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May 15, 2014

"Sermon to the Princes;" "Special Exposure of False Faith;" and "Highly Provoked Defense," Thomas Müntzer

"Sermon to the Princes;" "Special Exposure of False Faith;" and "Highly Provoked Defense" in Revelation and Revolution: Basic Writings of Thomas Müntzer, trans. and ed. by Michael G. Baylor (1993)

All of these texts are from 1524.

Sermon to the Princes

An exegesis of the second chapter of Daniel. It consists of four sections. The first three focus on the corrupt nature of the world and the Church. After the death of the disciples the Christian church “became and adulteress” (99). Also, “the whole world, from the beginning down to the present time, has been deceived by dreamers and interpreters of dreams” (103). In the fourth section he proclaims, “You should know that an elected person who wants to know which visions or dreams are from God and which are from nature or from the devil must be severed in his mind and heart, and also in his natural understanding, from all temporal reliance on the flesh” (106). “It is true--and I know it to be true--that the spirit of God now reveals to many elected pious people that a momentous, invincible, future reformation is very necessary and must be brought about... This text of Daniel is thus as clear as the bright sun, and the work of ending the fifth empire of the world is now in full swing.” The first empire was Babylon, the second was the Persians, the third was the Greeks, the fourth was the Roman and the fifth “is that which we have before our own eyes.” God is going to smash the old ecclesiastical order. The rulers are in danger of being seduced by it but the “poor laity and the peasants see it [the situation] much more clearly than you do” (109). God “will make your hands skillful in fighting against his enemies” (111). “Nothing on earth has a better form and mask than false goodness.” “He to whom is given all power in heaven and on earth [Christ] wants to lead the government” (114).

Special Exposure of False Faith

Muntzer begins by claiming that Luther is preaching false theology, even though they are both trying to interpret the Bible. He writes, “all knowledge contains within itself its diametrical opposite” (115). He suggests that the correction to this is “the common man, must become learned... so that you will be misled no longer. The same spirit of Christ will help you in this which will mock our learned ones to their destruction” (116).

Next he moves to an exegesis of the first chapter of Luke. He emphasis that people can read the Bible themselves, “With all their words and deeds our scribes make sure that the poor man cannot learn to read, because he is worried about his sustenance. And they shamelessly preach that the poor man should let himself be sheared and clipped by the tyrants” (119). The poor will know true scholars by the way they lead their lives.

In the second section he claims, “every person should observe most carefully, and then he will certainly find that the Christian faith is an impossible thing for a man of the flesh” and that faith is also impossible. “And all of us must have just this experience of impossibility in the beginning of faith. And we must hold to it that we carnal, earthly men shall become gods through the incarnation of Christ as man” (121). “Therefore, rulers are nothing but hangmen and corpse renders. This is their whole craft” (123).

In the third section he asserts, “the heart of a member of the elect is constantly moved to the source of his faith by the power of the Supreme Being” (126). And claims again that the learned have led the peasants astray. In the fourth he says that the people need “to wait for a new John the Baptist, for a preacher rich in grace who has experienced every aspect of the faith through his own lack of faith” (128). After this happens there will be a movement of the spirit that reprimands the people “on account of their disorderly desires” (130). The people need to turn away from their sins and towards God. “Otherwise preaching is a thief’s prattle and a war of words” (133). In the sixth he asserts that the coming of the true church is imminent, “In a short time, each will have to give an account of how he has come to the faith. The separation of the godless from the elect would indeed bring about a true Christian church” (134). In the seventh he emphasizes “Christ was a lowly person, of unimportant parents” (137). In the eighth he claims that the elect make room for God in their hearts.

Highly Provoke Defense

Here Muntzer attacks Luther at great length calling him “Doctor Liar” (143). He argues that he, Muntzer, is not preaching rebellion but, instead, preaching that the law be followed. “Behold, the basic source of usury, theft, and robbery is our lords and princes, who take all creatures for their private property” (144). In other words, Muntzer maintains that the rich are the real thieves while Luther claims that the poor are thieves whenever they don’t respect private property. After smearing Luther at great length he concludes, “The people will be free. And God alone will be lord over them” (154).

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