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Cura Religionis or Two Kingdoms: The Late Luther on Religion and the State in the Lectures on Genesis1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 July 2009

David M. Whitford
associate professor of Philosopy and Religion at Claflin University.


In 1996, Bernhard Lohse wondered if the Luther presented by some would recognize the Luther described by others. Trying to recognize the “political” Luther would be especially difficult. On the one hand, Thomas Müntzer was but the first in a long line of polemicists, journalists, politicians, and scholars who have accused Luther of releasing the sword of secular authority from all control and thereby opening up centuries of authoritarian subjugation. On the other hand, Peter Frarin argued in 1566 that Protestantism equaled sedition, rebellion, and the subversion of civil order. In the criticism of Luther for being either too conservative or too liberal, one thing remained fairly constant: the source of Luther's major shortcoming—his theology of the Two Kingdoms.

Copyright © American Society of Church History 2004

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2. Lohse, Bernhard, Martin Luther's Theology: Its Historical and Systematic Development, trans. and ed. Harrisville, Roy A. (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1999), 36.Google Scholar

3. The list of detractors is far too large to list here. For Müntzer, see “A Highly provoked Vindication and Refutation of the unspiritual, soft-living, Flesh in Wittenberg, whose robbery and distortion of Scripture has so grievously polluted our wretched Christian Church,” in The Collected Works of Thomas Müntzer, trans, and ed. Matheson, Peter (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1998), 324–50.Google Scholar For a recent example of this argument, see Marius, Richard, Martin Luther: The Christian between God and Death (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University, 1999).Google Scholar

4. Frarin, Peter, An Oration against the Unlawful Insurrection of the Protestants of our Time (Antwerp, 1566). This tract is available through Early English Books Online ( Scholar

5. For a recent example of this, see McGrath, Alister E., Reformation Thought: An Introduction, 2nd. ed. (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), 209 f.Google Scholar: “Luther reinforced [the princes'] political authority by grounding it in divine providence. God governs the world, including the church, through the princes and magistrates. The church is in this world, and so must submit itself to the world order…. The way was [thus] opened to the eventual domination of the church by the state, which was a virtual universal trait of Lutheranism. The failure of the German church to oppose Hitler in the 1930s is widely seen as reflecting the inadequacies of Luther's political thought.”

6. See, Estes, James, “The Role of Godly Magistrates in the Church: Melanchthon As Luther's Interpreter and Collaborator,” Church History: Studies in Christianity and Culture 67:3 (1998): 463–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

7. Estes rightly notes that a comprehensive examination of Melanchthon's thought regarding the civil magistrate has yet to be written. For general introductions, see Lau, Franz, “Melanchthon und die Ordnung der Kirche,” in Phillip Melanchthon: Forschungsbeiträge zur verhundertsten Widerkehr seines Todestages, ed. Ellinger, Walter (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1961)Google Scholar; Wengert, Timothy, Human Freedom, Christian Righteousness: Philip Melanchthon's Exegetical Dispute with Erasmus of Rotterdam (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998)Google Scholar; and again Wengert, Timothy, Law and Gospel: Philip Melanchthon's Debate with John Agricola of Eisleben over Poenitentia (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1997).Google Scholar

8. See Estes, , “Godly Magistrate,” 473 f.Google Scholar

9. In the course of reassessing Luther's commitment to the Two Kingdoms, this essay also contributes to the continuing conversation regarding the veracity of the Lectures on Genesis. In 1936, Meinhold, Peter (Die Genesisvorlesung und ihre Herausgeber [Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1936])Google Scholar argued that Luther's Lectures on Genesis could not be trusted to present an accurate representation of the “late” Luther. He argued that followers and supporters of Philip Melanchthon edited the Lectures in an attempt to bolster their arguments against Gnesio (or “True”) Lutherans in the theologically volatile years following Luther's death. By examining the degree to which Luther either continued to use the Two Kingdoms doctrine as a framework for discussing religion and the state in the Genesis Lectures or abandoned it in favor of the cura religionis, we cannot only assess the degree to which the late Luther is consistent with the young Luther but also test Meinhold's thesis. The degree to which government could regulate religion was fundamental to the disagreements between Melanchthon and the Gnesio-Lutherans, especially during the conflicts over the Augsburg (1548) Interim and the so-called Leipzig Interim. If, as this essay argues, there is a consistent use of the Two Kingdoms throughout the Genesis Lectures, then Meinhold's thesis is undermined because if editors had manipulated the text to serve their theological debates, a natural (indeed crucial) area for revision would have been the discussion of religion and the state. One must also ask why, if the editors did manipulate the text, did staunch Gnesios find the Genesis Lectures worthy of translation. Kolb, Robert (Martin Luther as Prophet, Teacher, and Hero: Images of the Reformer 1520–1620 [Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1999], 145 f.)Google Scholar notes that Basilius Faber, one of the authors of the Magdeburg Centuries, translated into German and introduced the Genesis Lectures. For a further discussion of the reliability of the Genesis Lectures, see Klaus, Bernhard, “Die Lutherüberlieferung Veit Dietrichs und ihre Problematik,” in Zeitschrift für bayerische Kirchengeschichte 53 (1984): 3347.Google Scholar See also, Brecht, Martin, Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church, 1532–1546, trans. Schaaf, James L. (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 1993), 136–41.Google Scholar Here quoting from page 136, “These great lectures are unquestionably monumental documents of Luther's mature theology, and they also reflect his participation in the developments, problems, and conflicts of the last decade of his life.” Brecht then goes on to explain the concerns regarding the Genesis Lectures and concludes, “Nevertheless, the bulk of this commentary, with its amazing richness of features and allusions, undoubtedly does come from Luther, and his spirit is evident in it. Despite the subsequent alterations, this monumental work may still be regarded as primarily his work and thus as a useful source.” See also, Asendorf, Ulrich, Lectura in Biblia: Luthers Genesisvorlesung (1535–1545) (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See 33 f., for a discussion of Meinhold's thesis. See 248 f., for a discussion of the Two Kingdoms in the Lectures on Genesis.

10. In this regard this essay also contributes to the debate about how much Luther really changed his positions regarding the status and role of the civil magistrate in ordering the religious life of the community. In Tyranny and Resistance: The Magdeburg Confession and the Lutheran Tradition, (St. Louis, Mo.: Concordia, 2001)Google Scholar, I argued for an overall consistency in Luther's thought, while others such as Cargill Thompson (Luther's Political Thought) have argued for a dramatic change. By comparing some of Luther's statements on secular authority written in the 1520s to ones written in the 1540s, this essay furthers the discussion of whether or not Luther did indeed remain consistent or whether he changed his position dramatically over time. Thus we hope to test Helmar Junghans' thesis that what appears to be a change in position may not in fact be one. He writes, “Luther often took up questions of the day and dealt with them. The manner in which the questions were formulated changed in the course of his life. Accordingly, he wrote repeatedly about the same subject, but not always with the same goal nor always with the same tone. Emphases were shifted. Taken out of context, some of his remarks appear to be contradictory and to signal great changes.” See, Junghans, Helmar, “The Center of the Theology of Martin Luther,” in And Every Tongue Confess: Essays in Honor of Norman Nagel on the Occasion of His Sixty-fifth Birthday, eds. Krispin, Gerald S. and Vieker, Jon D., (Chelsea, Mich.: Bookcrafters, 1990), 180.Google Scholar

11. I have chosen to continue using the phrase Two Kingdoms for two reasons. First, it is far better known and has far more literature devoted to it than do the more technically precise terms (Realm and Government); thus our discussion here can be more easily placed within that body of work. But, also, just as importantly, I believe the idea of the Two Kingdoms nicely apprehends the polyvalent nature of Luther's thought on the Two Realms and the Two Governments. If we allow ourselves to be too distracted by the technicalities of Reich verses Regiment, we will fail to see the forest for the trees. The two ideas form a cooperative whole that can best be maintained by continuing to speak of Two Kingdoms. The literature on the Two Kingdoms is vast; some of the most important works on the subject include Althaus, Paul, The Ethics of Martin Luther, trans. Schultz, Robert C. (Philadelphia, Penn.: Fortress, 1972)Google Scholar, and his “Luthers Lehre von den beiden Reichen im Feuer der Kritik,” Lutherjahrbuch 24 (1957): 4067Google Scholar; Bornkamm, Heinrich, Luther's Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms in the Context of His Theology (Philadelphia, Penn.: Fortress, 1966)Google Scholar; Brady, Thomas, “Luther and Society: Two Kingdoms or Three Estates? Tradition and Experience in Luther's Social Teaching,” Lutherjahrbuch 52 (1985): 197224Google Scholar; Thompson, W. J. D. Cargill, The Political Thought of Martin Luther, and his “The ‘Two Kingdoms’ and the ‘Two Regiments’: Some Problems of Luther's Zwei-Reiche-Lehre,” Journal of Theological Studies 20 (1969): 164–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Duchrow, Ulrich and Huber, Wolfgang, eds., Die Ambivalenz der Zweireicheslehre in lutherischen Kirchen des 20. Jahrhunderts, (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 1976)Google Scholar; Ebeling, Gerhard, “The Necessity of the Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms,” in Word and Faith, trans. Leitch, James W. (Philadelphia, Penn.: Fortress, 1963), 386406.Google Scholar More recent examinations include Bast, Robert J., “From Two Kingdoms to Two Tablets: The Ten Commandments and the Christian Magistrate,” Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 89 (1998): 7995Google Scholar; Lazareth, William H., Christians and Society: Luther, the Bible, and Social Ethics, (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress, 2001)Google Scholar; Mühlen, KarlHeinz zur, “Two Kingdoms,” in Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation, ed. Hillerbrand, Hans J., (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 4:184–88Google Scholar, and Whitford, David M., “Martin Luther's Political Encounters,” in The Cambridge Companion to Martin Luther, ed. McKim, Donald, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 178–92.Google Scholar

12. On Temporal Authority (1523): “[God] has subjected [the wicked] to the sword so that, even though they would like to, they are unable to practice their wickedness, and if they do practice it they cannot do so without fear or with success and impunity.” Luther's Works, ed. Pelikan, Jaroslav and Lehmann, Helmut T. (St. Louis, Mo.: Concordia, 19551986), 45:91, (hereafter LW)Google Scholar; and D. Martin Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe, 60 vols. (Wiemar: Böhlau, 18831980), 11:251 (hereafter, WA)Google Scholar.

13. On Temporal Authority (1523): “For this reason one must carefully distinguish between these two governments. Both must be permitted to remain; the one to produce righteousness, the other to bring about external peace and prevent evil deeds. Neither one is sufficient in the world without the other. No one can become righteous in the sight of God by means of the temporal government, without Christ's spiritual government. Christ's government does not extend over all men; rather, Christians are always a minority in the midst of non-Christians. Now where temporal government or law alone prevails, there sheer hypocrisy is inevitable, even though the commandments be God's very own. For without the Holy Spirit in the heart no one becomes truly righteous, no matter how fine the works he does. On the other hand, where the spiritual government alone prevails over land and people, there wickedness is given free rein and the door is open for all manner of rascality, for the world as a whole cannot receive or comprehend it” (LW 45:92, WA 11:252).

14. Whether Soldiers, too, Can Be Saved, LW 46:95. Translation altered; compare to “das sint der Apostel zeit das weltliche schwerd und oberkeit nie so klerlich beschrieben und herrlich gepreiset ist … als durch mich” (WA 19:625).

15. “Advent Church Postils,” (1521), WA 7:502, 34 f.: “Quando autem pene universa scriptura totiusque Theologiae cognitio pendet in recta cognitione legis et Euangelii (Nearly the entire Scripture and the knowledge of all theology depends upon the correct understanding of law and gospel.)” Though nearly identical, this is not the Advent Postil on Matthew 11:2–10 translated in The Sermons of Martin Luther (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1996) 1:87113Google Scholar. That sermon, which is for the same day and scripture, is later and considerably expanded.

16. Treatise on Good Works (1520): “Now this only indicates a few tasks for the government. But there are so many additional good works that every moment of their lives they have an abundant number of tasks and opportunities to serve God. But these works, like the others, should also be done in faith, in fact, as an exercise of faith, so that nobody thinks he is pleasing to God on account of what he does, but rather by a confident trust in his favor he does such tasks for a gracious and loving God and to his honor and praise alone. And in so doing, he serves and benefits his neighbor” (LW 44:97, WA 6:262 f.).

17. The best explication of the freedom of the Gospel is found in Luther's Lectures on Galatians (2:21); the best example of his commitment to the principle of the freedom found in the gospel is in his response to the Wittenberg Disturbances. There in the Invocavit Sermons (LW 51:67–100, WA 10/3:1–64) we see that for Luther when the Gospel (or Karlstadt's proposed church reform) is transformed from gift to requirement, the essence of the Gospel is sacrificed and abandoned. Luther's disagreement with Karlstadt had little to do with the types of reform, or even really the speed of implementation. Where Luther found fault was in how the reforms were implemented and why. Luther himself had argued for Communion to the laity in both kinds; he was really indifferent about images and was open to clerical marriage. Karlstadt's reforms were not the problem. For Luther, all of these reforms were opportunities for the congregation—not commands. Because of Karlstadt's understanding of Christian Identity (see, Whether One Should Proceed Slowly), these reforms were not optional but necessary. Regardless of how well intentioned the reform, for Luther, if it was forced upon the conscience it was not a reform at all but a new law.

18. LW 1:109, WA 62:82.

19. That is to say, the Third Use of the Law. Luther never used the phrase triplex usus legis in this manner, but its essence is here depicted. For the paradigmatic expression of the Third Use, see Calvin, John, Institutes of the Christian Religion 2.7.Google Scholar In a sense Luther also expresses here the idea Karl Barth attempted to capture in his famous “Gospel and Law”; see Community, State, and Church: Three Essays. Intro.Herberg, Will (Garden City, N.Y., Doubleday, 1960)Google Scholar, and Church Dogmatics II/2 (Edinburgh: T and T Clark, 1957), chapter 8.Google Scholar

20. Genesis 9:6, LW 2:139, WA 42:361.

21. Genesis 2:16–17, LW 1:104, WA 62:79.

22. Genesis 9:6, “This text is outstanding and worthy of note; for here God establishes government and gives it the sword, to hold wantonness in check, lest violence and other sins proceed without limit. If God had not conferred this divine power on men, what sort of life do you suppose we would be living? Because He foresaw that there would always be a great abundance of evil men, He established this outward remedy, which the world had not had thus far, in order that wantonness might not increase beyond measure. With this hedge, these walls, God has given protection for our life and possessions” (LW 2:141, WA 42:361). This sentiment is exactly in keeping with his position in On Temporal Authority in 1523: “Hence, a man who would venture to govern an entire country or the world with the gospel would be like a shepherd who should put together in one fold wolves, lions, eagles, and sheep, and let them mingle freely with one another, saying, ‘Help yourselves, and be good and peaceful toward one another. The fold is open, there is plenty of food. You need have no fear of dogs and clubs.’ The sheep would doubtless keep the peace and allow themselves to be fed and governed peacefully, but they would not live long, nor would one beast survive another” (LW 45:91 (., WA 11:251 f.).

23. Genesis 10:8–11: “Cush became the father of Nimrod; he was the first on earth to become a mighty warrior. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.’ The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, and Accad, all of them in the land of Shinar. From that land he went into Assyria, and built Nineveh, Rehoboth-ir, Calah, and Resen between Nineveh and Calah; that is the great city,” NRSV.

24. Genesis 10:8–9, LW 2:196, WA 42:400.

25. Luther makes a great deal out of the derivation of Nimrod (dwrmn) from dr'm (marad). Marad means to “fall away” or to “rebel.” See, LW 2:197, WA 42:400.

26. Genesis 10:8–9, LW 2:198, WA 42:401. Translation altered; compare to, “non contentus tyrannide in Republica, etiam in Ecclesia vult dominari, Erigit novos cultus, eos qui coram Deo sunt, opprimit. Nam Moses diserte distinguit duos conspectus, alterum coram Deo, alterum coram hominibus. Quod igitur coram Deo bonum et iustum est, id mundus semper iudicat malum et iniustum.”

27. The connection between tyranny and the usurpation of another's jurisdiction was by the 1540s commonplace and is an allusion to the Saxon theory of resistance developed by Gregor Brück and presented to Luther and others at Torgau in 1530. See Whitford, David M., Tyranny and ResistanceGoogle Scholar, and “From Speyer to Magdeburg: The Development and Maturation of a Hybrid Theory of Resistance,” in Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, forthcoming.

28. Genesis 10:8–9, LW 2:197, WA 42:401.

29. Genesis 48:17–19: “When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took his father's hand, to remove it from Ephraim's head to Manasseh's head. Joseph said to his father, ‘Not so, my father! Since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.’ But his father refused, and said, ‘I know, my son, I know; he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations,’” NRSV.

30. Genesis 48:16–17, LW 8:170, WA 44:703.

31. Genesis 48:16–17: “The kingdom of grace is one thing, and the kingdom of the Law is another thing. The Law checks sin, shows the rod, and announces the wrath of God and punishment to those who sin. This is the proper office of the Law. It serves to restrain evil, stubborn, and smug sinners. But the kingdom of grace is a kingdom of mercy, of pardon, of redemption, and of liberation from sins and the punishments for sins” (LW 8:170, WA 44:703).

32. See Exodus 33 where Moses seeks to see the Lord face to face, but instead sees only his backside. See also Luther's Heidelberg Disputation (1518): “He deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God seen through suffering and the cross” (LW 31:40, WA 1:354).

33. See Theses 3 and 4 of the Heidelberg Disputation. Vercruyse, Jos. E., in “Gesetz und Liebe, Die Struktur der ‘Heidelberg Disputation’ Luthers (1518),” Lutherjahrbuch 48 (1981): 1112Google Scholar, vividly demonstrates this dichotomy by placing the two theses side by side:

34. Genesis 48:16–17. LW 8:175, WA 44:706.

35. An early example of the tragedy that results from mixing the Two Kingdoms is th Flood. When discussing the reasons for the Flood, Luther attributes primary causality to the mixing of the Kingdoms. Luther writes, “Moses is explaining the kind of power on which [giants of old] relied, namely, secular or worldly power. They despised the ministry of the Word as a worthless occupation. Therefore they seized upon a worldl occupation, just as our papists have done…. [These giants of old must be compare with the small church] who have neither prestige nor wealth but do have the Word. Thi is their only wealth, but it is wealth that the world both despises and persecutes. By contrast the nepiliym, or giants, not only usurp the glorious name of the church on th grounds that they are descended from the patriarchs, but they also wield authority. They are the lords, and with their power they oppress the wretched church. … Thu this passage presents a description of the sins besetting that age, namely, that they were men alienated from the Word and given over to their lusts and reprobate minds, me who sinned against the Holy Spirit with persistent impenitence, the defense of ungodly acts, and assaults on the acknowledged truth. Nevertheless, in the midst of all their blasphemous conduct they retained a reputation and distinction not only as secuk government but also as church, as though they had been elevated by God to the position of angels. But when things had come to such a pass, when Noah and Lamech, together with their forefather Methuselah, were teaching in vain, God gave these people over to the desires of their own hearts (Ps. 81:12) and kept silence until they would face the Flood in which they were refusing to believe” (LW 2:36–38, WA 42:285–87).

36. Genesis 49:3: “This had to be done in this way, especially among the people of the Old Testament. Although there is mercy in this nation and forgiveness of sins, yet there is no pure mercy or the pure kingdom of the Gospel and grace; but there is also a part of the political kingdom, where there must also be examples of punishments. Here the executioner must wield the sword and make use of the gallows and the wheel to frighten and warn the others, even when the sin is forgiven. Thus although a thief is pardoned, nevertheless he is brought to the gallows. The sin of those who must suffer capital punishment is forgiven by God, but the executioner does not forgive it by not demanding the punishment ordained by the laws. The executioner does not forgive them; he gives them their just deserts. Thus Paul says: ‘He does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute His wrath, that is, to inflict punishment, on the wrongdoer’ (Rom. 13:4). Yet the thief and the murderer, etc., are not condemned if they repent and believe in Christ. Nor do they feel the shame of the gallows after death. But their descendants should look at this and reflect: ‘If you steal, you, too, will suffer like punishment.’ This doctrine is necessary and must by all means be retained in the world. They say that as often as Emperor Maximilian passed a place of public execution, he uncovered his head and saluted it with these words: ‘Hail, holy justice!’ For if there were no punishments and executions, we would achieve nothing with our sermons and the forgiveness of sins, and the populace would abuse the doctrine of the mercy of God for boundless license to sin” (LW 8:205, WA 44:728 f.). For an early example of this line of thinking, see On Temporal Authority (1523): “If anyone attempted to rule the world by the gospel and to abolish all temporal law and sword on the plea that all are baptized and Christian, and that, according to the gospel, there shall be among them no law or sword—or need for either—pray tell me, friend, what would he be doing? He would be loosing the ropes and chains of the savage wild beasts and letting them bite and mangle everyone, meanwhile insisting that they were harmless, tame, and gentle creatures; but I would have the proof in my wounds” (LW 45:91, WA 11:251).

37. See Genesis 9:6: “In this connection the following difference must be maintained between the authority of God and that of human beings: even if the world should be unable to bring a charge against us and we should be guiltless before the world, God still has the power to kill us. For sin, with which we were born, makes us all guilty before God. But human beings have the power to kill only when we are guilty before the world and when the crime has been established. For this reason courts have been established and a definite method of procedure has been prescribed. Thus a crime may be investigated and proved before the death sentence is imposed. Therefore we must take careful note of this passage, in which God establishes government, to render judgment not only about matters involving life but also about matters less important than life. Thus a government should punish the disobedience of children, theft, adultery, and perjury. In short, it should punish all sins forbidden in the Second Table” (LW 2:140, WA 42:360).

38. Genesis 48:20: “Therefore our theology and the New Testament should give special emphasis to this part of the heavenly doctrine, although the Law must be taught too. But the kingdom of God does not consist in the Law; it consists in the Word of the promise. Today it is commonly said: ‘He loves the Word. He loves the Word of the Gospel, or the ministry.’ But in the papal decretals and canons you will not find even a syllable about the Word. They thunder only about the confession of sins, contrition, satisfaction, obedience to the pope, and the observance of monastic rules. But there is the deepest silence concerning the promises. Accordingly, the papal kingdom was a horrible devastation of the church, and even now promise is an unheard-of word to the pope and the cardinals. But although our kingdom of the New Testament should stress the doctrine of the Law to preserve discipline and civil obedience and the honor due to magistrates and parents, the kingdom of God does not consist in these things; it consists in the Word, that is, in the promise, which is the true and proper ministry of the New Testament” (LW 8:181, WA 44:711).

39. WA 31/1:189–218, LW 13:41–72.

40. WA 51:200–264, LW 13:145–224.

41. “A Psalm of Asaph. God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holds judgment: ‘How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’ They have neither knowledge nor understanding, they walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. I say, ‘You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; nevertheless, you shall die like men, and fall like any prince.’ Arise, O God, judge the earth; for to thee belong all the nations!” NRSV.

42. “I will sing of loyalty and of justice; to you, O Lord, I will sing. I will study the way that is blameless. When shall I attain it? I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is base. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me. Perverseness of heart shall be far from me; I will know nothing of evil. One who secretly slanders a neighbor I will destroy. A haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not tolerate. I will look with favor on the faithful in the land, so that they may live with me; whoever walks in the way that is blameless shall minister to me. No one who practices deceit shall remain in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue in my presence. Morning by morning I will destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all evildoers from the city of the Lord,” NRSV.

43. See Estes, James, “The Role of Godly Magistrates in the Church,” 474.Google Scholar For the Nuremberg documents, see Estes, James M., Whether Secular Government has the right to Wield the Sword in Matters of Faith: A Controversy in Niirnberg, 1530, (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 1994)Google Scholar. See also Lazarus Spengler's letter to Veit Dietrich (WA 31/1:183–84). The best timeline seems to imply that Luther began to work on the exegesis in late 1529 following the visitations. By March 17, 530 we know (via Spengler's letter) that a draft version was underway. The events in Nuremberg (which began in the early spring of 1530 and were reported to Wittenberg by March 17) may have caused Luther to revisit the exegesis. The text was completed before Luther left for Coburg on April 3, 1530. By June 2 the first edition had sold out.

44. For example, in exegeting verse two he writes, “For if God's Word is protected and supported so that it can be freely taught and learned, and if the sects and false teachers are given no opportunity and are not defended against the teachers who fear God, what greater treasure can there be in a land?” (LW 13:52, WA 31/1:199).

45. Whether Secular Government has the Right to Wield the Sword in Matters of Faith, in Estes, Controversy in Nürnberg, 42 f. In the Controversy in Nürnberg volume, the author of the text in question is referred to as “Anonymous Nürnberger.” Only recently has Estes (in a magnificent example of historical detective work) identified Frölich as the author. See Estes, James, “Introduction,” Godly Magistrates and Church Order: Johannes Brenz and the Establishment of the Lutheran Territorial Church in Germany, 1524–1559 (Toronto: Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies, 2001), 17, n. 27.Google Scholar Full details for the attribution of authorship will be published in Spengler, Lazarus, Schriften 3 (Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, forthcoming).Google Scholar

46. Frölich, , Secular Government, 45.Google Scholar

47. Estes, , Nürnberg Controversy, 12, n. 11.Google Scholar

48. “Psalm 82:4,” LW 13:61, WA 31/1:208.

49. See Lohse, Bernhard, Martin Luther's Theology, 319Google Scholar: “What induced him to [appeal to the temporal arm for aid] was no longer the idea that a territory had to be confessionally self-contained, but that Thomas Müntzer had called for a general uprising, and for this reason the debate with him had to be carried on not merely theologically, but also politically and militarily. To exercise tolerance toward Müntzer would have spelled outright surrender on the part of the Saxon church and the elector. With his two-kingdoms doctrine Luther with full and objective right opposed Müntzer and his revolutionary spiritual Christianity with ‘rationality,’ with the legitimacy of the temporal power and its function in establishing order.” Lohse sees a difference, however, between Müntzer and the Anabaptists. Lohse argues that Luther's response to Anabaptism calls into question his own presuppositions. I am not convinced, however, that Luther saw any difference between Thomas Müntzer and Michael Sattler. Both were equally dangerous. Luther, I think, would have argued that this suspicion was confirmed in Münster.

50. In The Ethics of Martin Luther, Paul Althaus (29) claims that natural law included both tables of the law. I remain unconvinced. While in Against the Heavenly Prophets (LW 40:98, WA 18:81), Luther does state that the Natural Law is confirmed and restated in the Decalogue of Moses, I do not believe that this is the same thing as stating the content of the one is identical to the content of the other.

51. LW 35:164, WA 16:372. This sentiment is expressed throughout Luther's career; other examples include in the 1537's Die erste Disputation gegen der Antinomer (First Disputation Against the Antinomians), “Decalogus vero haeret adhuc in conscientia. Nam si Deus nunquam tulisset legem per Mosen, tamen mens humana naturaliter habet hanc notitiam, Deum esse colendum, proximum diligendum.” (The Decalogue is lodged in the conscience. If God had never given the Law of Moses, the mind of man still has the knowledge that God is to be worshiped and our neighbor is to be loved.) WA 39/1:374, and from ca. 1543, Lectures on Genesis 32:12, “Thus all men naturally understand and come to the conclusion that God is some kind of beneficent divine power, from whom all good things are to be sought and hoped for. God is One who promises, and He is truthful, that is, He makes promises to all men in the law of nature, which says: ‘Call upon God, or worship Him’” (LW 6:113, WA 44:84). This text is particularly interesting because Luther differentiates between the simple idolatry and blasphemy. Idolatry is misplaced worship; blasphemy is outright disregard or contempt for God's person. For Luther, blasphemy was far more serious.

52. For an interesting contemporary account of the dangers befalling those who anger God, see Basilius Monner's Bedencken vonn dem Kriege/ der Anno /ec. sechs/siben/ vnd viertzig im land zu Meissen vnd Sachsen gefu[e]hrt ist/wo für erzuhalten sey/gestalt (Basel, 1557)Google Scholar, which highlights the disasters that befell those who sided against the Protestants in the Schmalkaldic War; see especially F1r–F4v. For a discussion of this pamphlet, see Kolb, Robert, “The Legal Case for Martyrdom: Basilius Monner on Johann Friedrich the Elder and the Smalkald War,” in Reformation und Recht: Festgabe für Gottfried Seebaβ zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Dingel, Irene, Leppin, Volker, and Storhm, Christoph (Gütersloh: Chr. Kaiser, 2002), 144–60Google Scholar. I wish to thank Prof. Kolb for providing me with a copy of the essay before it was published.

53. Psalm 101, “Preface,” LW 13:146, WA 51:201.

54. Psalm 101:1, LW 13:152f., WA 51:206.

55. Psalm 101:1, LW 13:159, WA 51:212.

56. Psalm 101:5, LW 13:196, WA 51:240.

57. Luther began his Genesis Lectures in June of 1535; by January 1545 we know from a letter he sent to Wenceslaus Link that he had begun chapter 45. He completed the entire project on November 17, 1545. Given this time frame, he was probably on chapter 49 sometime in September or early October 1545.

58. For a contemporary example of this exegetical tradition, see John Calvin's Commentary on Genesis: “For (as I have just hinted) the origin of the kingdom in David is not here promised, but its absolute perfection in the Messiah.”

59. Genesis 49:10, LW 8:239, WA 44:758. Translation altered; compare to: “Est igitur regnum potentissimum in verbo contra mortem, peccatum, et Diabolum, et universam tyrannidem eorum cum potentia ad salvandum, liberandum et defendendum in salutem aeternam. … De his Rabini nihil sciunt, nec Papistae, nec Turcae. At nostrum est ista inculcare sedulo, et hanc insignem differentiam regni Christi et aliorum, etiam Davidis, observare. Hoc enim vult lacob: Regnum filii mei Davidis, quod sine gladio et armis non potest administrari, non durabit, sed seauetur regnum Schilo, quod solo verbo gubernabitur. Sicut inquit Christus: ‘Ite in orbem universum, et praedicate Euangelium omni creaturae,’ Id enim verbum potentissimum est, quod potest salvare de manibus mortis et Diaboli, ac potentia inferorum, et transferre in regnum Dei. Huic igitur regi erit audientia populorum, hoc est, verbo regentur. Es wirt mit predigen zugehen. erit nota discernens regnum Christi a mundi imperiis, quae reguntur gladio et vi corporali. … Euangelium enim est auditio. … Non gladio, non flamma, non vi, sed audientia sive auditu et doctrina fidei regnabit Schilo, et obedient ei non solum Iudaei, sed omnes populi totius orbis terrarum.”

60. Deutsche Reichstagsakten: Jüngere Reihe, Hrsg. durch die Historische Komission bei der Bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1962–), 2:594–96Google Scholar; English trans. Thulin, Oscar, A Life of Luther, (Philadelphia, Penn.: Fortress, 1966), 66Google Scholar: “You know that I am descended from the most Christian emperors of the noble German nation, from the Catholic kings of Spain, the archdukes of Austria and the dukes of Burgundy. … I am determined to support everything that these predecessors and I myself have kept. … For it is certain that a single friar errs in his opinion which is against all of Christendom and according to which all of Christianity will be and will always have been in error both in the past thousand years and even more in the present. For that reason, I am absolutely determined to stake on this cause my kingdoms and seigniories, my friends my body and blood, my life and soul,” and Deutsche Reichstagsakten, 2:645; English trans. Jenson, De Lemar, Confrontation at Worms: Martin Luther and the Diet of Worms, (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1973), 101Google Scholar: ”For this reason, we forbid anyone from this time forward to dare, either by words or deeds, to receive, defend, sustain, or favor the said Martin Luther. On the contrary, we want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic, as he deserves.”

61. Genesis 49:10, LW 8:239, WA 44:758.

62. I believe that John Witte, Jr. has demonstrated with particular clarity and precision that the real development of the cura religionis can best be seen not among the theologians but among the jurists. See his Law and Protestantism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)Google Scholar; see especially chapter 1 where he lays out the ways in which the jurists move beyond and expand upon Luther.

63. Two events can serve here as examples. First in 1526, Luther refused to endorse Philip of Hesse's Reformatio ecdesiarum Hassiae written by Lambert of Avignon at Philip's behest. Even though the Reformatio sought to enact many evangelical positions, Luther rejected it and urged Philip not to enforce it because of coercive measures involved in it. (See D. Martin Luthers Werke: Briefwechsel, 15 vols. (Wiemar: Böhlau, 1930), 3:157–58Google Scholar (hereafter WA Br). The second episode is from 1543, here Luther objected to Maurice of Saxony's excommunication order because secular authorities were called upon to implement the order. (See WA Br, 10:436).