Note: Throughout the month of October, leading up to the 500th anniversary of the legendary date of the outbreak of the Reformation on October 31, 1517, Pray Tell is publishing writings of Martin Luther reflecting his beliefs at various points in his life.
What follows was found written on a scrap of paper by Luther’s death bed, in a confused mixture of Latin and German (1546), so these are his very last words.
Virgil’s shepherd poems cannot be understood, except by one who has been a shepherd for five years. Virgil’s poetry about agriculture cannot be understood, except by one who has been a farmhand for five years. Cicero’s letters cannot be understood, except by one who has participated and lived within a large community for 25 years. The Holy Scriptures do not have a satisfactory taste for me or anyone else, unless we have spent 100 years ruling a community as the prophets Elijah and Elisha, John the Baptist, Christ and the Apostles. . . . We are beggars. This is true.