We are once again on location in the Museum of the Bible. They say that they have seventy-two hours worth of content within the walls of this museum. But we only have five minutes, and so we don’t have time to look at all the great treasures, but we’re going to focus on one treasure.
We are on the fourth floor. This floor tells the story of the Bible through artifacts. It starts before the Bible, with the history of writing, including cuneiform tablets. Then it gets to a very exciting part of the museum for me, and that is the part dealing with the Reformation. And I’m standing right next to a fascinating Bible. The placard next to it identifies it as Luther’s pastor’s Bible. So first, let’s talk about who was Luther’s pastor.
Luther’s pastor was Johannes Bugenhagen. He was born in Poland on June 24, 1485, and he died in the city of Wittenberg on April 20, 1558. As a student, he was not impressed with the Reformers at all. In fact, when he first read Luther in 1520, the arguments just did not convince him. But then something happened as he read Luther a second time in 1523. As he was reading The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, he was convicted of the truth of the gospel. He was also convicted that he was in the wrong church and he needed to get out of that church and go with Luther.
Bugenhagen made his way to Wittenberg. He was a great scholar, so he became one of the professors at the University of Wittenberg, and he also became one of the pastors at the parish church at St. Mary’s. Now, Luther was also one of the pastors at St. Mary’s Church. He had two names for Bugenhagen. He called him Doctor Pomeranius. Pomerania is the area that we know today as Poland. So Luther was calling him the Doctor of Poland. The other title that Luther had for him was “my pastor.” Luther needed a pastor. This pastor to so many needed a pastor. And he looked to Johannes Bugenhagen.
So that’s the Luther’s pastor part. Now we need the Luther’s pastor’s Bible part. And what we have here is a Latin Bible. It’s beautifully printed, it’s two columns, and it’s the Latin text. The wonderful thing about this little treasure is it has Bugenhagen’s notes all through it. There’s only one note in a hand other than Bugenhagen’s, and that note has two little initials after it: P.M. They stand for Philip Melanchthon. So somehow Philip Melanchthon got ahold of this Bible, he wrote a note in it, and then he signed his name to it. But all the rest of the notes belong to Bugenhagen.
This was the Bible that he would have used to study. This is the Bible that he would have used for his personal reading, and this is the Bible that he would have used for his sermon preparation. And this Bible is here at the Museum of the Bible. It’s a testament to a number of things. It’s a testament to the fact that Luther sought out a pastor, that he knew he needed someone to hold him accountable. And not only did he say Bugenhagen was his pastor, he also said Bugenhagen was his confessor. This was the man who held him accountable.
It also reminds us that Luther wasn’t alone. We sometimes have this vision of Luther as if he’s contra mundum, against the world, standing alone. The reality is he had colleagues, and one of those colleagues was Johannes Bugenhagen. Bugenhagen’s legacy can be summed up in three words. Number one, Wittenberg. He had an impact on the students he had at Wittenberg. Number two, Pomerania. Remember his hometown, Poland? He had an impact there too on the church. And then number three, pastor. If he was Luther’s pastor, then he was probably a good pastor. That’s Johannes Bugenhagen, and this is his Bible.