The Art of the Renaissance in Northern Europe: Its Relation to the Contemporary Spiritual and Intellectual Movements

By Otto Benesch | Go to book overview

II
Extremists in Art and Religion

IN 1526 Albrecht Dürer completed the Four Apostles and dedicated them to the council of his native city Nuremberg as a spiritual heritage and admonition. The panels were provided with elaborate inscriptions chosen by the master himself from texts of those saintly men, which not only confirm Dürer's personal attitude in the religious struggle of his time -- well known from his letters and diary -- but also illuminate the spiritual situation in Germany after the establishment of Protestantism in a very revealing way. Therefore, I should like to quote them.

"All secular governors should take heed in these dangerous times that they may not accept human temptation instead of the Divine Word. God requests that nothing be added or taken away from his word. Therefore, listen to the warning of those excellent four men Peter, John, Paul, and Mark."

Peter in the second chapter of his second epistle writes as follows:

"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not."

John in the fourth chapter of his first epistle writes as follows: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit which confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world."

St. Paul in his third chapter of his second epistle to Timothy writes as follows: "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers,

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