human spirit must be great. A powerful intellect alone, or even a deep and tender sense alone, or an uncompromising energy alone––even two of these together, still make no one great. Luther was equipped with all the knowledge and all the dialectic of the world’s theologians at that time. And since Paul there had been no man in the church who had been equipped with such sharp and comprehensive understanding, with such a profound spirit, with so overwhelming a drive as Luther. But that all is certainly just the outer shell, not the actual core of his greatness. That was the spiritual in him. God had poured out his Holy Spirit in such great measure on this vessel, equipped with such great knowledge and natural gifts, as he had done on no man since Paul’s time. God had revealed to him the Gospel of the salvation of sinners in Christ Jesus and brought him to faith in grace. In the clarity, depth and fullness of his evangelical understanding, in the power, with which the Gospel had grabbed his heart and influenced his will, lies Luther’s outstanding greatness. In a word: Luther’s greatness lies in the greatness of his child-like faith.

In Luther’s soul from early youth on actually just one single thought was great: One thing is needful––to have a gracious God. It remained––expressed at least a hundred times, but also unexpressed, the ruling thought of his life up until his last breath. His strong consciousness of sin, his growing knowledge of sins, his anxiety over sins, and the unremitting shout to God’s merciful face, cast aside all his and his father’s plans for his life’s path and determined his life’s calling. After he found Christ, and with him peace and the kingdom of heaven, this became for him the only great thing, the one thing. It filled all his thinking, drove all his feeling, ruled and governed all his will. Luther’s soul and life were completely taken up in the righteousness of Christ and in the interest of his kingdom. Luther believed, believed, believed. That is the secret of his strength and his greatness. This comes to us from all his work, from all the details about him, from all his writings, as the one great thing in him. This stands out especially in three points of his activity, which lie in the beginning, middle, and end of his life: in the 95 Theses, in his strongest, deepest, clearest, and most evangelical––his “best,” as he himself calls it––writing, De servio arbitrio and in the greatest act of his life, his prayer at his death. We do not have room here to prove this in detail; every Luther expert will readily agree with us, and every non-expert must become an expert before it is certain for him. But the matter does not end with a person’s reading through these three documents once. Whoever wants to know Luther’s greatness and have the benefit intended for us from this wonderful gift of God to the church in the last times must know Luther’s history somewhat well and must study the chief writings of Luther––not merely read, but read again and again––and know exactly this, that in the kingdom of God on earth faith is the one great and only source of all strength and greatness. The righteous man will live by his faith. It is well known what role this word of God played in Luther’s spiritual development and life. All things are possible for him who believes. That has proven true in him. Luther believed the Lord like Abraham. That is his most striking characteristic. How simply, like a child, how hopefully and firmly, how confidently and unshakably the man believed! We simply recall the burning of the papal bull, Worms, the stay at the Wartburg, his letter to the electors while leaving the Wartburg, in which he wrote to them, “I come in the protection of one much higher than electors; indeed I maintain, I will protect your Electoral grace more, than it protect me; whoever believes the most will here protect the most.” His letters testify to this child-like and yet heroic faith, right from the first, dangerous time. But even every writing, every work of Luther, all his great blows against Rome, against Muentzer and the peasants, against the sacramental enthusiasts, his monumental writings on the Lord’s Supper and the proper interpretation of Scripture, his Commentary on Galatians, his book on the captive will, his arrangement of the German worship service, his Catechisms, his struggle at Marburg, his stay at the Coburg, his attitude toward the Smalcald League, his Bible translation, his position on the council which was finally declared, his Smalcald Articles, his firmness against Bucer, his final renunciation of the Swiss, his confessions of the Lord’s Supper, his last powerful writing against the Papacy, his hymns and prayers, in short, every writing and every deed of Luther up till his child-like, joyful death is a testament to his simple, joyful, often burdened, but firm, unshakable, heroic faith in Christ and his grace, in God and his promises, and in the written word.

Luther’s faith became such an element in his life that Christ and his kingdom had become everything to him, the world and its interests nothing. Like Paul he considered everything a loss compared to the overflowing knowledge of Christ. God and his grace and his kingdom, God’s word and promise were for him nothing remote and historical, but immediately present; he was on intimate terms with his heavenly Father. He wrested from him every step of his public life, every writing against his enemies, every power, which he brought, in prayer. He associated with him intimately as with Melanchthon and Katie and Hans and Lenchen.6 How much, how strongly Luther prayed! He walked not only before, but also with God. In this faith he offered the Emperor and Pope his neck daily, the universities and learned his forehead. He overcame an enormous workload and profound trials. He was patient and humble in the grief of his little daughter’s death, among the personal slandering of his enemies, among the ingratitude of the German people and the lukewarmness of his colleagues. Luther has often been blamed for insulting his enemies. Now, it may not be denied, that here and there he mixed a piece of his natural, intense spirit into his zeal for God’s cause, as he himself admitted rather often. And his coarseness is a part of the peasant in him. Yet he himself says, “Because flesh and blood live, it is not possible, it must move.” (IX. 882) But in the actual sense of the word Luther never insulted, slandered, or wrongly cast a slur on his opponents. Julius Koestlin rightly says, “Even with the most vehement outbreaks of his anger, with Luther it was always zeal for the matter which carried him away, never personal motives.” Luther was so intimately bound up in the matter of the gospel that he saw in all opposition to the gospel the work of Satan and in all opponents his instruments; and as such he treated them, whether is was the Pope, or the Parisians, Louvainers, Colognes, or Eck, Emser, Alveld, or Muentzer, or Duke George and Heinz from England, or Zwingli, Erasmus, Agricola, or “the damned pagan” Aristotle or the “living devils,” the Jews. He himself writes concerning the latter, “Come now, one of us Christians might perhaps think of the merciful saints, I make it too rough and inedible (unbearable) toward the poor, miserable Jews, that I deal with them so mockingly and scornfully. O Lord God, I am much too low to mock such devils; I would indeed like to do it, but they are too far superior to me in mocking and even have a god, who is a master in mocking, and he is called the accursed devil and evil spirit. Whatever I could do to mock him to his vexation, that I would rightly do; he would also have well deserved it (XX. 2040).

Luther is perfect neither in style and manner nor in teaching. Until 1520/21 he was still involved in some papist delusion and confessed it himself; even later moles and slips were not completely lacking. He got rid of the doctrine of purgatory only late; in De servo arbitrio a whole part is philosophical argumentation and his tendency toward it shows itself still in his disputes over the mystery of the trinity in the year 1545. But imperfection is the common inheritance of all men, even the greatest, where God did not do something special. But that takes away nothing from their greatness before men, only that we not idolize like them and parrot them completely in every way. Yet Luther is the greatest of all men of God since Paul and will remain so until the Last Day.

Therefore, for a Lutheran theologian, a leader in the church, it would be nothing less than an outrage not to want to study Luther. To be sure, Scripture is first and foremost unparalleled. We do not wish to talk about that here. But immediately after Scripture is Luther as the greatest under it. He never equated himself with Scripture and never desired the authority of an apostle or prophet for himself. With all his writings he wants to be nothing else than a scaffolding for Scripture, indeed, he wants all his books to perish so that Scripture alone is read and studied as the book through which God himself speaks with us. It is not true that Luther had a loosely knit, lax view of inspiration. He had his own view on the size of the canon. He had thrown out of the canon the Old Testament Apocrypha and for his part regarded the last four books in the New Testament as apocryphal, as his prefaces show. And who wants to prove to him that he was in the wrong with this? For historically it is not established that there are apostolic and prophetic writings, and it is also not in Scripture. However, God himself has bound us in Scripture to the writing of the prophets and apostles alone and to no other. Thanks be to God, that he also kept our confessions from binding us to something else (C.F. 517, 1; 568, 1). At the same time he leaves to each one the freedom to take from those books “what he wants.” That is not a loose view, but on principle the only right view of God’s word. Cf. Ephesians 2:20, where it is very well possible that one can be mistaken in judgment on such a book––which harms no one. Our theologians of the sixteenth century are exactly like this, with Chemnitz at the front. Only in the seventeenth century did the distinction level off and was at last completely gone, which certainly is neither a sign of piety nor a benefit for the church. Luther distinguished between the books of piety, of the fear of God, of the fitting respect for God’s word. That was also an act of faith. He wanted to be certain of his faith and the godliness of his teaching. He wanted the infallible Scripture, the word of the Holy Spirit itself. Only the prophets and apostles spoke and wrote that infallibly. Therefore he let no writing move into his conscience which was not prophetic or apostolic, which “did not preach Christ” and therein dispensed with the seal of the Holy Spirit. But whatever was prophetic and apostolic was for him the word of the Holy Spirit and stood for him in its wording and letters firmer than heaven and earth. If ever a theologian sat in Scripture, studied, knew, believed, honored, preached, taught it and insisted on its clear wording, it was Luther. Scripture, the external word of Scripture, the text was his comfort, his weapon and his defiance in the face of the devil, the papacy, enthusiasts, philosophy, reason and the flesh. A single word of Scripture to him made the world too narrow. His view of Scripture was not a matter of regarding as historically true a Bible codex that was externally, precisely limited, but it was a humble, joyful and unshakeable faith in every word which the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets and apostles as the saving power of God. With that, Balaam’s talking donkey stood just as firmly for him as his prophecy about Christ.7 With a doctrine of inspiration as the modern positive theology has had since Rationalism, Luther would not have overcome the pope nor Muentzer nor Zwingli. “They should let the word stand”––with him this included the inspired text.

The closer we come to Luther in this spirit of faith, the better theologians we will become. Theology is not extra business next to faith. It is believing, the faith itself. To competent theology belongs a whole bunch of knowledge in all areas of life, above all a thorough knowledge of the Bible as a clear testimony of the saving truth. But the heart and soul, the life and power, beginning, middle and end of all theology is faith. Christ, grace, the Gospel must become our personal life, living present truth, must take captive, direct and rule our thoughts, reflections, endeavors and our whole life, become the one great thing in us, against which everything earthly and temporal in us vanishes. As much as our own earthly interests lay a claim on us, so much and so far are we removed from true theology. The heart buried in earthly possessions, laziness, luxury, pleasure, glory, status, and influence––that is the death of theology.

What is missing in the church of our day? Theologians, that is, Christians of Paul and Luther’s spirit and faith, in particular Christians of such faith as teachers. Why do we professors, pastors, and school masters accomplish so little these days? Because we believe so little and are much more professors, administrative pastors and school masters, that is professionals. It was not important to Luther what he was and what he received, but that God had called him as a teacher of his Gospel in and outside of Wittenberg. He believed in the divinity of his doctoral calling as well as in the divinity of his pastoral calling. He believed with all his heart in his sin and condemnation, in Christ’s grace, in the word of promise and the threat, in the Holy Spirit and his power, in his heavenly Father’s omnipotence, help and aid, and in the eternal glory after this miserable life. His faith was his life’s strength. Through faith he accomplished more in the world than many prophets and apostles, than princes and kings. Through faith he died almost daily to death like Paul, through faith he lay down his head confident in the kiss of death. He had brought into the world something “new”, which had not been taught for a thousand years. He overturned the world, he, one man. And then he laid himself in bed in Eisleben in order to step before his God and Judge with the words, “Oh my heavenly Father, God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, let my little soul be commended to you. Oh heavenly Father, although I must leave this body and be snatched out of this life, yet I know that I can remain with you eternally and no one can snatch me out of your hands. Father, into your hands I commend my Spirit; you have redeemed me, Lord, faithful God. Amen.” That is faith in the face of death, where believing counts. The closer we come to Luther in this Spirit of faith, the better theologians we become.

One can recognize and acquire Luther’s spirit only from Luther’s writings, not from a book of quotations like the “Spirit of Luther’s Writings.”8 We must study him himself, by way of his writings. Whoever up till now is not yet at home with Luther should in this Luther-year begin with the serious study of Luther and look at Luther’s faith with his own eyes. The best anniversary celebration would certainly consist in our studying Scripture itself so that absolutely nothing in it would remain unknown to us––book-wise, in faith, with the continuous prayer, “Lord, open my eyes, so that I may see wonders in your law.” [Psalm 119:18] That can be presupposed with every Pastor and Teacher. On the contrary, there are few theologians who study Luther. Some can acquire absolutely no taste for Luther. But that is not due to Luther. Setting aside human weaknesses, he is the Reformer he had to be at that time. God made no mistake in the choice of his instrument. There are also people who cannot acquire a taste for Scripture itself in their own clothing, although they like to listen to today’s preachers and read an edifying Christian book. The Bible itself is to them too strange and “inedible,” to use Luther’s expression here. That is quite natural and something else is not to be expected. Who today would like to walk in the clothes of Jesus’ disciples or of the Reformation era, even if the materials were not so costly? As every era and every nation in its attire has its own standard and its own pace, so also in the content of its thoughts and in its diction. As it concerns Luther, it is not only his way of expression and composition, but the substance of his writings is also much too heterogeneous for the one unversed in Reformation history and its great questions, not to mention the one who is uninterested, living only in the present and for its own interests, that he could acquire a taste for him after the first or second try. People have what they use these days for their Christian life, and as a pastor for his sermon and congregational activity, indeed much more comfortably and palatably in modern writings. And Luther continually moves in the great opposition of his time and grapples eternally with the Pope, the Anabaptists, the Sacramental Enthusiasts, etc.––which does not directly interest us here today, rather it appears as ballast or repels. In order to take pleasure in Luther, one must first have a deeper and more extensive interest in the Gospel and God’s kingdom than merely to gain the matter for a satisfactory and edifying sermon. A thirst for deeper and wider spiritual and historical knowledge and development and improvement belong to that. Whoever does not have it does not so easily take a sincere bite of Luther, or he lets him go again and again. But today it is also strongly lacking in the Lutheran doctrinal position, therefore there are among us few actual students of Luther and still fewer Luther experts. Most are content with some shorter or longer Luther quotes which one finds as stock in trade in many books. That is an immense hindrance in the promotion of our knowledge of the Gospel and revival of our faith and our zeal for the house of God. After Scripture itself we find these in no theologian in the measure like Luther. And it is yet God’s will and ordinance, but not prescription, that we according to 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4 and Hebrews 13:7 listen to and study this very great prophet after the apostles, whom he has given to the church of the last times out of special grace, and kindle and strengthen our little light in his great light again and again, deepen and broaden our knowledge through his knowledge and always fertilize our spiritual life and doing in his faith, zeal and energy.

Whoever just once seriously approaches Luther will quickly grow accustomed to him and acquire a taste for him. But we would not advise, taking pele-mele from Luther’s writings whatever just comes into your hand. Even studying by edition is not to be recommended either according to Walch (St. Louis) or according to the Erlangen edition. For us three or four different ways arise which can be fruitfully taken. Whoever possesses a prevailing historical interest may study Luther’s main writings in chronological order. There the gradual development and growth of the man and his work is observed, to which then indeed belongs in general the study of Reformation history. This is the most thorough and most fruitful. The contrary consists in this, that one reads always in the teachings and matters which especially interest him in the course of time, because they come into question publicly (as presently among us the doctrine of Church and Ministry) or privately. That is a practical way for people who do not find the necessary time for the systematic study of Luther. Walther recommended this to us in his time, because he had practiced it much. It will make one thorough and firm in individual teachings, but one will not fully grasp Luther in this way. It also requires much searching out and with that it remains defective. For those who have neither money nor time to study Luther completely, it is advisable to purchase a collection of the most significant chief works of Luther, as the Buchwald, and to thoroughly apply it to themselves. To read over a sermon of Luther’s from the Church and House Postil before every sermon is also certainly something, but very little. With this one can thoroughly ruin his flavor in him, if one reads no more. We would advise joining both of the first so-called methods. One may study with great precision those writings of Luther to which the floating questions of the time point. But in addition to that one may read continually Luther’s main works in chronological order, and do not pass over the letters to his friends, for in these Luther often reveals himself according to his most intimate sides and inner heart. In this anniversary year everything which Luther has written should interest us. But there is by all means too much, and some, especially from his first period, is unimportant and unripe. We would advise beginning with the significant writings of the year 1520, that is: To the Christian Nobility, On the Babylonian Captivity, On the Freedom of a Christian Man, Against the Bull of the Antichrist, also the sermon on good works. From the next years the Warning against the Rebellion, Warning against the Contempt of the Word, the writings on the Mass and its Misuse, on the Spiritual and Monastic Vows, That a Christian Congregation has Right and Power, etc, then to the Councilors, Sermon on the Chief Points of a Christian Life (both from 1524), Against the Heavenly Prophets, Against the Robbing…Peasants, German Mass etc; from the next years the truly powerful controversial writings on the Lord’s Supper against the Zwinglians, from the year 1530 the sermon that One Should Bring Children to School (it should be published today as a pamphlet and distributed among our people, as To the Councilors), Letter on Translating, all writing on the Keys; from the year 1532 the writing On Those who Creep in and Those who Preach on the Street Corners (which would produce with one blow clarity over the doctrine of the ministry), then On the Crooked Mass and the Consecration of Priests. From the year 1535 above all the Detailed Explanation of the Letter to the Galatians; from the years 1537-1540 the writings Against the Antinomians and On Councils and Churches. And his precious Interpretation of the Psalms no one may leave unread. Finally, Luther’s Confessions on the Lord’s Supper and Against the Papacy at Rome Established by the Devil. Luther’s “best” book, “That the Free Will is Nothing,” from the year 1525, remains, like the strongest food, best for last. It can cause the beginner great troubles.

Of all the editions of Luther the St. Louis is the most suitable for the needs of the spiritual teacher and the people in every connection. Whoever cannot purchase it, buy from our publishing house the Buchwald of ten octo-volumes for $12.00. It contains just the main writings. But we should make use of this Luther-year in order to move the congregations to purchase a St. Louis edition for the sacristy. The Weimar (Kaiser) edition is of no use for the usual pastor.

God let this anniversary year serve us above all for our study of Luther. Great blessing would grow out of this for the church. For we would know what we should preach and pray to our people this year. That is the main point. The external celebrations are only a fuss. We ourselves want to learn exactly what Luther lived and fought for, and we want to bring that to our people. Real jubilee consists in that.

August Pieper

  1. This is a reference to 2 Corinthians 3:13. 

  2. Johann Janssen (1829-1891), Heinrich Denifle (1844-1905), and Hartmann Grisar (1845-1932) were harsh Catholic critics of Luther and the Reformation. 

  3. German lutherisch

  4. German Lutherisch. 

  5. The reference is to Christoph Sonntag (1654-1717), a German Lutheran theologian who was a professor at the University of Altdorf near Nuremberg. 

  6. His daughter Magdalena. 

  7. Numbers 22-24. 

  8. The “Geist aus Luthers Schriften” here is referring to a 4-volume concordance of Luther quotations, compiled by F.W. Lomler, G.F. Lucius, J. Rust, L. Sackreuter, and E. Zimmermann in 1828-1831. 

A very short summary of the work

 Dec 1, 2010