Müntzer's Published Works

These were not many, but they were pungent (and with titles that took no prisoners). Click on any item to view more information.
Click here to readA Sober Epistle to his Dear Brothers in Stolberg, that they might Avoid Untimely Uproar. (July 1523).
Click here to readThe Order and Explanation of the German Church Service in Allstedt. (Autumn 1523).
Click here to readGerman Church Service. (late 1523).
Click here to readProtestation or Proposition. (November 1523).
Click here to readOn Fraudulent Faith. (January 1524).
Click here to readExplanation of the Second Chapter of Daniel the Prophet. (July 1524)
Click here to readThe German Evangelical Mass. (August 1524).
Click here to readAn Explicit Exposure of the False Faith of the Faithless World. (November 1524).
Click here to readHighly Provoked Vindication and Reply to the Spiritless, Easy-Living Flesh at Wittenberg. (December 1524).

A Sober Epistle to His Dear Brothers in Stolberg. (July 1523).
Letter to Stolberg This was Müntzer's first publication. The full title reads: A Sober Epistle to his Dear Brothers in Stolberg, that they might Avoid Untimely Uproar. This open letter was written on 18 July 1523, and printed by not long afterwards by Nikolaus Widemar, an apprentice to the reformed printer Jakob Stöckel, either in Eilenburg or Allstedt - the plainness of the cover would suggest a lack of printers' resources, which in turn would suggest the temporary arrangements at Allstedt.
Müntzer's letter was written to intervene in a minor rebellion in his home-town, and ensure that his 'dear brothers' used their time profitably to experience the trials of faith, rather than causing uproar under the banner of 'God`s work'. (Note the conditional word 'untimely' - timely uproar was not necessarily being condemned!)
It begins somewhat uncompromisingly:
It is an overweening madness for many of the elect friends of God to imagine that God will alleviate the miseries of Christianity and come swiftly to their aid,... If someone has not experienced the poverty of their own soul, they do not deserve to be ruled by God... Because the Elect have not yet overcome their refusal to fear God's work, it is impossible that God should now do something... The true order of God advances joyously only when the Elect understand what God has created in the experience of their soul
The main thrust of his argument is that the Elect need to experience the suffering of faith at first hand. Only by submission to this suffering will the way be prepared for God to intervene against the tyrants.
The letter ends with a bucket of cold water : I am told that you are boastful and do not study; are negligent; when you are in your cups, you spout great words about our cause, but when you are sober, you are frightened poltroons. So improve your lives, dearest brothers. Avoid high-living. Flee from lust and those who pursue it. Be bolder now than you have been before, and write to me telling me how much your talents have prospered. God bless you...'
To read the full text in translation, click here click here to open text
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The Order and Explanation of the German Church Service in Allstedt. (Autumn 1523).
Order and Explanation This pamphlet also appeared in Allstedt, in the Autumn of 1523. It explained the purposes and structure of the reformed Church Service. It was a popular work - reprinted twice in 1523, again in 1525 and (almost inexplicably) again in 1526.
In this short work, he presented the reforms as an educational tool, both in the purely formal aspect of liturgy - the communal singing of psalms and hymns - and in its content, in the recommendation that We must always read an entire chapter of the Bible, instead of just scraps of of the epistles or gospels, so that the people get to know the holy scriptures; indeed, the superstitious ceremonies or rites will begin to fall away through continually hearing God's word.
The reforms were intended to educate the populace after centuries of enthralment by the clergy, and lead them formally to true faith. The means by which this was to be achieved was the German language; for the same reasons, Luther was then engaged in a translation of the New and Old Testaments. The use of Latin was no longer to be tolerated, since, it is the task of a servant of God to conduct the divine office publicly, and not to keep it concealed under some little cloth, but rather for the enlightenment and education of the whole community. The liturgies were intended to educate and to bring the 'poor in spirit' closer to the ways of God.
To read the full text in translation, click here click here to open text
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A German Church Service. (late 1523).
German Church Service German Church Service The full title reads: A German Church Office, composed in order to raise the treacherous cover under which the light of the world was concealed, and which now shines forth with these hymns and godly psalms to instruct and build up Christianity in accordance with God's unalterable will and bring about the downfall of the lavish mimicry of the Godless.
This was a complete and fully translated liturgy, one that Müntzer had been developing since at least Easter of 1523, if not before. It was printed, complete with musical notation, in late 1523 by Nikolaus Widemar, an apprentice to the reformed printer Jakob Stöckel, once of Leipzig, but now under a ban from the Catholic Duke Georg. It was printed - surprisingly considering its technical complexity - in Allstedt.
Müntzer was in no doubt that this reformed service was absolutely necessary: It can no longer be tolerated, he wrote, we ascribe some power to the Latin words, as if they were magical spells, and let the poor people go out of the church more ignorant than when they came in... That is why I have translated the psalms into a German style and form, rather according to their meaning than the actual words, but still adhering to the steadfast teaching of the holy spirit.
During a church inspection in Allstedt in March 1533, the officials from Wittenberg were horrified to discover that Müntzer's Church Office was still being used. It was immediately replaced by an authorised version.
Note: the image reproduced above right is of a page from the 'German Church Service' - it shows the start of the hymn at Vespers in Advent.
To read the text of the introduction to this work, in translation, click here click here to open text
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Protestation or Proposition. (November 1523).
Protestation Full title: Protestation or Proposition of Thomas Müntzer of Stolberg in the Harz, now Pastor at Allstedt, Concerning his Doctrine and the Beginning of the True Christian Belief and of Baptism
This is a work in which Müntzer sets out the basic tenets of his doctrine.
A zealous expectation of the word is the first stage in becoming a Christian. This same expectation must first suffer the word and there must be no comfort in being promised eternal forgiveness because of our works. It is then that a person thinks he has no faith at all. [...]. He feels and finds a pressing need for true faith, but it is so weak that he is barely aware of it, and only then after the greatest difficulty. And finally he has to break out and say: "Oh, how miserable I am, what is going on in my heart? My conscience is devouring my juices and my strength and everything that I am. Oh, what am I to do? I am losing my mind, I have no comfort from either God or creature. God tortures me with my conscience, with disbelief, with despair and I blaspheme against him. Outwardly I am assailed by sickness, poverty, distress and every kind of need, by evil people etc. And inwardly it is even worse than that. Oh, how gladly would I embrace true faith, for everything seems to depend on it; if only I knew what was the right way. Aye, I would follow it to the end of the world." And then along come the pious scholars, if ever such dismal folk come at all [...] and they say: "Ha, my dear man, if you cannot believe, then go to the devil !" And then the poor creature replies: "Oh, most learned doctor, I would really like to believe, but my lack of faith overwhelms all my intentions. What in the world am I supposed to do?" But then the scholar says: "Well, my dear fellow, you should not bother yourself with such lofty things. All you need do is believe. Put those thoughts away. That is all idle fantasy. Go on home and be cheerful - that's the way to forget all these cares." See, dear brother, that is the kind of comfort which has prevailed in the church, that and no other...
This pamphlet was also printed in Allstedt by Widemar, probably in November 1523.
To read the full text in translation, click here click here to open full text
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On Fraudulent Faith. (January 1524).
On the Fraudulent Faith This was written in December of 1523, as a reply to eleven questions concerning doctrine which had been put to him by Luther, via Prince Friedrich's secretary Georg Spalatin. The pamphlet was printed in Allstedt by Widemar, probably in early January of 1524, and was well-received: it ran to two reprints in the same year.
With many references to both Old and New Testaments, Müntzer builds up his picture of the old, 'fraudulent' or book-taught faith, and contrasts it with the faith of the Elect, achieved after much suffering, doubt and torment. People must be brought to the highest uncertainty and astonishment if they are to rid themselves of their fraudulent faith and be taught correctly by the righteous faith.
The task of a 'righteous preacher' was to destroy the old faith and prepare men's hearts for God's living word. Müntzer firmly rejects the easy and sweet acceptance of faith: My elect brother, just have a good look at all the words in Matthew chapter 16 ! There you will find that no one can believe in Christ unless he has become formed like him beforehand. In the midst of unbelief, the elect person will find that he will cast off all the fraudulent faith which he has learned, heard or read in the scriptures; then he will see that no outward testimony can create anything of essence inside him ... Despair and the greatest adversities need to be suffered. Hell must first be endured if one is to guard against the cunning of its devouring portals....
To read the full text in translation, click here click here to open full text
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Explanation of the Second Chapter of Daniel the Prophet. (July 1524).
Sermon before the PrincesThis was the printed version of his famous Sermon before the Princes. It was printed almost immediately after the sermon was given in Allstedt Castle (13 July 1524), by Widemar in Allstedt.
It is tempting to quote large sections of this sermon to illustrate Müntzer's use of vocabulary and the power of his prose; but because of its size, we shall restrict ourselves to summarising its contents. These are: firstly, a vision of history and expectation of the millennium; secondly, arguments in favour of dreams and visions as methods of communication with God; thirdly, a warning to the worldly authorities that they cannot continue as 'tyrants'; and fourthly, a call to action in defence of the reforms, with Müntzer himself appointed as spiritual guide to the Saxon princes. The entire sermon is based on the interpretation by the prophet Daniel, of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar in which a huge and fearful image appeared, only to be shattered into pieces by a stone from a mountain. Müntzer understands the image as the history of the Ages of Mankind: The first is depicted by the golden head, that was the empire of Babel; the second is the silver breast and arms, that was the kingdom of the Medeans and Persians. The third was the empire of the Greeks, which dazzled by its cleverness, depicted by brass; the fourth the Roman Empire which was won by the sword and was an empire of oppression. But the fifth is what we now have before us which is also of iron and would like to oppress, but it is also of clay, stuck together by that plain hypocrisy which creeps and crawls over the whole earth.
The conclusion of the sermon is an urgent admonition to the Princes of Saxony: Oh, dear sirs, how splendidly the Lord will shatter the old pots with an iron bar... For the stone from the mountain has grown large. The poor laymen and peasants see it much clearer than you... Yes, the stone is large and is what the foolish world long feared. It overwhelmed the world when it was young; so what shall it now do that it is so great and mighty? So, my dear rulers of Saxony, stand firmly on the corner-stone... The weeds must be uprooted from the vineyard of God in the time of the harvest, and then the beautiful golden wheat will gain firm root and grow straight. But the angels who sharpen your sickles for the harvest are the true servants of God who refine the zealousness of God's wisdom...
To read the full text in translation, click here click here to open full text
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The German Evangelical Mass. (August 1524).
German Evangelical Mass This liturgical work was published in the late summer of 1524, printed by Widemar in Allstedt or nearby Eilenburg. Its full title reads: A German Evangelical Mass, until now Conducted by the Papist Priests in Latin as a Sacrifice, to the Great Disadvantage of the Christian Faith, and now Reformed in these Dangerous Times in Order to Lay Bare all the Abominable Idolatry Caused by these Long-standing Abuses of the Mass.
It follows the same form as the standard 'Missale Romanum' and the local 'Missale Halberstadtiense', and the translations of the text, although distinctly Müntzerian in places, are generally quite sober. The examples given by Müntzer relate to the five main celebrations of the church year, but were to be used as models for any other Mass. In content, the 'Mass' was less controversial than the 'German Church Office', and even seemed to offer more participation for the parishioners than its predecessor. Some of the hints given out in the text, however, are significant. From these we can deduce that Müntzer was determined to ensure that the officiating preacher celebrated with his parishioners: the instructions for the celebration of communion ensure that the preacher is facing the congregation and is not, as had hitherto been the case, turned away from them; the sacrament was also to be given 'in both kinds', in the Utraquist fashion. Both of these changes caused considerable outrage.
To read the text of the introduction to this work, in translation, click here click here to open text
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An Explicit Exposure of the False Faith of the Faithless World. (November 1524).
Express Revelation The full title reads as a manifesto: An Explicit Exposure of the False Faith of the Faithless World, by the Witness of the Gospel of Luke, to remind Poor Pitiful Christianity of its Errors. Ezekiel 8. Dear fellows, let us also make the hole wider, so that the whole world may understand who are these great bigwigs who have thus blasphemously turned God into a painted figure, Jeremiah 23. Thomas Müntzer with the Hammer.
This anti-Lutheran pamphlet was prepared in the late summer of 1524, and exists in two versions: a shorter one, which was submitted to the censors at Weimar; and a longer one which was printed by the by the apprentices of Johann Hergot in Nürnberg in November of that year. The arrangements for printing were made by Hans Hut, a comrade of Müntzer's who subsequently and briefly led a post-1525 radical group. (Hergot himself was an interesting man - he had already nailed his colours firmly to the mast of reform by printing works by Karlstadt and other radicals, and pirated works by Luther; in 1527, he was executed for such crimes and for his printing of a pamphlet which he himself may have written, the Utopian On the New Change of a Christian Life.) Unfortunately, the city authorities got to hear of this unauthorised printing of Müntzer's pamphlet, and confiscated 400 copies - almost the entire print-run: but not before 100 copies had been spirited away to Augsburg for further distribution.
The pamphlet proper begins with a 'Preface to Poor, Confused Christianity', immediately launching into an attack on Luther's manoeuvres against him and repeating the proposition that only true teaching by the Elect can save faith from academic 'lettered belief'. This preamble - and indeed the pamphlet in its entirety - was a direct reply to the accusations contained in Luther's letter to the princes of Saxony, and also something new: a direct appeal to the common man to break away from the Lutherans: Our scholars really wanted the lock away the testimony of the spirit of Jesus in the university. They will fail miserably in this, for they have not become learned just so that the common man might become their equals; rather they wish to judge belief only with their stolen scripture... therefore, you, the common man, must become learned yourselves, so that you are no longer led astray. This requisite knowledge is then provided by Müntzer, in the eight sections of his pamphlet which each deal with aspects of the degenerate state and necessary regeneration of the spiritual realm. The main attack was on the Lutherans and their 'invented' belief, their reliance on books rather than on subjective and direct revelation. Only the Elect could experience true revelation, and one of Müntzer's models here was Gideon: GGideon had such a firm, strong belief that he overwhelmed a large and countless world with only three hundred men... The fear of God ccreates the holy spirit, so that the Elect may be shaded by that thing which the world fears in its stupidity.
To read the full text in translation, click here click here to open full text
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A Highly Provoked Vindication and Reply to the Spiritless, Easy-Living Flesh at Wittenberg. (December 1524).
Highly Called-For Speech Full title: A Highly Provoked Vindication and Reply to the Spiritless Easy-Living Flesh in Wittenberg who has Sullied poor Christianity by the Falsification and Theft of the Holy Scriptures'
This pamphlet was probably written after Müntzer had left Allstedt in the summer of 1524, and finalised before he arrived in Nürnberg. With the help of a fellow-radical named Martin Reinhart, a printing contract was agreed with the radical printer, Hieronymus Hölzel. Printing duly began; but - by pure chance - on 16 December a raid on Hölzel's workshop in search of a pamphlet on Utraquism by Karlstadt (who had been exiled from Saxony in September, at Luther's behest) also uncovered Müntzer's work, which was promptly confiscated. Hölzel was imprisoned while the authorities took a closer look at the text. Of course, the pamphlet never reached its intended audience...
It was, in content, a prolonged and incisive attack on Martin Luther and his brand of reforms: If you were able to stand at Worms before the Empire, he charged Luther, then it is all thanks to the German nobility, whose mouth you have smeared well with honey, because they fully expected that you would make them some gifts of the Bohemian kind with your preaching - that is, hand over monasteries and religious foundations to them - as you are now promising the princes. If you had wavered at Worms, then you were just as likely to have been stabbed by the nobility as set free.
To read the full text in translation, click here click here to open full text
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