". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Luther on the Importance of Literature

I am persuaded that without knowledge of literature, pure theology cannot at all endure, just as heretofore, when letters have declined and lain prostrate, theology, too, has wretchedly fallen and lain prostrate; nay, I see that there has never been a great revelation of the Word of God unless he has first prepared the way by the rise and prosperity of languages and letters, as though they were John the Baptists. There is, indeed, nothing that I have less wish to see done against our young people than that they should omit to study poetry and rhetoric. Certainly it is my desire that there shall be as many poets and rhetoricians as possible, because I see that by these studies, as by no other means, people are wonderfully fitted for the grasping of sacred truth and for handling it skillfully and happily. To be sure, 'Wisdom maketh the tongues of those who cannot speak eloquent,' but the gift of tongues is not to be despised. Therefore I beg of you that at my request (if that has any weight) you will urge your young people to be diligent in the study of poetry and rhetoric. As Christ lives, I am often angry with myself that my age and my manner of life do not leave me any time to busy myself with the poets and orators. I had bought me a Homer that I might become a Greek. But I have worried you enough with these little things. Think as well of Luther as you can of your Captiva, and farewell, strong in Christ." 

Luther's Correspondence and Other Contemporary Letters, Vol. 2, pp. 176-77, Letter to Eoban Hess, March 29, 1523

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