Monday, April 30, 2012

"like a cow staring at a new gate"

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     "Joseph is for us not only an example of all the virtues, but also a lovely image of God for our eyes, so that we should know what God is.  The philosophers argue and try through speculation to break through to some kind of knowledge of God, even as Plato recognizes and acknowledges divine providence.  But all that is just external; it is not yet the knowledge that Joseph has, i.e., that God cares, and that he hears and helps the afflicted.  This Plato cannot say.  He remains within the limits of metaphysical thought, like a cow staring at a new gate [(Manet in cogitatione Metaphysica, wie ein kue ein newes thor ansihet)]."

     Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis (1535-1545) at Gen 45:3 =WA 44.591.32-39 (where the German does not appear in italics), as trans. Mickey L. Mattox in his "From Lutheran to Catholic  justification and holiness," in Mickey L. Mattox and A. G. Roeber, with an afterward by Paul R. Hinlicky, Changing churches:  an Orthodox, Catholic, and Lutheran theological conversation (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2012), 48.  Cf. LW 8:16.  At this point, the WA indicates also WA 47.424.9 ("welche der Papst ansihet als ein kuh ein newe thor"), WA 50.533.34-35 ("wenn man die Buchstaben ansihet, wie eine kue das thor"), "u. ö."
     Does the switch into German indicate the appropriation of a saying, a commonplace?
     The image of the Pope as the one caught thus dumbfounded, and staring stupidly at the novum, is a scream. Luther as comic genius.  (But a genius who could serve the Gospel.)

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