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ompatim (english version)

What is the meaning of "ompatim" in the Stuttgart Vulgate of 1519?

German version

On some pages before the beginning of the Book of Genesis [p. 52-55] the Stuttgart Vulgate contains notes from a missing Hebrew Psalter that once belonged to Martin Luther. One of them is the transcription of an 11-lined Latin meditation, which Luther by his own hand, presumably in the summer of 1521, added to his Psalter as a personal consolation. Unlike a number of other handwritten notes in the Stuttgart Bible that have been verified by other sources, this legible text is unique. The heading "Or(ati)o fraternitat(i)s in mundo & ompatim" - except for the last word - has been deciphered and translated: "Prayer of the brotherhood in the world and ... (?)".

The phrase "ex psalterio D.M.L." appears directly above the prayer, indicating that Luther's Psalter is its source. Therefore the meditation seems to stem from Luther's "Wartburg period" (5 May 1521 until 1 March 1522), a time when he still chose to identify himself as "armer bruder" (lowly brother) (e.g. on 17 September 1521). The heart of the prayer appears to be the final verse of John 16, perhaps an allusion to Luther's situation. At the Wartburg, Luther translated John 16: 31: "Das yhr ynn myr fride habet/ ynn der wellt habet yhr angst/ aber seyd getrost/ ich habe die welt vbir wunden". The chapter's opening verse he rendered appropriately: "Es kompt die zeyt/ Sie werden euch ynn den ban thun" (The time will come when they shall banish you.

The odd word "ompatim" which seems to make no sense is possibly an anagram. We know that Luther (and later Calvin - cf. "Alcvinus" as a cover for "Calvinus") in critical times used the anagram, e.g. in 1530 at Coburg Castle when he and his supporters saw themselves threatened by the still unenforced Edict of Worms (1521). At the time, he turned the letters of "Koburg" around and created "Grubok." But since in the 16th century many religious orders and fraternities sprinkled their liturgies with anagrams, the imperfect anagram "ompatim" may not even be Luther's own invention. Besides, several members of the Elector's court (including Frederick himself) were also members of laic fraternities. "Ompatim" appears to be but a further camouflaging of the code name "Pathmos" - a hitherto unknown allusion for insiders to Luther's refugium -- the Wartburg.

Since the Latin form of Pathmos is "Patmus", this could be a transposition of the letters "in Patmo" (cf. Cranach: "ex Pat(h)mo") with the "in" further disguised as "im", a Latin locativeending.

Posterity of course knows that "Pathmos" is a direct reference to the Wartburg. Still, of the close to 40 extant Luther-letters dating from the Wartburg period only one of them contains the famous allusion to the island off the coast of Asia Minor where, in Biblical times, John, who had also been banned by an emperor, wrote "The Book of Revelation" in but a few months. (Luther translated Revelation 1: 9: "Johannes/ ewer bruder/ vnd mitgenossß am trubsall... ynn der Insulen Pathmos".) (John your brother/ and comrade in tribulation... on the island of Patmos.)

In his letter of 10 June 1521 to the court chaplain of Electoral Saxony, Georg Spalatin, Luther underscored his concern that no one should learn of his true whereabouts. He signed the missive with a pseudonym and added "ex insula Pathmos". Thereafter - in less than 10 weeks - "Brother Martin" translated the entire New Testament.

Not all of Luther's letters from the Wartburg period survived, but the existing correspondence suggests that Luther dropped the use of "Pathmos" already in mid July 1521, after he was sure his adversaries had discovered his place of hiding. Thereafter he relied on other cryptic descriptions to hint at his sanctuary.

The discovery of this authentic Luther document proves the Stuttgart Bible does contain unpublished material from the Reformation period.

Andreas Baudler

 


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