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Luther M. Brecht Notes

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Martin Luther: Shaping and Defining the Reformation 1521-­‐32 -­‐ M. Brecht
(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994)
The Preacher of Wittenberg (1522-­‐24)

Marriage and Marriage Matters
! Continually confronted with specific cases and problems
‣ Spring 1524 -­‐ wrote to Martin Bucer 'I can hardly answer all the letters, for I am
up to my neck in so many things and cases, especially about marriage and the
priesthood' (p. 90)
! Summer 1522 -­‐ bishop of Meissen again attempted to enforce in Zwickau the practices
of the church
‣ Regulations about prohibited degree in marriage
! Beginning of August -­‐ Luther, inspired by Nicholas Hausmann, published a leaflet which
substantially reduced the number of prohibited degrees of relationship to 3 from the
previous 4
‣ Absolutely refused to acknowledge the so-­‐called spiritual relationship between
a sponsor and baptised child
- Directly led to the publication of The Estate of Marriage
✦ Probably derives from a sermon
! Confusion of papal laws and legal decisions -­‐ need for a new legal system


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! Luther dealt with the topic only reluctantly -­‐ yet had to instruct confused consciences
! Marriage was fundamentally affirmed -­‐ man and woman are God's creation and being

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fruitful and multiplying is God's work
‣ Nature with which man is endowed is 'more necessary than eating and
drinking, defecating and voiding, sleeping and waking'
‣ Person can no more do without marriage than without 'clothing and shoes'
Brief address of impotence
‣ The Babylonian Captivity -­‐ wife of an impotent man might seek another partner
‣ Now declares that if someone who is impotent marries, this deception deserves
to be punished
18 impediments in papal marriage law are thoroughly discussed
‣ All but 2 were rejected
Divorce, except in cases of impotence, should be granted (even in cases of adulterer) to
the innocent party on the basis of Matthew 19 -­‐ must be decreed by the civil authorities
Luther would prefer to see adulterers punished by death
‣ Knew that judges were reluctant => adulterer should at least be banished from
the land
Refusal to perform one's marital duty -­‐ cause for divorce
Incompatibility was also a cause for divorce -­‐ yet they must remain unmarried thereafter
‣ Yet illness of a partner must be borne -­‐ burden from God


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! Deals with married life -­‐ yet does not address topic of sexual relations
! Attacks depreciation of marriage and of women in ancient literature -­‐ man and woman
are God's creation and their union is pleasing to God
! Selfish reason -­‐ issues of bearing children, washing nappies. smelling stink, feeding
family etc. => yet faith affirms this as God is pleased with it
! Should also appreciate life-­‐threatening risk a woman faces in childbirth

! Ridiculing a man who shares in raising children or calling him a Frauenmann was totally
out of place
‣ Even taking care of a whore's child was better than living a celibate life in a
monastery
Even those who are married usually lack wisdom to affirm difficulties of the married
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estate -­‐ God cares for us 'like a mother in all kindness'
‣ Wisdom only comes from God's Word -­‐ only apprehended in faith
! Marriage is a defence against prostitution and immorality -­‐ turned away God's
punishment from society
‣ Luther favoured early marriages


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! Best thing in marriage is children
‣ Parents exercise priesthood of all believers -­‐ teach them the gospel
! Should trust in God and work hard to support the family
! 3rd part of the book was above all a grand plea in support of marriage
! Did not lose sight of sin in marriage -­‐ biblical view of the sinfulness of marital
relationships
‣ Yet overlooked such sin -­‐ estate of marriage was God's work


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! Had to assist pastors who had married
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‣ Johann Grau in Kronach -­‐ had to forfeit his income from landholdings there to
the Bamberg bishops
Advised the married pastors, Johannes Stumpf of Schönbach and Franz Klotzsch of
Grossbuch, in the legal proceedings initiated against them by the bishop of Merseburg
Even in Electoral Saxony the marriage of priests was not accepted as a matter of course
‣ Officially, Frederick the Wise wanted nothing to do with married priests
- Venison the court provided for Bugenhagen's wedding had to be listed as
Spalatin's gift
Luther had to intervene on behalf of the pastor in Jessen because the chancellor of
Electoral Saxony who held to the old faith demanded that he separate from his wife
Summer 1523 -­‐ Luther wrote a preface to a work in which John Apel defended his
marriage
‣ Luther urgently spoke against spending a substantial amount of money to get a
papal dispensation from a spiritual relationship that prohibited marriage -­‐ pope
could not forbid what God has left free
Luther emphasised in sermons that the permission of parents was necessary for
engagement
‣ But parents should not force children into marriage
April 1524 -­‐ That Parents Should Neither Compel nor Hinder the Marriage of Their Children
and That Children Should not Become Engaged Without Their Parents' Consent
‣ Laments burden of dealing with marriage matters
‣ Command to honour one's parents had its limits when it came to engagement
and when parents would not help a child to get married
‣ If a marriage had already been consummated, it was wiser for the parents to
consent after the fact
When Blasius, the Torgau barber, wanted to revoke a pledge to marry that he had given,
Luther made energetic representations to Spalatin on behalf of the girl as the weaker
party


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! Divorce must have been the most difficult problem -­‐ hardly any legal models
! March 1525 -­‐ Luther advised John Hess, the Breslau pastor, to dissolve a marriage
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because of the wife's 'impotence'
Beginning of 1524 -­‐ Luther advised against a bigamous marriage in an alleged case of
malicious desertion
‣ Apparently Carlstadt had recommended divorce
Had not wanted to open up possibility of divorce due to desertion in The Estate of
Marriage
May 1524 -­‐ Luther reluctantly became involved in divorce of the tailor Michael Hanck
Inactivity and tyranny of temporal and spiritual authorities => Luther became involved
‣ Had been threatening wife's life -­‐ yet she was willing to return to him after
separation
- Luther thought that a divorce should be granted if they could not be
reconciled -­‐ human need rather than the letter of the law
'Luther was for divorce, as such, in cases of refusal to perform conjugal duties, the use of
magic and impotence' (p. 93)
The Seventh Chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians -­‐ problem of celibacy
‣ Bible's praise of marriage
‣ Only those to whom God granted grace to live without marriage could promise
to do so -­‐ anyone unable to do so should get married
‣ The ordinance of marriage and the mutual devotion in it was the law of love in
which one prayer served the other => the 'law of love' was the maxim of all
Luther's ethics
‣ Single estate and the married estate are the same to God -­‐ nuns are no better
than married women
- Married estate with its daily faithful reliance on God's help was really a
spiritual estate
✦ Unmarried state of priests could not be substantiated on the basis
of the New Testament
✦ Marriage was compatible with the priesthood
Proverb -­‐ 'necessity orders that you marry'
‣ Referred to the sexual needs of human nature
‣ Enforcing celibacy was therefore inhuman and led to sin


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! 'One should not underestimate the effect of Luther's writings on marriage, for they
initiated a change in society. First of all, marriage and women were valued more highly.
In addition, there was a simplification of marriage laws, along with a new jurisdiction of
the state, early marriage, a possibility of divorce in certain cases, and an increased
parental right of codetermination in contracting marriages. Last but not least, the
elimination of celibacy had social and cultural significance' (p. 95)

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Monks and Nuns
! Luther continued to live in the Augustinian monastery
‣ Financial problems
‣ Difficult for residents of monasteries to make a living
- Frederick the Wise would not help
Appealed to the nobility to remove their children from monasteries -­‐ not all could be
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willing and chaste virgins
! June 1523 -­‐ 'The runaway monks and nuns steal many hours from me'

! 8 April 1523 -­‐ Luther informed Link 'Yesterday I received 9 nuns from their captivity in

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the Nimbschen convent'
‣ First time we hear anything about runaway nuns
‣ Obviously more difficult to leave than it was for monks
Frequently reprinted work Why Nuns May, in All Godliness, Leave the Convents: Ground
and Reply
Had persuaded the Torgau burgher, Leonhard Koppe, on 4 April to use his covered
wagon to remove 12 nuns from the Marienthron Cistercian monastery in Nimbschen
near Grimma in Ducal Saxony
‣ Luther publicised this to provide an example
‣ Were saddled with fate of remaining single -­‐ in most cases this was unbearable
=> especially referred to girls
‣ Did not deal with God's word in the monasteries -­‐ vows were frequently
extracted by force
- A woman's intended purpose is to have children
Demonstrative action => in June 16 nuns left the Widerstedt convent in the county of
Mansfeld
‣ December 1523 -­‐ Luther became involved in one of the cases -­‐ had become
engaged to a commoner yet her relatives sought to stop her marrying out of
her social class
- Luther thought that this was fine -­‐ probably Hanna von Spiegel
Beginning of 1524 -­‐ Florentina von Oberweimar fled from the Neu-­‐Helfta convent near
Eisleben to Wittenberg => Luther published her account A Story of How God Rescued an
Honourable Nun, Accompanied by a Letter of Martin Luther to the Counts of Mansfeld
‣ Had been placed in the convent when she was 6
‣ Had written to Luther => severe punishments
- Luther characterised the abbess as Jezebel
- Luther saw her escape as proof that God did not want anyone forced to
serve him
Use of force and repression of one's sexuality by imposing celibacy were sufficient
grounds to leave the monastery


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! Pleased that the Church had its first martyrs in July 1524
‣ 'I thought I would be the first to be martyred for the sake of this holy gospel;
but I am not worthy of it'
‣ Kingdom of God stands not in words but in power -­‐ martyrs prove this
! Luther was wiling to interfere with the existing social structure -­‐ freeing of the nuns

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Excursus: That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew
! January 1523 -­‐ Catholic side at Nuremberg spread rumours that Luther was denying the
presence of Christ's body and blood in the Lord's Supper and was claiming that Mary had
given birth to Jesus by Joseph, that she had not remained a virgin and that later she had
had many other sons
! Interest in converting Jews to Christ
‣ Idea that 'Christ was a Jew born of a virgin' -­‐ sought to win some Jews to faith
‣ Different to previous treatment of Jews -­‐ had only been abused
- Luther emphasised the original preferred position of the Jews over the
Gentiles
! One should treat Jews according to the law of Christ's love

! Dedication -­‐ criticised the remaining discrimination against converted Jews and their
poor instruction in the Christian faith
! Luther's positive attitude towards the Jews did not last

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Prophets, Enthusiasts, Iconoclasts, Fanatics and the Peasants' War

! Gospel did not immediately triumph
‣ Crisis following Worms in 1521
Reformation preaching of freedom => expectations of reform which were not being
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fulfilled
! Suppressed Carlstadt and others who wanted faster reform
‣ 1524-­‐5 long overdue confrontation
! Luther identified them with the Zwickau prophets -­‐ saw them as appealing to
immediate heavenly revelations
‣ As early as 1523 -­‐ applied term 'enthusiasts' to those who did not understand
the gospel in the right way
‣ Introduced the term 'iconoclasts'
‣ Sectarian groups -­‐ 'fanatics'

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The School
! Bad state of schools e.g. Wittenberg boys' school shut and turned into a bakery who for
a time
‣ Reopened in late 1523
! Luther wanted education
! Mendicant monasteries should be converted into schools
! Could be financed from the property and money of the church
! Even applied to women -­‐ had to manage a household
! 1524 -­‐ reforms in Magdeburg, Nordhausen, Halberstadt and Gotha
! Long term task
! Contributed to a consolidation against enthusiasm -­‐ evangelical schools were part of
Protestant culture

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On trade and usury
! 1520 -­‐ Sermon on Usury
! Dr Jacob Strauss was more against usury -­‐ conflict with Catholic clergy in Eisenach over
the Zinskauf
‣ Radical -­‐ even paying usury was sinful
! Mercantilism -­‐ Luther recognised the importance of trade but thought that money
should remain within the country even if it meant securing a lower price
! Should lend small amounts that you are not afraid to lose -­‐ prudent practices in business
! Discussions about interest and usury after 1523 -­‐ existing dissatisfaction with economic
conditions combining with the biblical approach of the Reformation

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Thomas Müntzer
! Müntzer travelled around between his time in Zwickau and Allstedt -­‐ difficulties with the
Lutherans
‣ Popular in Allstedt

! Different views -­‐ more radical pupil of Luther, late medieval German mysticism,
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apocalypticism, Marxist understanding as a popular reformer
Luther struggled with the Zwickau prophets in April and September 1522 over
possession of the Spirit and infant baptism -­‐ probably also thought of Müntzer
Müntzer criticised total freedom of priests to marry to be problematic -­‐ carnal
motivations
Did not agree with concern for the weak and the princes
‣ Must struggle against the depraved
Luther's Easter sermon of 1523 attacked those who talked to God without any fear of his
majesty => Müntzer sent a letter justifying himself
Complaint against Wittenbergers -­‐ had not accomplished the eschatological task of
separating the tares from the wheat
‣ Issue of infant baptism
Luther saw sects as a manifestation that accompanies the Word of God
‣ Only when they commit violent acts should the authorities suppress them
Sermon to the Princes -­‐ theological agenda
‣ Surprising that there is no evidence of an energetic reaction to this
Müntzer saw Luther's distinction between preaching and violent action to be sheer
hypocrisy
‣ Hd never taken a real risk for his faith in Augsburg, Leipzig or Worms -­‐ against
Luther's public image
‣ Social and political tensions were mounting
Luther criticised Müntzer's 'self-­‐produced justification' -­‐ works through the sword

Andreas (Bodenstein von) Karlstadt
! University censured him in April 1522
‣ Could not publish against Luther
! Turning more and more to German mysticism
! Mystical severity combined with biblistic legalism
! Luther was convinced that Carlstadt was supporting Müntzer's violent actions
‣ Seen in Wittenberg as a troublemaker who clothed himself like a peasant
- Accused of neglecting infant baptism and the Lord's Supper
! Strasbourgers were also shaken by Carlstadt's attacks on infant baptism -­‐ saw
differences among evangelicals as more dangerous than attacks from the outside
! By 1524 Luther saw the whole gospel to be at stake
‣ Breaking images, destroying churches, criticising the sacraments and seeking
mystical mortification -­‐ faith was not being taught and consciences were not
being edified
- Only leads to a new 'appearance of monasticism'
! Against the Heavenly Prophets
‣ Appealed for prayer and vigilance
‣ Remove images from your heart
- Can remove them in an orderly way but no iconoclasm
‣ Images were a legal issue while activism was politically dangerous
Luther would not allow the use of the
German language in worship to be made
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compulsory
‣ Cannot make a new law without a clear word

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