Now that a Mormon is running for president and tends to be favored by Christian conservatives over his Christian liberal opponent, we are hearing more and more that famous quotation from Martin Luther: “I’d rather be ruled by a wise Turk than by a foolish Christian.” The problem is, no one has been able to find that famous quotation in any of the voluminous works of Luther. It appears that the quotation is apocryphal. I suspect it may have originated as an attempt to explain the implications of Luther’s doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, as in, “Luther would have rather been ruled by a wise Turk. . .” which then was recalled as “Luther said he would rather have been. . . .” At any rate, I would love to identify the earliest occurrence of that quotation in print. (If any of you could help with that, I would be very grateful.)
Anyway, despite his reputation as a political fatalist, Luther had quite a bit to say about foolish Christian rulers (just ask Henry VIII). And he had a lot to say about the threat of being ruled by Turks, wise or otherwise, as the Ottoman Empire was then engaged in a major invasion of Europe, an Islamic jihad of conquest that had taken over much of Europe and that was finally turned back at the gates of Viennain 1529.