Is that true about Martin Luther ?

English is not my native language, I’m sorry for any misspellings.

According to PBS website there are 10 things we didn’t know about Martin, I don’t ask about the good things but I’m asking about the ones like 1, 2, 5 and 10.

Martin Luther was…

  1. Alcohol cures all evils
    Luther thoroughly approved even advocated drinking heavily. When a young man wrote to him complaining of despair at the prospect of going to hell, Luther wrote back advising him to go and get drunk. That, he said, was what he did when he felt despair.

  2. Let’s talk about sex
    Luther also thoroughly approved of sex; he said that a woman had the right to take on a lover, if her husband wasn’t able to satisfy her in bed - and the husband should look on this with equanimity.

  3. Sing me a song
    Luther was very keen on music. An accomplished Lute player, he composed countless hymns and he is regarded as one of the most important German composers prior to Bach.

  4. Wittenberg: an artists’ colony
    Wittenberg, where Luther lived for much of his life, was a tiny town in the Germany of that period. And yet Luther found himself living only a few doors away from two of the greatest German painters of the day, Lucius Cranach and his son. The Cranachs are responsible for the series of striking portraits of Luther that still survive.

  5. The ‘Fish Barrel’ incident
    Luther’s wife was an ex-nun who had managed to escape from her convent by hiding in barrel that had once contained pickled fish.

  6. The dawn of a new faith
    With his translation of the Bible into German Martin Luther attained permanent fame as far as a unification of the German language was concerned. Today some 70 million believers on all five continents are members of the Lutheran Church.

  7. The animal activist
    Luther was bitterly opposed to hunting. When he was disguised as a knight in the castle of the Wartburg, he refused to take part in the customary pursuit of rabbit hunting. One ran up his leg to escape the dogs, but they still bit through the cloth and killed it.

  8. Surrounded by relics
    Although Luther objected to the holy relics he discovered in Rome, there were at least as many on his own doorstep. The Castle Church of Wittenberg contained a collection of over 1500 relics including bones of saints and bits of the true cross. Every All Saints day, these would be spread on the grass in front of the church for the local populace to come and gaze at.

  9. The most infamous woodworker and gardener of his time
    Luther was paid no wage, and took no payment for his services. At the end of his life, with six children, he installed a lathe and learnt woodworking in order to keep the money coming in. He was also a keen gardener, apparently producing fantastic lettuces, beans, melons and cucumbers.

  10. Extreme repentance
    As a young monk Luther was obsessed with atoning for his sins and went to ridiculous lengths to punish himself. This ranged from extreme self denial and physical and mental tests to self flagellation. One such punishment consisted of lying in the snow, through the night at the height of winter until he would have to be carried back inside.

This blog post addresses this: “PBS Presents “Facts” That Luther Advocated Drunkenness and Promiscuity.” This is what it says:

The historical record nowhere documents Luther ever being drunk. It does provide evidence that he did drink alcohol, and that he enjoyed drinking. One needs only to survey the massive output of work that Luther produced to settle the matter that Luther was not an alcoholic, nor did he have a “drinking problem.”

Luther preached and wrote against drunkenness throughout his entire life with vigor and force. As biographer Heinrich Boehmer notes, “Luther attacked the craving for drink with word and pen more vigorously than any German of his time. He told even princes his opinion of it, in private and public, blamed the elector himself publically for this vice, and read the elector’s courtiers an astonishingly drastic lecture” [Source, Heinrich Boehmer, Luther and the Reformation in the Light of Modern Research (London: G. Bell and Sons LTD, 1930), 198]. One example among many is Luther’s Sermon on Soberness and Moderation against Gluttony and Drunkenness (1539). Luther complaining about excessive drinking states: . . . . . . .


Like the previous statement about Luther advise to get drunk, I can only speculate as to where PBS got this “fact” from. It is absolutely true that Luther “approved of sex,” but he did so while at the same time always strongly advocating marriage. Luther often spoke out against promiscuity and adultery in his writings and sermons.

It is possible the PBS researcher got a hold of a negative Luther biography that referenced a sermon from Luther’s in 1522, as well as his writing on the Estate of Marriage.

In the sermon, Luther first exhorts a Christian to remain faithful to a sick spouse who is unable the “render the conjugal due”. Even in the case of severe sickness, the healthy spouse must remain faithful. Luther says to the spouse tries to rationalize adultery because of a sick partner: “If you say: I cannot contain myself, then you are lying.” What Luther goes onto say is a little more curious. Luther notes the situation is different when a wife simply refuses to give her husband his “conjugal due”:

“One spouse may rob and withdraw himself or herself from the other and refuse to grant the conjugal due or to associate with the other. One may find a woman so thickheaded that it means nothing to her though her husband fall into unchasteness ten times. Then it is time for the man to say: If you are not willing, another woman is; if the wife is not willing, bring on the maid. But this is only after the husband has told his wife once or twice, warned her, and let it be known and rebuked before the congregation. If she still does not want to comply, then dismiss her; let an Esther be given you and allow Vashti to go, as did King Ahasuerus.” [Ewald Plass, What Luther Says, entry 2811]

Biographer Ewald Plass notes of this quote, “The words, ‘If the wife is not willing, bring on the maid’ have been notoriously misconstrued by having been quoted out of context. As the following words clearly show, Luther is thinking of a separation and a remarriage, not a sort of concubinage.” [Ewald Plass, What Luther Says II:901, footnote 20]. . . . .

These are only portions. The blog post has a lot more information in it.

Hopefully Jonnc will be along soon to stragiten this all out. I trust Jon when it comes to all things Luther.

He is very knowledgeable.

This material debunked previously

Good old PBS.

:hypno: :hypno:

As a Lutheran, I have read about some of these assertions but question the validity of most.

Re: Alcohol: Lutherans have never been part of the temperance movement. Potluck dinners can and do include beer and/ or wine but we do not get drunk at our parishes.

I am aware of Luther going through self-mutilation as a way to express penance but I believe that was the norm during the 1500’s for religious.

There is a thread here titled Nuttiest Things Non-Catholics Have Said or Done Around You Because You’re Catholic, I think that the same could be said about the Lutherans. If you don’t take some time to do some research before posting then don’t post and put your foot in your mouth.
Lutherans do like to drink beer when being social, personally I like Yuengling.

Darn it, gentlemen, I had finally gotten the “In Heaven there is no beer, that’s why we drink it here” song out of my head after a week at the Kutztown German Folk Festival, and now I’m stuck with it again.

Sam Adams.



Trappistes Chimay.

It’s good, but in Texas we prefer something else:wink:

Number 5 is certainly true, I remember coming across it while researching the reformation.

Number 10 I can partially vouch for. He was big on repentance. I have no idea what he actually did by way of self-imposed penance, however.

Regarding number 1, Luther was known to be a drinker, although I’m sure that if he gave such advice it was tongue-in-cheek.

Number 2 just sounds way out there.

But none of the ten things mentions his Antisemitism, which is well-documented and disturbing. Of course, many were antisemitic in his time, so it’s probably not fair to accuse him of something that was the social norm. But it’s still awful.

I thought getting drunk was a norm? :stuck_out_tongue:

I knew there was a reason I liked you. :thumbsup:

We also need to distinguish between antisemitism and antijudaism. The antisemitism of the nazis was race-based. The antijudaism of Luther’s era was a bias against the Jewish faith



:smiley: Cheers!

When it comes to beer, you’re all wrong. The best is Spotted Cow from the New Glarus Brewery. Only available in Wisconsin. :thumbsup:

[quote=Thebreak]According to PBS website there are 10 things we didn’t know about Martin, I don’t ask about the good things but I’m asking about the ones like 1, 2, 5 and 10.

Anytime you see a “Ten Things You Didn’t Know”-type list, it’s a given that it’ll contain some oversimplifications or outright errors. PBS is doing one of three things: 1) Using shock value in a desperate attempt to glean viewership from the cable networks, 2) Poorly skimming history books, or 3) Luther bashing. I don’t think you’re Luther bashing, but if you “don’t ask about the good things” as well as the unseemly, you will never come to a fair understanding of the man. Just food for thought. :slight_smile: That said, here’s a small bit of clarification on the numbers that haven’t yet been addressed in this thread:

Number 2 - This is one of the most obnoxious and egregious allegations that anti-Lutherans have made against the man, and the way PBS has presented it is downright false. Firstly, Luther was a catholic. This meant he valued, respected and upheld the biblical and Divinely-instituted natural order of creation (marriage). There were only extreme cases where a marriage could ever be dissolved. In this particular case, the woman Luther was counseling via letters had been essentially abandoned by her husband. Here is a link to one of Luther’s sermons on marriage, which should set the record straight (please note that the site is certainly not Lutheran, but it was the only online source of this particular sermon I could find):

Number 5 - Katerina von Bora and several other nuns did escape from a monastery. The Wikipedia article, although brief, is actually fairly accurate. I’m not sure how this paints Luther in a ‘bad’ light? :shrug:

Number 10 - This was quite normal at the time, and corporal mortification is still practiced by some Roman Catholic groups (though not widely, and not nearly to the extremes of history). To my knowledge, however, Luther only engaged in the practice during his early years, abandoning it during and after the Reformation.

Hope that helps!

:thumbsup: This. We’re all guilty of oversimplifying at some point! :o

I’m not taking up for Luther but PBS pretty much stands for Pure BS when it comes to anything besides Sesame Street :stuck_out_tongue:

Luther was not a antisemite: he was quite joy-filled and happy with jews who converted to Christianity.

An antisemite hates all ethnic jews regardless of their religion (or lack of it.)

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