Saturday, January 26, 2013

When (not) to Publish - Imitatio Martinus Lutherus

There are many circumstances that compel a biblical scholar to publish as much as humanly possible, but last night I read a handful of good reasons not to publish.

In a letter to Wolfgang Capito, dated July 9th, 1537, Luther informs Capito of his wish not to have his works published.  Luther says, "Regarding [the plan] to collect my writings in volumes, I am quite cool and not at all eager about it because, roused by a Saturnian hunger, I would rather see them all devoured." (LW 50, 171-173).

The volume editor notes five reasons for Luther's "cool" feeling towards publication (per, E. Wolgast, Die Wittenberger, 1971), which when broadly applied can be instructive:

1) his worry that reading his works might reduce the study of Scripture.

2) his realization that some of his writings originated in temporary, restricted circumstances.

3) his changed attitude toward the papacy.  (this one may be hard to apply)

4) his conviction that writings by other theologians were more significant than his own writings.

5) his realization that such an edition would be so expensive that the edition would collect dust in libraries, and only the rich could afford to buy it, while the common man could by no means afford it.

(click here for a list of Luther's works available electronically - the internet may be even better than the Gutenberg Press!)

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