Luther - as many sects as heads?

I was doing some research into the above quote, and it appears to have been fabricated by Steven Ray; the author of the article dug a bit deeper and discovered that the quote was never quoted from a primary source.

Now, for Steven Ray to make such a claim about Luther in his book without further research seems careless; but worse of all, if Luther’s quote is indeed a fabrication; what does that say of Catholic apologetics and their claims?

I’ve noticed a tendency among all apologists - in fact among all who have a point they wish to prove - to accept as evidence anything that conforms to their view without making sure it is real.

All it says about Catholic apologetics is that they are human, but it illustrates that we should not take such polemic notes at face value, but rather should check them out.

That’s a loaded question. If you read the whole post to the end, you would see that the blog author later concedes that it was from Luther’s Letter to the Christians of Antwerp, and that it was not a fabrication after all.

Still, Steven Ray should have cited his source clearly, and we could have avoided this unnecessary misunderstanding.

I hope that helps. :slight_smile:

I believe it highly improper for you to accuse Steven Ray *falsifying * a quote.

How’s your German? Mine is vestigial.

Luther’s works are here…,%20Weimarer%20Ausgabe%20-%20WA.htm

Letter to Christians in Antwerp is here on page 547…

Even when he finds the original source; it’s not said AFAIK as the original snippet purports.

1ke; I meant no disrespect to Steven Ray, I don’t believe that he was intentionally trying to deceive, but merely may have jumped the gun and taken the quote at face value.

In passing, I will say that I am amazed that people are at odds over Luther’s own interpretation of his beliefs and private interpretation of the Bible… ironic much? Who’s their authority? :wink:

I wrote about the same Luther quote as cited by Mr. Ray here: Luther: Sola Scriptura Had a “Devastating Effect”?.

You’ll notice in both entries (including the one cited Zeldarocks), I did not say that the quote was a complete fabrication. Rather, I argued the quote doesn’t say what Mr. Ray says it does when placed back in context. I don’t think Mr. Ray knowingly attempted to put forth a bogus interpretation. Rather, he probably took the quote from a secondary source and never bothered to check the context.

Now with Google Books and so much available on line, it’s important to put forth credible information. Even when I wrote those 2 entires, not that much was available. Now, I could track the quote right back to its original source.

James Swan

My, you’re a sharp one. I didn’t realise that either.

Well, to be fair, many of the quotes seem to vary a great deal between themselves too. It could be an issue of a game of broken telephone. Until we can get a direct, formal equivalence translation of Luther’s original letter, I’m going to reserve judgement on that.

I can’t speak for the Protestants, but as Catholics, we have the Magisterium of the Church who has been entrusted with the immense task of teaching us the proper understanding of Christ’s teachings as according to Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. With this understanding, we are then armed with the faith and knowledge which is the golden standard by which we measure everything else.

In any case, whether the quote misrepresents Luther’s intentions or meaning behind the letter will probably be a topic for another day, another thread. :slight_smile:

How’s your German? Mine is vestigial.

Luther’s works are here…,%20Weimarer%20Ausgabe%20-%20WA.htm

Letter to Christians in Antwerp is here on page 547…

I know not German; alas, I would have to rely on a translation.

Fortunately, *The Letter of doctor Martin to the Christians of Antwerp *(1525) is scheduled to be translated into English in a forthcoming volume of Luther’s Works.

If you read the extant English context I provided in my blog links, Luther does not blame sola scriptura at all, but rather Satan. The letter was written to warn Antwerp of radical leaders and groups during the peasant uprising. The peasants had sporadic outbursts of violence previous to their great uprising in the spring of 1525. Luther was very aware of the peasant situation. He had personally visited some of the peasants and was almost killed by them. Charismatic radical leaders spurred them on, using religion as part of the motivation to violently revolt against the establishment. Luther was aware of these charismatic peasant leaders, and wrote against them, and also to warn Antwerp.

If someone wants to use this Luther quote from 1525 correctly, they should at least admit Luther was not lamenting sola scriptura. Lamenting over radicals using the Bible incorrectly and the basic principle that the Bible is the sole and sufficient infallible authority for the man of God are two different things.

Interestingly, Luther comments elsewhere:

There is no other place in the world where there are so many sects, schisms, and errors as in the papal church. For the papacy, because it builds the church upon a city and person, has become the head and fountain of all sects which have followed it and have characterized Christian life in terms of eating and drinking, clothes and shoes, tonsures and hair, city and place, day and hour. For the spirituality and holiness of the papal church lives by such things, as was said above.  This order fasts at this time, another order fasts at another time; this one does not eat meat, the other one does not eat eggs; this one wears black, the other one white; this one is Carthusian,  the other Benedictine;  and so they continue to create innumerable sects and habits, while faith and true Christian life go to pieces. All this is the result of the blindness which desires to see rather than believe the Christian church and to seek devout Christian life not in faith but in works, of which St. Paul writes so much in Colossians [2]. These things have invaded the church and blindness has confirmed the government of the pope.” [LW 39:221].

Regards, James Swan

i’ve been reading comments from luther like the one u just posted its very funy that a catholic priest does not understand the basics of catholicism or he decided to misinterprete them. He thinks there are different sects in catholicism, different practice etc he fogot to mention diffent spirituality but one faith maybe he refused or forgot to see what he created real sects with very different and conflicting beliefs. He talks about a religion based on works it is a pity he is no longer alive maybe i would have met him to tel him he is wrong. Or maybe this is a dicussion for another thread.

From my point of concern, your comments certainly would be something to take up with others in a different discussion thread. I’m far more interested in the *nuts and bolts *of the accuracy of the interpretations of Reformation documents and their use by Roman Catholic apologists.

I will say this though as per your speculative counterfactual: I would not want to debate someone Roman Catholic historian Joseph Lortz referred to as “a theologian of the highest rank.”

Regards, James Swan

This reminds me how there is no primary source for Luther’s accusation that Johann Tetzel said “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” It is pure hearsay that everyone seems to accept as fact.

I admire the courage and brilliance of Martin Luther. However, few Protestants regard him as infallible, a saint, or anything comparable. What he did was courageously object to flagrant abuses in the Catholicism of his day. His very life was at stake and he could easily have been murdered had not he been sheltered by a sympathetic prince (as I recall). Had the Papacy (and others) handled him with greater understanding and skill, had reforms been instituted quickly, perhaps the Reformation could have been avoided.

There may be plenty of blame to go around, but any effort to place it mainly on Luther is unjust. The Church desperately needed reforming. Maybe the day will come when a united Christianity will recognize the virtues and weaknesses of Luther. Personally, I regard him as one of the great figures of Christian history without endorsing everything to did or wrote. After all, Thomas Aquinas favored the execution of heretics and he certainly is highly honored within Catholicism, even today.

That’s also a bit off topic, but interesting, and also worthy of new thread.

I think Roman Catholics have a valid gripe if they question if Tetzel was the originator of the jingle “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul out of purgatory springs” (Sobald der Pfennig im Kasten klingt, die Selle aus dem Fegfeuer springt). Sometimes Protestants think this phrase was unique to Tetzel, sort of like the way the phrase “your best life now” is attached to Joel Osteen.

A version of this phrase actually can be traced back to a much earlier date. Martin Brecht notes the University of Paris complained about this popular jingle as early as 1482 (Martin Luther, His Road to Reformation, 1483-1521, p. 183).

Heinrich Boehmer notes the idea behind this phrase wasn’t anything new when Tetzel came on the scene:

“Even the much-discussed sentences concerning the automatic effect of the indulgence for the dead- which were later compressed into the famous rhyme, ‘So soon as coin in coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs’- were not in substance new, but merely an apt practical application of the commonly accepted doctrine, as it had been publically set forth, for example, only a few years before by Luther’s fellow-Augustinian, John Jenser of Paltz in his Coelifodina” (Road to Reformation, p. 180).

But while Tetzel may not have coined the phrase, he certainly taught it’s sentiment. Even Hartmann Grisar reluctantly admits it:

The saying about the money in the coffer cannot, indeed, be traced to Tetzel’s own lips, yet in his sermons he advocated a certain opinion held by some Schoolmen (though in no sense a doctrine of the Church), viz. that an indulgence gained for the departed was at once and infallibly applied to this or that soul for whom it was destined.(Luther 1, p. 343).

While Grisar denies Tetzel used the jingle, There is some proof that he may indeed have uttered something like it. Schaff notes,

Mathesius and Johann Hess, two contemporary witnesses, ascribe this sentence (with slight verbal modifications) to Tetzel himself. Luther mentions it in Theses 27 and 28, and in his book Wider Huns Wurst (Erl. ed. XXVL 51).

James Swan

I love the phase ‘speculative counterfactual’ the only problem is that my point weren’t speculative, they are facts. As regard that joseph called luther a ‘theologian of highest rank’, does not mean he didn’t misinterprete the cc teaching nor is it a guarantee of good doctrines. Personally i think he ‘possibly’ had good intentions (fighting certain abuses etc) but on the long run his passion clouded both his theologyand behaviour and the result is Gods family in disunity. He stoped fighting the evils in the church he began to fight what he thought was the ‘church of evil’. He started as an anti body but ended breaking the body. You want to defend luther writing don’t use those that give wrong information. Thank u.

i see your point there is enough blame to go around i think the late and present pope share your veiws. Luther was not the only man in his day asking and preaching reform he was the only one who didn’t stop at correcting abuses but went on to ‘correct’ truth christains have held like …forever, in those day there were neither understanding nor skill to handle it, it was regarded as heresy! Alas everybody is to blame, one found ‘truth’ different from what was known to be truth the other didn’t understand or handle with enough skill. Personally i agree that ‘understanding and skill’ are better weapons that should have been used but i doubt those method would convince luther to stop attacking doctrines. Maybe i’m pessimistic but i think luther would have cut himself form the church no matter the deplomacy used. He was too convinced of his doctrines to believe they were wrong.

Please accept my apologies for not being clear enough with my use of “speculative counterfactual.” I wasn’t at all referring to the content of the discussion you wish to have with Dr. Luther- that I stated should be posted on its own thread. Rather, I had in mind the actual ability of you having a discussion with Dr. Luther. Since this “fact” will never take place on this planet in your lifetime, your scenario of actually having a discussion with Dr. Luther is “counter” to the facts of reality.

As to your comment, "You want to defend luther writing don’t use those that give wrong information" please re-visit my previous comment to you: “* I’m far more interested in the nuts and bolts of the accuracy of the interpretations of Reformation documents and their use by Roman Catholic apologists*.” In other words, if you’ve got energy to read through Reformation materials, I suggest first visiting those published and blogged by Roman Catholics. Check them for accuracy, and then perhaps move on to checking those put out by someone as irrelevant as me. You can start by contacting Mr. Ray, and explaining that he should read primary sources and check his facts before publishing.

Regards, James Swan

thanks for clearifying, that was truly speculative. As regards my last statment i was actually refering to your post where u quoted luther, he did gave wrong information or misinterpreted the cc’s doctrine.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit