41 Cochlaeus: life and work 3 Cochlaeus: life and work Luther’s lives Johannes Cochlaeus: an introduction to his life and work by Ralph Keen Johannes Cochlaeus stands among the prominent members of the Catholic reaction to the Reformation during its ﬁrst three decades. His work serves as valuable evidence for scholars of the division of western Christianity that took place in the sixteenth century. But two qualities give him a special place among the early Catholic respondents to Protestantism: the volume of his work and the rhetorical ferocity of his
4 Luther’s lives Translator’s note The deeds and writings of Martin Luther from the year of the Lord 1517 to the year 1546 related chronologically to all posterity by Johannes Cochlaeus for the ﬁrst time translated into English by Elizabeth Vandiver and annotated by Ralph Keen 55 56 Luther’s lives The Year of the Lord 1517 Cochlaeus on Luther, 1517 Martin Luther, who was born in the year of the Lord 1483 in Eisleben in Saxony, under the Counts of Mansfeld, had plebeian parents from the Luder family.1 His father was named Johannes, his mother Margarita. He
This book presents a contemporary, eyewitness account of the life of Martin Luther translated into English. Johannes Cochlaeus (1479–1552) was present in the great hall at the Diet of Worms on April 18, 1521 when Luther made his famous declaration before Emperor Charles V: ‘Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen’. Afterward, Cochlaeus sought Luther out, met him at his inn, and privately debated with him. Luther wrote of Cochlaeus, ‘may God long preserve this most pious man, born to guard and teach the Gospel of His church, together with His word, Amen’. However, the confrontation left Cochlaeus convinced that Luther was an impious and malevolent man. Over the next twnety-five years, Cochlaeus barely escaped the Peasant's War with his life. He debated with Melanchthon and the reformers of Augsburg. It was Cochlaeus who conducted the authorities to the clandestine printing press in Cologne, where William Tyndale was preparing the first English translation of the New Testament (1525). For an eyewitness account of the Reformation—and the beginnings of the Catholic Counter-Reformation—no other historical document matches the first-hand experience of Cochlaeus. After Luther's death, it was rumoured that demons seized the reformer on his death-bed and dragged him off to Hell. In response to these rumours, Luther's friend and colleague Philip Melanchthon wrote and published a brief encomium of the reformer in 1548. Cochlaeus consequently completed and published his monumental life of Luther in 1549.
. Mart. Lutheri, the ﬁrst new translation in English to appear in print in many years.3 But the other substantial vita of Luther – at 175,000 words by far the longest and most detailed eyewitness account of the Reformer – has never been published in English. Recorded contemporaneously over the ﬁrst twenty-ﬁve years of the Reformation by Luther’s lifelong antagonist Johannes Cochlaeus, the Commentaria de Actis et Scriptis Martini Lutheri was published in Latin at Mainz in 1549. Perhaps because of Cochlaeus’s unabashed antagonism for the Reformation – and his virulent
at Speyer in 1529, the Reformation, already well under way, received the name that would identify it as a rival to Catholicism. The formation of the Schmalkald Federation in the same year marked a solidiﬁcation of political boundaries between Catholic and Protestant states, a division that would bring bloody conﬂict in coming decades. Catholic court theologians like Johannes Cochlaeus set about deﬁning the responsibilities of a Christian ruler in matters of religion. Melanchthon and his Wittenberg colleagues labored to clarify for Protestant rulers the points of
, as Arianism from this passage of the Gospel: Joseph did not know his wife, until she bore his ﬁrst-born.43 Next having progressed so far, in order to strive to tear loose this proposition, that the Church universal is the company of the Saints, he even dared to make wheat from tare, and limbs from the excrements of bodies. After making public these and similar ridiculous and worthless ideas, Dr Martin and Dr Jerome Schurﬀ reproved them, soberly nevertheless, as having nothing to do with the matter itself. Johannes Cochlaeus sometimes making noise in the midst of