Jerome Emser

Steven Avery

Jerome Emser

Auß was gründ vnnd vrsach Luthers dolmatschung, vber das nawe testament, dem gemeine[n] man billich vorbotten worden sey -

Jerome (Hieronymus) Emser, (1477-1527) or 1478


Chalmer's Biography (1812)

A History of the Reformation on the Continent: In Three Volumes, Volume 1 (1841)
George Waddington

The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology (1872)
Charles Porterfield Krauth (1823-1883)
Good detail account

Reformation Bibles in the Crossfire: The Story of Jerome Emser, His Anti-Lutheran Critique and His Catholic Bible Version (1961)
Kenneth Albert Strand



Emser, 1528, 128v-129r: (text from Grantley, book url above, different edition and page, 1523)
“Aus dem .v. capitel. In dem andern parag. vorkert Luther örstlich vnsern text. do er dolmatschet der geyst ist die warheyt dann vnser text sagt nit der geist sonder Christus ist die warheyt. Zum andern bricht er jm ab / vnnd läßt auß die nachuolgende wort / nämlich / dann drey sind die do gezeugniß geben jm hymmel / der vatter / das wort / vnd der heylige geyst / vnd die drey sind ein ding / wölches wie der heylig Hieronymus sagt von den kriechen (die nichtzit von der drifeltikeyt halten) auß dem text ge- [139r] stolen worden ist. Zum dritten. do Luther dolmatschet. dann drey sind die do zewgen. Läßt er aber aussenn in terra / das ist auff der erden. Quanquam non me fugit Lutherum in his omnibus Erasmum secutum esse. Erasmus tamen, & si habuit quod pro se diceret, in secunda [sic] tamen editione postremos duos locos in integrum restituit. Nec primam suam ęditionem eo animo nobis communicauit / vt statim in populares diuulgari eam voluerit, sed a doctos prius comprobari, id quod de se ipse testatur.”
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Steven Avery

Interesting, very pro-Luther.

The counter-translation. Emser.86Jerome Emser managed to get himself involved in the amber of Luther's history; and so we know of him. After Duke George had entered on his crusade against Luther's New Testament, especially against the pictures in it, (and in this latter point, we confess, something might be urged for the duke, in an artistic point of view,) he found his Peter the Hermit in a Catholic theologian, a native of Ulm, who had studied at Tübingen and Basle. He had been chaplain of Cardinal Raymond Gurk, and had travelled with him through Germany and Italy. On his return, he obtained the chair of Belles-Lettres at Erfurt. Subsequently, he became secretary and orator to Duke George. He was originally a friend' of Luther, but his friendship was not permanent. It gave way at the Leipzig disputation, in 1519, and he transferred his allegiance to Eck. He had the honor of being the first literary antagonist of Luther's version. Duke George, the Bishop of Merseburg, Prince Adolphus of Anhalt, and the Bishop of Meissen, not satisfied with legal measures of suppression, called in Emser, to use the more formidable weapon, the pen, the gigantic power of which Luther was then exhibiting. About a year after the publication of the first edition of Luther's New Testament, Emser came forth with his confutation of it. Its title stated its object, which was, to show "On what ground, and for what reason, Luther's translation should be prohibited to the common people," and he claimed to have discovered in the unfortunate book about four errors and a quarter, more or less, to each page, some "fourteen hundred heresies and falsehoods," all told. Luther did not consider the work worthy of a reply; but Dr. Regius took up its defence, and confuted Emser in the robust manner which characterized that very hearty age. It seemed, however, as if Emser were about to illustrate his honesty in the very highest and rarest form in which a critic can commend himself to human confidence; it seemed as if he were about to prepare a book of the same general kind as that which he reviewed, in which he could be tested by his own canons, and his right to be severe on others demonstrated by the masterly hand with which he did the work himself. He prepared to publish a counter-translation. He had the two qualities, in which many translators have found the sole proofs of their vocation: he could not write the language into which, and did not understand the language from which, he was to translate. But his coolness stood him in better stead than all the knowledge he might have had of Greek and German. With little trouble, he produced a translation, equal, on the whole, as even Luther himself admitted, to Luther's own, and literally free from every objection which he had made to Luther's. We have had books on the Reformers, before the Reformation; on Lutheranism, before Luther, and such-like; and another might be written on the Yankees, before the sailing of the Mayflower. Emser was one of them.

The way he did the masterly thing we have mentioned was this: He adopted, not stole (he was above stealing) - he adopted Luther's translation bodily, only altering him where he had had the audacity to desert the Vulgate for the original. These alterations removed nearly all the fourteen hundred heresies at a sweep. But this was not enough. As the people looked at the "outrageous" pictures, not merely in spite of Duke George's prohibition, but with that zest with which human nature always invests forbidden things, it was determined not merely to have pictures, but the happy idea, which none but men nobly careless of their reputation for consistency would have harbored for a moment, was fallen on--the plan of having the very same ones. Duke George paid Cranach forty rix thalers for copies of them, and thus secured for himself the great satisfaction of seeing the book he had denounced going forth in substance, and the pictures which he had specially assaulted, scattered everywhere by his own ducal authority. In his preface, Emser has anticipated a style of thinking which has crept into our Protestant Churches. He says: "Let the layman only attend to having a holy life, rather than trouble himself about the Scriptures, which are only meant for the learned." We have had a good deal of nonsense ventilated in our churches in this country very much in the same vein. It means about this: Be pious, be in earnest; never mind having ideas or doctrines--they only create divisions; be zealous about something, whether it be right or wrong. You may read your Bibles, but be careful not to form an opinion as to their meaning, or if you do, attach no importance to it if any one does not agree with you. The English moralist was thought to go very far when he said, "He can't be wrong whose life is in the right;" but we have something beyond him and Emser; it is in effect: "He can't be wrong whose sensations are of the right kind," and who gives himself up blindly to the right guidance, and takes the right newspaper.

Luther's New Testament, with Luther's pictures, thus adopted, and with its margin crowded with Papistical notes, which were meant, as far as possible, to furnish the antidote to the text, went forth to the world. The preparation was made for a second edition of it. Duke George furnished for it a preface, in which, after exposing the enormities of Martin Luther, he characterized Emser as his dearly beloved, the worthy and erudite, and gave him a copyright for his work, which was to reach over the next two years. Poor Emser. suffocated in such a profusion of praises and privileges, died before he could enjoy any of them. His vanity was very great. One special token of it was, that he had his coat of arms engraved for the books he published. A copy of his New Testament lies before us, in which there figures, as a part of his crest, that goat's head from which Luther--whose sense of the ludicrous was very active--derived his ordinary sobriquet for Emser, "the goat."

In his Treatise on Translation, Luther thus characterizes his opponent and his work: "We have seen this poor dealer in second-hand clothes, who has played the critic with my New Testament, (I shall not mention his name again--he has gone to his Judge; and every one, in fact, knows what he was,) who confesses that my German is pure and good, and who knew that he could not improve it, and yet wished to bring it to disgrace. He took my New Testament, almost word for word, as it came from my hand, removed my preface, notes, and name from it, added his name, his preface, and his notes to it, and thus sold my Testament under his own name. If any man doubts my word, he need but compare the two. Let him lay mine and the frippery man's side by side, and he will see who is the translator in both. If any man prefers the puddle to the spring, he need not take my work; only, if he insist on being ignorant himself, let him allow others to learn. If any man can do the work better than I have done, let him not hide his talent in a napkin; let him come forth, and we will be the first to praise him. We claim no infallibility. We shall be thankful to those who point out our mistakes. Mistakes we have no doubt made, as Jerome often made them before us.

The New Testament, in common with the rest of the Scriptures--yet with a pre-eminence among them--continued to be the object of Luther's repeated study up to the time of his death. The last revision of the translation of the whole Bible was commenced in 1541. The last edition printed under Luther's own eyes appeared in 1545. In February, 1546, he died.87 The Exegetical Library--not to speak of the Fathers, and of other indirect sources--had grown around him as he advanced.