Celebrating Reformation Day at TheHolidayZone.com

A Mighty Fortress is Our God

Nearly five hundred years have passed since Martin Luther penned the words to "A Mighty  Fortress is Our God." But time has neither diminished the hymn's popularity nor dulled its message. Today, in fact, the hymn ranks among the world's best-known, having been translated into almost every known language. It has appeared in hymnals the world over. Its message has been embraced by Protestant and Roman Catholic communities alike.

But such was not always the case. Early in its history, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" served as a rallying cry for the Reformation movement. So powerful was the song's message that the reformers drew strength from it in even the darkest times. More than a few martyrs went to their deaths singing out, "The body they may kill: God's truth abideth still. ..." In time, the hymn earned the title "The Battle Hymn of the Reformation."

Luther based the hymn on the forty-sixth Psalm and wrote it in his native German tongue. Some sources claim that he and his supporters sang it as they prepared to face the Diet of Worms in 1521. Others say that he penned a few months later while hidden away for his safety in Wartburg Castle. Still others contend that Luther wrote the hymn as a tribute to his friend Leonhard Kaiser, who was burned at the stake in 1527 for his religious beliefs.

Whatever the hymn's origins, the oldest printed copies of it date back to 1531, with the first English translation making its appearance in 1539. The common English version below was translated by Frederic H. Hedge in 1853:

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing;
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing:
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He;
Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same,
And He must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us:
The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.

Click on the control above to hear music from The Cyber Hymnal.

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