Did Martin Luther allow divorce?

Seeing as many protestants allow it nowadays, did Luther accept it?


Well, considering he broke his solemn Religious vows and induced a consecrated nun to break her solemn Religious vows to ‘marry’ him I would presume that he did not take serious the ‘vows’ of sacramental marriage.


So basically a guy who defends sola scriptura decides that divorce, which Jesus clearly forbade in the Bible save for sexual immorality, is now a government decision?

Not sure where you mean. It seems Luther did believe that governments should regulate marriages according to civil laws. However, he obviously also believed that Scripture had things to say about Christian marriage. The document in the link gives 3 reasons that a marriage could be dissolved and 1 reason in which spouses could separate but must remain single.

The first is adultery. Luther states:

But you ask: Is there then no reason for which there may be separation and divorce between man and wife? Answer: Christ states here (Matt. v. 31-32) and in Matthew xix. 9, only this one, which is called adultery, and he quotes it from the law of Moses, which punishes adultery with death. Since now death alone dis­solves marriages and releases from the obligation, an adulterer is already divorced not by man but by God himself, and not only cut loose from his spouse, but from this life. For by adultery he has di­vorced himself from his wife, and has dissolved the marriage, which he has no right to do; and he has thereby made himself worthy of death, in such a way that he is already dead before God, although the judge does not take his life. Because now God here divorces, the other party is fully released, so that he or she is not bound to keep the spouse that has proved unfaithful, however much he or she may desire it.

The only time Luther mentions the government is here:

For we do not order or forbid this divorcing, but we ask the gov­ernment to act in this matter, and we submit to what the secular authorities ordain in regard to it. Yet, our advice would be to such as claim to be Christians, that it would be much better to exhort and urge both parties to remain together, and that the innocent party should become reconciled to the guilty (if humbled and re­formed) and exercise forgiveness in Christian love; unless no im­provement could be hoped for, or the guilty person who had been pardoned and restored to favor persisted in abusing this kindness, and still continued in leading a public, loose life, and took it for granted that one must continue to spare and forgive him. . . .

Luther is saying that adultery dissolves a marriage and fully releases the innocent party. However, the innocent party doesn’t have to leave their adulterous spouse and, in fact, the church should encourage reconciliation. It should be the innocent party’s choice to stay or leave; however, since marriage is a civil institution even someone with grounds would still need to attain a divorce before remarrying.

The other grounds for dissolving a marriage are:
2) abandonment
3) total refusal to fulfill conjugal duties

In Lutheran Germany, people seeking divorce had to announce this in church and the community and petition a civil judge to legally dissolve the marriage. Marriage cases were not in the church’s jurisdiction; however, clergy were to offer godly counsel to couples and the new marriage courts often had both civil judges and church officials as members.

Another ground of separation, but not divorce, is inability to get along with each other. If spouses can’t get along, this might justify separation; however, the two would still be married.


Well, of course, no. Most of protestant bodies did not permitted divorce until the XX century (and the conservatives, until nowadays, the only exception being someone innocent in adultery).

Luther was so against divorce (and the abuses of annulments too) that suggested a prince to marry another woman while being married with the first (if the prince were friends with the pope he would easily got a annualment, since he was almost forced to marry). Later he repented that advice, but one can see that Luther was very contrary to divorce.

And marriage isn’t only a civil thing in Protestantism, is also in Bible. But usually the Catholic Church do not recognized civil marriage of Catholics, so they permit, in practice, divorce.


A poster with whom I will not dialogue made several slanderous statements that should be corrected, lest people keep believing such lies. This sort of thing was popular in the Middle Ages when Roman Catholics like Cochleaus were claiming silly things like “Luther was conceived in a bathhouse tryst between his mother, the Devil and a prostitute,” but they have no place in modern discussions.

  1. "[Luther] broke his solemn Religious [sic] vows…"
    This is patently false. Luther was released from his religious vows by his father confessor, Johann von Staupitz, who did so in order to protect both himself and Father Martin. Had Luther remained under his charge, Staupitz would’ve been both responsible for Luther’s future actions and required to turn him over to the authorities. No father would want any part in the (what was then assumed to be imminent) death of his son.

  2. "[Luther] induced a consecrated nun to break her solemn Religious [sic] vows…"
    Again, false. Katerina von Bora escaped a convent of her own free will. She was sent there when she was just 5 years old because, as a female, she would’ve required a dowry to marry off and was thus viewed as a burden by her family. She contacted Luther, not the other way 'round, and asked for rescue in subsequent letters. She and her fellow nuns escaped the cloister by hiding in a herring cart (it’s not known whether she or Martin had the idea for how to escape). Luther found homes and jobs for these penniless women, who were happy to be free of their cloistered enslavement. She turned down no less than two other suitors before finally demanding that Luther himself marry her. He obliged. This is all easily verifiable, folks. Online, even.

  3. "…to ‘marry’ him…."
    The scare quotes would seem to imply that the marriage was somehow illegitimate or forced. It was legitimate, happy and a model for Christian marriage. Their home has been recorded in many first-hand accounts as a joyful place, filled with song (Luther played the lute and wrote hundreds of hymns), laughter, children (they had six of their own, and adopted or fostered many more) and dogs. The two hosted students daily and nightly, turning the home into a boarding school of sorts. When plague struck Wittenberg, they did not leave like most residents, but agreed to turn their home into a hospital and saved countless lives. Katerina often talked Martin out of his depressions, and was the epitome of a faithful wife. They truly acted as one flesh.

  1. "…I would presume he did not take serious the ‘vows’ of sacramental marriage."
    The poster presumes wrongly. Very wrongly. Luther’s own marriage reflected how seriously he took his vows. He was always faithful to Katerina, and never cheated or fathered illegitimate children (unlike Popes Julius II, Clement VII, Paul III, who were all popes during Luther’s lifetime). Martin cared earnestly for her, and truly loved his wife, as is documented by many first-hand accounts. He trusted Katerina, whom he called his “rib” (for she guarded his heart), with the managing of their finances. He even did something illegal at the time, willing all his possessions to her --a woman!-- at his death.
    Luther understood marriage to be the foundational block on which natural society, which he called God’s Left Hand Kingdom, was built. Furthermore, he understood the everyday Christian’s vocation, or earthly calling done for others, to stem from the first vocations Adam and Eve had, namely to be spouses and parents. Vocation was important to Luther, from parent to prince:

“The prince should think: Christ has served me and made everything to follow him; therefore, I should also serve my neighbor, protect him and everything that belongs to him. That is why God has given me this office, and I have it that I might serve him… The same is true for shoemaker, tailor, scribe, or reader. If he is a Christian tailor, he will say: I make these clothes because God has bidden me do so, so that I can earn a living, so that I can help and serve my neighbor. When a Christian does not serve the other, God is not present; that is not Christian living.”

To Luther, no vocation was more serious than that of spouse and parent. Luther took marriage deadly serious. Literally. He once, albeit somewhat facetiously, suggested the State should impose the heftiest of all penalties on those who consummated a marriage and then cruelly, unilaterally subjected their spouse to sexual abandonment.

It’s one thing to disagree with a dead man’s beliefs, or even criticize his style of writing; it’s another thing entirely to slander his person. I hope folks will refrain from tossing around needless absurdities in the future.


Just some perspective:

It was scandalous that Ronald Reagan was voted president by so many fundamentalists. Why? He had been divorced and remarried. Times change quickly.

The first recorded case of a priest having sexual relations with a nun. Breaking their vows does not render them ineffective or invalid - it is only a sign of rebellion and slavishness to sensuality and pure human desire.

And Catholics are often accused of being obsessed with sex. Further explanation by Dr. David Anders begins at the 11:55 point in the video.

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“Chastity or continence was physically impossible…The womenfolk are ashamed to confess it, yet it is proved by Scripture and experience that there is not one among thousands to whom God gives grave to keep entirely chaste. A woman has no power over herself…The gratification of sexual desire was nature’s work, God’s work…And, as necessary aye, much more so, than eating, drinking, digesting, sweating, sleeping”. - Martin Luther (De Wette II, 535)

“[T]he day has come not only to abolish forever those unnatural laws, but to punish, with all rigor of the law, such as make them; to destroy convents, abbey, priories and monasteries and in this way prevent their ever being uttered.” - Martin Luther (Wittenb. 2, 204 B)

“Parents should be dissuaded from counselling their children to adopt the religious state, as they were surely making an offering of them to the devil.” - Martin Luther (Wittemb. V, 124)

“Though one may have the gift to live chastely without a wife, yet one ought to marry to spite the Pope, who insists on celibacy and forbids the clergy to marry.” - Martin Luther (Tischr, II, c. 20 S, 3)

“I confess taht I cannot forbid a person to marry several wives, for it does not contradict the Scripture. If a man wishes to marry more than one wife he should be asked whether he is satisfied in his conscience that he may do so in accordance with the word of God.” - Martin Luther (De Wette II, 459)

“Pretentious lives, lived under vows, are more hostile to faith than anything else can be… I would suggest to those in high places in the church, firstly, that they should do away with all vows and religious orders; or at least not speak of them with approval or praise… This kind of life finds no testimony or support in Scripture, but has been made to look imposing solely by the works of monks and priests. However numerous, sacred, and arduous they may be, these works, in God’s sight, are in no way whatever superior to the works of a farmer laboring in the field, or of a woman looking after her home… Vows only tend to the increase of pride and presumption.” - Martin Luther (On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, 1520)

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Little known Lutheran facts. Luther was fairly clearly obsessed with, among other things, sex. The Catholic Church concerned with faithfulness and continence. Which more closely follows Christ’s command that we deny ourselves, take up our crosses, then follow Him?

Here is the quotation Dr. Anders mentioned from the Augsburg Confession:

“Furthermore, God ordained marriage to be a help against human infirmity. The Canons themselves say that the old rigor ought now and then, in the latter times, to be relaxed because of the weakness of men; which it is to be wished were done also in this matter. And it is to be expected that the churches shall at some time lack pastors if marriage is any longer forbidden.”

And, in the very next paragraph:

“But while the commandment of God is in force, while the custom of the Church is well known, while impure celibacy causes many scandals, adulteries, and other crimes deserving the punishments of just magistrates, yet it is a marvelous thing that in nothing is more cruelty exercised than against the marriage of priests. God has given commandment to honor marriage. By the laws of all well-ordered commonwealths, even among the heathen, marriage is most highly honored.”


Can. 10 If anyone says that the married state excels the state of virginity or celibacy, and that it is better and happier to be united in matrimony than to remain in virginity or celibacy, let him be anathema.

Interesting you say that. Who lived the better example of a Christian husband and father?

The “heretical” man who loved his wife and children, educated his daughters (in a time when it was taught foolish to do so), and never strayed from his wife,


Three popes who opposed said “heretic” while having multiple illegitimate children out of wedlock with multiple women?

“The Catholic Church concerned with faithfulness and continence.” From where does the fish rot, again?

You are conflating Church teaching with bad individual behavior - you condemn yourself by this standard, do you not?

I’m comparing man to man.

  • Luther lived his married life in accordance with the same love he taught married couples to share.

  • The three popes I named did not marry at all, but rather kept their mistresses and children in shame.

Want to disagree with Luther’s theology? Go for it.
Want to denounce his angry rants? Do that too.
His marriage, however, is a model for all Christians.

Martin Luther:

“As to divorce, it is still a debatable question whether it is allowable. For my part I prefer bigamy to it.”

“The word and work of God is quite clear, viz., that women are made to be either wives or prostitutes.”

“If the husband is unwilling, there is another who is; if the wife is unwilling, then let the maid come.”

“In spite of all the good I say of married life, I will not grant so much to nature as to admit that there is no sin in it. … no conjugal due is ever rendered without sin. The matrimonial duty is never performed without sin.”

THAT is an ad hominem!

Who cares what he said, is he God?
No. He’s a heretic.
An anti-Semitic heretic at that.


To keep my moderator infractions to a minimum
(Lol) Let’s just say, he was ‘wrong’ pretty much every time he felt need to open his mouth.

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