Selections from the Table Talk of Martin Luther


This eBook was prepared by Les Bowler.



Table Talk


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martin luther died on the 18th of February, 1546, and the first publication of his “Table Talk”—Tischreden—by his friend, Johann Goldschmid (Aurifaber), was in 1566, in a substantial folio.  The talk of Luther was arranged, according to its topics, into eighty chapters, each with a minute index of contents.  The whole work in a complete octavo edition, published at Stuttgart and Leipzig in 1836, occupies 1,390 closely printed pages, equivalent to 2,780 pages, or full fourteen volumes, of this Library.

The nearest approach to a complete and ungarbled translation into English was that of Captain Henry Bell, made in the reign of Charles the First, under the circumstances set forth by himself; but even that was not complete.  Other English versions have subjected Luther’s opinions to serious manipulation, nothing being added, but anything being taken away that did not chance to agree with the editor’s digestion.  Even the folio of Captain Bell’s translation, from which these Selections have been printed, has been prepared for reprint by some preceding editor, whose pen has been busy in revision of the passages he did mean to reprint.  In these Selections every paragraph stands unabridged, exactly as it was translated by Captain Bell; and there has been no other purpose governing the choice of matter than a resolve to make it as true a presentment as possible of Luther’s mind and character.  At least one other volume of Selections from the Table-Talk of Martin Luther will be given in this Library.

Johann Goldschmid, the Aurifaber, and thereby true worker in gold, who first gave Luther’s Table-Talk to the world, was born in 1519.  He was a disciple of Luther, thirty-six years younger than his master.  Luther was born at Eisleben in 1483, and his father, a poor miner, presently settled at Mansfeld, the town in which Goldschmid afterwards was born.  Johann Goldschmid was sent by Count Albrecht of Mansfeld, in 1537, to the University of Wittenberg, where Luther had been made, in 1508, Professor of Philosophy, and where, on the 31st of October, 1517, he had nailed his ninety-five propositions against indulgences to the church door at the castle.  Luther had completed his translation of the Bible three years before Johann Goldschmid went to Wittenberg.  In 1540 Goldschmid was recalled from the University to act as tutor to Count Albrecht’s children.  In 1544 Goldschmid was army chaplain with the troops from Mansfeld in the French war; but in 1545 he was sent back to Wittenberg for special study of theology.  It was then that he attached himself to Luther as his famulus and house-companion during the closing months of Luther’s life, began already to collect from surrounding friends passages of his vigorous “Table Talk,” and remained with Luther till the last, having been present at his death in Eisleben in 1546.  He then proceeded steadily with the collection of Luther’s sayings and opinions expressed among his friends.  He was army chaplain among the soldiers of Johann Friedrich, of Saxony; he spent half a year also in a Saxon prison.  He became, in 1551, court preacher at Weimar; but in 1562 was deprived of his office, and then devoted himself to the forming of an Eisleben edition of those works of Luther, which had not already been collected.  In 1566 he was called to a pastorate at Erfurt, where he had many more troubles before his death.  Aurifaber died on the 18th of November, 1575.

H. M.


And whereas hitherto I have caused certain tomes of the Books, Sermons, Writings, and Missives of Luther to be printed at Eisleben, so have I also now finished this tome of his Discourses, and have ordered the same to be printed, which at the first were collected together out of the Manuscripts of these Divine Discourses, which that Reverend Father Anthony Lauterbach himself noted and wrote out of the holy mouth of Luther, and afterwards the same by me were collected into sure and certain Loci Communes, or Common-places, and distributed.

And whereas I, Joannes Aurifaber, in the years 1545 and 1546, before the death of that most famous Divine, Luther, was much with and about him, and with all diligence writ and noted down many most excellent Histories and Acts, and other most necessary and useful things which he related: I have therefore set in order and brought the same also into this tome.

Now, forasmuch as very excellent declaration is made in this tome of all the Articles and chief points of Christian Religion, Doctrine, and Faith; and also therein are found necessary Rules, Questions and Answers, many fair Histories, all sorts of Learnings, Comforts, Advices, Prophecies, Warnings, and Admonitions: I have therefore thought it a thing fitting to dedicate the same to your Highnesses, Graces, Honours and Worships, etc., as special favourers, protectors, and defenders of the Doctrines which God, through Luther, hath cleared again, to the end that by diligent reading therein, you may be president, and give good examples to others, to your subjects, citizens, etc., diligently to love, to read, to affect the same, and to make good use thereof, as being fragments that fell from Luther’s Table, and therewith may help to still, to slake, and to satisfy the spiritual hunger and thirst of the soul.  For these most profitable Discourses of Luther, containing such high spiritual things, we should in nowise suffer to be lost, but worthily esteem thereof, whereout all manner of learning, joy, and comfort may be had and received.

Dr. Aurifaber, in his Preface
to the Book.

Given at Eisleben, July 7th, 1569.



Relation of the Miraculous Preserving of Dr. Martin Luther’s book, entitled “Colloquia Mensalia,” or, “His Divine Discourses at his Table,” held with Divers Learned Men and Pious Divines; such as were Philip Melancthon, Casparus Cruciger, Justus Jonas, Paulus Eberus, Vitus Dietericus, Joannes Bugenhagen, Joannes Forsterus, and others:


Divers Discourses touching Religion, and other Main Points of Doctrine; as also many notable Histories, and all sorts of Learning, Comforts, Advices, Prophecies, Admonitions, Directions, and Instructions; and how the same Book was, by God’s Providence, discovered lying under the Ground, where it had lain hid Fifty-two Years; and was a few years since sent over to the said Captain Henry Bell, and by him translated out of the High German into the English Tongue.

“I, Captain Henry Bell, do hereby declare, both to the present age, and also to posterity, that being employed beyond the seas in state affairs divers years together, both by King James, and also by the late King Charles, in Germany, I did hear and understand, in all places, great bewailing and lamentation made, by reason of the destroying and burning of above fourscore thousand of Martin Luther’s books, entitled His Last Divine Discourses.

“For after such time as God stirred up the spirit of Martin Luther to detect the corruptions and abuses of Popery, and to preach Christ, and clearly to set forth the simplicity of the Gospel, many Kings, Princes, and States, Imperial Cities, and Hans-Towns fell from the Popish Religion, and became Protestants, as their posterities still are, and remain to this very day.

“And for the further advancement of the great work of Reformation then begun, the aforesaid Princes and the rest did then order that the said Divine Discourses of Luther should forthwith be printed; and that every parish should have and receive one of the aforesaid printed books into every Church throughout all their principalities and dominions, to be chained up, for the common people to read therein.

“Upon which divine work, or Discourses, the Reformation, begun before in Germany, was wonderfully promoted and increased, and spread both here in England and other countries besides.

“But afterwards it so fell out that the Pope then living, viz. Gregory XIII., understanding what great hurt and prejudice he and his Popish religion had already received, by reason of the said Luther’s Divine Discourses, and also fearing that the same might bring further contempt and mischief upon himself and upon the Popish Church, he therefore, to prevent the same, did fiercely stir up and instigate the Emperor then in being, viz. Rudolphus II., to make an Edict throughout the whole Empire, that all the aforesaid printed books should be burned; and also that it should be death for any person to have or keep a copy thereof, but also to burn the same: which Edict was speedily put in execution accordingly, insomuch that not one of all the said printed books, nor so much as any one copy of the same, could be found out nor heard of in any place.

“Yet it pleased God that, anno 1626, a German gentleman, named Casparus Van Sparr, with whom, in the time of my staying in Germany about King James’s business, I became very familiarly known and acquainted, having occasion to build upon the old foundation of a house, wherein his grandfather dwelt at that time when the said Edict was published in Germany for the burning of the aforesaid books; and digging deep into the ground, under the said old foundation, one of the said original books was there happily found, lying in a deep obscure hole, being wrapped in a strong linen cloth, which was waxed all over with beeswax, within and without; whereby the book was preserved fair, without any blemish.

“And at the same time Ferdinandus II. being Emperor in Germany, who was a severe enemy and persecutor of the Protestant religion, the aforesaid gentleman and grandchild to him that had hidden the said books in that obscure hole, fearing that if the said Emperor should get knowledge that one of the said books was yet forthcoming, and in his custody, whereby not only himself might be brought into trouble, but also the book in danger to be destroyed, as all the rest were so long before; and also calling me to mind, and knowing that I had the High Dutch Tongue very perfect, did send the said original book over hither into England unto me; and therewith did write unto me a letter, wherein he related the passages of the preserving and finding out the said book.

“And also he earnestly moved me in his letter, that for the advancement of God’s glory, and of Christ’s Church, I would take the pains to translate the said book, to the end that that most excellent divine work of Luther might be brought again to light.

“Whereupon I took the said book before me, and many times began to translate the same, but always I was hindered therein, being called upon about other business, insomuch that by no possible means I could remain by that work.  Then, about six weeks after I had received the said book, it fell out that I being in bed with my wife one night, between twelve and one of the clock, she being asleep, but myself yet awake, there appeared unto me an ancient man, standing at my bedside, arrayed all in white, having a long and broad white beard hanging down to his girdle-stead, who, taking me by my right ear, spake these words following unto me:—‘Sirrah! will not you take time to translate that book which is sent unto you out of Germany?  I will shortly provide for you both place and time to do it;’ and then he vanished away out of my sight.

“Whereupon, being much thereby affrighted, I fell into an extreme sweat, insomuch that my wife awaking, and finding me all over wet, she asked me what I ailed.  I told her what I had seen and heard; but I never did heed nor regard visions nor dreams; and so the same fell soon out of my mind.

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