The historical Luther (trying to get the facts right)


Exsurge Domine is the papal bull citing the 41 heretical errors the Church required Luther to address excerpted from his 95 thesis and preaching from the pulpit. I see that the NCR article is listing “50 reasons” and have no doubt they probably added (at least) 9 more before he was actually excommunicated. The first time I read it, I was struck by the papal tone … pastoral … what you are doing is teaching error … stop, turn around … come back to the church. Luthers answer was not to consult with his own Bishop or any churchman (that I can find), but burned the bull in public amid much fanfare …and shortly thereafter began publicly (and repeatedly) referring to the Holy Father as the Antichrist.


Just from the little I’ve read it was about “Power” with Luther.


Power? I’d vote for pride, pride, pride and oh yes …pride. Apparently he had a strong need to always “be right” and frankly … I kind of think his celebrity went to his head. Suddenly EVERYONE was interested in what this unknown monk in east-armpit Germany had to say … initially it seemed to take him by surprise … and then he seemed to revel in it… and cling to the limelight… that’s my take on it.


Hello, I don’t have time to engage at length in this discussion–although I just finished dealing with these largely false allegations against Luther on another forum–but I do have time to essentially copy and paste a few relevant points from the last thread I participated in.

Suffice to say as a general rule virtually every item (for instance in the “38 Most Ridiculous Statements”) against Luther falls broadly either into:

  1. the plain old misrepresentation category–e.g. blatant misquotation (such as taking a snippet a statement by Luther when a larger quote shows that Luther was saying the opposite of what is alleged), lack of context and/or carelessly misreading his statements
  2. the “unclean hands” category (e.g. items that Luther actually was at fault for saying–however, the Roman Catholic Church leaders of the time taught and/or sanctioned the same things–e.g. antisemitism and persecution of the anabaptists, etc.).

I would advise that people go to James Swann’s excellent site Beggars All (easily found on google) in order to see a response on the numerous errors in the "38 Most Ridicuous Things Martin Luther Ever Said"

I certainly don’t want to soft pedal the faults of Luther, particularly his vile antisemitism, however, Roman Catholics are being highly hypocritical when they seek to discredit Luther or the reformation on this basis when his arch-Roman Catholic opponents were likewise in the depths of antisemitism (e.g. his Roman Catholic opponent Johann Eck’s antisemitic writings, the antisemitic papal bulls of the reformation era, Inquisition, etc.).

The same hypocrisy goes for many other things that Roman Catholics accuse Luther on:

  1. Luther’s position on James and the OT Canon, when his chief opponent Cardinal Cajetan and other prominent RCs held a similar position on James and the OT Canon, etc.,
    2.Luther’s approval of bigamy as preferable to divorce and remarriage in the case of Prince Philip, when Cardinal Cajetan and other prominent RCs were likewise advocating for bigamy in their writings and in the case of King Henry VIII,
  2. Luther’s approval of execution of anabaptists when the Roman Catholic leaders likewise approved the execution of anabaptists (and other Protestants),
  3. Luther’s approval of uncles marrying nieces, when Roman Catholic leaders regularly sanctioned the marriage of uncles and nieces (and even aunts and nephews) among Catholic royalty,
    etc.,etc., etc.

This will have to be my last post for the next week or more. God Bless.


[quote=“Jaaye, post:175, topic:457295”]
We’ve been over this ground before… they ARE Luther’s

You can claim all you want, but they are intentionally edited to spin them.

You ignored it because it didn’t fit the narrative. The author uses an intentionally edited text, leaves out Luther’s main comment (he doesn’t claim any authority at all, doesn’t hold anyone to his opinion).

No. Based on Luther’s, and based on the utter lack of honesty by author of the polemic.

continued, due to the idiotic 3200 character count


I know very well that in Romans 3 the word solum is not in the Greek or Latin text — the papists did not have to teach me that. It is fact that the letters s-o-l-a are not there. … while at the same time they do not recognize that it conveys the sense of the text – if the translation is to be clear and vigorous [klar und gewaltiglich], it belongs there. I wanted to speak German, not Latin or Greek, since it was German I had set about to speak in the translation. But it is the nature of our language that in speaking about two things, one which is affirmed, the other denied, we use the word allein [only] along with the word nicht [not] or kein [no]. For example, we say “the farmer brings allein grain and kein money”; or “No, I really have nicht money, but allein grain”; I have allein eaten and nicht yet drunk"; “Did you write it allein and nicht read it over?” There are countless cases like this in daily usage.
Inn diesen reden allen / obs gleich die Lateinische oder Griechische sprache nicht thut / so thuts doch die Deudsche / und ist ihr art / das sie das wort (Allein) hinzu setzt / auff das / das wort (nicht odder kein) deste völliger und deutlicher sey / Den wiewol ich auch sage / Der Bawer bringt korn und kein gelt / So laut doch das wort (kein gelt) nicht so völlig und deutlich / als wenn ich sage / Der Bawer bringt allein korn und kein gelt / und hilfft hie das wort (Allein) dem wort (kein) so viel / das es eine völlige Deudsche klare rede wird / denn man mus nicht die buchstaben inn der Lateinischen sprachen fragen / wie man sol Deudsch reden / wie diese Esel thun / Sondern man mus die mutter ihm hause / die kinder auff der gassen / den gemeinen man auff dem marckt drümb fragen / und den selbigen auff das maul sehen / wie sie reden / und darnach dolmetschen / so verstehen sie es denn / und mercken / das man Deudsch mit ihn redet.
In all these phrases, this is a German usage, even though it is not the Latin or Greek usage. It is the nature of the German language to add allein in order that nicht or kein may be clearer and more complete. To be sure, I can also say, “The farmer brings grain and kein money,” but the words “kein money” do not sound as full and clear as if I were to say, “the farmer brings allein grain and kein money.” Here the word allein helps the word kein so much that it becomes a completely clear German expression. We do not have to ask the literal Latin how we are to speak German, as these donkeys do. Rather we must ask the mother in the home, the children on the street, the common man in the marketplace. We must be guided by their language, by the way they speak, and do our translating accordingly. Then they will understand it and recognize that we are speaking German to them.

That’s his reasoning. Now, we can have a discussion about whether or not he translated properly.
Or, you can continue with misrepresentations. Such as this:

To recap… he realizes he has corrupted the Angelic Salutation and then also admits (for whatever reason) he did not actually give “the best” German translation (by his own estimation)??

He is not claiming at all that he is corrupting the angel’s salutation.


Thanks. You’ve certainly hit the salient points.
All I ask is that Luther receive the same treatment as others of his era. Again, it seems Catholic theologians are doing so, while apologists continue with the old polemical double standard.


I’m glad, Maria, you find it beautiful

As they are from the Successor of Saint Peter, the very Vicar of Christ upon Earth, I trust you would be in complete & total agreement not only with every word he speaks but even with the thoughts which underlie his words

You seem to have radically misunderstood the point

Pope Benedict does not speak of errors; he went precisely to this site to honour Martin Luther…due to the great esteem he has for him & the inspiration he has drawn from Luther

Joseph Ratzinger is one of the greatest Catholic minds when it comes to understanding Luther’s thought and his theology, as I had occasion to learn when I was first working on the dialogue. From Conflict to Communion exists thanks to Pope Benedict…and the 500th anniversary of the Reformation’s Joint Observance is due to Pope Benedict

So I am glad to know, Maria, that you too would go to Erfurt, in the footsteps of Pope Benedict, to honour Martin Luther and pray there with your Lutheran sisters and brothers…mindful that, as Pope Saint John Paul II wrote

Again, the very expression separated brethren tends to be replaced today by expressions which more readily evoke the deep communion — linked to the baptismal character — which the Spirit fosters in spite of historical and canonical divisions. Today we speak of “other Christians”, “others who have received Baptism”, and “Christians of other Communities”. The Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism refers to the Communities to which these Christians belong as “Churches and Ecclesial Communities that are not in full communion with the Catholic Church”. This broadening of vocabulary is indicative of a significant change in attitudes. There is an increased awareness that we all belong to Christ.

Finally, you agree therefore that you have much to learn from your Lutheran sisters & brothers since you found so beautiful these passages, with which you said you agree completely, wherein Pope Benedict said

This is a key ecumenical task in which we have to help one another: developing a deeper and livelier faith

This is key…we as Catholics will have a deeper & livelier faith by being enriched by the gifts that we can receive from non-Catholic Christians. We, as Catholics, must come to live the faith anew with our non-Catholic sisters & brothers who belong, with us, to the Body of Christ

As the martyrs of the Nazi era brought us together and prompted that great initial ecumenical opening, so today, faith that is lived from deep within amid a secularized world is the most powerful ecumenical force that brings us together, guiding us towards unity in the one Lord. And we pray to him, asking that we may learn to live the faith anew, and that in this way we may then become one


As to admirable qualities, Theodore Robert Bundy was a handsome, personable, well-educated and charming man. He just had that one rather serious flaw.

I have it on good authority from a certain EWTN theologian that Fr. Martin was not primarily motivated by abuses in the Church. Due to his um, ‘unique’ psychological state, he strongly disagreed with revealed truth and needed most desperately to have absolute assurance that he was justified. He laid awake at night, woke up in cold sweats over justification. Overturning a good portion of revealed Christian truth was no obstacle on his path to self-assurance.

Very sadly, as others fell in with him and his power and influence increased, he became what he hated. As for me, I’ll stick with peace-makers such as Erasmus of Rotterdam - who drew spiritual and verbal gunfire from Fr. Martin for the mortal sin of disagreeing with him. Erasmus suffered from both sides - a white martyr.


Quote me where I’ve said the words are wrong.

What I’ve said, and will say again, is that it is dishonest to purport to provide Luther’s words for an honest evaluation, then only provide cherry-picked snippets and then add biased commentary on them.
And again, there is nothing inherently wrong with either, but doing the latter while claiming to do the former is dishonest.

But let’s look at your claim that, in his open letter on translating, Luther intentionally mangles the angel’s salutation to the Blessed Virgin. Why would he do this? Did he reject the basic western Mariology? Did he hold Mary in low esteem?

Hardly. One need only Google “Luther quotes on Mary” to find a multitude of quotes and sermons he gave regarding her. And lest someone claim they were all from the young Luther, here:
** 'God has formed the soul and body of the Virgin Mary full of the Holy Spirit, so that she is without all sins, for she has conceived and borne the Lord Jesus.** Luther in 1544

A tiny selection, indeed.
Luther, in his letter on translating, is clearly NOT claiming to intentionally change the salutation. He had no need to. His only reason to state what he did was mess with his detractors.



I’m just asking an honest question in response to Jaaye’s claim.

Did or did not Luther say he had a conversation with the devil which resulted in Luther and the devil agreeing that we’re saved by faith alone, that we shouldn’t have private masses, and that there should be no devotion to Mary and the saints?

If you don’t know, that’s fine.


Re: bigamy of the Prince of Hesse vs. supposed bigamy of the king of Castile –

King Henry IV of Castile, known as “the Impotent”, was married to Blanche II of Navarre when he was 15. The marriage was annulled in 1453, on the grounds that he was impotent. Henry testified that in three years, he hadn’t been able to consummate the marriage with Blanche. (This was the statutory amount of time required to prove it, under canon law back then.) They then stayed married without consummation for another ten years.

The marriage court was enlivened by the testimony of prostitutes from Segovia, who said the prince was perfectly able to do it with them. The prince said obviously he must be under a curse, designed to keep him from consummating things with Blanche. (I suppose today he would say he had a psychological disability. The truth seems to be that Castile was finding their alliance with Navarre’s current royal family to be a disadvantage, since they were supporting the claim to Navarre’s throne of Prince Charles of Viana.)

Anyway, the court and the Bishop of Segovia declared the marriage null. The Navarrese complained, so Pope Nicholas V sent a bull supporting the local bishop’s decision. There was no “dispensation for bigamy,” just a controversial declaration of nullity.

The interesting bit is that Blanche didn’t go home to Navarre, and didn’t support her dad’s claim to Navarre’s throne or her own or that of Prince Charles. She stayed in Castile and supported her non-ex-husband’s claim to Navarre instead of her own. She was very very unwilling to go home.

The next act was that Henry started looking around for a wife. He approached Portugal and vice versa, and then his dad died and he became king. He married Joan of Portugal in 1455, but the marriage contract was very unusually weighted in her favor. She brought no dowry, and no gifts or income had to be returned to Castile even if the marriage failed. Joan (and her dad the king of Portugal) had no interest in being treated like a sloppy second.

However, Henry IV and Joan were both first and second cousins (through their mothers and paternal grandmothers, respectively). So they should have gotten a dispensation from the Pope before marrying; but they didn’t. (All the Spanish kingdoms were much too intermarried for papal approval, lots of times, and they often went for forgiveness instead of permission. Or they had kids and then separated or got an annulment declared, because the kids still counted legitimate even when the marriage never had a chance of being legal.) So the Pope definitely gave no permission for that crud.

They did manage to have a daughter, but it was widely believed that King Henry IV was not her dad.


And that’s why Henry’s sister, Isabella of Castile, became queen of Castile when her brother kicked the bucket, and that’s why she picked out and married Ferdinand of Aragon instead of waiting for some horrible inbred relative to be picked out for her. (And that’s also why Isabella fought a civil war against the partisans of Joan’s little daughter, the princess Joan, also called “la Beltraneja” for the man people suspected of having fathered her.

(And if any of this sounds familiar, Lois McMaster Bujold’s fantasy novel The Curse of Chalion is loosely based on Isabella’s rise to power.)

I forgot to say that Blanche II did receive a medical exam as part of the marriage court proceedings, and she was ruled still a virgin after 13 years of marriage. She made no attempt to claim consummation, either. (And frankly, Henry IV was not the kind of guy people would think could do his marital duty, or would want to. It’s the prostitute testimony that historians tend to doubt.)

She was eventually sent home to Navarre in 1462 despite her wants; and she was promptly imprisoned by her dad, because her right to be Queen of Navarre was better than his claim to be king. (And she had an armed faction of supporters, whether she wanted them or not.) The family did try to marry her off to the Duc de Berry, one of the French princes, but she was 35, uninterested in a would-be rebel prince, and refused. She then remained imprisoned by her family until she died in 1464, allegedly by poison.


Oh, yes. For Luther, Satan was as real as God Himself. For Luther, it is an epic ongoing battle between Jesus and Satan. Looking at it 500 years later, when many have since relegated such belief to superstition, that wasn’t the case with Luther’s era. But Luther didn’t see it as superstition, he separates out the faith aspect of this. One wonders if we are worse off by not recognizing the real and extant threat that Satan poses.

The difference is in using a hack like O’Connor or O’Hare or Denifle from the 1900’s in a modern conversation about it. These guys are not referenced by modern Catholic theologians.

Heiko Oberman says -

To Luther Christmas was the central feast: “God for us.” But that directly implies “the Devil against us.” This new belief in the Devil is such an integral part of the Reformation discovery that if the reality of the powers inimical to God is not grasped, the incarnation of Christ, as well as the justification and temptation of the sinner, are reduced to ideas of the mind rather than experiences of faith. That is what Luther’s battle against the Devil meant to convey. Centuries separate Luther from a modern world which has renounced and long since exorcised the Devil, thus finding it hard to see the difference between this kind of religion and medieval witchcraft. But Luther distinguished sharply between faith and superstition. He understood the hellish fears of his time, then discovered in the Scriptures the true thrust and threat of Satan and experienced himself the Devil’s trials and temptations. Consequently he, unlike any theologian before or after him, was able to disperse the fog of witches’ sabbath and sorcery and show the adversary for what he really was: violent toward God, man and the world. To make light of the Devil is to distort faith. “The only way to drive away the Devil is through faith in Christ, by saying: ‘I have been baptized, I am a Christian.”’


Would you mind explaining to me what the phrase “full of grace” means (typologically?) in sacred scripture with respect to Mary and the Annunciation?

And possibly WHY mangling the meaning of this phrase is so significant?


The burden of proof is on the accuser, but I’ll quote Luther:

She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin—something exceedingly great. For God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil.

It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin"


Yes I see the quotes … anyone can pull quotes … the question was … what is the significance of the term “full of grace” and why would messing it up be so upsetting to people? (as Luther himself noted in his Defense of Translation thesis).


Your Oberman quote is not really applicable … what did you do Google Luther + Devil and sift through the results searching for an answer?

I don’t think the issue hinges on sifting between superstition and medievel witchcraft; nor is it “what Luther’s battle with the Devil is meant to convey”. It is his extensive dialogue with the devil on doctrinal issues that are described in great detail that are worrisome to those who read Luther’s account of the incident in his own words.


My concern is not Luther believing that the deceiver (satan) exists, but that Luther agrees with him, adopting Satan’s teaching about faith alone, no devotion to Mary, etc.

In Bondage of the Will, Luther also says that everything happens in us necessarily according to whether God has loved us, or not loved us, from all eternity. That also appears to be a demonic teaching.


A good question is … why would Luther have possibly wanted to “devalue” the Book of James in the Bible… to downgrade it, so to speak and call it an “epistle of straw”? One answer is that James in at least three definitive places emphasizes that faith is not enough – you need works – which conflicts with Luther’s primary doctrine of “faith alone”. James 1:22-23 - be doers of the word and not hearers only; James 2:14-17 - what good is it if someone has faith … but not works? James 2:20-26 - do you want proof you ignoramuses that faith without works is useless?

Catholics believe BOTH faith and “works” are needed for salvation.

Luther, however, chose to extract the Epistle of James from its original place in the Bible and put it in an Appendix at the back of the Bible with this Preface in front of it (1522):

"Though this epistle of St. James was rejected by the ancients, I praise it and consider it a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God. However, to state my own opinion about it, though without prejudice to anyone, I do not regard it as the writing of an apostle, and my reasons follow.

In the first place it is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works 2:24).** It says that Abraham was justified by his works when he offered his son Isaac (2:20); Though in Romans 4:22-22 St. Paul teaches to the contrary that Abraham was justified apart from works, by his faith alone, before he had offered his son, and proves it by Moses in Genesis 15:6. Although it would be possible to “save” the epistle by a gloss giving a correct explanation of justification here ascribed to works, it is impossible to deny that it does refer to Moses’ words in Genesis 15 (which speaks not of Abraham’s works but of his faith, just as Paul makes plain in Romans 4) to Abraham’s works. This fault proves that this epistle is not the work of any apostle.

In the second place its purpose is to teach Christians, but in all this long teaching it does not once mention the Passion, the resurrection, or the Spirit of Christ. He names Christ several times; however he teaches nothing about him, but only speaks of general faith in God. Now it is the office of a true apostle to preach of the Passion and resurrection and office of Christ, and to lay the foundation for faith in him, as Christ himself says in John 15[:27], “You shall bear witness to me.? All the genuine sacred books agree in this, that all of them preach and inculcate [treiben] Christ. And that is the true test by which to judge all books, when we see whether or not they inculcate Christ. For all the Scriptures show us Christ, Romans 3[:21]; and St. Paul will know nothing but Christ, I Corinthians 2[:2]. Whatever does not teach Christ is not yet apostolic, even though St. Peter or St. Paul does the teaching. Again, whatever preaches Christ would be apostolic, even if Judas, Annas, Pilate, and Herod were doing it.” (ibid).

But this James does nothing more than drive to the law and its works.


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