Motivated by the recent documentary on Martin Luther which we recommended, today I want to touch on another aspect of Luther’s influence on Christianity – the way we “protestants” view music! “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise,” said Luther. He also wrote, “Music is next to theology!” And, “It (sacred music) drives away the devil!”
This article is not going to be long. Instead it will link to other resources freely available on the internet to let readers learn as much as they will of the work and influence of Luther in the realm of sacred music.
But briefly I would repeat what I tell my students in our History of Christianity course. Luther wrote hymns in the language and style of the people of his day. He even published a hymnbook of his and others hymns to be used in the “protesting” churches. He strongly believed in and practiced congregational a cappella singing.
Several of Martin Luther’s hymns are still in use 500 years later. The most beloved and famous is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.”
- “Luther: The Musician,” by ColinHolman, Christianity Today Magazine website, March 6,2018.
- “A Musical Reformation: Martin Luther’s Influence on Sacred Music,” by Lydia Sarver, presented at the 2019 Research and Scholarship Symposium at Cedarville University.
- “Luther on Music,” by Robin Leaver, an article published in the Lutheran Quarterly, Volume XX, 2006.
- 41 Hymns attributed to Martin Luther listed on Wikipedia.
- “Martin Luther: Hymnodist,” part of the larger and very lengthy article on Martin Luther on Wikipedia.
Our image is of one of the few existing copies of Martin Luther’s “Ein Fest Burg” (A Mighty Fortress) published while he still lived. It is from the Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain.