Wednesday, March 03, 2010

John Hus: They will roast a goose now (for ‘Huss’ means ‘a goose’), but after a hundred years they will hear a swan sing, and him they will endure

Here's a typical account of the last moments of John Hus, before being burned by the Roman Catholic Council of Constance:

On July 6, 1415, as John Hus (whose name means "goose" in his native Czech) made his way to the place of execution, the authorities made him pass by a bonfire where his books were burning. Hus was unafraid and predicted the Protestant Reformation with almost uncanny accuracy. Some of his last words were: You are going to burn a goose but in a century you will have a swan which you can neither roast nor boil. [source]

This "Swan" of this statement has popularly been interpreted to be Martin Luther, not to mention, even by Luther himself:
However, I, Dr. Martinus, have been called to this work and was compelled to become a doctor, without any initiative of my own, but out of pure obedience. Then I had to accept the office of doctor and swear a vow to my most beloved Holy Scriptures that I would preach and teach them faithfully and purely. While engaged in this kind of teaching, the papacy crossed my path and wanted to hinder me in it. How it has fared is obvious to all, and it will fare still worse. It shall not hinder me. In God’s name and call I shall walk on the lion and the adder, and tread on the young lion and dragon with my feet. And this which has been begun during my lifetime will be completed after my death. St. John Huss prophesied of me when he wrote from his prison in Bohemia, “They will roast a goose now (for ‘Huss’ means ‘a goose’), but after a hundred years they will hear a swan sing, and him they will endure.” And that is the way it will be, if God wills. [LW 34:103]
I hadn't really thought much of the statement from Hus, other than the irony that indeed, a century later a lone monk began the Protestant Reformation. It's a popular quote. In my mind coincidence, nothing more. While reading in another area, I came across an article by Robert Scribner, Incombustible Luther: The Image of the Reformer in Early Modern Germany. Google Books offers a limited preview of this article with some missing pages, so I went ahead and ordered the book.

This is an incredibly interesting article. It documents the way that many turned Luther into a saint after his death. Stories circulated that paintings of him refused to burn. Luther's special saint miracle was his incombustibility. The picture above in this entry is said to be a painting from 1689 that refused to burn, though it isn't certain. It's indeed the stuff of legends and fantasy. If you get a chance, read through Scribner's article, or at least what Google Books makes available. Note the similarities between the Luther myth and the typical Romanist saint myths.

Scribner's article takes an interesting look at a variety of the Luther legends, even those attributed to him while still living. Among those he covers is the quote from Hus:

A truly interesting find. Even Luther produced a botched quote, and did so to promote himself.


Andrew said...

Well, that proves that Luther was a lying drunkard then doesn't it. Which in turn proves that the entire Protestant reformation was a sham. Why can't you see that imperfections in Luther's character are great arguments against the reformation? Furthermore, why can't you see that when a pope does something awful it's completely irrelevant to the argument? Jeez. You Prostestants and your 48,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 denominations!

James Swan said...

Yes well, I was thinking perhaps I was going to be the one Hus meant, but since Luther botched it, I'm just going have to continue the cover up.

Andrew said...

I knew it. You're only interested in exhonerating history's greatest criminal.

zipper778 said...

Andrew, I think I have the answer to your question here:

"Why can't you see that imperfections in Luther's character are great arguments against the reformation?"

Just because someone has problems with their character doesn't really effect the message that someone gives. I'm not trying to be disrespectful when I say this Andrew, but I'm sure that there are things about your character that are flawed but you would still like us to accept your message right? In fact, if you looked at everyone you would find flaws, it's called being human. We are flawed in every part of our life. Yet we still can give good messages.

Your next question:

"Furthermore, why can't you see that when a pope does something awful it's completely irrelevant to the argument?"

I think you need to realize that the claims made by Luther are taken in by people and are to be judged according to what the Bible says. If Luther wants to state that Mary was immaculately conceived, then we have the right to disagree based on a Biblical standpoint. Yet the pope is different. He demands an unquestionable loyalty and is representing the entire Roman Catholic Church. He is the infallible ruler in cases of faith and morals, and when he declares something (even if it's completely wrong) you can't question him.

So in review, Luther is a man that can be wrong and nobody denies that.

The pope on the other hand cannot be wrong because if he is, he takes away the credibility of his church, the Roman Catholic Church. The pope's character is his message, and when the message is wrong it is shown through his character.

If you want to follow a man that claims to be infallible, you better hope he's right. Because if he isn't, then maybe all of those other denominations are onto something.

Andrew said...

Zipper, I was being sarcastic. I have a habit of making these kinds of tongue-in-cheek remarks on Mr. Swan's Luther posts. This is in order to mock some of the more ridiculous things said about Luther, and about the Reformation in general because of Luther, by Roman Catholic apologists.

James Swan said...

Yes Zipper,Andrew helps out the RC's by posting exactly what most of them think.

But on the other hand, your points are right on. If you stick around, you'll probably get a chance to use them for real.

Andrew said...

Did I mention that Luther liked to eat little girl's kittens while they wept and begged him to stop? He would usually reply "I am much too drunk and belligerent to stop eating your ugly kitten." He was a terrible man.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Andrew, LOL.

Frank Brito said...

Poggius Florentini was a Roman Catholic priest and an observer at Huss’ martyrdom. As an eyewitness he wrote about all that happened. Here are his words:

“In thee, O Lord, I put my trust, bow down thine ear to me.”

With such Christian prayers, Hus arrived at the stake, looking at it
without fear. He climbed upon it, after two assistants of the hangman had torn his clothes from him and had clad him into a shirt drenched with
pitch. At that moment, one of the electors, Prince Ludwig of the
Palatinate, rode up and pleaded with Hus to recant, so that he might be
spared a death in the flames. But Hus replied: “Today you will roast a
lean goose, but hundred years from now you will hear a swan sing,
whom you will leave unroasted and no trap or net will catch him for
you.” Full of pity and filled with much admiration, the Prince turned

Luther or Reformers didn't make this up. It was recorded by a Roman Catholic eyewithness long before. The book with his writing, including this quote, can be bought here:

spiritualswords said...

Hmm I could've sworn Pope John XXIII (condemned by the Council of Constance and deposed as Pope in the 15th century) was worse. Ah well!