Sunday, November 09, 2008

The Reformer's Rubbish:Archaeologists Unveil Secrets of Luther's Life

"The dig behind the Wittenberg house that Luther shared with his wife and six children. The German State Museum of Prehistory is opening an exhibition that presents the results of the digs to coincide with Reformation Day."

I was sent a link to this article: Archaeologists Unveil Secrets of Luther's Life. I've known about this dig for a while, it appears they've found some interesting things in the trash pit.

As to the link article- it includes some of the typical Luther myths presented as historical fact- like the famous "inkwell thrown at the Devil" story, as well as giving credence to the cloaca/tower bathroom myth. It also includes a version of the myth of Luther's fear of demon possession. Overall, the article was poorly documented and poorly researched, but it does at least explain the dig. A pictorial of the dig can be found here.

The only factoid that did interest me was the theory that Luther entered the monastery to avoid a forced marriage:

But the tale of a sign from above coming to Luther in the form of a lightning strike is greatly exaggerated. In truth Luther, who was 21 at the time, was fleeing from an impending forced marriage. "Newly discovered archive records show that the father had already married off three of his daughters and one son to the children of wealthy foremen," explains expert Schlenker. Apparently it was now Martin's turn. Instead of submitting to his father's will, the young man went to the monastery of the Augustinian hermits near Erfurt. The 50 monks living there wore black robes and the circular tonsure. They rose at two in the morning for the first Divine Office of the day.

I've not heard this one before! Poor Luther- he picked the most strict monastery to hide in. As to the truth of it? Well, only "expert Schlenker" (whoever that is) knows for certain.

14 comments:

Luanne said...

Hi
I'm new to your blog. I stumbled on it as I was doing some research on Sola Scriptura for a lay ministry class.

I think what I find so amazing is how much time and effort we are all putting into trying to prove the other side wrong. Sometimes I think we may all end up in hell for arguing.

Is there anything someone could say to you that could make you call a truce on the things you keep denouncing the Catholics for. The arguments between the two remind me of James and John asking Jesus to let them sit on his right and left.
Perhaps we should all paste Jesus' reply "whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

If we don't stop spending our time trying to "one up" each other while the world is full of hurting people I afraid Jesus will tell us to be gone because he never knew us.
I am praying for a truce.
Luanne

sturm said...

There are things not worth arguing about, and there are things worth arguing about. Galatians chapter 1 gives us one thing worth standing up for -- the purity of the gospel. Or maybe someone should've told Paul to tone down his language?

"7 [...] Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!"

James Swan said...

Is there anything someone could say to you that could make you call a truce on the things you keep denouncing the Catholics for.

Thanks for stopping by Luanne.

For the most part, my blog team has focused on sola scriptura and sola fide. The only thing that a Roman Catholic could say to me on these matters is, "I will cling to Christ alone by faith alone, and only the inscripturated words of God will thoroughly eqip me for every good work."

On the other hand, my work on Luther is an exercise in worldview. Catholics use a paradigm that can neither make sense of the Bible or history. Thus, when they read and write about history, typically much error is put forth. My work on Luther demonstrates this. Hopefully, maybe one or two might just get it.

If we don't stop spending our time trying to "one up" each other while the world is full of hurting people I afraid Jesus will tell us to be gone because he never knew us.I am praying for a truce.

Catholics need to hear the gospel, and submit to the authority of Scriptures.

My question to you would be: will Jesus know you if you don't proclam justification by faith alone, because of Christ alone, to the glory of God alone? Will Jesus know you if you think it's ok to submit to an infallible authority other than the Bible that claims to be the infallible interpreter of the Bible, that adds extra-biblical dogmas that are to be believed that have neither a basis in Scripture, and contribute to a false view of the gospel?

Alexander Greco said...

James, you really cannot be serious...are you? You are so transparent. Reject all things critical in favor of those things seemingly profitable. The problem is, even if the truth hurts, it is by far more profitable due to its inherent value as being the truth. When apologetics engage in distortion and deceit, the apologist does himself no favors. You require too much from us. You require that we intellectually rape ourselves with the suspension of disbelief in favor of your own agenda of justifying the unjustifiable. While scholars can be wrong every once in awhile, and professionals can be biased by their own agendas, I really have a hard time swallowing your untested opinion. If the scholars are wrong, then your minority viewpoint should easily win the day.

James Swan said...

Alexander,

It appears to me the article was written by someone who didn't know what they were talking about. I'm not sure exactly who the person is who wrote the article- but I doubt it was done by one of the archaeologists on the dig.

There were simply too many errors- even a basic current Luther biography would probably verify my points. Tell you what, if the mistakes I pointed out are wrong, why don't you...prove it? Don't think coming over here and insulting me rather than actually saying something of substance fools anybody.

On the other hand, I am interested in the results of the dig, as well as any information about the forced marriage.

Alexander Greco said...

It is not just about the article, James. It is your inflated ego which manifests itself as if you were the premier Luther scholar. Why should I have to prove that you are wrong when you contradict scholarship? I am not a Luther scholar, nor did I ever proclaim to be. However, I do know that scholarship is important, and if you were right while they (peer reviewed scholars) are wrong then you should be able to substantiate it in a peer reviewed journal. Do you have anything published in a respected journal on Luther? I'm sorry if you find this insulting, but I'm not convinced that these scholars who have studied Luther and noted his pathologies (among other things) within academic journals say one thing, but you say that they are wrong, then I should trust you. Can you point to a respected academic journal that corresponds to your viewpoint?

By the way James, I think that Matthias Schulz academic ability can speak for itself without you besmirching him.

http://sitemason.vanderbilt.edu/site/hwWjN6

Now James, it really didn't take me too long to find who the author was, and what he is all about.

James Swan said...

Alexander,

As I expected, you don't want to prove my errors, but would rather attack me personally. I posit: it's you with the psychological problem, not I.

However, just to show you how "big" my alleged ego is, I didn't even bother to look up who wrote that article- if it's the same person in the link you posted, shame on him. I'm very tempted to actually write him.

As to my credentials, I have never claimed to be a theologian of glory. I am though working towards a degree via a well respected seminary.

If you choose to respond to this in your typical offensive manner, I'm simply going to delete your comments- so consider if your time is worth it.

Alexander Greco said...

James, facts are facts. You regularly tell us that scholarship which portrays Luther in a negative light is incorrect, but you do not point to anything published in a respected journal (either your own writtings or others) to shore up your case. We are just supposed to take your word for it. Because I am asking for something of a higher academic standing (a published critique), you state that I have a psychological problem. I don't get it.

It does not matter what your credentials are. What I would like to see is if your claims can be backed up by published scholars. I don't think that this is either a) too much to ask for, b) manifest some psychological problem I might have, or c) an outright personal attack against you.

As I have said, I am not a scholar on Luther. You certainly know more about Luther than I do, to a considerable degree. But what does that mean? Well, I am not a scientist either. Robert Sungenis knows more about geological science than I do. However, he posits geocentrism. The clear majority of the academic community posits heliocentrism. Robert cannot point to academic scholarship to back his claims. Do I, who knows virtually little about geological science need to "prove him wrong"? Why can't I ask him to show me where it has been battled out by the experts?

Matthew Bellisario said...

James said, "I didn't even bother to look up who wrote that article- if it's the same person in the link you posted, shame on him. I'm very tempted to actually write him."


So, you had the nerve to critique the article as well as calling it poorly written, yet you never even investigated who wrote it? Now you are going to write and correct this professor who has 2 Doctorate degrees because you don't like his article? He has published numerous peer-reviewed articles accepted for publication, and is well respected. I can't wait to see what happens when the you attempt to contact this scholar and critique his article because you don't like it. Let us know how that works out for you.

Matt said...

"Catholics use a paradigm that can neither make sense of the Bible or history. Thus, when they read and write about history, typically much error is put forth. My work on Luther demonstrates this."

As I've come over here and said numerous times, this is a very annoying claim when so much of your "scholarship" is based on the work of Catholics like Jared Wicks, Hubert Jedin, and others. Acknowledge your debts!

James Swan said...

James, facts are facts. You regularly tell us that scholarship which portrays Luther in a negative light is incorrect, but you do not point to anything published in a respected journal (either your own writtings or others) to shore up your case.


Oops- forgot about you. I have a search engine on my blog, you can actually use it and answer your assertions.

It was Cochlaeus who popularized the demon possession story of Luther in the choir loft, and he did not verify it. It comes down to us as myth. Place yourself as judge hearing a witness testify against someone. The prosecution brings forth a witness with information, and this witness says a friend, told by a friend, told by a friend, told this witness that this person did something wrong. You, as a judge (or jury), should be highly suspect of such a testimony. Roland Bainton points out,

“The story is poorly authenticated. It received distribution through Cochlaeus, whose virulent misrepresentations of Luther have poisoned the Catholic attitude toward him until recently refuted by the Catholic scholar Adolf Herte. Cochlaeus wrote later than, and presumably was dependent on, Dungersheim, who took the tale from Nathin, who appears to have derived it from the Bishop of Mansfield. Thus we get it forth hand.” (Roger Johnson, ed, Psychohistory and Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), p.42)

As to the inkwell story, it first appeared towards the end of the sixteenth century, and is said to have been told by a former Wittenberg student. In this early version, the Devil in the guise of a monk threw an inkwell at Luther while he was secluded in the Wartburg. By 1650, the story shifted to Luther throwing the inkwell at Satan. Like any bizarre legend, the story morphed, and houses where Luther stayed had spots on the walls, and these were also said to be inkwells that Luther threw at the Devil. Dr. Scott Hendrix, former professor of Reformation history at Philadelphia Lutheran Seminary documents this in Christian History, Issue 34 (Vol. XI, No. 2).

As to the cloaca story, in the twentieth century, many approached Luther by applying psychoanalysis to his writings. Psychologist Eric Erikson took a German phrase uttered by Luther and interpreted it literally to mean Luther was in the bathroom when he had his evangelical breakthrough. Erikson concluded, from a Freudian perspective, Luther's spiritual issues were tied up with biological functions. But, there was not a bathroom in the tower. The phrase Erikson interpreted literally in German was simply conventional speech. Luther really was saying that his breakthrough came during a time when he was depressed, or in a state of melancholy. This can all be documented in numerous books, but you can find brief overviews by both Dr. Scott Hendrix and James M. Kittelson in Christian History, Issue 34 (Vol. XI, No. 2).


It appears to me the article "Archaeologists Unveil Secrets of Luther's Life" was written by someone who relied heavily on Erik Erikson's book. For a detailed refutation, never answered by Erikson, see:

Roger Johnson, ed, Psychohistory and Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977). As to the author, Matthias Schulz, I haven't checked to see if indeed it is the same person as that detailed in http://sitemason.vanderbilt.edu/site/hwWjN6. If it is, he's presented some easily refuted myths, and I would say he's a secularist of some sort that has bought into Erikson'e non-theistic analysis.

James Swan said...

As I've come over here and said numerous times, this is a very annoying claim when so much of your "scholarship" is based on the work of Catholics like Jared Wicks, Hubert Jedin, and others. Acknowledge your debts!


Yes, I've used these writers at times, but not in a long while. There is a great difference between Wicks and jedin, and say with the stuff put out by Catholic Answers. My broad statement was more intended to represent the later rather than the former.

James Swan said...

So, you had the nerve to critique the article as well as calling it poorly written, yet you never even investigated who wrote it? Now you are going to write and correct this professor who has 2 Doctorate degrees because you don't like his article?

Again, I haven't determined if this was the person who wrote this article, nor do I care enough to find out.

Even if it was, the area of Luther studies is a specific field. It appears to me whoever wrote the article has relied on Erikson. you are welcome though to do your own research on this, and post your findings.

Matt said...

Well, it's rather insulting and wrongheaded, I think, to allow bloggers, etc., to define a "Catholic paradigm" rather than highly respected, published AND devout Catholic scholars like Jedin and Wicks. Indeed, it is people like Wicks, not the folks at Catholic answers, who get official positions at the Vatican to address relations between Catholics and Lutherans. I wish this important distinction was more widely respected...