Rev. Dr. Lothar Schwabe
November 1, 2014
A favoured reformation hymns is, “Lord, keep us steadfast in your Word, curb those who by deceit or sword would wrest the kingdom from your Son and bring to naught all he has done.” (LBW 517) But that is not the way Luther wrote it or meant it to be.
Martin Luther wrote this hymn as a polemical, fighting, hymn directed at the Papacy and Muslims in one breath. To now sing an accurate translation of this hymn would lead to being accused of a hate crime.
Luther’s original text reads, “Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, und steur des Papsts und Tuerken Mord (and steer the murderess Pope and Turks), die Jesum Christum, deinen Sohn, wollen stuerzen von deinem Thron”.
Some of our German speaking Lutheran churches in Canada still used the Kirchenbuch (1877) as their hymnal as late as ten years ago. The Kirchenbuch lists Martin Luther’s version of that hymn on page 524, #193, following “Ein feste Burg”. German speaking Lutheran congregations now use a sanitized version of, “Erhalt uns Herr bei deinem Wort”, which removes the offensive reference to the Pope and Muslims.
Luther perceived the Pope and militant Islam, as we now call it, as the greatest threat to the reign of Jesus. But, times have changed. Lutheran Churches now strive to have a good relationship with the Roman Catholic Church and the Muslim community.