“To the Goat at Leipzig”

Luther, Martin (1483-1546)

An den Bock zu Leyptzck.

Wittenberg: [Melchior Lotter the younger], 1521


Quarto: 20.5 x 14.5 cm. [8] pp. A4


A very good copy in modern boards and quarter vellum. A few light stains. Small tear repaired with no loss.

“In December 1520 Jerome Emser renewed his attack on Luther with a lengthy treatise written against Luther’s famous address ‘To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation’(August 1520) entitled ‘Against the Un-Christian Book of the Augustinian Martin Luther.’ It prompted an immediate reply from Luther.

“Luther’s ‘To the Goat in Leipzig’ is the first of a series of four treatises that Luther wrote against Emser. All four provide significant insights into the formation of Luther’s doctrine of the church and his new, radical understanding of the ministry.”(Gritsch)

In the immediate aftermath of the important Leipzig Debate of 1519, there emerged a new critic with whom Luther would be forced to contend for several years. Jerome Emser, formerly the secretary of Duke George of Saxony, attended the Leipzig Debate as a member of Duke George’s party. His initial approval of the reformers soon waned when he saw that the proposed reforms required a doctrinal breach with the Church. Luther and Emser were on good terms before the Debate but after a hostile confrontation between the two men, they developed a mutual enmity. 

Emser published a book, ostensibly to demonstrate that Luther was not a Hussite and held no heretical views in common with that sect. But instead he found that Luther, based on his own words and actions at the Leipzig Debate, was in fact a Hussite and thus a heretic. In particular, Emser points to a shared belief of Luther and the Bohemian reformer Hus, namely that the papal supremacy was not ordained by God. By emphasizing the link between Luther and the Bohemian heretics, Emser forced Luther to respond.

When he did respond, Luther stuck to the positions that he had given at Leipzig, telling Emser that he would not back down from his positions just because the Bohemians also adhered to some of them. Ever fond of insults, Luther’s reply to Emser was addressed to “the Goat at Leipzig”, a play on the goats in Emser’s coat of arms. He tells Emser, the “stupid goat”, to stop soiling Holy Scripture with his snout. When Emser responded in the next year, he called Luther the “raging bull of Wittenberg.”

Benzing 827; See Concordia, Luther’s Works, Vol 39. “To the Goat at Leipzig”; WA 7, 262-265