What Was It Like to Hear Luther Lecture?
A student of Luther’s described his teacher, who used a more succinct style in the classroom than he did in his writings:
He was a man of middle stature, with a voice which combined sharpness and softness; it was soft in tone, sharp in the enunciation of syllables, words, and sentences. He spoke neither too quickly nor too slowly, but at an even pace, without hesitation, and very clearly, and in such fitting order that each part flowed naturally out of what went before. He did not expound each part in large labyrinths of words, but first the individual words, then the sentences, so that one could see how the content of the exposition arose, and flowed out of the text itself. . . . For this is how he took it from a book of essential matter which he had himself prepared, so that he had his lecture material always ready to hand—conclusions, digressions, moral philosophy and also antitheses: and so his lectures never contained anything that was not pithy or relevant. And, to say something about the spirit of the man: if even the fiercest enemies of the gospel had been among his hearers, they would have confessed from the force of what they heard, that they had witnessed, not a man, but a spirit, for he could not teach such amazing things from himself, but only from the influence of some good or evil spirit.”
Source: H. Boehmer—H. Bornkamm, Der junge Luther (Hamburg, 1939), p. 367, as translated by Gordon Rupp in Luther’s Progress to the Diet of Worms, 1521 (Wilcox and Follett, 1951), p. 44; cited in Wilhelm Pauck’s introduction to Luther: Lectures on Romans, Library of Christian Classics (Westminster John Knox, 1961), pp. lxi-lxii.