We are beggars. That is true.

Luther´s last note dating back to the 16th February 1546 in Eisleben contextualizes his busy life as biblical theologian, faithful teacher of the church and ever diligent student of the Holy Scriptures. Here is the note as recorded in “Table Talk” (Luther´s Works Volume 54. CPH, St.Louis 1967. Pg.476)

Nobody can understand Vergil in his Bucolics and Georgics unless he has first been a shepherd or a farmer for five years.

Nobody understands Cicero in his letters unless he has been engaged in public affairs of some consequence for twenty years.

Let nobody suppose that he has tasted the Holy Scriptures sufficiently unless he has ruled over the churches with the prophets for a hundred years. Therefore there is something wonderful, first, about John the Baptist; second, about Christ; third, about the apostles. ‘Lay not your hand on this divine Aeneid, but bow before it, adore its every trace.’

“We are beggars. That is true.” (Wir sind Bettler. Hoc est verum)

Martin Luther

Und in Deutsch:

“Virgil in den Bucolia und Georgica kann keiner verstehen, der nicht fünf Jahre lang Hirte oder Bauer war.

Cicero in seien Briefen (so sehe ich es) versteht keiner, der nicht zwanzig Jahre lang in einem bedeutenden Staatswesen tätig war.

Die heiligen Schriften meine keiner genug geschmeckt zu haben, der nicht hundert Jahre lang mit den Propheten die Gemeinden geleitet hat.

Diese göttliche Aeneis suche nicht zu meistern sondern bete demütig ihre Spuren an.

Wir sind Bettler: hoc est verum.

Zitiert bei Oswald Bayer: “Das letzte Wort: die göttliche Aeneis” in “Gott als Autor. Zu einer poietologischen Theologie”. J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen, 1999. S.280-301.

About Wilhelm Weber

Pastor at the Old Latin School in the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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