Saturday, June 09, 2007

Luther: No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity

A friend on the CARM boards is trying to get a defender of Rome to quote Luther in context (or actually provide any context for this Luther quote):

"No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity." (Sermon, Feast of the Visitation, 1537)

This quote came under scrutiny with this CARM discussion: "Sounds Catholic To Me." It's one of those posts filled with context-less Luther quotes on Luther's alleged deep Mariology. Someone wrote me asking for some information on the above Luther citation. I've been around the block with these types of quotes. When one finds Luther being quoted, it's not up to you to produce the context. It is up to the person posting it to produce the context. When you find someone quoting Luther about Mary, ask the following:

1. Why do you think Luther's opinions about Mary are relevant?

2. Which web page did you get the quote from (I'm guessing it was some type of Roman Catholic website)?

3. If the quote is from your own readings of Luther, can you provide the context?

4. If the quote is from a German translation, did you do your own translation?

The defender of Rome who posted this quote on CARM said he was going to the library to track down the context. Here was some helpful information I gave to him before his journey. First, the quote was probably taken from William Cole's article, "Was Luther a Devotee of Mary [Marian Studies XXI, 1970, p. 132]. The quote as frequently cited in cyber space appears in this form in Cole's article:

"Five years later, likewise preaching for the Feast of the Visitation, he marvels at Mary's humility in the face of Elizabeth's great praise, which he makes equivalent to 'No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sara, blessed above all nobility, wisdom and sanctity' " (July 2, 1537- WA 45, 105, 7 to 106, 1].

I'm not sure which Roman Catholic found Cole's article and grabbed this quote. It could have been any one them (I do have my suspicions). Let me blunt: the possibility that a defender of Rome on the internet actually went out and found this non-English version of Luther's sermon from the Weimar edition of Luther's writings, and then translated it into English, is not likely. Roman Catholic internet-apologists typically do not do research like this.

Weimar 45:105-106 can be found here. Notice this is an entire page of text, in Latin and in German. If you look closely at the reference given by Cole, he refers to line 7 on page 105 to line 1 on page 106. This can mean the quote was edited down from these lines into the popular English form it's in now. In this case, what Cole means is that this quote comes from the context of line 7 on page 105 to line 1 on page 106. The quote actually is found beginning on line 10, and finishing on line 13.

In context, Luther is describing the meaning of Elizabeth's words to Mary in Luke 1:42-45, or rather what Elizabeth was saying to Mary.

41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And how has it happened to me, that the mother of my Lord would come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”

Max Thurian provides some further context as well as an alternate translation:
"...then on another Feast of the Visitation, July 2.1537, Luther said: 'When the Virgin received the acclamation of Elizabeth as being the blessed Mother of God, because she had believed and because all was coming to pass as the angel had spoken, she was not filled with pride by this praise which no other woman had ever yet spoken to her—this immense praise: "No woman is like unto thee! you are more than an empress or a queen! you are more than Eve or Sarah; blessed above all nobility, wisdom or saintliness!" No, she was not filled with pride by this lofty, excellent and super-abundant praise ...' " [Weimar, 45: 105, 7 to 106, 1].
Source: Max Thurian, Mary Mother of the Lord, Figure of the Church (London: The Faith Press, 1963), p.80.

There really shouldn't be a big deal made about this quote. Luther is describing Elizabeth's words. He isn't invoking prayer to Mary. Rome's defenders though look for anything that Luther says about Mary and pour their meaning into it- that Luther venerated and prayed to Mary. In the old CARM discussion that prompted this post, one of Rome's defenders stated,  "It seems quite clear that he was praying to Mary in the very quote itself, where he says 'No woman is like you.' He is speaking to her directly and that sounds like prayer to me." Certainly it was a supreme honor for Mary to be the mother of Jesus Christ. Does this mean we worship or pray to Mary? No, this does not follow for Protestants, or either from this quote from Luther.

Here was a response from the Roman Catholic who was about to go to the library with his quest for a context:

"Is that saying that Luther was elaborating on Elizabeth's quote as Bonnie friend was saying it seemed to him? If that is the case then the site I took the quote from is either unaware or dishonest in pulling that quote out like that. Either way, good work finding the context. We all have been guilty of pulling quotes from the internet without context. However, It still seems to me Luther had more reverence from Mary than most NCCs do. He still believed she was the "Mother of God" as the context of the line you provided shows us."

[Revised 1/24/15. The links to the CARM discussion no longer work, so were removed. However, the content remains the same: Roman Catholics often quote Luther about Mary, but never bother to actually look the quotes up.]


Raheretic said...

James, this will likely be one of the most "unique" connections you will have via your Blog. I/we became aware of you as we traced back a search someone must have Googled under the discriptor "swan." They found themselves linked to our Blog. We can see that they left immediately (likley driven to spend the rest of the day in prayer and purification fearing contamination from the sinfulness of the obvious evil he had inadvertantly touched upon.)

We are a fMf D/s polyamorous BDSM triad intentional family living quite joyously. One of the two women in my home is what our culture views "legally" to be my wife and we view her as my submissive. The other is our domestic partner and is consensually my slave.

We are three college educated middle-aged professionals who enjoy our unique love and sensual/erotic orientation.

I aspire to fulfill the mission of a heretic in its truest sense i.e., one who chooses (from the latin root of herticus...choice maker).

A very quick and dirty summary of my attempt to define my current perspective of modern othodox Christian theology can be read in the post:

which is located in our predecessor Blog, The Swan's Heart.

I would never claim to be nearly so learnedly literate as are you. Much of my reading has been based upon the historical study of Robert W. Funk, The Jesus Seminar as articulated in his book "Honest to Jesus," "The Five Gospels," etc. which has lead me to believe that modern day othodox Christian belief is baseless superstition, which has bastardized the teachings of a great man who lived exceptionally courageously, and who gave up his life in a quest to be prodigiously authentic and ethical.

I would like to link your Blog on ours so that some of our fellow heathens may come to learn from your studious and very erudite writing about those whose phenomenology is so vastly variant, as to be almost like communicating with beings from another planet.

I hope you will not view this as offensive and that perhaps we can all benefit from a mutually satisfying dialog.

All the best:)

Raheretic (Tom)

P. S. It has been interesting to read of Luther's excommunication (something I would view as a huge honor were I able to achieve it) and that perhaps he might have seen some potential legitimacy to polygamy.

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined

James Swan said...

Raheretic (Tom),

I don’t really have anything to say in response, as you’re talking all about you and your particular worldview, rather than the content of the blog post you responded to here.

I do not share your worldview, nor will I be visiting your blog any time soon.

I’m very tempted to delete your comment, not so much because of my fundamental antithesis to your worldview, but because it has nothing to do with the particular Luther quote I researched.

That being said, if my worldview is correct, you are in serious trouble. It’s not too late to admit your abhorrence for God and turn from your ways.

GeneMBridges said...

Might I suggest that if this is what Tom believes about Christianity that Tom come over to Triablogue and discuss the Jesus Seminar, with us. Much of our time in the past year has been spent dealing with this sort of thing.

GeneMBridges said...

Oh, and I just couldn't help but get this little dig in...that Roman Catholic rule of faith didn't seem to keep John D. Crossan from his views...

James Swan said...


Thank you for stopping by and giving Tom the invitation. I'm sure Tom will greatly benefit from the work you guys do. You're all about 100 times smarter than me anyway....
... well except for maybe that guy who lives and breathes hockey (just kidding Calvin Dude).

Raheretic said...

James, thank you for not deleting my comment in that it clearly has linked me to others that may be interesting or perhaps even educational.

I am sorry that I violated the protocol or your Blog in not responding to your post about Luther. I am not nearly learned enough to have had a response in that context, or any idea if I were to be, if I'd have had a comment of any validity.

I found your Blog enthralling. The Blogs I've read until now are mostly those of alternative lifestylers like myself and those or political advocates (also like myself). I've never encountered anything on the Internet like the intellectual "candy" I found here (I don't mean in the "candy" reference to be in any way derogatory of the content of your Blog but rather to describe how gratifying it was to read.)

I will certainly not defile your Blog further.

I wish you to know that I do not abhor God and there is a whole world of people who do not share your beliefs who do not abhor God.

I certainly knew you did not share my world view. That is why I thought our exchange might have been valuable. I think the most valuable exchanges are between people of vastly different world views.

It is too bad you cannot read the post I linked from my
Blog. It is interesting you have discouted my theological perspective without any knowledge as to what it may have been.

I have looked some at genembridges Blog (my goodness a reformed Baptist---aren't they the ones who have banned intercourse standing up for fear in might lead to dancing?). I fear that despite having a graduate degree and an undergraduate in literature which included the course "The Bible As Literature" I am possibly without the learnedness and intellect to even follow the discourse there.

If I were to, I would say, that, while there is no reason to imagine that all belief must have an evidenciary basis, why would one adhere to a religion whose primary precepts (i. e. the Nicene Creed) is entirely extra-historicitous? While all beleif need not have evidenciary basis, if there is no evidenciary basis, why not adhere rather to the teachings of Star Trek? But that should rather be there, and not in the limited discussion of Luther here.

I have come to feel very spiritually grounded in the way of the heretic. The First heretics, as I am sure one so learned knows, were those who refused to pay allegiance the false and corrupt creed of the Council of Nicea, and its new Roman state religion....and who were then vicioulsy presecuted by the adherants of the new psuedo Christian/Roman/pagan religion that evovled and which is predominantly today's Christianity. They chose to adhere to the teachings of Christ and the disciples.

I had hoped that perhaps there was a place where theologians and those of us who I'm sure you feel to be lost and deluded could exchange and at least learn from one another. Obvioulsy, at the least, I misunderstood the potential of your Blog.

Just as the reformation evolved out of the printing press, the death of Christianity is likely from the evolution of the Internet. These kinds of exchanges are how that will occur.

Were I to hate God and feel there was no potential validity to Christianity would you think I'd have bothered to read Funk?

One would think one who lauds the value of a heretic would have more understanding of a heretic.

I will now return your Blog to it's relevance to the dozen or so religious dorks for whom it is relevant.

I will however link it on my Blog. I would like those who are like me to be exposed to your thoughts.

I won't bother you again,

Raheretic, Tom

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you've imagined.

Carrie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carrie said...


Your comment is full of inaccuracies and inconsistencies so it is difficult to follow.

May I just suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is there a God?

2. If yes, then what does he think of me and expect of me?

3. What is my proof for my answer to #2?

Be honest with yourself and if you can come up with an answer to #3, then find a good Christian forum (maybe under atheism?) and let someone take a crack at your reasoning.

Unfortunately this comment area is not the place for this discussion.

BTW, don't feel bad about not wading into discussion on Gene's blog - even some of us religious dorks are overwhelmed by the intellect there.

GeneMBridges said...

If you'll notice, all that Tom has done is parrott the Jesus Seminar,

A. As presuppositionalists, we aren't arguing that all beliefs need an evidentiary basis. That happens to be the belief of at least two of our interlocutors at present.

B. Banning dancing due to intercourse...Tom probably couldn't define what a "Reformed Baptist" is, much less discuss their history accurately.

C. Why is 2nd century Gnosticism and not 2nd Temple Judaism the proper lens for discussing Christianity? Saying "heretics adhered to what Christ and the disciples taught" is just a parrot of the Jesus Seminar's lens (Gnosticism). Talk about a question begging objection!

D. Is the Council of Nicea "pagan?"
Notice that what Tom does not do is interact with historical theology. Neither does he interact with church history. If Nicea enacted a "state church," that expunged heretics, then why were the trinitarians, whose doctrine was ensconced in the creed, the ones who were expelled in favor of the Arians?

E. Saying that Christianity is "pagan..." is self-contradictory, since the heretics in that era happened to be pagans. Tom's objection is self-refuting. He should, by his own logic, be a Christian, or else he is not a true pagan. Speaking of which, he's parroting copycat theory. I'd like him to take the time to show us which pagan myths Christianity borrowed from and where exactly the parallels exist.

F. Finally, notice that on the one hand, he poses as a thoughtful, irenic person who does not hate God, but then insults the readers here by calling the a dozen or so, "religious dorks." From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

The invitation is always open for Tom to interact with Triablogue, since this blog is geared toward Reformation/Catholicism while ourse is broader and encompasses those that Tom outlines. Perhaps he should head to Debunking Christianity (John Loftus' blog) first, and then interlocute with Manata, Hays, and Calvindude (the Hockey fiend) and give them some material to which they can respond.

Kirby L. Wallace said...

"No woman is like you. You are more than Eve or Sarah, blessed above all nobility, wisdom, and sanctity."

As a determined and staunch believer and follower of Christ, I must say that even if the quote is about Mary, and accurate of Luther, it's not innaccurate.

It's possible that the dialoge of the Angel that visited Mary to tell her what was about to happen to her may have used these very words - words that were summarized for scripture later. We know that Jesus said many more things than what eventually got into our scripture, and the accounts of many events are no doubt summaries.

It doesn't bother me at all that Luther may have said this because it doesn't bother me at all to think it literally true of Mary.

She was "blessed above all women." She had "found favour with the Most High God" - moreso than any other woman on earth.

I just stop short of idolizing her and calling her the "mother of God."

But I don't have any problem with esteeming her above other women because God Himself did so.

Just because Catholics may have gone hog-wild in adoration and idolization of her doesn't negate the credit that she is, in fact, due.

"All the nations shall call thee blessed..."