EMSER, HIERONYMUS: Literary opponent of Luther; b. at Ulm, Mar. 16 (26?), 1478 (1477?); d. at Dresden Nov. 8, 1527. He studied at Tübingen (1493-97) and at Basel, where he received his first and second degrees; in consequence of certain satirical verses, which offended the Swiss, he was driven from the latter city. As secretary and chaplain he accompanied the papal legate, Cardinal Raymund Peraudi, on a tour of visitation in Germany (1502 sqq.), and thus came to know a great part of the land and its famous men. At the request of the cardinal he published (1503) a treatise De crucibus, attesting certain alleged miracles in the course of the war against the Turks. In 1504 he edited the works of Pico della Mirandola at Strasburg, taught at Erfurt, where he had Luther among his hearers, and went to Leipsic, where he became bachelor of theology in Jan., 1505. Duke George of Saxony had already chosen him secretary and this post called him to Dresden. For some years he was occupied with the effort to secure canonization for Benno, bishop of Meissen (q.v.), which took him to Rome in 1506-07. He received rich benefices and led a very comfortable life at Dresden and Leipsic. A Latin treatise on the origin of the custom of drinking healths, an uncritical and fantastic life of Benno, an essay on the best way of keeping wine, numerous light verses, and new editions of the works of others belong to this period.
When the Reformation came Emser naturally took sides against Luther, having no true appreciation of the dangers of the Church and sharing in the jealousy which the Saxon court felt toward Wittenberg. He considered Luther a Hussite, a revolutionist, one who, contrary to the Bible, rejected the utterances of traditional authority, sacrificed the "ecclesiastical" priesthood to the "laical," uprooted the papacy, and stirred up the common people against the clergy and rulers. After the Leipsic Disputation (1519) an open rupture took place and a controversy began, by no means edifying and without profit to the cause. It is sufficiently characterized by stating that during its progress Luther called Emser the he-goat of Dresden, with reference to his escutcheon, and Emser called Luther the bull of Wittenberg. After a time Luther gave up the contest, but Emser continued to issue original works and translations or new editions of the works of others against Luther, writing generally in German and often in doggerel verse to catch the ear of the people. He criticized Luther's translation of the New Testament, exhorted the bishops to provide a better, and ultimately undertook the task himself; in Aug., 1527, his work appeared, made to resemble Luther's folio edition as much as possible, with illustrations by Cranach and his scholar, Gottfried Leigel, which had already been used in Luther's "December" Bible of 1522. Introductions and notes are added; but at the end Emser warns the laity against Bible-reading. The work at once became popular, and in its original form and worked over by Johann Dietenberger and by Eck, it appeared in more than one hundred editions during the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. Luther criticized it sharply as stolen from his text.
Of the earlier literary opponents of the Reformation Emser was the most indefatigable. He published his writings at no small personal expense. He was well read in the fathers and had good humanistic training. But he was uncritically and blindly devoted to tradition, and quite unable to appreciate the motives which influenced Luther. His hatred for the latter steadily increased and he wished more and more earnestly to have him silenced by force.
Bibliography: G. E. Waldau, Nachricht von H. Emser's Leben, Anspach, 1783; P. Mosen, H. Emser, der Vorkämpfer Rome gegen die Reformation, Halle, 1890; G. Kawerau, Hieronymus Emser, Halle, 1898. On his New Testament, consult G. W. Panzer, Versuch einer kurzen Geschichte der römisch-katholischen deutechen Bibelübersetzungen, pp. 16 sqq., Nuremberg, 1781.