Martin Luther and His Hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" Essay

Martin Luther and His Hymn "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" Essay

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“A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing; Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing.” Here is the classic English translation of the first two lines of Martin Luther's famous hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.“ Indeed, it is famous among Christians who unashamedly identify themselves with the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century, which until today continually inspires them to appreciate their roots in the ancient paths (Jeremiah 6:16) of biblical Christianity over against that which is only built on man-made traditions.

"My Mighty Fortress"

“That hymn is more than a piece of music; it is an event in European history,” says a church historian. But at a more personal level, it also reflects some of the major points of the life of this German Protestant reformer. In fact, the phrase “mighty fortress“ was on Luther's lips when he lifted up his voice to God in prayer early in the morning right before he faced the officials of the Holy Roman Empire at the Diet of Worms in January 1521. “My God, stand by me, against all the world’s wisdom and reason,“ he prayed in fear and trembling. “Stand by me, O God, in the name of Your dear Son Jesus Christ, who shall be my defense and shelter, yes, my Mighty Fortress, through the might and strength of Your Holy Spirit. Amen.”

"The Dark Night of Soul"

Prior to his writing of this hymn, Luther was struggling through what he called ”the dark night of the soul,” referring to his experience of serious periods of depression and physical ailments that baffled him in the middle of 1527, almost a decade after the publication of his 95 theses. These intensified all the more in August that year when a plague hit Wittenberg. The only professor left in the town, th...

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... grace alone), sola fide (by faith alone), solus Christus (through Christ alone), and soli Deo gloria (glory to God alone). God, indeed, and He alone, was his Mighty Fortress, and so of the rest of those who remain faithful to the battlecry of the Reformation.


* David Calhoun. “A Mighty Fortress is Our God: The Life of Martin Luther“ in his lecture series Reformation and Modern Church History, Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, MO, Spring 2006.
* Heiko A. Oberman. Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, trans. Eileen Walliser-Schwarzbart (New York, NY: Doubleday, 1992).
* Matthew Spinka. Advocates of Reform: From Wycliff to Erasmus (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1953, reissued 2006).
* Walther von LoewenichLuther: The Man and His Work, trans. Lawrence W. Denef(Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1986).

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