Martin Luther (1483-1546), D M Luther an einen guten freund (D M Luther to a good friend)
Ink on paper, 1544
Private Collection, on deposit in the International Museum of the Reformation, Geneva, inv. 2011-042
This autograph manuscript is a draft of the first part of one of Martin Luther’s last writings, the Kurtz bekentnis D. Mart. Luthers, vom heiligen Sacrament (Brief Confession on the Holy Sacrament), published in Wittenberg in 1544. In this short treatise, Luther addresses the dispute over the Eucharist and violently attacks the Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli (1484–1531) and his disciples. Extensively annotated and corrected, the manuscript differs considerably from the final printed text. Before addressing Zwingli, Luther attacks another theologian who opposed his ideas on the Eucharist, the Silesian Caspar von Schwenckfeld (1489/90–1561). On 12 October 1543, he had written to Luther, attempting to explain his views, but Luther answered him scathingly, as this manuscript shows. The same harsh tone he uses against his dissident followers also turns up in passages talking about other religions. As a matter of fact, in the last years of his life, Luther’s ideas on Jews, Muslims and Catholics take an apocalyptical turn: he sees them as a grand coalition of the Antichrist, a sort of last rally of the forces of evil before the return of Christ.