A Mighty Fortress is Our God

From Academic Kids

"A Mighty Fortress is Our God" is the most well-known of Martin Luther's hymns, it has been called the 'Battle Hymn of the Reformation', for the effect it had in increasing the support for the Reformers' cause. It has been translated at least three times into English, and also into many other languages. The text is based on Psalm 46.

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While in the 19th century musicologists disputed Luther's authorship of the music to the hymn, that opinion has been modified by more recent research; it is now the consensus view of musical scholars that Luther did indeed compose the famous tune to go with the words.

The tune has been used by numerous composers, including Johann Sebastian Bach, as the source material for his Cantata No. 80, and by Felix Mendelssohn as the theme for the final movement of his Symphony No. 5, which he named Reformation.

Contents

Lyrics

Original German

Ein’ feste Burg ist unser Gott,
Ein gute Wehr und Waffen;
Er hilft uns frei aus aller Not,
Die uns jetzt hat betroffen.
Der alt’ böse Feind,
Mit Ernst er’s jetzt meint,
Gross’ Macht und viel List
Sein’ grausam’ Ruestung ist,
Auf Erd’ ist nicht seingleichen.
Mit unsrer Macht is nichts getan,
Wir sind gar bald verloren;
Es steit’t für uns der rechte Mann,
Den Gott hat selbst erkoren.
Fragst du, wer der ist?
Er heisst Jesu Christ,
Der Herr Zebaoth,
Und ist kein andrer Gott,
Das Feld muss er behalten.
Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär’
Und wollt’ uns gar verschlingen,
So fürchten wir uns nicht so sehr,
Es soll uns doch gelingen.
Der Fürst dieser Welt,
Wie sau’r er sich stellt,
Tut er uns doch nicht,
Das macht, er ist gericht’t,
Ein Wörtlein kann ihn fällen.
Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn
Und kein’n Dank dazu haben;
Er ist bei uns wohl auf dem Plan
Mit seinem Geist und Gaben.
Nehmen sie den Leib,
Gut, Ehr’, Kind und Weib:
Lass fahren dahin,
Sie haben’s kein’n Gewinn,
Das Reich muss uns doch bleiben.


English translation

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.

(This translation by Frederic Hedge, 1853)

Musical setting

  • Ein' Feste Burg, Luther, 1529

In popular culture

A version of "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" was used as the theme for the children's television series Davey and Goliath, which was produced for the Lutheran Church in America.

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