“The gates of Hell cannot prevail”

[Von Grumbach's pamphlet has her facing off against the scholars]


HOW IN GOD'S NAME can you and your university expect to prevail, when you deploy such foolish violence against the word of God; when you force someone to hold the holy Gospel in their hands for the very purpose of denying it, as you did in the case of Arsacius Seehofer? When you confront him with an oath and declaration such as this, and with imprisonment and even the threat of the stake to force him to deny Christ and his word?

Yes, when I reflect on this my heart and all my limbs tremble. What do Luther and Melancthon teach you but the word of God? You condemn them without having refuted them. Did Christ teach you so, or his apostles, prophets, or evangelists? Show me where [in the Scriptures] this is written. . . .

One knows very well the importance of one’s duty to obey the authorities. But where the word of God is concerned neither Pope, Emperor, nor princes—as Acts 4 and 5 make so clear—have any jurisdiction. For my part, I have to confess, in the name of God and by my soul’s salvation, that if I were to deny Luther and Melanchthon’s writing I would be denying God and his word, which may God forfend forever. Amen. . . .

The pot burns [Jeremiah 1:13]; and truly you and your university will never extinguish it. And neither the Pope with his decretal, nor Aristotle, who has never been a Christian, nor you yourselves can manage it. You may imagine that you can defy God, cast down his prophets and apostles from heaven, and banish them from the world. This shall not happen. I beseech you, my dear masters, let him stay; have no doubt about it: God will surely preserve his holy and blessed word. . . .

Greed has possessed you; you would be much readier to suffer God’s word if you did not profit from the publication of the [Pope’s] decretal. The gospel does not pull in so many dollars for its advisers. I have seen how my dear lord and father of blessed memory had to pay twenty gulden for a piece of advice [from a priest] four lines long; not that it did him a cent of good. . . .

My heart goes out to our princes, whom you have seduced and betrayed so deplorably. For I realize that they are ill informed about divine Scripture. . . . I am quite convinced that if they knew the truth, they would not continue to act on your requests as they have now done with Seehofer and would not have given permission for him to be murdered. . . .

I beseech you for the sake of God, and exhort you by God’s judgement and righteousness, to tell you which of the articles written by Martin [Luther] or Melancthon you consider heretical. In German not a single one seems heretical to me. And the fact is that a great deal has been published in German, and I’ve read it all....

I have no Latin, but you have German, being born and brought up in this tongue. What I have written to you is no woman’s chit-chat, but the word of God; and (I write) as a member of the Christian Church, against which the gates of Hell cannot prevail. Against the Roman, however, they do prevail. Just look at that church! How is it to prevail against the gates of Hell? God give us his grace, that we all may be saved, and may (God) rule us according to his will. Now may his grace carry the day. Amen.

By Argula von Grumbach

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #131 in 2019]

“To the University of Ingolstadt” (1523), in Argula von Grumbach: A Woman’s Voice in the Reforma- tion, ed. Peter Matheson. Used by kind permission of Bloomsbury Plc.
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