Literal Prophecies Redeployed
The vital importance of the Book of Psalms to Martin Luther may be seen throughout his lifetime in both his written works and his teaching. He turned to the Book of Psalms time and time again in the crucial stages of his theological development and the emergent understanding of his reforming movement. In the first years as a lecturer at Wittenberg, he began his lectures with the Book of Psalms (Dictata super psalterium, 1513-1515), commented on the seven penitential Psalms in 1517, and returned to a second set of lectures on the first twenty-two Psalms (Operationes in Psalmos) from 1518 to 1521. In 1521, while at the Wartburg, Luther wrote a commentary on Psalm 68. He preached on Psalm 26 in 1525 and on Psalm 112 in 1526. Also in 1526, Luther wrote a commentary, Four Psalms of Comfort, dedicated to Queen Mary of Hungary, who supported the cause of the Reformation. After several revised editions of his translation of the Old Testament in the 1520s, by 1531 Luther endeavored to write a new revision of the Psalter in order to express faithfully the message of the Psalms in the German tongue. As he states it, he undertook this amendment of his previous version of the Psalter “so that David might sound purely German.”1 Furthermore, in 1532, Luther wrote the Summaries of the Psalms, which were to accompany this new revision of the Psalter.
His return to the Book of Psalms in the 1530s brought forth several commentaries and sermons on individual Psalms as well. He