Diet of Worms (April 1521)
Once Martin’s criticisms of the Latin Church reached a certain level of popular support, he attracted the attention of political leaders. Once political leaders get involved, so too does Jupiter. The question no longer concerns the truth. It becomes one of expediency. Even if rulers understand themselves as Christians, and do have tufluvian personalities, they face a dilemma: serve Jupiter and keep control or remain faithful to Jesus and lose it.
When controversy burst outside the bounds of Wittenberg, and even Saxony, Frederick believed that no harm should come to Martin without a proper hearing. Charles 5th (1500-58), Holy Roman Emperor and Frederick’s boss, agreed to hear Martin—and give him a chance to recant—before harming him.
Exercising justifiable caution, Frederick had his own soldiers protect Martin on his trip from Wittenberg to Worms (325 mi/525 km southwest). At his hearing, Martin told Charles that he would stand on his assertion that salvation is by grace through faith unless someone could prove him wrong from the Bible. Charles, Christian though he was, chose devotion to Jupiter over witness to Jesus. Showing more interest in Martin’s obedience than in either his theology or the Bible, Charles declared Martin an outlaw. Leo 10th, pope, equally committed to Jupiter, had already excommunicated Martin.
Anticipating this outcome, Frederick had some of his soldiers kidnap Martin and take him for safekeeping to Wartburg Castle (170 mi/270 km southwest of Wittenberg). There Martin lived quite comfortably for a year while eating well, writing inflammatory pamphlets, and translating the New Testament into German using the critical edition recently published by Erasmus.
Martin’s New Testament Translation (1522)
Martin wrote a brilliant translation of the New Testament. It was published in September 1522. The people of Germania were excited to have a New Testament in their own language to read. Martin’s translation proved so popular that his German went a long way to becoming standard German.
Recalled to Wittenberg (March 1522)
Martin was urged back to Wittenberg by the city’s political leaders to take control there of a significant movement of reform that was turning violent in his absence. These reforms: an end to celibacy for monks and nuns, an end to understanding Sunday worship as a sacrifice, and a beginning to serving wine along with bread to ordinary members of the congregation during Communion. The problem: reformers were starting to physically attack priests and others who disagreed with them. Here it wasn’t city officials but reformers who were using the violence of Jupiter to attain what they imagined to remain Christian ends.
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