Martin Luther burned theology books?


I have just finished reading GK Chesterton’s book on St. Thomas Acquinas, and toward the end of the book is this statement:

“It is said that the great Reformer [Martin Luther] publicly burned the Summa Thologica and the works of Acquinas… Anyhow, there is something lurid and apocalyptic about the idea of such destruction…”

There were no footnotes regarding this statement about Luther. I just find it interesting, and wonder if it is true.


He also burned teh Papal bull, along with various books by his enemies, and the book of Chruch law in December 1520 in Wittenburg.


Seems as if Luther shouldn’t have been left alone with the matches.


It does not matter what Luther did or did not do, burning or not burning any books would matter not. Removing books or calling them non canonical matters not.
He is only one man.

If he burned the Summa, did it make it go away?
If he took books out of the Scripture, did it make them go away?

Dont worry.

Jesus said the gates of Hell would not prevail against his Church.

Luther did not reform, he rebelled.
But, he was a blessing from God, and we ought be grateful for him in that he did bring to light human failings that needed change.
however, he did not see the Church as supernatural, and people like to forget that part. And his love of Mary…, but why get hung up on facts.


If Luther was a “blessing” the he was a type of backhanded blessing. The Church needed reform, that is true. But have you read any of Luther’s writing? Lately I’ve been browsing through some of his stuff. Man. This guy had a mean streak in him a mile long. He couldn’t get through an entire paragraph without saying something overtly insulting about the Pope. Same with Calvin. It is hard for me to read these characters because they’re so demeaning and ugly.


Have you read his filth and hate about the jews?


Not in full, only snips here and there. I recently bought a bunch of ebooks from Mobipocket that have several of Luther’s writings: The 95 Theses, The Larger Catechism, The Small Catechism, The Smalcald Articles, and Table Talk.

Every time I open one of them, within a little while I’m just so put-off by it that I have to do something else. It just amazes me that anyone in the 16th century was enamored enough of these so-called “reformers” that they’d follow them into a separated religion.

But I guess I’ll have to buck up and stomach these sooner or later if I want to have any understanding of Luther.


Luther apparently hated scholastic theology, so it is possible he might have committed St Thomas to the flames, but so far I have not come across a solid historian who argued this actually happened. It may well just be a legend or episode inserted by the polemicist to discolour his reputation.


I believe it is just a legend. He did, if I recall correctly, burn books of canon law.

I am not sure that Luther ever had a copy of Aquinas in his hands for any purpose. One Catholic scholar in the 1930s (Joseph Lortz) argued that if he had, the Reformation might never have happened. This is way overstated, especially since other Protestant Reformers did study Aquinas. But as far as I know there’s no proof that Luther knew Aquinas directly–more likely he got his impressions of Aquinas from other theologians who cited Aquinas to support their own quite different theological views (Gabriel Biel in particular).



Chesterton’s book on Aquinas is a marvel, for understanding Aquinas, as Gilson and others competent to judge have so often stated. But for historical facts, Chesterton was a little fuzzy. I don’t think I’d rely on this statement for anything conclusive.



I think it would have been a tinder box, at that date…I would check it, but I read your post, & I can’t stop long enough to bother!!

  1. He did bring much needed repair to the corruption of many of the church’s members.

  2. His actions have led millions astray from the Church.

Ouch, was the repair worth it? Tough question.


The Church already had councils in place dealing with issues liek corruption in the clergy, misuse of indulgences, etc.

So no the violent split was not needed. What was needed and did happen was that people who truely cared about the Church stood up and made sure things were done to repair it.



He had contemporaries and predecessors who were going about reforming the Church the right way. In fact, he most likely delayed the true reform because of all the chaos he caused.

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