Friday, March 23, 2018

Luther: "Though one may have the gift to live chastely without a wife, yet one ought to marry to spite the Pope, who insists on celibacy and forbids the clergy to marry"

Here's a Luther tidbit from the Catholic Answers Discussion Forums:
“Though one may have the gift to live chastely without a wife, yet one ought to marry to spite the Pope, who insists on celibacy and forbids the clergy to marry.” - Martin Luther (Tischr, II, c. 20 S, 3)
This quote appeared in the discussion, Did Martin Luther allow divorce? The person who posted it didn't explain how exactly it was relevant to the topic of discussion: divorce. It was posted along with a number of other shock quotes, all I suspect have the goal of preaching the evils of Martin Luther to the choir.  This same person who posted this quote commented elsewhere, "How is quoting Luther’s filthy works verbatim, ‘bashing him’?! Can we not expose his works to stir the hearts of those who ignorantly follow his theology, to reconcile them back to the Church Christ founded?And also, "We aren’t attacking the person of Martin Luther. We are merely exposing his works for what they are. Wouldn’t you want to know if your denominational founder’s works were vile and lewd? Or, would you want to remain in the naive comfort of not knowing?" This is the mindset of this particular defender of Rome: it's not an attack to present out-of-context quotes devoid of either an historical or actual context!

It appears the point of posting this quote was to show Luther's evil of telling people lacking the desire for sex to get married, this to spite the pope. We'll see this quote comes from a less than reliable source, and in fact, is not something Luther actually wrote. The comment, if Luther made it at all, was a polemical off-the-cuff remark written down and edited by someone else, then published after Luther died. In Luther's actual writings, he says something quite different about the same subject.   

While the person who posted this quote did provide a reference, it's far more probable the quote was taken from a secondary source: Patrick O'Hare's, The Facts About Luther. Notice the obvious similarities to what was posted on the Catholic Answers forum:
The motives which Luther urged to induce all to enter wedlock were evidently far from being in accord with those which the Almighty intended in the consecration of the union of both sexes. But as he held matrimony to be a worldly thing, denied its sacramental character and refused to acknowledge it to be a type of that great sacrament, which is between Christ and His Church, we need not be astonished that he urges an additional motive to those already advanced for maintaining the obligation of marriage. Here it is, genuinely stamped with the usual Lutheran brand and bearing the marks of the Reformer's abiding hatred against the Pope. To the single, he now cries out: "Though one may have the gift to live chastely without a wife, yet one ought to marry to spite the Pope who insists on celibacy and forbids the clergy to marry." (Tischr. II, c. 20 S. 3.) Marry and spite the Pope. Do not mind whether you are called or not called to the married state. Rush into it. Do not weigh the consequences. The Pope insists on safe-guarding one of the evangelical counsels and he must not be suffered to do so longer. The way to weaken his influence and destroy his holy work is for all to marry. The motive was truly ingenious and in every way worthy of the inventive powers of the reformer. Needless to say, the strange advice was not generally heeded, for then and now most men have other and higher reasons than spiting the Pope for their entrance into married life.
I've gone through O'Hare's book for a number of years now. I've grown convinced he did very little of his own research into Luther's writings. He appears to have simply done the equivalent of a cut-and-paste with his favorite hostile Roman Catholic secondary sources, and in some instances, blatantly plagiarized those sources.  I suspect he lifted this quote from Luther: An Historical Portrait (1884) by a Roman Catholic author, J. Verres. Notice the similarities:
Nobody will be astonished, that spite against the Pope should be to Luther an additional motive for declaring and maintaining the necessity of marriage. "Though one may have the gift, to live chastely without a wife, yet one ought to marry to spite the Pope, who insists on celibacy and forbids the Clergy to marry." (54) A worthy motive in a Reformer"!
(54) Tischr. II. c. 20 § 3.  In the same place he says that he had fully made up his mind, in case of serious illness, to marry even on his deathbed, on principle, to honour the state of matrimony. 
The quote and reference used by O'Hare is an exact match to Verres (the English translation used by O'Hare was probably that done by Verres). As to the reference "Tischr. II. c. 20 S 3": Verres includes a key to the abbreviations he used.  "Tischr" refers to the Tischreden, or Table Talk. He says the exact edition he used was: "Dr. M. Luther's sinnreiche Tischreden. 2 voll. Stuttgart und Leipzig 1836." Volume one of this set is available here. I have not been able to locate volume two, however, I was still able to locate what Verres was referring to. The text appears to be the following:

This Table Talk statement was taken from this source. It can also be found in WATR 2:332 (see entry  2129b).  LW did not include this statement in their English edition of the Table Talk. There is though a translation available in earlier English editions of the Table Talk.  In the context below, a statement from an unknown person is made about a preacher embracing celibacy, even though it be severely difficult. Luther then responds to the statement.

FORASMUCH, as a Christian Preacher, for the word's sake, must suffer imprisonment and persecution, much more ought he to endure and bear the coelibatum, and unmarried life, and remain single, although it be irksome and grievous unto him. Luther hereupon said, A man may rather suffer bonds and imprisonment than burning, he that hath not the gift of chastity, the same prevaileth nothing with fasting, with watching, or other things that plague and torment the body, thereby thinking to live chastely. I have found it by experience (though I was not very sorely tempted therewith), that the more I chastised and tormented myself, and bridled my body, the more I was tempted; and besides, although one had the gift to live chastely and unmarried, yet he ought to take a wife in contradiction to the Pope, who forbiddeth the spiritual persons to marry; they are tricks and snares of the devil, whereby he goeth about to take from us the freedom of the Word. We must not only speak, and teach against the same, but we must also act against it, that is, we must marry, therewith to contradict and oppose the false and superstitious ordinances and decrees of the Pope; for I fully resolved thus with myself before I took a wife, that if, unexpectedly, I were taken ill, and likely to die, yet, nevertheless, in honour to the state of Matrimony, I would have caused myself to be betrothed to some honest maid, and for a marriage gift I would give unto her a couple of silver cups (source, and also here).
The Table Talk is a collection of second hand comments written down by Luther's friends and students, published after his death. It often falls on deaf ears when I point out to Rome's defenders that Luther didn't write the Table Talk. Since the statements contained therein are purported to have been made by Luther, they should serve more as corroborating second-hand testimony to something Luther is certain to have written. Contrarily though, Verres states:
It will be noticed that also on doctrinal points I have quoted from the Tabletalk, though not on any point exclusively from this source, and perhaps it will be thought that in so doing I have laid myself open to objection. It has been urged that, the Tabletalk not having been written by Luther himself, but having been compiled from the notes of persons who were in the habit of listening to him, nobody would go to a book of this sort for evidence on a man’s teaching. But, salvo meliori judicio, I think that the Tabletalk is a most important book. If we cannot trust to it, to get a proper idea of Luther's views, let no Englishman depend on Boswell for a faithful expression of the views of Johnson. Luther's disciples hung on their master's lips with greater devotion than the scottish laird on Johnson's. Like Boswell they have even recorded sayings, in which it is impossible to discover anything striking, mere platitudes. The reliability of the book appears also from the fact, that Lauterbach, whose notes are the chief source of it, put down his reminiscences day after day, as they were fresh in his memory. If the Tabletalk were in opposition to Luther's own books, we could not trust to it, but this is far from being the case. On the contrary, the official teaching of Luther finds further familiar illustrations in the Tabletalk, and the Tabletalk shows how seriously Luther meant even the most startling things which he said as, Evangelist".
Verres is right that the Table Talk has value and does contain truthful comments made by Luther as recorded by those devoted to him. On the other hand, because of its nature, its second hand nature, it is not entirely reliable as presenting Luther's "official teaching." Verres says it's reliability rests on  "the fact, that Lauterbach, whose notes are the chief source of it..." In actuality, Anthony Lauterbach is only responsible for a portion of the text, those utterances recorded between 1538-1539 (WA TR 3 and 4; entries 3683-4719). With the particular utterance in question, it "was collected though not necessarily recorded" by Conrad Cordatus between the years 1532-1533 (LW 54:169). LW also states that Cordatus "revised all the notes in his possession for the purpose of making stylistic improvements. Unfortunately this removed them a step further from what was actually said at the table..." (LW 54:169). Because of this, LW only used a small selection of statements from the Cordatus collection, leaving out entry 2129b.

Verres states, "If the Tabletalk were in opposition to Luther's own books, we could not trust to it..."  With this statement, that people having no issues with celibacy should still be married to spite the pope, Luther does say something different in his actual writings, as I've documented here and here.  For Luther chastity was a rare gift given only to few people. Commenting on 1 Corinthians 7:7, Luther states:
Why, furthermore, does he say: “I wish that all were as I myself am”? Is this not spoken against matrimony, as though he wanted no one to marry? True, Paul wishes that everyone might have the great gift of chastity so that he would be relieved of the labor and cares of marriage and might be concerned only with God and His Word, as he himself was. And who wouldn’t wish this for everyone, especially since Christian love desires all good things, both temporal and eternal, for everyone? Love knows no limits of the good it can do and desire, even though it be something impossible, as when Paul in Rom. 9:3 wishes himself cut off from Christ for the salvation of the Jews (LW 28:16)
This thought is in direct contradiction to O'Hare. He indicted Luther: "Marry and spite the Pope. Do not mind whether you are called or not called to the married state. Rush into it. Do not weigh the consequences." Rather, Luther's position was that chastity was a rare gift, and those with it are given it so they "might be concerned only with God and His Word" as the apostle Paul was.

There are a number of reviews of  Luther: An Historical Portrait (1884) by J. Verres.  Of the extant ones, most are favorable from Roman Catholic sources. Here though is a negative review, in that it is critical of the use of source material. 

No comments: