Luther conversations with the Devil

I heard something in my youth that in a difficult moment he was screaming - He(Lord) Alive!
But I can not understand that question about conversation with devil.
I know that neo-protestants talk with God (pentecostal, charismatic)
And some of them say-God talks with them.
But I think even that subjective experience has to be tested by a Scripture.
Our biggest problem that during our life we frequently do not listen God’s whisper, and we make many mistakes in life, and later regretting but Luther’s talk with devil, I never heard about that :thinking:

While I actually like some of the work of Erik Erikson (his model on theory of psychological development has some helpful things within it), I would take anything he says as a psychoanalyst and follower of Freud with a huge grain of salt. Pretty much the answer to every question in that realm of psychology is sex.

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Are these evaluations based on some diagnosis?

It’s a figure of speech. I was simply referring to Luther having a lot of spiritual and personal issues. If he were among us today, I think he’d admit to as much. Everyone has issues.

Okay, but it is not a theological argument. It comes across as ad hominem

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I don’t mean it that way. If Father Luther were in my midst right now, I would kiss his fingers as being those of a priest of God. He actually had some good points. Imagine if there had been an Internet and blogs back then — his would have been something to read! I would be all for his posting the 95 theses and having them discussed back and forth. Nailing them to the door might not have been necessary.

A man who likes beer and playing cards couldn’t be all bad :innocent::beer::spades::hearts::diamonds::clubs:

The best thing I can say is to read Erikson’s book and take the arguments on their own merits.

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And I would do the same to Pope Leo X.


That would be hard to come by. The best I can produce is blog sites by followers of Luther who are not ashamed to admit that he actually said such things. For example:

What experience with the devil does he have to say this? Most strange of all, most striking of all, is one treatise where he is writing against a Catholic practice in the Mass, and in the middle of it he says: “The devil woke me up at night with this argument against me,” and then there’s a five-page argument from the devil, deadpan. Luther does not present this as symbolic or something, a deadpan argument where it turns out the devil is right, and you can quote from any part of that five-page argument, and it’s Luther’s view that’s being presented by the devil, because at the end, Luther responds to the devil by saying: “Devil, you’re right, you’ve got me—that’s a good theological argument; I have to repent. I was participating in this Catholic practice and it was sin, it was wrong—so, you’re right, I’m wrong, but I’ll just confess my sins, so I win,”

The author who wrote that excerpt is:
Phillip Cary (born June 10, 1958) is a philosophy professor at Eastern University with a concentration on Augustine of Hippo. He received his Ph . D . from Yale Divinity School under Nicholas Wolterstorff. He has written a number of books, including three published by Oxford University Press.

Institution: Yale Divinity School

A Protestant.

As @JonNC pointed out, Luther, from his own point of view, celebrated Mass throughout his life. He called his liturgical reform the “German Mass”.

If I recall rightly what I read about that famous conversation during my studies, the devil reproached Luther, not that he had celebrated the Mass, but that he had celebrated private Masses. And Luther resisted, saying he had celebrated them carried by the faith and intention of the Church.

I did visit the Wittenberg castle once, and the guide pointed out a stain on the wall of Luther’s study, which she said had been made by his throwing his inkwell at the devil.

But if we are going to judge spiritual paths from the place the devil had in them, then what about st Anthony the Great, almost beaten to death by demons ? Or st Benedict throwing himself naked in thorns and nettles to resist the devil’s temptations ? I’m not sure that argument is a good one.


Where did you find it? I tried searching for it online, but all I could do is find people repeating the claims from the opening post, but not any actual copy of it.

I followed your link which ultimately directs readers to another article. That article refers to Luther’s “colloquy with Satan” in 1522, but then immediately mentions “De Missa Privata & Sacerdotum Unctione (1533).” This 1533 writing has been translated into English (see LW 38). In this particular writing, Luther outlines a fictional dialog with Devil, in other words, Luther employed a literary device. I’ve gone over it a number of times on my personal blog.

Time now doesn’t allow me to get further into this. The article ultimately draws the majority of its information from another source (Abraham Woodhead).


Edited to add: I was able to skim through the five page article you originally linked to (the article was no longer available on your link, but I found it anyway). The basic thrust of the author is a review of the Latin version of Luther’s 1533 treatise, Von der Winckelmesse und Pfaffen Weyhe via a secondary source book from 1687. That is, the author of the article didn’t read Luther, but is summarizing someone else’s reading of Luther.

The treatise has been translated into English in LW 38:145 ff, The Private Mass and the Consecration of Priests. The treatise contains a fictional dialog with the Devil. I’m not sure where you got the “1521” date from. 1533 is the correct year.

What was confusing is that the author appears to have a made a typo in her article. After citing the 1533 treatise (Latin version), the author cites a line from the 1533 treatise and then says the line was from 1522.

…Bottom line is the entire thing is from the 1533 treatise, it’s available in English in LW 38. It may not be free online (I don’t know), but a good college library typically has the LW set (Luther’s Works).


Not looking to stir the pot but… Erikson’s book on Luther has been challenged and refuted… that’s the way the academy works… someone writes a book, then someone refutes it, etc. I can list some of those sources if there’s any interest.

The most basic charge is that Erikson made poor use of the primary evidence. Then also, one has to wonder how good of an idea it is to do psychology on someone who has been dead for a long time from a different culture.


I found it on google books.

From what I heard that story is changed. He supposedly throw his excrement at him. Which is possible since Luther had obsessions with excrements (very often talked about it).

Being beaten by the devil and trying to stop yourself from sinning is something totally different then letting devil advise you.

You missed out a key word in what I wrote : Luther resisted.

Notice that the publication date was MDXXXIIII, and also that the book says it’s a Latin translation from the German. So Luther wrote the treatise in 1533, yet this Latin translation came out in 1534.

There are earlier treatises Luther wrote on the mass, but the one with the fictional dialog with the Devil is the 1533 writing. As I mentioned already, see Luther’s Works 38 for a complete English translation based on the original German.


The inkwell story is apocryphal. The tale first appeared toward the end of the 16th century. There are different versions of the story.

I’ve not come across any meaningful documentation that Luther threw excrement either.

Certainly Luther was quite a character, but these are the sort of tales that don’t have any meaningful documentation. Particularly with the inkwell story, it is possible to trace the different versions.


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Here’s one last follow-up before this discussion sinks into the cyber-murk. I finally had a chance to work through this particular subject, based on the link provided in the OP.

  1. As others have pointed out above, Luther did celebrate the Mass throughout his life (the German Mass). The material in question from the link was in regard to the private Mass specifically. The author of the link appears to have missed this, “… the colloquy on the Mass that took place in 1522 had such an effect on him that he never offered another Mass .” This is blatantly false.

2.I figured out the discrepancy between the 1522 and 1533 dates mentioned in the link. The author uses Luther’s 1533 writing and says it describes Luther’s encounter with the Devil in 1522. The way of arriving at this is conspiratorial, and I don’t buy it.

  1. The editors of Luther’s Works point out that three draft versions of The Private Mass and the Consecration of Priests (1533) are preserved (Luther’s dialog with the Devil). They say the drafts demonstrate the story was literary device, not a real story. I guess it depends on your interpretation of history as to who you believe (history is not neutral).
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Thanks. I am just curious - how did they arrive at the conclusion that it’s just a made up story? Did he mentioned it in the drafts or is it just hopeful wish on their part? Thanks.

The editors of LW mention that there are three outlines / drafts of Von der Winckelmesse und Pfaffen Weyhe, so it’s possible to trace the development of this writing. The dispute with the Devil occurs only in the third installment. I’m not aware of Luther ever mentioning that the story was fictional intended to make particular theological points… but it does become quite obvious while reading it. Take a look Brecht’s review here. He gives a great synopsis of the treatise. He mentions a letter Luther wrote about the book in which one of his intended goals was to see if his detractors could answer the Devil’s arguments.

Before using the argument about all of this you mentioned in the OP, it would be prudent to read the actual treatise. I think it becomes apparent that the account was not Luther recounting an actual experience. For instance, in the opening of the treatise, Luther recounts how, from his perspective, he was right about indulgences, his detractors were wrong, and now in 1533 they were forced admitting he was right all along. Then in the intro to the story of his dialog with the Devil, he begins:

I want to begin with myself and make a short confession before you sainted fathers. Grant me a good absolution which will not be injurious to yourselves. Once I awakened at midnight and the devil began the following disputation with me in my heart …”

Total sarcasm! Notice also, Luther says the conversation took place internally: " Once I awakened at midnight and the devil began the following disputation with me in my heart ."The actual conversation with the Devil goes on for multiple pages in detailed arguments. How was Luther was able to transcribe such a lengthy internal conversation? None of these aspects of the dialog add up if it was intended to convey an actual physical experience.

That’s why I mentioned previously, “I guess it depends on your interpretation of history as to who you believe (history is not neutral).” I suspect that if one begins with a neurotic Luther that was having imaginary disputes with the Devil, in other words, a mad man, then of course, Luther was recounting an actual experience he had. This is sort of the approach of the article you linked to: Luther was deluded and also deceived by the Devil.

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