Wednesday, June 5, 2024

Today, on the Christian History Almanac, we remember Justus Jonas, Luther’s forgotten right-hand man.

It is the 5th of June 2024. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac, brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.


It is pertinent both in terms of today’s show and date to remind you that I will be leading a tour of Germany this September with an emphasis on the Reformation. You can sign up at you’ll know it’s my trip because a picture approximating what I look like is on the site.

And while on the trip through Saxony I will be pointing out famous markers from Luther’s life but I will also stress, as I often have, that Luther needed about a dozen other people in his immediate orbit in order for his reform to take off- one such man, the oft forgotten right-hand man of Luther was Justus Jonas born on this, the 5th of June in 1493 in Nordhausen just south of Erfurt in electoral Saxony.

He showed an aptitude for scholarship from a young age and enrolled at the University of Erfurt in 1506, just after Luther had studied there and entered the Augustinian monastery there in Erfurt the year prior. In Erfurt, he would hear of the “new learning” of the Humanists, emphasizing primary source documents and rejecting tradition for its own sake.

In 1510 he went to Wittenberg, the eventual home of Luther but not until the following year. Jonas aspired to be a canon lawyer and theologian in the model of a professor there, one Henning Göde.  The elector of Saxony, Frederick the Wise, sent Jonas to Amsterdam to meet Erasmus.

Afterwards, he would head back to Erfurt, but not before being invited by a friend to a disputation between Martin Luther and Johan Eck, this in 1519. Jonas came away as a supporter of Luther to the chagrin of his friend Erasmus, who thought the German monk was a pinch too bold.

Justus would accompany Luther on his famous trip to the Diet of Worms for his “Here I Stand” moment in 1521, the same year that Henning Göde, the professor at Wittenberg, died. Jonas was hired to be his replacement and was in Wittenberg when Luther made his escape for the Wartburg castle after the Worms. There, he helped hold down the fort, helping teach the city, serve as a proxy for Luther, translate Luther and Melanchthon’s works in German from Latin, and assist Luther with his project of translating the Bible into German. He was present at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 when the Augsburg Confession was presented to the Emperor- a date as good as any to mark the “official” beginning of a “Lutheran Church.”  

On account of his status as a trusted friend of Luther, he was sent to new principalities as they embraced the Reformation. He worked around Saxony and specifically in Halle, where the church and university would become a center for the Reformation and Post-Reformation church (today, the Universities of Halle and Wittenberg have merged into one).  

During the tumultuous 1540s Jonas had to flee place to place on account of various wars and factions but stayed close to Luther as a trusted confidant. When Luther had to tend to a dispute in Eisleben he had his old friend Justus go with him. It was on this trip that Luther died, and Jonas would record his last words, “We are all beggars,” and preach his funeral sermon.

After Luther’s death, he would continue in his role consolidating churches and territories embracing the Reformation in places from Coburg to Regensburg to Eisfeld, where he served as both pastor and superintendent until his death in October of 1555- the year the Peace of Augsburg brought an end to the first era of Reformation Europe. He is often overlooked as what he wrote primarily concerned the ordinances for the churches- he was a reformer but first a legal scholar. But without his translations, friendship, and support of Luther, the Reformation would surely have taken a different shape.

Born on this day in 1493, Justus Jonas was 61 years old.


 The last word for today is from the daily lectionary and John chapter 5:

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4]  One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

The day on which this took place was a Sabbath, 10 and so the Jewish leaders said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath; the law forbids you to carry your mat.”….

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defense Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.


This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 5th of June 2024, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man who tried the Diet of Augsburg but gained 20 pounds on the bratwurst… he is Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a man who is happy that he didn’t try the Diet of Worms… I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

Subscribe to the Christian History Almanac

Subscribe to the Christian History Almanac

Subscribe (it’s free!) in your favorite podcast app.

More From 1517