A Brief Timeline of Faust

A Brief Timeline of Faust

The story of Faust is a product of, and a commentary on its times and so is our interpretation of it a product of, and a commentary on our own time. A society subject to God is replaced by one which hopes to prosper despite God. Faust’s ambitions are first a threat to God, then they become what ultimately frees us from God.

1440Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press. Rise of literacy.
1453Revival of Greek learning (fall of Constantinople). Renaissance.
1480The historical Georg Faust is believed to have been born in 1480 in Knittlingen.
1483-1487Georg Helmstetter enrolled at Heidelberg University and got his Master’s Degree in philosophy in 1487. He practiced astrology and alchemy.
1517Martin Luther begins the Protestant Reformation in Wittenberg.
1540The historical Faust is said to have died.
1543Copernicus shows that Earth is not the centre of God’s Universe (‘beginning of the scientific revolution’).
1575The Wolfenbüttel manuscript version of Faust.
1584Giordano Bruno further discredits the Christian doctrine of the heavens (he is executed in 1600).
1587The chapbook Historia von Johann D. Fausten published in Frankfurt am Main by Johann Spies.
1588(1587-1592?) Likely printing of the chapbook’s English translation, The Historie of the damnable life, and deserved death of Doctor John Faustus by ‘P.F.’
1588-1592Christopher Marlowe’s drama “Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.”
1650(1650s to 1780s) Age of Enlightenment/Age of Reason. Decline of superstition.
1687Newton’s Principia – ‘the close of the beginning of the scientific revolution.’
1790The first publication of a version of Johann Wolfgang Goethe’s Faust.
1808Goethe published Faust. Eine Tragödie.
1832Goethe’s Faust II published shortly after his death in that year.

Luther on Copernicus

Martin Luther (leader of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and contemporary of the real Faust) on Copernicus who unwisely showed how the Earth went around the sun and not the other way around as the Bible said:

“People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon….This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred scripture tells us [Joshua 10:13]that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.”

[Martin Luther in one of his “Table Talks” in 1539]


“People give ear to an upstart astrologer [Copernicus]who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy.”

[Martin Luther, Works, Volume 22, c. 1543]

Pasted from <http://articles.exchristian.net/2002/04/martin-luther-quotes.php>

Although his work was known in circles, Copernicus wisely held off publication until near his death in 1543.

Luther’s friend and colleague, Philip Melanchthon (who also knew of Faust), said this in 1549:

“The eyes are witnesses that the heavens revolve in the space of twenty-four hours. But certain men, either from the love of novelty, or to make a display of ingenuity, have concluded that the earth moves; and they maintain that neither the eighth sphere [the celestial sphere] nor the sun revolves. … Now, it is a want of honesty and decency to assert such notions publicly, and the example is pernicious. It is the part of a good mind to accept the truth as revealed by God and to acquiesce in it.”