Monday, October 04, 2010

1544: Luther's Explanation Concerning Mary and the Birth of Christ

If you've kept up with these entries on Luther's view of the immaculate conception, I've been presenting evidence that Luther's later view appears to be that at Christ's conception the Holy Spirit sanctified Mary so that the child would be born with non-sinful flesh and blood. For this evidence, I've been mocked, insulted, accused of distorting facts, and charged with blasphemy. I've had words attributed to me that I did not write, and even the evidence I have written deemed "correct" by my detractors has been compared to a broken clock correct twice a day.

Here's an extended selection from Luther that I think should clearly present my view, and perhaps cause some of my detractors to reevaluate their position.

This selection is from Luther's lectures on Genesis. The editors of LW hold the majority of material pertaining to Luther's exposition of Genesis 38-44 dates from 1544, it is possible though some of the material may have been presented in November 1543.

Luther is commenting on Genesis 38 and the account of Judah and Tamar. He expounds on the reasons the Bible includes such scandalous accounts. One of the reasons he states as follows:

In the second place, the Holy Spirit considered the Messiah and the birth of the Son of God; and this is the more important reason. For it was necessary for this lapse to take place in the very line in which the Son of God was to be born. Judah, the very eminent patriarch, a father of Christ, committed this unspeakable act of incest in order that Christ might be born from a flesh outstandingly sinful and contaminated by a most disgraceful sin. For he begets twins by an incestuous harlot, his own daughter-in-law, and from this source the line of the Savior is later derived. Here Christ must become a sinner in His flesh, as disgraceful as He ever can become. The flesh of Christ comes forth from an incestuous union; likewise, the flesh of the Virgin, His mother, and of all the descendants of Judah, in such a way that the ineffable plan of God’s mercy may be pointed out, because He assumed the flesh or the human nature from flesh that was contaminated and horribly polluted.

The scholastic doctors argue about whether Christ was born from sinful or clean flesh, or whether from the foundation of the world God preserved a pure bit of flesh from which Christ was to be born. I reply, therefore, that Christ was truly born from true and natural flesh and human blood which was corrupted by original sin in Adam, but in such a way that it could be healed. Thus we, who are encompassed by sinful flesh, believe and hope that on the day of our redemption the flesh will be purged of and separated from all infirmities, from death, and from disgrace; for sin and death are separable evils. Accordingly, when it came to the Virgin and that drop of virginal blood, what the angel said was fulfilled: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). To be sure, the Messiah was not born by the power of flesh and blood, as is stated in John ( cf. 1:13): “Not of blood nor of the will of a man, etc.” Nevertheless, He wanted to be born from the mass of the flesh and from that corrupted blood. But in the moment of the Virgin’s conception the Holy Spirit purged and sanctified the sinful mass and wiped out the poison of the devil and death, which is sin. Although death remained in that flesh on our account, the leaven of sin was nevertheless purged out, and it became the purest flesh, purified by the Holy Spirit and united with the divine nature in one Person. Therefore it is truly human nature no different from what it is in us. And Christ is the Son of Adam and of his seed and flesh, but, as has been stated, with the Holy Spirit overshadowing it, active in it, and purging it, in order that it might be fit for this most innocent conception and the pure and holy birth by which we were to be purged and freed from sin. [LW 7:12]

The name of the wife was Tamar... it is necessary to mention her, and this chapter is written for her sake alone; for she is a mother of the Savior, God’s Son, for whose sake all Holy Scripture has been given, in order that He might become known and be celebrated. From this Tamar, then, the Messiah was descended, even though through an incestuous defilement. Him we must seek and acknowledge in this book...Christ alone is a son of the flesh without the sin of the flesh. Concerning all the rest the statement “who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh” (cf. John 1:13) remains immovable.[LW 7:17]

But Judah begs that he may be permitted to go in to Tamar, that is, to have intercourse with her—for thus Holy Scripture is accustomed to speak—and nothing is added as to where they perpetrated the incest, since Moses said that she sat in an open place and in sight of passersby. I do not think that they cohabited in public like the Cynics; but I suppose that perhaps they withdrew into a small house, a cave, or a nearby wood. And there she was made pregnant by the most shameful act of incest, and the flesh from which Christ was to be born was poured from the loins of Judah and was propagated, carried about, and contaminated with sin right up to the conception of Christ. That is how our Lord God treats our Savior. God allows Him to be conceived in most disgraceful incest, in order that He may assume the truest flesh, just as our flesh is poured forth, conceived, and nourished in sins. But later, when the time for assuming the flesh in the womb of the Virgin came, it was purified and sanctified by the power of the Holy Spirit, according to Luke 1:35: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and will overshadow you.” Nevertheless, it was truly flesh polluted from Judah and Tamar.


Therefore all these things have been described for Christ’s sake, in order that it might be certain that He really had to be born from sinful flesh, but without sin. Accordingly, David says this of himself in Ps. 51:5: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity.” This is said correctly also of the flesh of Christ as it was in the womb of Tamar, before it was assumed and purged. But this flesh He assumed later, after it had been purged, in order that He might be able to bear the punishment for sin in His own body.[LW 7:31]

Here, therefore, the Blessed Seed is described. It is descended from the accursed, lost, and condemned seed and flesh. Nevertheless, It Itself is without sin and corruption. According to nature, Christ has the same flesh that we have; but in His conception the Holy Spirit came and overshadowed and purified the mass which He received from the Virgin that He might be united with the divine nature. In Christ, therefore, there is the holiest, purest, and cleanest flesh; but in us and in all human beings it is altogether corrupt, except insofar as it is restored in Christ. [LW 7:36]



Conclusion
I'm hoping my detractors will seriously weigh the material presented. I've also found a number of other similar quotes and related material supporting my conclusion, but after this post, it shouldn't be needed. If my detractors won't say I'm correct, they could at least show me the common courtesy of granting I make a valid case based on the evidence, worthy of consideration.

Also, TurretinFan has put together a related entry: Observe the Similarities: Luther 1540 - Luther 1544 comparing a 1540 statement to a statement made in LW 7 (I posted above). The 1540 statement has been deemed a possible mistranslation by those opposing my view. I wonder if in fact, they plan on re-translating these statements from LW 7 as well. While they're at it, they could revise Luther's Works, according to what they need it to say.

Accordingly, one should learn patience from the examples of the patriarchs, who were tried in every way, yet not without sin, from which Christ alone was free (cf. Heb. 4:15). [LW 5:204 (Lectures on Genesis 1541-1542]

14 comments:

Turretinfan said...

I suspect that one of the detractors will immediately retreat to logically invalid appeals to authority, counting the noses of "scholars" who have thought that Luther maintained the IC view.

James Swan said...

I suspect that one of the detractors will immediately retreat to logically invalid appeals to authority, counting the noses of "scholars" who have thought that Luther maintained the IC view.

I think I'm ready to move on at this point.I don't expect any apologies, but of course, that would be nice.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

What do Roman apologists expect to gain from this particular area of dispute?

Protestants do not treat Luther as a Pope speaking ex cathedra.

James Swan said...

What do Roman apologists expect to gain from this particular area of dispute? Protestants do not treat Luther as a Pope speaking ex cathedra.

As I've mentioned elsewhere:

Romanists typically abhor Luther. When it comes to the topic of Mary, Roman Catholic sentiment towards Luther shifts considerably. Luther becomes the staunch supporter of Mary; a leader that all contemporary Protestants should learn a great lesson in Mariology from.

In other words, he becomes an apologetic pawn: Luther believed in sola scriptura and distinct Romanist Marian attributes, so should you.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"In other words, he becomes an apologetic pawn: Luther believed in sola scriptura and distinct Romanist Marian attributes, so should you."

It's the same accusation they have towards John Bugay about Dr. Peter Lampe.

James Swan said...

It's the same accusation they have towards John Bugay about Dr. Peter Lampe.

I'm sure I've probably put forward arguments from authority, like "this Roman Catholic scholar said this or that..." I normally do it to show the disharmony of Romanism, or the gulf between Romanist pop-apologetics and Roman Catholic scholarship.It is though interesting at times to say, "X Romanist Scholar says Y... how come you don't?"

The Luther apologetic used by Romanists though is really a beast of their own creation. Here's a guy many of them despise, unless of course he says something similar to Romanism. That is, even though many of them despise him, he's still serve as an apologetic tool to promote Romanism.

steve said...

While you're detractors *ought* to recant, the dwarfs are for the dwarfs (as C. S. Lewis would say), so Roman dwarfism will likely triumph over reason and evidence.

James Swan said...

Roman dwarfism will likely triumph over reason and evidence

An odd sort of apology was offered for the hostility directed toward myself & Tfan. But according to the reasoning, it was our fault because our "shenanigans" drive him "nuts."

So, I guess we're ultimately responsible for the abuse directed toward us.

In other words, I cause the abuse directed toward me.

Well, that clears things up.

Paul Hoffer said...

Hello All, it is unfortunate that the comments pertaining to this article have focused on the "detractors" rather than on the merits of your researches. Why not celebrate the heightening of the discourse rather than focus on the motivations of why other have now chosen to act more in accordance to what you wanted them to do in the first place? Your actions should not be dictated by how others treat you but rather how you would have them treat you.

That said, I wanted to focus on the substance of your article. Not knowing the nuances of the German language, it appears that there is a difference of opinion on this small point. And contrary to what Mr. Fan indicated, Mr. Armstrong consulted with someone who actually is fluent in the language and got his take on the passage in question. Whether one agrees with that conclusion, I guess, boils down to one's presuppositions.

To me, the question is not necessarily what ML held, but what he taught others to hold. Is there any thing out there that shows that he said, "I reject what I believed before and you should not believe in it either?" If not, perhaps this would be what you might for-lack-of-a-better-phrase call it Luther's Liberius moment.

Regardless of whether he held to IC all of his life, Martin Luther's Mariology was certainly closer to what Catholics believe than from what most Protestants hold today. And as TUAD pointed out, you all do not look upon Luther as some sort of pope nor do you feel that you are beholden to his teachings. Fair enough. That leads to other questions but this is not the place for them. What Catholics should take from this is that if they want to have a devotion to Mary, it should be a Christologically-centered devotion. I don't say a rosary because I want Mary to like me, I say a rosary because contemplating the life of Mary while saying it, I see how a true disciple of Christ should respond to His gospel. That said, I do see the point of holding to a belief in the IC as taught by the Church. It's is unfortunate that you do not.

Contrary to the broad brush that I have been painted with, I do not detest Fr. Luther. I never have. I sort of thought it cool that one of his friends was a Paul Hoffer (Speratus). Admittedly, I disagree with a great many things that he taught because in my studies of him to date, it seems to me that he went too far in rejecting the teachings of the Catholic Church but that hardly gives me a reason to loathe him. Like Tertullian, he could have been a great Catholic saint, but he stumbled when he was so close. I pray that God gives me the grace not to similarly stumble.

BTW, I don't see what is so bad about being accused of blasphemy being you folks accuse me of that and idolatry too in venerating Mary and the saints. (Admiring the saints is like admiring the Mona Lisa. When we do so in both cases, are we not actually honoring the creator?) What would be bad is if the charge was true and only you know that for certain. You need to let things roll off you like water rolling off your namesake. The only shame that can be brought to one's name is the shame that one brings upon it himself.

God bless!

Turretinfan said...

"contrary to what Mr. Fan indicated, Mr. Armstrong consulted with someone who actually is fluent in the language"

Where did I indicate something to the contrary of that?

Paul Hoffer said...

Hello Mr. Fan, you said that you suspected that one of the detractors would immediately retreat to logically invalid appeals to authority, counting the noses of "scholars" who have thought that Luther maintained the IC view. While Mr. Armstrong did list those folks, he also went to the German and consulted someone with fluency to translate it to see if those experts were correct in their assessments.

God bless!

James Swan said...

Paul Hoffer said... Hello All, it is unfortunate that the comments pertaining to this article have focused on the "detractors" rather than on the merits of your researches. Why not celebrate the heightening of the discourse rather than focus on the motivations of why other have now chosen to act more in accordance to what you wanted them to do in the first place? Your actions should not be dictated by how others treat you but rather how you would have them treat you.

It's hard to "celebrate the heightening of the discourse" when the other side mocks, insults, accuses of distorting facts, and charges blasphemy. I've had words attributed to me that I did not write, and even the evidence I have written deemed "correct" by my detractors has been compared to a broken clock correct twice a day.... That is a mild review of what your friends did this time, it was far worse. I didn't keep a record of the changing posts and insults... but I recall something about this topic being the hill I chose to die on. One blog post still calls my view "a "head in the sand delusion." Your friends were out to destroy me, once and for all, and failed. It was personal on their end.

Of course, Taylor Marshall, Madrid, and a host of others will simply go blindly along regurgitating the same stuff. They probably checked in over at your friends website for a moment, noticed I was characterized as an idiot, and went away feeling Rome's best interests have been served.

Scroll through Luther's new translator's comments as well- that I have "a willful blindness to the facts that entrenches one in a misinterpretation of a text, no matter how strong the evidence against one's reading is. This can also be called "digging in" or "denial." Ah, yes, I look forward to this person's translation work of Luther's writings.

This is just a small sampling of the mud your side threw at me this time, and then has the audacity to offer some reluctant apology which blames me for causing their insults because of my "shenanigans."

That said, I wanted to focus on the substance of your article. Not knowing the nuances of the German language, it appears that there is a difference of opinion on this small point.

If by "small point", you mean Luther's view of the immaculate conception, once again, I exhort anyone to simply go read the evidence. Remember Paul, you arrived over here yesterday saying I was "quibbling over ambiguities." I was not, nor have I been for the multiple years I've studied this topic.

with someone who actually is fluent in the language and got his take on the passage in question. Whether one agrees with that conclusion, I guess, boils down to one's presuppositions.

That passage agrees in content with the lengthy material I've presented, so that whole rabbit trail was an exercise in futility on their part.

"I reject what I believed before and you should not believe in it either?" If not, perhaps this would be what you might for-lack-of-a-better-phrase call it Luther's Liberius moment.

I've already gone through this in my blog post directed to your comments.

Regardless of whether he held to IC all of his life, Martin Luther's Mariology was certainly closer to what Catholics believe than from what most Protestants hold today.

Oh, this mantra. After you work through all my suggested links, you'll be familiar with my position which holds Luther indeed had a Mariology. It reflected his commitment to Christ, and stood in antithesis to popular Catholic belief in the sixteenth century.

I do not detest Fr. Luther

My comments about Romanists detesting Luther were general, based on my interactions with people from your side over the years. There are a few like yourself, that do not live on the O'Hare level, I realize this.

James Swan said...

Here one I can't pass up:

Our anti-Catholic friends won't give up the ghost, having been shown over and over (with tons of documentation) that the consensus of the great majority of Luther scholars (who deal with the subject at all) is that Luther held to the Immaculate Conception in slightly different form (compared to the Catholic dogma), his entire life.

http://socrates58.blogspot.com/2010/10/luther-immaculate-conception-4.html

Compare to:

His views of Mary as Mother of God and as ever-Virgin were identical to those in Catholicism, and his opinions on the Immaculate Conception, Mary's "Spiritual Motherhood" and the use of the "Hail Mary" were substantially the same.

http://tquid.sharpens.org/DA_lutmar1.htm

compare to:

In light of all the relevant evidence considered as a whole, I think it would be wise to refer to Luther's post-1527 position in a different manner. I have coined a new term: Immaculate Purification: as seen in my revised title for this post. This preserves the "immaculate" aspect (i.e., removal of original sin) but doesn't place the timing at conception.

Turretinfan said...

Mr. Hoffer,

It sounds like you're saying he did something additional beyond what I predicted he would do.

That's fine. I'm glad to see he was even persuaded by our arguments to accept the view that he previously ridiculed.

-TurretinFan