#68 A Mighty Fortress is Our God

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A mighty fortress is our God,
A tower of strength ne’er failing.
A helper mighty is our God,
O’er ills of life prevailing.
He overcometh all.
He saveth from the Fall.
His might and pow’r are great.
He all things did create.
And he shall reign for evermore.

Text: Martin Luther, 1483-1546, adapted
Music: Attr. to Martin Luther

-History:(Source: Wikipedia)

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” (German, Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott) is the best known of Martin Luther‘s hymns. Luther wrote the words and composed the melody sometime between 1527 and 1529.[1] It has been translated into English at least seventy times and also into many other languages.[1][2] The words are a paraphrase of Psalm 46.[3]

“A Mighty Fortress” is one of the best loved hymns of the Lutheran and Protestant traditions. It has been called the “Battle Hymn of the Reformation” for the effect it had in increasing the support for the Reformers’ cause. John Julian records four theories of its origin:[1]

  • Heinrich Heine: it was sung by Luther and his companions as they entered Worms on April 16, 1521 for the Diet;
  • K.F.T. Schneider: it was a tribute to Luther’s friend Leonhard Kaiser, who was executed on August 16, 1527;
  • Jean-Henri Merle d’Aubigné: it was sung by the German Lutheran princes as they entered Augsburg for the Diet in 1530 at which theAugsburg Confession was presented; and
  • the view that it was composed in connection with the Diet of Speyer (1529) at which the German Lutheran princes lodged their protest to Emperor Charles V, who wanted to enforce his Edict of Worms (1521).

The earliest extant hymnal in which it appears is that of Andrew Rauscher (1531), but it is supposed to have been in Joseph Klug’s Wittenberg hymnal of 1529, of which no copy exists. Its title was Der xxxxvi. Psalm. Deus noster refugium et virtus.[1] Before that it is supposed to have appeared in the Hans Weiss Wittenberg hymnal of 1528, also lost.[4] This evidence would support its being written in 1527–1529, since Luther’s hymns were printed shortly after they were written.

Tradition states that King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden had it played as his forces went to battle in the Thirty Years’ War. The psalm had been translated into Swedish already in 1536, presumably by Olaus Petri.[5] In the late 1800s the song also became an anthem of the early Swedishsocialist movement.

It was first translated into English by Myles Coverdale in 1539 with the title, Oure God is a defence and towre. The first English translation in “common usage” was God is our Refuge in Distress, Our strong Defence in J.C. Jacobi’s Psal. Ger., 1722, p. 83.[1]

The hymn is now a suggested hymn for Catholic Masses,[6] appearing in the second edition of the Catholic Book of Worship, published by theCanadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, though this is not without controversy. Its enduring popularity in Western Christendom has breached boundaries set in the Reformation.