Friday, June 10, 2011

The 9 Oddest Things Luther Ever Said.

Luther said a lot of odd things. That's ok, so do I- although I lack his brilliance and consequently find it harder to get away with. I thought I would give short list of the top strange statements in Luther. Some are in Table Talk and consequently might be apocryphal. But I have a rather hard time believing people made them up. So here they are:

1. Satan is responsible for bad beer. (Table Talk)
2. Luther's next door neighbour growing up was a witch. She caused nose bleeds in his brother and him. Their mother had to appease her with pastries. (Table Talk)
3. A woman in Luther's town growing up gave birth to a mouse. (Table Talk)
4. Witches cause calves to be born with two heads. (Galatians Commentary, 1531)
5. Witches cause crop damage and hail (Galatians Commentary, 1531).
6. The per capita witchcraft rate has declined since the beginning of the Reformation (Galatians commentary, 1531).
7. The Pope has his breakfast served to him by seven naked girls. (Table talk).
8. The world will only last for another 50 years, since the world can only last for 6,000 years (Chronicle of the Years of the world, 1541).
9. Luther said he got married to spite the Devil and the Pope (Letter, 1525).


  1. Not sure about most of those, but he was right about the 1st one!

  2. What about Luther's argument with the Devil and seeing the Devil had the better argument ?

  3. I love it. It is good to know that witches can be appeased by pastries.

  4. I, for one, can subscribe to #1 as proper dogma and I see no problem with #9 as well. Points 2 through 7 can be cured with good beer - #8 has too much Islamic influence to accept.

  5. Regarding #6, is there any information on the number of people executed as witches in Germany after the Reformation?

    In the early 17th century, Johannes Kepler had to hire lawyers to defend his mother at a witchcraft trial in Leonberg, although she died shortly after being acquitted.

  6. Hey, let's make it an even ten oddest things Luther ever said:

    "There is talk of a new astrologer who wants to prove that the earth moves and goes around instead of the sky, the sun, the moon, just as if somebody were moving in a carriage or ship might hold that he was sitting still and at rest while the earth and the trees walked and moved. But that is how things are nowadays: when a man wishes to be clever he must needs invent something special, and the way he does it must needs be the best! The fool wants to turn the whole art of astronomy upside-down."

  7. John, I'm inclined to agree.

    Carl- I think if I lived at the time, I probably wouldn't believe in Copernicus either. Technically speaking, he was just speculating. He didn't have any hard data. It actually wasn't until the 18th century that they got enough evidence.

  8. So, unlike his Copernicus comment, the other nine quotes were regarded by the people living at the time as the oddest things Luther ever said?

  9. Carl- Point well taken.

    But the witchcraft stuff maybe. There is an interesting piece in David Steinmetz's "Luther in Context" where he notes that in the English translation of Luther's Galatians commentary in the mid-1500s they seem to have intentionally left the stuff about witchcraft out. It seems like it might have even sounded a little flaky to people then.

    Also, I don't know how they would have regarded the thing about the woman giving birth to a mouse.

  10. regarding you earlier question about how many witches were executed, I don't know. There are some very high and very low estimates. I would imagine that the Enlightenment tended to exaggerate the numbers though.

  11. The devil and almost any mass-produced American brewer other than Goose Island and sometimes Sam Adams.