(12-20-07 and 2-22-10)
Just when you think you’ve discovered all the weirdest things about Luther that could possibly be found, ol’ Martin springs another goofy, wacko idea on ya!:
. . . God commanded in the law [Deut. 22:22-24] that adulterers be stoned . . . The temporal sword and government should therefore still put adulterers to death . . . Where the government is negligent and lax, however, and fails to inflict the death penalty, the adulterer may betake himself to a far country and there remarry if he is unable to remain continent. But it would be better to put him to death, lest a bad example be set . . .
The blame rests with the government. Why do they not put adulterers to death? Then I would not need to give such advice. Between two evils one is always the lesser, in this case allowing the adulterer to remarry in a distant land in order to avoid fornication . . .
Where the government fails to inflict the death penalty and the one spouse wishes to retain the other, the guilty one should still in Christian fashion be publicly rebuked and caused to make amends according to the gospel . . .
Here you should be guided by the words of St. Paul, I Corinthians 7 [:4–5], “The husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does; likewise the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does. Do not deprive each other, except by agreement,” etc. Notice that St. Paul forbids either party to deprive the other, for by the marriage vow each submits his body to the other in conjugal duty. When one resists the other and refuses the conjugal duty she is robbing the other of the body she had bestowed upon him. This is really contrary to marriage, and dissolves the marriage. For this reason the civil government must compel the wife, or put her to death. If the government fails to act, the husband must reason that his wife has been stolen away and slain by robbers; he must seek another. We would certainly have to accept it if someone’s life were taken from him. Why then should we not also accept it if a wife steals herself away from her husband, or is stolen away by others? (The Estate of Marriage, 1522, translated by Walther I. Brandt, from Luther’s Works, Vol. 45, pp. 32-34)
This is marvelous reform of the morals concerning sexuality that the Catholic Church had cultivated for 1500 years, isn’t it? The state puts adulterers to death. Frigid women should also be done away with by the state. If the state doesn’t execute adulterers, they ought to run away to another country and get remarried (!!!).
Luther doesn’t say whether an impotent man should likewise be put away by the wife or put to death by authorities (the “ED police”?). I suspect he would not take such a position. No, only women who aren’t fulfilling their sexual duties (men always do, no doubt) are subjected to such drastic measures, and the adulterous man can flee to another country, where Luther in his wisdom recommends another “marriage” as the “lesser” of “two evils.” We can see how the “Reformation” truly liberated women from Catholic chauvinistic medieval serfdom, can’t we?
In the past, I have noted Luther’s propensity for intolerance and capital punishment. The myth of the tolerant Luther dies hard in many folks. One can only present the facts. Here are some more:
Out of special hatred for our faith, the devil has sent some whores here to destroy our poor young men . . . such a syphilitic whore can poison ten, twenty, thirty or more of the children of good people, and thus is to be considered a murderer, or worse, as a poisoner. . . .
And I must speak plainly. If I were a judge, I would have such a poisonous, syphilitic whore tortured by being broken on the wheel and having her veins lacerated, for it is not to be denied what damage such a filthy whore does to young blood, so that it is unspeakably damaged before it is even fully grown and destroyed in the blood. (Table-Talk, WA, TR, IV, no. 4857, pp. 552-554; cited in Susan C. Karant-Nunn & Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks [editors and translators], Luther on Women: a Sourcebook, Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 157-158)
Concerning the female sorcerer. . . . Why does the law name women more than men here, even though men are also guilty of this? Because women are more susceptible to those superstitions of Satan; take Eve, for example. They are commonly called “wise women.” Let them be killed. (Sermon on Exodus 22:18: “You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live,” 1526, WA XVI, p. 551; in Susan C. Karant-Nunn & Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, ibid, p. 231)
August 25, 1538, the conversation fell upon witches who spoil milk, eggs, and butter in farm yards. Dr. Luther said: “I should have no compassion on these witches; I would burn all of them. We read in the old law, that the priests threw the first stone at such malefactors, `Tis said this stolen butter turns rancid, and falls to the ground when any one goes to eat it. He who attempts to counteract and chastise these witches, is himself corporally plagued and tormented by their master, the devil. Sundry schoolmasters and ministers have often experienced this. Our ordinary sins offend and anger God. What, then, must be his wrath against witchcraft, which we may justly designate high treason against divine majesty, a revolt against the infinite power of God. The jurisconsults who have so learnedly and pertinently treated of rebellion, affirm that the subject who rebels against his sovereign, is worthy of death. Does not witchcraft, then, merit death, which is a revolt of the creature against the Creator, a denial to God of the authority it accords to the demon?” (Table-Talk, translated by William Hazlitt, 1857, DLXXVII; see alternate URL; yet another URL; also variant by Preserved Smith)
“One should hasten to put such witches to death.” (Table-Talk, 20 August 1538; from Conversations With Martin Luther, translated and edited by Preserved Smith and Herbert Percival Gallinger, New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1915, p. 163)
Photo credit: witch burning [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]