this art when they make comparisons of animals, stones, trees,
plants etc. This art was especially practiced and studied
among the Persians, Arabians and In other Eastern countriefei,
was an honorable art and made wise people.
10. But later on swine and block-heads meddled with it,
as usually happens with all arts and doctrines, and have gone
far from the truth, have confounded this noble art with jugg-
ling and sorcery, and have tried to follow and master both.
But when they could not do this, they relinquished the real
art and became jugglers and conjurers, prophesying and do-
ing miracles by the help of the devil, though sometimes through
the forces of nature. For the devil has retained much of this
art and at times uses it through the magicians. Thus the word
magic has become disreputable, meaning nothing else now
than foretelling and doing miraculous deeds through the evil
spirit, though at times It is reliable and helps men because
natural forces, which are always reliable, are coupled with It,
and used by evil spirit.
11. Hence these magi or wise nien were not kings, but
men learned and experienced in this natural art though with-
out doubt they also practiced con jury. Even to this day men
from these eastern countries are possessed of great and various
magic powers and. when this real art ceased, being despised,
they brought forth sorcery and spread It throughout the world,
but prior to this they relied entirely on the course of the
heavenly bodies. Thus presumptuous lumian reason has always
mixed and disgraced that which w^as good by imitation and
Indiscretion, attempting to ape evervthing that It sees and
hears. Hence false prophets Imitate the true prophets, false
work-righteous saints the true saints, and the falsly learned
the truly learned. If we look at the world we will find, that
the work of human reason Is but aping to imitate the good,
only perverts It and thus deceives Itself and others.
12. These wise men, therefore, were nothing else than what
the philosophers were in Greece and the priests in Egypt, and
the learned among us in the universlteis. In short, they were
the priests and learned In the rich country of Arabia ; just as
If learned men are priests from the universities were now sent
to a prince with presents. For the universities also claim that
they teach natural arts which they call philosophy while in
reality they are teaching not only tomfoolery, but also poison-
ous error and idle dreams.
13. For the natural art, which was formerly called magic
but now physlologv;, is to learn the forces and work of nature ;
as for example, that a deer with Its breath through the nose
v/Ill draw a snake from the crevice In the rocks, kill and eat It
and then on account of the great heat of the poison pants for
828 Luther's church postil.
cooling streams as stated in Ps. 42, 1. Again, that a weasel will
induce a snake to come out of its hiding place by wagging its
tail before the opening to anger and excite the snake; and
then lies in wait so that, when the snake looks up after its ene-
my the weasel fastens its teeth in the neck of the snake be-
low the venomous fang and thus killing its enemy in its own
Such arts the wise men studied, and in them is concealed
a great deal of wisdom concerning Christ as well as the con-
duct of men in life. But this art is not taught in the universi-
ties now. Hence even the peasants know more about it than
our wise men or natural masters who are not wrongfully called
natural fools, because in spite of so much labor and trouble
they have only retrograded and are the devil's mockingbirds.
If we would therefore truly interpret this Gospel we must
say: The masters of nature from the East or the naturalists
from Arabia have come.
14. Some are also surprised that they could come such
long distance in so few days, for it is believed that they ap-
peared the thirteenth day after Christ's birth, the geographers
state that the capital city Sheba in Arabia is a sixty days
journey from the Mediterranean sea, which is not much over
three German (i. e. fifteen English) miles from Bethlehem.
But questions of this kind do not trouble me very much, nor
is it an article of faith to believe that they appeared the thir-
15. Neither is it necessary to hold that they icame from the
capital city Sheba, or from the remotest parts of the country.
Perhaps they came from a place near the boundary of the
country and thus they had sufficient time to come in the usual
way of travel.
Mary being unclean had to remain at Bethlehem according
to the law for six weeks, just like any other woman, and might
thus have been found there even more than twenty or thirty
days. However, I will not interpret like the common idea
that they came in a miraculous manner; since no one needs
to hold as an article of faith the question as to how they pro-
ceeded, and what they were accustomed to do in such matters.
Whatever the Scriptures do not reveal we do not consider an
article of faith.
16. Now the tlronght of the Evangelist is this: When
Christ Vv-as born under Herod, the first foreign king, and the
time of the prophecy was fulfilled, this wonderful sign occured.
He whom his own people and fellow citizens would neither
seek nor acknowledge was sought by such strangers and for-
eigners for many days. To him whom the learned and the
priests would not acknowledge and worship, came the wise
men and astrologers. It was indeed a great shame for the
whole Jewish land and people that Christ was born in their
midst, and they should first become aware of it through these
heathen people living so far away. At least in Jerusalem, the
capitol city, they should have known about it. An earnest ad-
monition to seek and to acknowledge Christ was given them.
But their neck was an iron sinew and their brow brass as Isaiah
says 48, 4.
"Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we saw
his star in the Bast, and are come to zvorship him."
17. Text and circumstances demand that we speak further
about the natural philosophers or masters of nature, because
here the wise men knew by the star of the birth of a King as
they declared. It must be observed that to every man is known
a certain portion of the knowledge of nature. For instance,
I know that a dog's tongue is good in healing wounds, that
a cat will catch mice even when she is not hungry, that a hawk
catches partridges etc. One individual may know more also
than others about nature either by his own experience, or
through instruction. God did not however reveal to us all
the facts about nature, but only a small portion of them. Yet
human reason is inquisitive and always wants to know more
and more, and thus originated the study and investigation of
18. But it is impossible that nature could be understood by
human reason after the fall of Adam, in consequence of which
it was perverted, any further than experience or divine illu-
mination allows. However, restless human reason will not sub-
830 i.uthe:r's church postiu
mit and be satisfied with this, desiring to know and see every-
thing. For this reason it begihs to speculate and to investi-
gate farther than is permissible, and thus despises what ex-
perience or God has given it. And yet it never attains what
it seeks after. All study and wisdom is but error and folly.
This is the reason why men, despising or not being able to
master this natural art, are divided into numerous sects. Some
have written about the earth, others about vv^ater, some about
this and others about that, so that there is no end to investig**^
tion and the making of books. Finally when they were tired
of the study of the earth, they turned to the heavens in order to
master also the nature of the heavens and the stars, with which
no one could ever have any experience. Here they were en-
tirely at liberty to dream, lie and deceive and to say about the
innocent heavens w^hatever they pleased. It is a true saying
that : Those who lie about distant countries lie as they please,
because no one has had sufficient experience to contradict.
19. So also here, because no one :can reach up into the
heavens and testify from experience as to the truth or falsity
of their teachings, they lie without fear. Hence they teach
that whoever is born in this or that sign must become a gamb-
ler, whoever is born under this or that star will become rich
or wise. Again, this one must be killed, or that one who builds,
marries or makes a journey on this or that day must fare so
or so. They say, it is the nature of the stars of heaven so
to effect human beings that happen to be born at such a time.
The Lord help us ! Human reason in all sincerity has come
to this, because these are all great and glaring lies, and cap-
tivating and unprofitable fables, in which reason in its blind-
ness finds the greatest pleasure, as it delights not so much in
the truth, as in fables and Ifes.
20. But finally the real champions appeared who, disdain-
ing to deal with child's play like this, opened their eyes widely
and began to investigate the whole world, whence it came and
whither it was going; whether it had a beginning or existed
from eternity and will continue to all eternity; whether there
is a supreme Being who rules all things etc. Here appeared
the great light of nature, the heathen master, the supreme
master of all masters of nature, who now rules in Christ's
stead in all the universities viz: the great famous Aristotle,
who taught and still teaches them that a stone is heavy, that
a feather is light, that water is wet and that fire is dry ; again,
as a special master-piece that the earth is above and the
heavens below, which he proves by the fact that the roots of
trees and all kinds of plants are in the ground, and the limbs
grow heavenward. Now that part which receives nourishment
must always be above, and that part to which the nourishment
goes, must always be below as we observe in a human being.
Therefore man is a tree turned upside down. And thus when
a feather flies upward it goes downward, and when a stone
falls it rises upward.
21. Furthermore, when he speaks of the Supreme Being-
he concludes that the world existed from all eternity and will
exist forever, and that all souls die together with the body.
And the supreme being sits above the heavens, seeing nothing
that occurs, but constantly turns as blind fortune is pictured,
the heavens around once every day. In this way all things hap-
pen just as they do. His argument is this : Should the Supreme
Being see all things, he would see much evil and wrong, and
that would make him unhappy. In order to remain happy
he must see nothing but himself, and consequently rule the
world blindly, just like a mother cradles her child in the night.
22. This is the wisdom of the universities. Whoever knows
or learns this will have a brown cap placed upon his head
and be addressed: Worthy inagisfer arfiiim et philoso-
phiae! i. e. worthy master of the arts and of philosophy. He
who does not know this art, can never become a theologian
nor understand the holy Scriptures ; yes, he is considered a
heretic and can never become a Christian. Tell me, what
shall we call these people? They are neither wise men nor
sorcerers nor jugglers, but are mad, frantic and senseless.
Therefore consider whether Christ did not rightly chastise us
in that we have despised the Gospel, being unthankful, in that
he permitted us to become such disgraceful and vile dupes
332 IvUThe:r's church postil.
of the devil that we not only do not apprehend the fact, but
even with great expense, trouble and labor seek after it as
the greatest wisdom.
23. St. Paul prophesied all this saying: "Take heed lest
there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his
philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after
the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ." Col. 2, 8.
Again : "O Timothy, guard that which is committed unto thee,
turning away from the profane babblings and oppositions of
the knowledge which is falsely so called; which some profes-
sing have erred concerning the faith." 1 Tim. 6,20-21. Here
the apostle surely condemns in plain words the teachings of
the universities so emphatically that none can contradict him,
and wills that everthing that is not from Christ should be
avoided. Surely every one must confess that Aristotle, the
chief master of all the universities, teaches not only nothing
about Christ, but even teaches such foolish things, as has been
stated, that the apostle properly commands us to guard the
doctrine committed unto us, calling the natural art of Aristotle
unchristian, profane, meaningless babblings in opposition to
Christ, knowledge falsely so-called. How could the apostle
have explained it more plainly than by designating it thus?
There is no greater glory than that of Aristotle in the uni-
versities, and yet it is but a false glory. For this art is nothing
but an opposition that has arisen for the purpose of destroying
24. Therefore, my dear hearer, let natural art depart. If
you do not know what powers the stars, stones, wood, animals
or any creatures possess, after which knowledge the natural
art strives, even doing its best, then be satisfied with that
which your experience and common sense teach you. Nor
does it matter much whether you know all this or not ; it is
enough for you to know that fire is hot and water cold and
wet, that in summer time different work must be done than
during the winter ; to know how to attend to your farm, stock,
home and children. This is enough for you as to natural art.
Bevond this think onlv of how you can learn to know Christ.
He will teach you to know yourself, who you are and what
power lieth in you. In this way you will know God and your-
self, which no master of the arts of nature ever learned as St.
Paul says, 1 Cor. 2, 8.
25. Coming back to the text you might say. Yes, but the
Gospel says that these wise men learned from the stars the birth
of a king, and therefore it proves that astrology is to be taught
and known. God himself giving encouragement by causing a
star to rise and thus teaching the wise men.
26. Answer : Keep to the example and learn as these wise
men learned from the star, and then you will do right and not
fall into error, for there is no doubt about it that the sun, moon
and stars were created to be signs and to serve the earth with
their light, as Moses says, Gen. 1, 14. When the sun rises,
you learn that the day begins ; when it sinks, that the day has
ended ; and when it stands in the meridian, that it is noon-day.
Furthermore, it has been fixed as a sign and measure of time
and of the hours in which to do your work. So also the moon
and the stars at night. Again, you also need the sun as a
guide in tilling your farm and in caring for your stock, its
heat determining your work. Let it be sufficient to know this
much about the sun and the heavens. Whatever more you
desire to know, you do not need and is but idle curiosity for
the most part, unreliable and inclined to error. For instance,
when fools pretend to know how large the sun is, how far it
is from the earth, what particular power it has over gold, and
that one born in the sign of the sun will become wise, and
more such tomfoolery, for which they can give no sure reason.
27. Furthermore, you should also know that when the sun
loses fts brightness it is surely a sign which forbodes disaster ;
and likewise when a comet appears. This is taught by experi-
ence; and Christ says, Luke 21, 25, that such signs will appear
in the sun, moon and stars and will signify the final destruction
of the world. Great storms, lightning, floods and fire in the
air and on earth are also great signs. But h.ow these things
occur or what kilid of natural forces there are in all of these
signs, or what effect they mysteriously produce, about which
334 i^uther's church postil.
the magicians enquire and juggle; all this is of no value to
you nor necessary for you to know. It is enough that you
behold in all of these signs the wrath of God, and amend your
life. During these years there have also occurred many eclipses
and many signs have been seen in many countries, presaging
great disturbances. Thus the eclipse at the suffering of Christ
signified the calamity which rests upon the Jews to this day.
These are indeed certain signs for which purpose God created
them, but those of w^hich astrologers dream are unreliable.
28. Hence these wise men had nothing else in this star
than a sign and only used it as such according to the decree
of God. Therefore, astrologers and fortune tellers can not find
encouragement for their false art in this Gospel. For though
these wise men may also have been infatuated by this art, in
this case they used this star only as a sign. They do not at all
fortell w4iat Christ would be in the future, what should happen
to him, do not concern themselves about it. They are satisfied
that it was a sign of a great king, and only ask where he is to
29. And in order that Christ might forever stop the mouth
of such babblers, he created for hfs birth a special new star
as yet unsullied by their babbling. Knowing that they might
say that he was born under the power of this star, he meets
them beforehand and says : This star is not like one of those
about which you are speculating. If the future fate of all men
rests in the stars, as you teach, then there can be no such power
in this star, which is new and of a different nature than the
other stars, of wdiich you have hitherto not heard or known
anything. Again, if none of the other stars had any power
over Christ, having his own new star, it follows that they have
no power over any human being, because Christ was in every
respect a man like other men. Furthermore, if this new star
had no power over other men, existing only for a short time,
it certainly had also no power over Christ, as he is just like
all other men. For this reason astrology is mere tomfoolery.
80. But how these w^ise men could see in this star a sign
that unmistakably signified a new-born king, I do not know.
Perhaps they read in their histories and chronicles that afore-
time the birth of other kings had been signified in the heavens
or through a star. For we find also in the histories of the
Romans and the Greeks that the coming or birth of some
great princes and extraordinary men had been foretold by
miracles and signs in the a?r and in the heavens. These wise
men also knew quite well that these Jews were the chosen
people of God, who were and had been above all other people,
especially favored of God. Therefore, as this was such a
beautiful star, they certainly thought that God had given this
people a new king. But the claim of some that these wise men
knew the saying of Balaam : "There shall come forth a star
out of Jacob," etc. (Num. 24, 17), will avail nothing, as this
passage speaks mainly of the spiritual coming of Christ, who
is the star himself. But whoever is not satisfied with this may
think as he pleases about it. Perhaps they knew all by divine
31. At first they did not consider this king to be God, but
in the usual manner took him for a temporal king, just as the
queen of Sheba considered Solomon a king, coming to him
with presents from her country. For this reason they also
come to Jerusalem, the 'capital city, hoping to find him in the
king's palace and in splendor. For the star that they saw over
the Jewish country when they were yet at home in Arabia,
must have disappeared so that they did not see it again on
their journey till they proceeded from Jerusalem to Bethlehem,
as the Gospel states.
32. But when they say, We have seen his star, they do not
yet think that Christ had created it, but that it was his star
because it signified his birth, just as the astrologers today call
each man's sign in which he was born his si'gn, not as though
he had created it himself. For the glory of Christ's divinity
remained unseen until his ascension, though glimpses were
33. So also when they worshipped him, they did it after the
manner of those eastern countries, as the Scriptures state, not
as though they considered them gods. The falling down before
oob LUTHKR S CHURCH POSTIL.
them and the homage given Is called worship by the Scriptures
and it is applied both to men and God, just as the words lord
and king, yea, even the name of God are applied to man as
when Jehovah said to Moses: "See, I have made thee as God
to Pharaoh." Ex. 7, 1.
II. THE ATTITUDE OF HEROD TO THE ARRIVAL
OF THE WISE MEN.
''And when Herod the king heard it, he zvas troubled, and
all Jerusalem zvith him/'
34. Why are they troubled ? Were not the Jews waiting for
Christ who was promised them by God, as we have seen from
Gen. 49,10? Were not Simeon and Anna and many more
pious people at Jerusalem at that time looking for Christ's
coming and rejoicing in it? That Herod was troubled, there
was good reason. He feared the loss of his kingdom because
he well knew that he was a foreigner and merited the ill will
of the Jews. He also knew that the Jews looked for the Christ
who should deliver them as Moses had done. Troubled by his
conscience, he feared an insurrection against him and that he
be driven from his kingdom. On the other hand the Jews
feared Herod and the Romans, believing that to have a new
king would mean much bloodshed for them. They had before
this, to their own great misfortune, revolted against the Ro-
mans and Herod, hence they were minded l?ke the people of
Israel in Egypt, who, when Moses was to lead them out and
they were oppressed more than before, murmured against
Moses. This was a sign of their weak faith, just as this fear
of the Jews at Jerusalem indicates unbelief, and more trust in
human than divine power.
35. However, the true believers were not frightened, but
rather rejoiced. And when the Evangelist says that all Jerusa-
lem was troubled together with Herod, he does not mean all
the iuhabitants and citizens of the city, but speaks after the
manner of the Scriptures, viz., that when it mentions a city
only and not its inhabitants also, it means not all who dwell m
it but the majority of them. Thus it is often said in the book
of Joshua that he destroyed this and that city, kilHhg all the
inhabitants and whatever lived in it, but meaning only the
largest part and number of them.
''And gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of
the people, he inquired of them where the Christ should be
born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Jiidea, for thus
it is zuritten through the prophet, and thou Bethlehem, land
of Judah, art in no zvise least among the princes of Jndah : for
out of thee shall come forth a governor, zi^ho shall be shepherd
of my people Israel"
36. Here we ask, why did not Christ lead these wise men
to Bethlehem by the star instead of allowing his birth, which
was now known, to be learned from the Scriptures? This was
done that he might teach us to adhere to the Scriptures and not
depend on our own wisdom nor the teaching of any man.
The Scriptures have been giVen for a purpose. In them he
desires to be found, and nowhere else. Whoever despises and
rejects these shall and will never find him.
We have also heard, in Luke 2, 12, that the angel also gave
the shepherds a sign, but not to Mary nor to Joseph nor to any
other men, no matter how pious they were, but gave to them
only the swaddling clothes and the manger in which he w3.s
wrapped and laid ; that is, the writings of the prophets and
the law ; in these he is wrapped, they contain him, they speak
only of him and bear witness of him ; they are his sure sign, as
he says himself. ''Ye search the Scriptures because ye think
that in them ye have eternal life ; and these are they which
bear witness of me." John 5, 39. And Paul says: "A right-
eousness of God hath been manifested, being witnessed by the
law and the prophets." Rom. 3, 21. Furthermore, we have
also heard that Simeon and Anna represent the Scriptures,
which manifest Christ and bear him in their arms. And
acording to Luke 16, 29-31, Abraham would not grant the
request of Dives in hell that Lazarus be sent to his brothers,
but points to the Scriptures, saying: "They have Mos^s and
the prophets : let them hear them. If they hear not Moses and
338 i^uthkr's church postil.
the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rise from