Thursday, March 25, 2010

Luther a Murderer?

On a recent post I mentioned Mitch Pacwa's upcoming Reformation video series. Pacwa was recently on Catholic Answers to discuss the project. He's looking to do a ten part series on the Reformation from a Roman Catholic perspective. I mentioned Pacwa says Luther "apparently had killed somebody in a duel."

Buried in my e-mail spam was a tip from someone who thinks he might know where Pacwa got this tidbit from:

A German biographer named Hans-Joachim Neumann published a book in 1995 entitled Luthers Leiden (English title Luther's Suffering) in which he puts together some circumstantial evidence that in 1505 Luther killed a friend of his in a duel, the friend's name being Hieronimus Buntz, and that the reason Luther entered the monastery was to escape punishment.

So based on this tidbit, I've been looking around for more information. On this web page comes the following:

Luther’s biographer and admirer, Hans-Joachim Neumann has put together much circumstantial evidence, which indicates, that Luther (who was named ”Luder” until 1520) killed his friend Hieronimus Buntz in a duel in 1505 and entered a monastery to escape punishment. In addition, Luder had a relationship with a married woman since 1503. (Luthers Leiden [Luther’s Suffering] ob cit., p. 15 ff.)

Now the webpage is a typical example of Internet propaganda. However, that doesn't necessarily mean this fact is incorrect. Here's another web page tidbit translated from the German:

Evidence suggesting that Luther killed his friend in the dispute Hieronimus Buntz. 1529 Luther wrote about his time monk: "A man slayer I was" and the biographer of Veit Dietrich, 1532, the Table Talk Luther noted: "After the extraordinary decree of God, I was made a monk, so they do not take me prisoner. Otherwise I would be very easy been caught. As it was, they could not, because it took me to the whole Order. "

And another (Translated from Swedish):

There have been two duels, where Luther attended during his undergraduate studies. The first duel was under Dietrich Emmes inquiries between Luther and Conrad Wigant April 16, 1503 near Stotternheim. The second duel was fought between Luther and Hieronimus Buntz in January 1505 and died in that regard Buntz. Where it happened is still an open question.

And another (translated from Spanish)






As to Hans-Joachim Neumann's book, he's a professor and maxillofacial surgeon at the teaching hospital of the Humboldt University in Berlin. His book attempts to use current medical knowledge on Luther. That is, he looks at Luther's health from the historical reports, and then at times diagnoses his suffering and how that impacted his work.

I put this post together in about twenty minutes, so when I have more time, I'll be looking further into this based on the clues above.

Update
Just to prove I'm not the meanie some think I am, I searched the term "Dietrich Emme" and found a helpful bit of information via this link (Give credit when it's due). This blog posted an edited snippet from the magazine, Thirty Days: "Struck, But Not By Lightning," by Tommaso Ricci, No. 2, 1992, pp. 62-64), worth checking out on this topic.

I'm always curious as to the Roman Catholic interpretation of Luther & the Reformation. I do like Mitch Pacwa, but I've heard him say some not so true historical stuff on Luther & the Reformation over the years. Perhaps now that he'll be focusing directly on Luther & the Reformation, his facts will be updated. Sometimes we hear stuff, and just repeat it, not realizing it's wrong. With this particular event (or non-event), I'm hopeful he'll be fair. The conclusions seem to be based on circumstantial evidence, and it's interesting that not too many people have picked up on this, leading me to believe it's not compelling circumstantial evidence. Even Pacwa used the word "apparently". On the other hand, even if this "duel" is true, it doesn't change anything.

27 comments:

Andrew said...

What is your initial reaction? Do you think there is any validity to this at all? In the end Luther was either right about the gospel or not. However it would be interesting to see if this holds up. No?

Pilgrimsarbour said...

I know our Catholic friends, who are quite predisposed to following a man, naturally assume that Luther's gospel does not exist outside of Luther's (and the other Reformers') exegesis of Scripture. If Roman Catholics follow a man, so must Protestants, right? They really seem to believe that no one apart from the Reformers would have ever come to the Reformed position just by reading the Scriptures, even by the time of the 21st century.

Men are fallen, flawed and sinful. Some have done horrendous things like King David, who was, nevertheless, the "apple of my eye."

If men are such, should we tolerate a double standard by our friends across the Tiber? Should we not continue to hold the RCC hierarchy responsible for its sexual proclivities and secret "deals" if Luther's (and the other Reformers') character is to be likewise scrutinized?

Let's be fair. If Luther's character flaws and sins, even serious ones such as this duel possibility, nullify what he taught, then sexual molestation in the dead of night should nullify RCC doctrine as well.

Obviously it's a stupid argument, but I'm constantly amazed by how many RCCers want to argue against the Reformers and the Reformation in this very way.

Andrew said...

Pilgrim, right you are.

louis said...

I find it hard to believe that something like this would come to light only now, 500 years after the fact, and as the result of one man's research for a book.

Luther had many enemies in his lifetime -- aggressively hostile enemies, with position and power. And witnesses were still alive.

If this were true, you'd think they would have known about it then, and it would have been used relentlessly against Luther.

James Swan said...

Giving credit when it's due:

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2009/05/lightning-bolt-and-luthers-vow-to.html

louis said...

Lol, you called that one.

James Swan said...

Nah, it looks like he posted the link last year. I must've missed it.

Paul McCain said...

Thanks for drawing this situation to my attention.

We are pursuing these rumors with the world-class Luther scholars that we are working with at present to produce an additional twenty volumes of Luther, in English.

I'll let you know what we find out.

Paul McCain said...

OK, here you go. Short response: This is warmed over drivel, a steaming pile of silliness that has been repeated for years, based on old anti-Luther polemic from centuries back.

Somebody needs to tell Fr. Pacwa not to make a complete fool of himself and EWTN if they actually go through with trying to repeat these silly stories.

I consulted with one of my brainiac Luther scholar friends, who may choose to post here directly. Here is what he said.

Scholars have been aware of this theory for over a hundred years. Except for a few folks, no one takes it seriously. Dietrich Emme was arguing in favor of the duel theory in the early 1980’s.

Here’s an interesting book on the subject (in German of course), which looks at the death of Luther’s friend Alexius, and also deals with his supposed killing of Hieronymus Buntz, a fellow student, in a duel. Here’s where it starts:

http://books.google.com/books?id=r2hHAAAAYAAJ&dq=Hieronymus%20Buntz&as_brr=3&pg=PA27#v=onepage&q=Hieronymus%20Buntz&f=false

And here’s where he has a quote from the matriculation book of the philosophical faculty in Erfurt, which says that Buntz died of pleuritis.

http://books.google.com/books?id=r2hHAAAAYAAJ&dq=Hieronymus%20Buntz&as_brr=3&pg=PA34#v=onepage&q=Hieronymus%20Buntz&f=false

I’ll tell you more as I learn more. Maybe I’ll post this at your friend’s blog.

Rev. Benjamin Mayes said...

To add to what McCain wrote, I know that Franz Posset’s recent book on Staupitz promotes the duel theory. The legend of Luther killing a man in a duel apparently comes from the notoriously unreliable Table Talk:

http://books.google.com/books?id=r2hHAAAAYAAJ&dq=Hieronymus%20Buntz&as_brr=3&pg=PA36#v=onepage&q=Hieronymus%20Buntz&f=false

So it will be very interesting to see what new evidence they're going to bring.

James Swan said...

Thank you both. I was not aware the theory was over 100 years old.

That Pacwa would use stuff like this is a bit shocking. He's a well educated man, and should know better.

Perhaps I'll send a note over to him, it couldn't hurt.

Dozie said...

“Somebody needs to tell Fr. Pacwa not to make a complete fool of himself and EWTN if they actually go through with trying to repeat these silly stories”.

It is often astounding how these things work. At 3:02 PM, March 26, 2010, Paul McCain knew nothing about the story of Luther killing someone in a duel. However by 5:51 PM, March 26, 2010, Mr. McCain has known enough about the story to be able to issue the above warning. It seems to me the one making a fool of himself is the one who does not know how much he does not know. This is clearly the type of behavior one would expect of a lunatic (normal people do not speak in this manner unless they have special knowledge about the subject matter). Mr. McCain does not actually know if the story is true or false; what he has is “sola fide” that his friend is right about his own version of the story.

Edward Reiss said...

Dozie,

Rev. McCain stated he consulted an actual Luther scholar, and gave a thumbnail of why this scholar thinks this story is not to be taken too seriously. There is no reason for Rev. McCain to take the word of a non-Luther scholar over his friend, who is a Luther scholar. This is far from "Sola Fide" in his friend.

BTW, perhaps you are a little too uncritically accepting of authority? It seems this is true of a lot of RCs and EOs, as they will accept any story about Luther which tickles their ears because it fits into their pre-conceived notions...

Dozie said...

"There is no reason for Rev. McCain to take the word of a non-Luther scholar over his friend, who is a Luther scholar. This is far from "Sola Fide" in his friend".

How is one "ordained" a Luther scholar? Isn't James Swan also a Luther scholar in the Protestant tradition? I know that Mr. McCain is used to being authoritarian but he does not have the standing to be issuing threats to someone who is, by a significant margin, more educated, more experienced, more reasonable, and more respected, than he can ever be.

Edward Reiss said...

Dozie,

"How is one "ordained" a Luther scholar? Isn't James Swan also a Luther scholar in the Protestant tradition?"

Presumably it means someone with academic credentials in Luther studies. From Rev. McCain's post:

"We are pursuing these rumors with the world-class Luther scholars that we are working with at present to produce an additional twenty volumes of Luther, in English."

So these scholars are working on twenty volumes of Luther. Unless you want to maintain he is lying about the scholars ISTM the benefit of the doubt belongs on his side--this is likely a dead-end. So far the evidence in favor of Luther having killed his friend is rather circumstantial--like the circumstantial evidence of Jesus' romantic involvement with Mary Magdeline. This does not falsify the charge, of course, but ISTM the RC apologists should tread lightly lest they find themselves out on a scholarly limb, which has happened before. (In fact, it is pretty close to a RC Tradition to throw calumnies at Luther...)

To my knowledge, James has never presented himself as a scholar, and I doubt he ever has so presented himself. To my knowledge Fr. Pacwa is not a Luther scholar, either. So, before casting aspersions on Rev. McCain it seems prudent to wait and see.

And I still think RCs are subject to this "tickled ear" phenomenon. It is almost pathological. It is the RC version of Jack Chick.

Edward Reiss said...

As to the charge itself, as others have said, it would be rather extraordinary for this to have escaped Luther's enemies. Actually it would be extremely extraordinary.

Rev. Benjamin Mayes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rev. Dr. Benjamin T. G. Mayes said...

Was Luther a murderer?

In the early 1980's, Dietrich Emme popularized the theory that Martin Luther entered the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt not due to his experience in a storm, but in order to escape prosecution after killing a companion (Hieronymus Buntz) in a duel in 1505 (Martin Luther: Sein Jugend- und Studentenzeit 1483-1505 [Cologne, 1982]). Emme's work on this point has been widely dismissed in recent scholarship as piling one speculative conclusion upon another (e.g., Andreas Lindner, "Was geschah in Stotternheim," in C. Bultmann, V. Leppin, eds., Luther und das monastische Erbe [Tübingen, 2007], pp. 109-10; cf. Franz Posset, The Front-Runner of the Catholic Reformation: The Life and Works of Johann von Staupitz [Aldershot: Ashgate, 2003], 94, and the response by Helmar Junghans, Lutherjahrbuch 72 [2005]:190).

The standard biographer of Luther claims that Hieronymus Buntz died of plague (Martin Brecht, Martin Luther: His Road to Reformation, 1483-1521 [Minneapolis: Fortress, 1985], 47), and this is documented in sources from 1505 (http://books.google.com/books?id=r2hHAAAAYAAJ&dq=Hieronymus%20Buntz&as_brr=3&pg=PA34#v=onepage&q=Hieronymus%20Buntz&f=false).

The "duel theory" relies on one of Luther's Table Talks: "By the singular plan of God I became a monk, so that they would not capture me. Otherwise I would have been captured easily. But they were not able to do it, because the entire Order took care of me" (D. Martin Luthers Werke: kritische Gesamtausgabe [Weimar Edition]: Tischreden, vol. 1 [Weimar: Hermann Böhlaus Nachfolger, 1912], p. 134, no. 326). Yet this refers to the Augustinian order's protection of Luther from Rome in 1518, not a putative flight from prosecution for dueling in 1505.

If Luther's "duel" were true, it would have been a matter of rather public knowledge, both casually, among students and the monks, and officially, both with whatever civil or episcopal authorities were supposedly trying to arrest Luther, as well as because a dispensation would have been required for Luther's ordination (homicide being a canonical impediment for the sacrament of order). In other words, it would be practically unthinkable that when the Roman Catholic polemical biographer of Luther, Johannes Cochlaeus, was searching for data about Luther's monastic career (and coming up with stories like Luther wailing in the choir) that such a "fact," if true or even rumored, would not have emerged.

Dr. Christopher Boyd Brown, general editor, Luther’s Works: American Edition
Dr. Benjamin T. G. Mayes, managing editor, Luther’s Works: American Edition

James Swan said...

Rev. Mayes,

Thank you so much for looking into this, and stopping by to leave a comment.

Father Pacwa's looking toward 2017 to release his series. Perhaps this fire has been put out before he even had a chance to light the match.

While Father Pacwa is well educated man, over the years I've heard him put forth some rather spurious Luther information. I've attributed it to the fact that Luther research is a specialized endeavor, and perhaps he hasn't delved into this area with the care needed. Now that he plans this video series, I'm not sure I can still make such an excuse for his work in this area.

Dozie said...

"Yet this refers to the Augustinian order's protection of Luther from Rome in 1518, not a putative flight from prosecution for dueling in 1505".

There is no reason to believe that the above is true, except to say that it came from a "Luther Schalar".

"By the singular plan of God I became a monk, so that they would not capture me".

To say that the event being referred to happened after Luther became a monk rather than before is to make mockery of common sense.

Turretinfan said...

Luther (reportedly) said: "By the singular plan of God I became a monk, so that they would not capture me".

Dozie said: "To say that the event being referred to happened after Luther became a monk rather than before is to make mockery of common sense."

The only way to understand Luther's statement is that the event took place after Luther became a monk.

Rev. Dr. Benjamin T. G. Mayes said...

Dozie wrote: "To say that the event being referred to happened after Luther became a monk rather than before is to make mockery of common sense."

Note:
* The Table Talk doesn't say anything about why Luther thought people were trying to capture him. It certainly says nothing about a purported murder or duel.
* In the Table Talk, Luther was speaking about God's singular plan, which brought things about in such a way that people (whoever they were) could not capture him. He does not say that he *decided* to become a monk in order to avoid capture, but that *God* brought it about that he become a monk, in order to avoid capture. In and of itself, this does not argue either for or against the duel theory.
* If Luther killed someone in a duel, it certainly wasn't Hieronymus Buntz. So then, who was it?
* Luther claimed that he never killed anyone. See his Lectures on Genesis 37:18-20. (I don't have the English handy, but the quote is in the German St. Louis edition, 2:1107.)

Therefore, if Luther killed a man in a duel, we'd like to see the evidence. That was the point of the statement of myself and Dr. Brown.

But in any case, if Luther did kill someone in a duel and enter the monastery as a result, he would not be the first great father of the church to repent of his sins and enter a religious life.

James Swan said...

But in any case, if Luther did kill someone in a duel and enter the monastery as a result, he would not be the first great father of the church to repent of his sins and enter a religious life.

Dr. Mayes,

This is indeed the case, but I'm not sure the person you made this comment to will actually hear what you're saying.

One of the unfortunate aspects of the Roman Catholic polemic I've dealt with is that alleged "facts" like "Luther was a murderer" turn into yet another reason why he had to "invent" sola fide. I've got a hunch that if Mitch Pacwa continues using this allegation in his 2017 documentary, such will be the case. The series of Roman Catholic Luther lectures I'll be reviewing this week on the blog similarly take a few tidbits from the Tabletalk and make them into more than they actually say. Some Roman Catholics often begin and end with the Tabletalk, and then plug Luther's actual writings in when needed to create the appropriate caricature.

Once again, thank you Dr. Mayes for stopping by my blog, and also your work on the recent volumes of the LW series. I wrote up a little review of LW 69 here. I'm honored you would take the time to stop by.

Blessings,
James

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

“The Table Talk doesn't say anything about why Luther thought people were trying to capture him.”

Does it not follow then that the assertion that the Table Talk event “refers to the Augustinian order's protection of Luther from Rome in 1518, not a putative flight from prosecution for dueling in 1505" is purely speculative?

“But in any case, if Luther did kill someone in a duel and enter the monastery as a result, he would not be the first great father of the church to repent of his sins and enter a religious life.”

In the first instance Luther is not a “father of the church” except by church one means Protestantism. Secondly, I was not judging Luther on whether or not he killed someone; I was merely asserting that whatever event he had in mind, in the Table Talk comment above, happened before he entered the monastery and not after. If this is a possibility, as Dr. Meyers now seems to admit, then there is no justification for the outright dismissal of Fr. Pacwa’s position. If one objects to Fr. Pacwa’s position, the most one can do is ask for supporting factual evidence, unless of course one can show that the preponderance of the evidence points the other way.

“One of the unfortunate aspects of the Roman Catholic polemic I've dealt with is that alleged "facts" like "Luther was a murderer" turn into yet another reason why he had to "invent" sola fide.”

Catholics maintain that neither Luther nor anyone else has the right to found a church regardless of whatever doctrine he/she wants to emphasize. Indeed, no other Church can be, or has been, founded except that which was founded by Christ, professed in the Christan Creeds; the apostles being the foundation thereof.

Turretinfan said...

"Does it not follow then that the assertion that the Table Talk event “refers to the Augustinian order's protection of Luther from Rome in 1518, not a putative flight from prosecution for dueling in 1505" is purely speculative?"

No.

The way that the matter is discussed in Table Talk, it is referring to something that happened after Luther joined the Augustinians.

Edward Reiss said...

"The way that the matter is discussed in Table Talk, it is referring to something that happened after Luther joined the Augustinians."

Well then obviously we need to create a theory that Luther murdered someone after he entered the Augustinian order...

On a more serious note, there is simply no "there" there. If Luther's table talk as cited can mean he "could" have murdered someone, it also "could" mean he had a stable of horses stolen from a prince, that he had a monkey for a wife, or any other theory one might cook up. There is nothin gin the context of the quote which even remotely makes "murder" a necessary conclusion. And yet, some people don't want to let it go. They have to keep hitting on this and themes like it. I suppose because it is easier to do ad-hominems than actually refute the man's theology.