Monday, June 30, 2008

The Reformers and the Assumption

Here's one I caught on the CARM Catholic board:

We know that in the early Church, a belief arose in [Mary's] Assumption (as documented in the Transitus and the Dormition), and that belief was consistent down through the centuries - never refuted as a heresy. Even through the time of the Reformation, men such as Luther, Calvin and Zwingli all believed in the truth of the Assumption.

My response: OK, let's see the proof. I'm very interested.

The proof: From Luther's sermon on August 15, 1522 (the feast of the Assumption)- "There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith." Regarding John Calvin and Ulrich Zwingli, I may be mistaken. I can find nothing from them either supporting or denying their belief in the Assumption, as they do not appear to have taken much of a position on that particular subject. I withdraw my assertion regarding these two. In my opinion, the Assumption of Mary is not just telling us something about Mary, but it's also a "preview" of what awaits us as Christians.

"There can be no doubt that the Virgin Mary is in heaven. How it happened we do not know. And since the Holy Spirit has told us nothing about it, we can make of it no article of faith"- This quote doesn't say Luther believed in Mary's Assumption. There simply isn't enough of a context to know exactly what Luther was talking about. In 1522, early in the Reformation, it would not be so outrageous to find Luther making a statement like this that would allow for some version of the Assumption.

I strongly doubt you have the context for this quote. If you did, you'd be one of the first. Recently I noticed Catholic writer George Tavard alludes to it in his book, The Thousand Faces of the Virgin on pages 112-113. Tavard assumes that Luther did not "repudiate" Mary's Assumption, but he offers no proof he affirmed it. This is a typical Roman Catholic argument- no proof of x and no denial of x equals belief in x.

Now, let's take off our Assumption Dogma glasses for a moment with that Luther quote from 1522. Toward the end of his life, Luther delivered a series of lectures on the book of Genesis. Note the following quote:

This is what Moses wanted to indicate when he speaks of 'the lives of Sarah.' It is as though he were saying: 'Sarah, in conformity with differences in places and people, often adopted a different attitude and different ways. When she came to a place where she thought she would live pleasantly and quietly, she was compelled to move and to change her plans and feelings as she did so.' For this reason that saintly woman had many lives. More attention should have been given to these things, although it is easy for me to believe that in her hundredth year she was just as beautiful as she was in her twentieth.

Then one should much rather consider how Abraham delivered a beautiful funeral address about Sarah. For in the Holy Scriptures no other matron is so distinguished. Her years, lives, conduct, and burial place are described. In the eyes of God, therefore, Sarah was an extraordinary jewel on whom extraordinary love was bestowed, and she is mentioned deservedly by Peter as an exemplar for all saintly wives. He says (1 Peter 3:6) that she called Abraham lord and that “you are her daughters.” To all Christian matrons Peter holds her up as a mother.

Scripture has no comments even on the death of other matriarchs, just as it makes no mention of how many years Eve lived and of where she died. Of Rachel it is recorded that she died in childbirth (Gen. 35:16–19). All the other women it passes over and covers with silence, with the result that we have no knowledge of the death of Mary, the mother of Christ. Sarah alone has this glory, that the definite number of her years, the time of her death, and the place of her burial are described. Therefore this is great praise and very sure proof that she was precious in the eyes of God.

But these facts do not concern Sarah, who is already dead, as much as they concern us, who are still alive. For it is a very great comfort to hear that the departure and death of that most saintly matriarch and of all the fathers, in comparison with whom we are nothing, differs in no wise from our own death but was just as odious and ignominious as our own is. Their bodies were buried, consumed by worms, and hidden in the earth on account of their stench, not otherwise than if they had not been the corpses of saints; yet they were most saintly people, and, although departed, they are actually alive in Christ.

Accordingly, these things are written for our sakes, in order that we may know that the most saintly fathers and mothers underwent the same experiences we are wont to undergo. Nevertheless, it is certain about them that in the eyes of God they live; and I believe that they — namely, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Adam, etc. — rose with Christ.

Note above how Luther treats Mary. He doesn't speak of some cryptic way in which Mary disappeared off the earth. No, she's placed in a list with others whose deaths are not recorded in Scripture, and are passed over in silence. Are we to assume, based on Luther's words, that all the women were Assumed into Heaven? For those wanting to affirm the Assumption, no lack of information will stop them from finding the Assumption, I'm sure. I strongly suggest if you want to believe in the Assumption, leave the Reformers out of it. Believe in the Assumption for the only reason there is: Rome has said so.For more information about Luther and the Assumption, see:

Luther: The Assumption was a Settled Fact? (Part 1)

Luther: The Assumption was a Settled Fact? (Part 2)

Luther: The Assumption was a Settled Fact? (Part 3)

As with Luther, you are mistaken with Calvin, not "may be mistaken."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Was Luther an Abused Child in a Dysfunctional Family?

What "made Luther tick"? This question has been asked in various ways throughout the years by both Protestants and Roman Catholics. There have been many Roman Catholics that have argued psychological maladaptive factors or poor genetics played a crucial role in Luther's work as a Reformer. Many of the older Catholic biographies present the young Luther as the victim of angry, abusive, and alcoholic parents.

Previously, I looked at the charge that Luther's father was a murderer, an argument presented in Father Patrick O'Hare's book, The Facts About Luther. O'Hare thinks "Martin was a veritable chip of the hard old block," and it "may account for that 'terrible temper' of the Reformer...". If Luther's father was a murderer, well...Luther himself was probably prone to such acts of violence as well...because... murder is only committed by really angry, quick tempered people... at least in Father O'Hare's world. Luther had a temper, so it must've been the result of his upbringing and genetics.

O'Hare then goes on to make another psycho-historical argument, that Luther was an abused child (from a poor family) growing up in an overly strict disciplinarian home, and this may explain "the development of that temper of unbending obstinacy for which their son was so remarkable not only in his earliest years, but throughout his whole life" [The Facts About Luther, p.28 (Tan Edition)]. What seems to interest Catholic polemicists is Luther's temperament- which they think had a role in his lack of ability to reason accurately and honestly. For these Catholic writers, Luther's theological insights or scholarly work were merely the writings of a man in need of psychological therapy. O'Hare states,

The parents of Luther in the beginning of their married life were not blessed with much of the goods of this world. They had, however, a strong sense of their obligations toward their family and the courage to discharge them. Anxious for their own and their children's advancement, they worked together and toiled incessantly to provide food and clothing and education for their rising offspring. For years their means were scant enough and the struggle to meet the support of the household was both hard and grinding. Often the mother was reduced to the dire necessity of carrying home the wood for the family fire, gathered from the neighboring pine forest, on her own shoulders. In this home, like many before and since, there was unfortunately one great deficiency, more intolerable than poverty, namely, the absence of the sweet joys of family life. Childish fun and frolic which beget happiness and good cheer, found no encouragement in the Luther family circle. Home life was exacting, cold, dull and cheerless. The heads of the house took their parental responsibilities too seriously and interpreted them too rigorously. The father was stern, harsh, exacting, and, what is rather unusual, the mother was altogether too much given to inflict the severest corporal punishments. With them "the apple did not always lie beside the rod." They were altogether too strict and exacting. They believed in work and had no relish for innocent play and amusement. In the government of their children they exercised no discrimination or moderation. Too much severity ruled the household and as usual begot disastrous results, To this overstrenuous discipline we may find to a certain degree the explanation of the development of that temper of unbending obstinacy for which their son was so remarkable not only in his earliest years, but throughout his whole life. Though he seems to have been very fond of his parents in after life and recalled how they pinched themselves to give him support and education, it appears from his own statement that they were extremely exacting and punished him cruelly for the most trifling offenses. As examples of the harsh treatment to which he was subjected in his youth, he tells us that on one occasion his father, in a fit of uncontrollable rage, beat him so mercilessly that he became a fugitive from home and was on this account so "embittered against him that he had to win me to himself again." (Tischreden, Frankfort, 1567, fol. 3143.) At another time, he says, "his mother in her inflexible rigor flogged him, until the blood flowed, on account of a worthless little nut" [The Facts About Luther, pp. 27-28 (Tan Edition)].

This same material would resurface in popular form years later in Erik Erikson's Young Man Luther: A Study in Psychoanalysis and History (1958). Erikson argued Luther's relation to his mother led him to move away from devotion to the Virgin Mary. Luther's father (said to be an alcoholic, he was not) was interpreted to be a hard task-master and righteous judge . Elsewhere I've commented on the value (or rather, the lack thereof) of doing psychoanalysis on a 500 year old man one has never met (see: *Using PsychoHistory To Interpret Luther: A Response To Art Sippo*). What interests me here is the actual data used by Father O'Hare to arrive at his conclusions. Interestingly, the same Luther quotes stated above by Father O'Hare were similarly used by Erikson.

Keep in mind how O'Hare presents daily life in the Luther household: It was characterized by the "absence of the sweet joys of family life. Childish fun and frolic which beget happiness and good cheer, found no encouragement in the Luther family circle. Home life was exacting, cold, dull and cheerless. The heads of the house took their parental responsibilities too seriously and interpreted them too rigorously." Below are the actual citations from the Tabletalk, and my evaluation.

Luther's Mother

No. 3566A: Children Must Be Disciplined with Understanding
Between March 28 and May 27, 1537

“Stealing is no art. It’s deception, manual dexterity. Presto, and the stuff is gone! That’s how the gypsies were.” Then he [Martin Luther] spoke about children and said that they should not be allowed to commit thefts. “However, one ought to observe reasonableness. If only cherries, apples, and the like are involved, such childish pranks ought not to be punished so severely; but if money, clothing, or coffers have been seized it is time to punish. My parents kept me under very strict discipline, even to the point of making me timid. For the sake of a mere nut my mother beat me until the blood flowed. By such strict discipline they finally forced me into the monastery; though they meant it heartily well, I was only made timid by it. They weren’t able to keep a right balance between temperament and punishment. One must punish in such a way that the rod is accompanied by the apple. It’s a bad thing if children and pupils lose their spirit on account of their parents and teachers. There have been bungling schoolmasters who spoiled many excellent talents by their rudeness. Ah, what a time we had on Fridays with the lupus and on Thursdays with the parts of Donatus! Then they asked each pupil to parse precisely, according to Donatus, legeris, legere, legitur, and even lecti mei ars. These tests were nothing short of torture. Whatever the method that’s used, it ought to pay attention to the difference in aptitudes and teach in such a way that all children are treated with equal love.” [LW 54:234-235]

The actual information about Luther's mother and his relationship with his mother is quite sparse. Note that in the Tabletalk citation above, Luther recalls exactly one instance in which his mother drew blood, not multiple instances. Second, Luther does not imply that she meant to draw blood, nor is there any other information from the Luther corpus that expounds on this or adds to this, as far as I know. The Tabletalk records precisely one instance in which the punishment given by Mrs. Luther did not match the offense.

In regard to this Tabletalk utterance, Reformation scholar Lewis Spitz points out, "Luther loved his mother much as he did his father, 'for they meant well by me.' ...Luther elsewhere observed how sweetly his mother sang, at the age of forty-two he invited her to his wedding, he named a daughter after her, and when she was on her deathbed he wrote one of the finest letters of love and consolation that can be found in all of literature" [Psychohistory and Religion: The Case of Young Man Luther (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1977), p.76]. This letter reads,

Grace and peace in Christ Jesus, our Lord and Savior, Amen.My dearest mother, I have received the letter of my brother James about your sickness. It makes me very sad, especially because I cannot be with you as I wish I were. But with this letter I am with you personally and assuredly in the spirit, together with all our house. I trust that you have been abundantly instructed and thank God His comforting Word dwells in your heart. Though you have many preachers and comforters, still I would add my part to show that I am your child and you are my mother. God made us both and bound us together so that I may increase the number of your comforters. Dearest mother, be assured that your illness is God's gracious and fatherly rod and a very little rod compared with that with which he visits the ungodly and sometimes His own dear children whom he suffers to be beheaded, burned and drowned so that we must all sing, "For Thy sake we are slain all the day long." So you must not mourn or be troubled by your sickness but thank God and recall how little is your suffering compared with that of His dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, which he suffered not for himself like us but for our sins. Secondly, dearest mother, be assured that the main ground of your blessedness, on which your comfort rests, in all extremities, is the "chief corner stone," Jesus Christ, who will not fail us nor suffer us to fall. . . . He says, "Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." If he has overcome the world he has also overcome all the princes of the world and their power and what is in their power if it be not death? . . . But now he has overcome sin and death and given us this comforting word. We are to accept it with joy and thanksgiving. If any would affright us we are to say, See, see, see my soul, what are you doing? Death, dear sin, how do you live and frighten me? Don't you know that you have been overcome and you, death, are dead. Don't you know the one who has said, "I have overcome the world"? We are not to be terrified but hear the word of the Savior, "Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." St. Paul says, "Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh hell, where is thy victory?" "You, death, cannot scare me with a wooden skeleton. You have no power over me. You can show your teeth but you cannot bite. God has given us the victory over you through Jesus Christ, our Lord." . . . Comfort yourself with these thoughts, dearest mother, and be thankful that God has delivered you from the papist error that we can be saved through our own works and those of the monks and the error that Christ is not a comforting Savior but a cruel judge and tyrant from whom we should run to Mary and the saints. We know that Jesus Christ is our Mediator, our throne of grace, our bishop in heaven before God, who continually intercedes for those who believe in him. You have the letter and seal, namely the gospel, baptism and the sacrament of the altar and preaching. Be thankful for such grace. Hear the words of Christ, "I live and you shall live and no one shall take your joy from you." May the Father and God of all comfort, give you His holy Word, a firm, joyous and thankful faith that you may taste and experience the truth when he says, "Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." All of the children pray for you and my Katie. Some weep. Some eat and say, "Grandma is very sick." May God's grace be with us all. Amen. [Translation by Roland Bainton in Psychohistory and Religion, pp.31-32].

As to Luther's mother driving him into the monastery, Roland Bainton points out "...the statement is at variance with Luther's authentic statement of what drove him into the cloister. One wonders whether the explanation given in this saying may not have been an addition of the note-taker" [Psychohistory and Religion, p.30]. Hartmann Grisar, (a Catholic writer heavily utilized by Father O'Hare) states, "It is surprising that Luther never in later life mentions his mother with a friendly and warm feeling, despite the frequency with which he recalls the days of his childhood and boyhood"[Hartmann Grisar, Martin Luther: His Life and Work (Maryland: Newman Press, 1950), p. 7]. Grisar though is mistaken, as the above letter shows, as well as a point mentioned by Bainton: "[Luther] sought the consent of his parents to his marriage though at the time he was forty-two years old. He informed a friend that he was inviting his 'dear father and mother' to his wedding banquet"[Psychohistory and Religion, p.31].

Luther's Father

No. 1559: Severe Whipping Makes Children Resentful
Between May 20 and 27, 1532

“One shouldn’t whip children too hard. My father once whipped me so severely that I ran away from him, and he was worried that he might not win me back again. I wouldn’t like to strike my little Hans very much, lest he should become shy and hate me. I know nothing that would give me greater sorrow. God acts like this [for he says], ‘I’ll chastise you, my children, but through another-through Satan or the world-but if you cry out and run to me, I’ll rescue you and raise you up again.’ For God doesn’t want us to hate him.” [LW 54:157]

As to Hans Luther's violent temper, Bainton states, "...and what do we know about bursts of temper at home? There is just one saying about a beating at the hands of the father" [Psychohistory and Religion, p. 34]. As with the statement about Luther's mother's punishment, we have again only one factoid. Bainton also rightly points out that Luther's father "undertook to repair the damage...Luther could recall only a single example of such behavior" (p.36). Spitz notes, "It is of some interest to note that Luther said einmal, once, which does not suggest a customary thing but rather an exceptional situation" (p.71), and also, " should be clear that this passage can hardly be used to create a picture of a tyrannous or cruel father. Father Hans took the initiative in winning Martin back..." (pp. 71-72). Spitz goes on to state,

"No, Hans Luther was not harsh, drunken, or tyrannous, but rather tender and pious as well as stern and ambitious for himself and his son. Hans was inclined to be tender and deeply moved by suffering. Luther on two different occasions recounts a story which illustrates the point: 'My father was asked at Mansfield by a certain neighbor to come and see him, for he was in mortal agony. Turning on his bed he showed him his posterior and said, 'see dear Luther, how they beat me!' at which Father was so shocked and so shaken by those reflections that he nearly died himself.' On one occasion Hans took Martin into a wheat field to show him the grain ripe for harvest and told him how the heavenly Father cares for us. The same man who was merry and humorous when he had belted a few joked with his wife in bed. Luther relates that his sons respect him just as he respected his parents, for his father slept with his mother and joked with her just as Luther did with his wife, and they were nevertheless pious people, just like the patriarchs and prophets. Hans was a man of genuine piety and an active churchman. The Mansfield relatives recounted that Luther's father prayed often and earnestly at the bedside of his children. He was badly shaken when in 1505 he lost two sons to the plague and reflected that he should perhaps willingly give Martin to the Lord for service as a monk" [p.74-75].

When Luther's father died, he wrote about it in a letter to Melanchthon:

"This death has cast me into deep mourning, not only because of the ties of nature but also because it was through his sweet love to me that my Creator endowed me with all that I am and have. Although it is consoling to me that, as he writes, my father fell asleep softly and strongly in his faith in Christ, yet his kindness and the memory of his pleasant conversation have caused so deep a wound in my heart that I have scarcely ever held death in such low esteem" [Psychohistory and Religion, p.75].

The information about Luther's parents and early home life is sparse. Not surprisingly, the main quotes from Luther about his parents used by Father O'Hare come from The Tabletalk. One should use caution when extracting information from the Tabletalk, for the simple reason that Luther did not write the Tabletalk. The Tabletalk is a collection of comments from Luther written down by Luther’s students and friends. Thus, it is not in actuality an official writing of Luther and should not serve as the basis for conclusive information.

Even anti-Luther Catholic historian Hartmann Grisar has pointed out, “Of course, it must not be overlooked that the Table Talks are ephemeral—‘children of the moment.’ While they correctly and vividly reproduce the ideas of the speaker, minus the cool reflection which prevails in the writing of letters and still more of books, they contain frequent exaggerations and betray a lack of moderation. The lightning-like flashes which they emit are not always true. The momentary exaggerations of the speaker at times beget contradictions which conflict with other talks or literary utterances. Frequently humorous statements were received as serious declarations. Humor and satire of a very pungent kind play a great part in these talks” [Hartmann Grisar, Martin Luther: His Life and Work (Maryland: Newman Press, 1950), p. 481].

It has been my experience that older Catholic writers in particular sized every opportunity to use the Tabletalk against Luther, and Father O'Hare is no exception. In this instance, O'Hare has taken minimal information and made maximal use of it to discredit the Luther family. Luther's upbringing by angry and abusive parents rests primarily on merely two quotes from a non-definitive writing, the Tabletalk. One sees how tenuous the psychohistory approach is in evaluating a man long gone. Minimal second hand information becomes maximized at the expense of historical data that would say otherwise.

True, the Tabletalk does have value in understanding Luther- but in my opinion, only to confirm that which is already established in authentic primary writings from the hand of the Reformer himself. Indeed, speculation tickles the imagination, and a host of writers both old and new still seek to discover the "real" Luther by sifitng through Tabletalk utterances. Luther's "abusive" parents should serve as an example though of making too definitve a case on a too slim amount of evidence.

Luther's Suicide

Here's one I don't recall hearing, Roman Catholic writers arguing Luther committed suicide:

"Thomas Bozio's book, De signis ecclesiae (Rome, 1591), the first literary representation of the legend of Luther's suicide, called forth a lively dispute on Luther's death, which continued till about 1688. The Protestants contributed nine, the Catholic polemics twenty six works. The dispute was set in motion again only in 1889 by Majunke, but Majunke was refuted so thoroughly by Nikolaus Paulus in 1896 that the Lugende has seldom ventured to show itself in literature since" [Heinrich Boehmer, Luther and the Reformation in the Light of Modern Research (London: G. Bell and Sons LTD., 1930) pp. 361-362].

The Suicide Legend : The story of Luther's suicide was revived by P. Majunke(R. C. ) in his Luther's Lebensende, Mainz, 1890; 5th ed., 1891. He was answered by E. Bliimel, Luthers Lebensende, Barm., 1890 ; G. Kawerau, Luther's Lebensende, Barm., 1890 ; T. Kolde, Luthers Selbstmord, Leipz., 1890 ; G. Rietschel, Luthers sel. Heimgang, Halle, 1890 ; F. W. Schnbart, Wie starb M. Luther, Dess., 1892. After a thorough investigation of all the evidence, a Roman Catholic scholar, W. Panlus, in his Luthers Lebensende nnd der Eislebener Apotheker, Mainz, 1896 (see Th. Litz., 1897, No. 11) and especially in his Lnthers Lebensende, Freib. i. B., 1897, has reached the same conclusion as the Protestant opponents of Majunke and gives a final quietus to the legend. Philip Schaff gives a resume of the case in his article, Did Luther Commit Suicide ? in Mag. of Chr. Lit., N. Y.,Dec., 1890, 161 ff. [source]

Note on the Death of Luther.

— During the course of 1890, the Rev. Paul Majnnke, Roman Catholic Pfarrer of Hochkirch, near GrossGlogan on the Oder, in Eastern Prussia, published a work on "Luther's Lebensende" (Mainz, Kupferberg, 1890). Herr Majnnke, then a priest, was formerly editor of the Germania and other Roman Catholic papers, and for a time member of the Prussian House of Deputies, and of the German Reichstag. In the pamphlet referred to he has tried to prove by "historical investigation" that Luther did not, as ordinarily believed, die a natural death, but committed suicide, and that the fact was concealed by those who knew the truth of the matter. The pamphlet of Herr Majunke caused much jubilation in Ultramontane circles, and drew forth many pamphlets and articles. Professor Kostlin of Halle, Professor Eawerau of Kiel, and Professor Kolde of Erlangen, with others, however, successfully demolished the "house built upon the sand," and exposed the "cunningly devised" story. Majunke published a reply to Prof. Kolde and his other assailants, entitled Die Historische Kritik über Luthert Leben Ende (Mainz, 1890). The rejoinder of the Erlangen Professor, Noch einmal Luthers Selbstmord, was crushing.
The death of Luther took place on the morning of February 18, 1546. The event was unexpected, and his sudden death was much commented on, not only by the friends, but by the enemies of the Reformation. A professed account of the incidents connected with the examination of the Reformer's body by Civis Manefeldensii, marked by brutal coarseness, is given by Luther's first Roman Catholic biographer, Cochlaeus, in the later editions of his work, De Actit et Seriptit Lutheri, published in 1565 and 1567. It is not in the first edition, published in 1549. But even that account from an anonymous correspondent does not hint at Luther's having committed suicide. Professor Kolde conclusively proves that no Roman Catholic historian of the sixteenth century ventured to express any doubt whatever concerning the truth of the " history " drawn up by Dr. Justus Jonas and the friends present on the occasion. The Roman Catholic historians of that century, of course, are full of such charitable expressions as that "he yielded up his soul to the devil," and that he "descended to Satan." Romish writers of the next century depict Luther as having died in tortures, or having, like Arius, shed out his bowels.
Majunke asserts that the only account of Luther's end which the biographers of Luther have made use of is the " history " drawn up by Dr. Justus Jonas. The statement, as Kolde points out, is false. Justus Jonas drew up a letter to the Elector at four o'clock in the morning, not two hours after Luther had expired. That letter stated that there were present at his death the Court Preacher, Cœlins, J. Jonas, Luther's two younger sons, Paul and Martin, his servant Ambrose, his landlord Hans Albrecht, the notary, Count Albrecht of Mansfeld and his wife, Count von Schwarz- burg, and two doctors. Two letters are extant, written also at the same time, to the Elector by Count Albrecht himself, and by Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt. Another letter, written that same day, by Aurifaber, raises the number of eye-witnesses to sixteen, among whom were Aurifaber himself and Count Hans George of Mansfeld, from the latter of whom also there is a letter written the very same day to Duke Maurice of Saxony. Besides, there is extant another letter written on the same day by J. Friedrich, Councillor of Eisleben, to his uncle, the well-known J. Agrícola. Friedrich was not an eye-witness, but he gives the medical opinion of the doctors, who ascribed the death to a stroke of paralysis, brought on by the closing up of a wound in his leg from which the Reformer had suffered for years.
The Court Preacher, Coelius, delivered on February 20 the first address at the grave, in which he mentions that the corpse of the Reformer had been viewed by a large number of people, who crowded in to see his remains when the sad event was announced. Some time afterwards the " history " or Report of the Christian Death of Luther was drawn up at the request of the Elector by J. Jonas and M. Coilius. The facts mentioned in that Report are confirmed by the evidence already referred to, all of which is totally suppressed by Majnnke.
Forty-three years after Luther's death the Oratorian Thomas Bozius in 1593 asserted, in his De Signa Eccleiiœ, that he had heard from the testimony of one who had as a boy been a servant to Luther, that Luther hung himself with a rope. The same writer asserts that several of the Reformers died awful deaths. Oecolampadius was strangled, Calvin died of the lousy disease, while a horrible devil frightened all those who were present at the deathbed of Martin Bucer. Bozius is the first authority on which Paul Majunke depends. A fuller account is given by Sednlius, in his Prcetcriptionei adtv Heresies (Antwerp, 1606), sixty years after Luther's death, which is reprinted as the fullest and most reliable authority in Majunke's pamphlet, pp. 95-97. The name of the informant, however, is not given, and the writer shows his fitness for the work of a historian, by setting forth as equally trustworthy another account (suppressed without notice by P. Majunke), by one whose name is given, Tileman Bredebach, written in 1587, who states that all the demoniacs, then at the shrine of St. Dymna at Brabant in hope of being cured by that saint, were freed from evil spirits on the day that Luther was buried, and were again possessed by the evil spirits the day after ; the reason being, as discovered by due interrogatories, that the Prince of the Devils summoned them to attend Martin Luther's funeral, which they did in the form of ravens, who in incredible numbers accompanied Luther's corpse to its last resting-place ! !
Such are Herr Majunke's authorities. Other grave misrepresentations of fact abound in his work. It is important to put such misstatements on record, because such charges are often brought up by those who desire to deprave the character of the Reformers. [C. H. H. W.] [source]

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Follow the Pope

On a previous post bkaycee asked,

Is the rejection of the current pope, by sedavacantist, the only major difference between them and Catholics "in good standing"?

I am certainly no expert on sedevacantism, but I would say there is more to sedevacantism than rejection of the current pope, but the other issues are sorta interwoven. Sedevacantists do not accept the last four/five popes as true popes (considering them heretics) and reject the Vatican II Council, considering many of the Vatican II teachings to be inconsistent with historical Catholic theology.

As a summary point from The Aquinas Site states:

"'Vatican II' and its 'popes' have taught, adhered to, acted in accordance with, or failed to condemn a plethora of heresies, including religious liberty, universal salvation, the efficacy of non-Catholics sects for salvation, the blasphemy that Jews & Muslims worship the One True God, the evolution of dogma, etc. They have also destroyed the faith of tens of millions, and Karol Wojtyla ('John Paul II') describes this whole process as a 'new Pentecost. In other words, he thinks it is good, and wants the Holy Ghost to take the blame ('credit')."

Wikipedia lists sedevacantism as a subset of Traditionalist Catholics but sometimes it is difficult to know where to draw the line amongst the groups. The various Traditionalists have differing "sticking points", but an opposition to the "Novus Ordo" seems to be a common thread. Some Traditionalist Catholics are in communion with Rome, some are not, although the status of the relationship with Rome can be unclear making it difficult to ascertain who is or isn't in "good standing".

Case in point, the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) claims to not be schismatic, yet a recent article outlines a reconciliation attempt by the Vatican with SSPX. Interestingly, the conditions of the reconciliation focus primarily around allegiance to the Pope:

"Vatican sources confirmed that the reconciliation proposal included the possibility of establishing a "personal prelature" or a similar canonical structure for the society, which would allow the society a certain autonomy...The conditions laid out by the Vatican were:

-- A commitment to a response that is proportionate to the generosity of the pope.

-- A commitment to avoid any public intervention that does not respect the person of the pope and that could "be negative for ecclesial charity."

-- A commitment to avoid "the pretext of a magisterium superior to the Holy Father" and to not present the society in opposition to the church.

-- A commitment to demonstrate the will to act honestly in full ecclesial communion and in respect of the pope's authority.

-- A commitment to respect the date, fixed for the end of June, to respond positively. This deadline is described as a "necessary condition" for the preparation for a reconciliation."

I have often thought that Rome is willing to allow a fair amount of disunity in thought as long as an outward unity to authority is maintained. This article seems consistent with that idea. It seems unlikely, though, that there will be any reconciliation with the sedevacantist subset of Traditionalists anytime soon.

And since we are on the subject, I came across an online version of The Ottaviani Intervention, a book that deals with the Novus Ordo issue and was recommended by Gerry Matatics when I heard him speak.

ADDED 6/29/2008: Gerry Matatics was on the Iron Sharpens Iron radio show in April discussing sedevacantism. The MP3 is available for download.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Sedevacantism Debate

In prior discussions here on Gerry Matatics, some of us have expressed a wish for a debate between Gerry and a popular Catholic apologist (Hahn, Akin, Madrid, etc.). Well, such a debate has still not materialized, but I did come across a debate between another Sedevacantist (John Lane of The Aquinas Site) and Robert Sungenis.

The MP3 files of the debate can be found here

A video series of the debate is also available on YouTube

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Catholic vs Catholic

I found this quote amusing.

This is a traditionalist/sedevacantist Roman Catholic writing about original sin and calling Karl Keating a Pelagian. I will say, this particular website provides a good deal of documentation to support the claim that modern-day Roman Catholics diverge from historical Roman Catholicism.

"Present-day Pelagian rationalists, who reject the doctrine of the transmission of guilt from Adam, like to say that as a consequence of Adam’s sin people are merely deprived of supernatural benefits to which they have no claim: they are not guilty and they are not being punished for that guilt. According to them, man was simply reduced to his natural state after Adam sinned. The Pelagian Karl Keating of “Catholic Answers” well summed up the contemporary Pelagian position with the following claim.

“Adam and Eve committed the original sin--called ‘original’ because it occurred at the origin of the human race. They incurred guilt for that sin. Their offspring – including us – did not. What we have been saddled with is not the guilt of their sin but the consequences of their sin. They forfeited the preternatural gifts God had given them, and that forfeiture has extended through all the generations. But the guilt of that first sin was theirs alone.” (E-letter of February 10, 2004)

We shall now see the texts of the councils of Carthage XVI, Lyons II, Florence and Trent in which the Catholic doctrine of original sin was defined..."

(Update: a commenter has alerted me to the fact that the website linked to above contains some anti-semitic material and perhaps other inappropriate material. I certainly don't endorse that type of viewpoint nor do I agree with the non-offensive sedevacantist theology, but that doesn't negate the fact that there are a subset of Roman Catholics who believe the current RCC has drifted from historical Roman Catholicism and can provide a fair amount of documentation to back up their claims.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sorta Back

Well, my break from blogging wasn't as complete (I did read and comment here) or as productive (I'm still struggling to read the pile of books I have) as I had hoped, but I have come across too much material to not post and share. So, I will be posting again, but my posting will be abbreviated to mostly quotes and short thoughts for awhile. Summer is not the time to spend on long blog posts and I have other things to focus on at the moment.

Since posting bare quotes seems to upset some people, let me just say a few words as to why I do it.

I enjoy researching much more than I do writing. I tend to scan through a lot of material following various rabbit trails and could spend hours on Google Books chasing one reference after another. In my pursuits online, I often come across quotes that I find interesting for one reason or another, and I like to share them.

These quotes are not meant to be a detailed thesis on a subject or to represent all viewpoints, nor are they meant to bias anyone by not providing a full context. So if the subject of the quote appeals to you, do some more research.

That said, if I post a quote I will try to give a short explanation as to why I find the quote interesting, if possible. But be warned, if you haven't spend much time interacting in the Catholic apologetic arena, you may not understand my "why".

The Return of Mr X

Here's a recent tidbit from Catholic apologist Mark Shea:

Probably the most dangerous thing that goes with it is a curious sort of idolatry that can arise. The other day, for example, I got a letter from somebody which read, in part:

Recently I came across a protestant web site of a Mr. X. He is extremely well educated regarding the writings of Martin Luther. He has convincingly shown how our Catholic Apologists have taken quotes of Martin Luther out of context to try to show that he was a nutcase. It has really opened my eyes and it has got me wondering where else our Catholic Apologists have erred. Today on his blog, he posted an article which refutes your assertion that St Jerome, before he died, accepted the apocrypha as canonical. I am posting it below to give you a chance to respond. I hope you can. This blog site has deeply disturbed me because Mr. X has shown many times where the Catholic Apologists that I have come to admire and learn from have been making serious errors in scholarship resulting in faulty conclusions. I have written Robert Sungenis, Scott Hahn, Art Sippo et al to visit this blog and form some refutations if possible. I do not know if they have done so and it is really bugging me. Would you please take a look at Mr. X’s blog because Catholic Apologists will be hearing from this guy soon and you had better be ready for him.

A number of things concern me about this note. But the first and foremost is that somebody’s faith could be disturbed by the fact that a Catholic apologist has erred. Sadly, it’s not the first time I’ve encountered the tendency to anoint me or some other apologist as a sort of Alternative Magisterium to the real Magisterium by a “fan base” that is somewhere between a school of disciples and a cheer squad. Indeed, I have found that, in an era where laity have been taught to mistrust their bishops–not only by the media and the culture, but by the shocking incompetence and perfidy of the bishops in the abuse scandal–it’s very easy for laity to hive off and anoint new ersatz Magisteria in the form of whatever faction they happen to fancy. For some, the New Magisterium is the advocates for women priests. For others, it’s Catholics for a Free Choice. For still others, it’s whatever Richard McBrien says is the consensus of Thinking Catholics in the Academy. For some, it’s Dan Brown.

I checked in with Mr X about Mark Shea's comments. The letter he quotes must've been written some time back. He also reminded me of the blog entry, "Luther: The Assumption was a Settled Fact?". Mr Shea has argued Luther believed in the Assumption of Mary because Luther's burial vault had a particular sculpture of Mary on it. But the sculpture is actually for another tomb, not Luther's.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Luther's "Epistle of Straw" Comment

“In a word St. John’s Gospel and his first epistle, St. Paul’s epistles, especially Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, and St. Peter’s first epistle are the books that show you Christ and teach you all that is necessary and salvatory for you to know, even if you were never to see or hear any other book or doctrine. Therefore St. James’ epistle is really an epistle of straw,  compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it. But more of this in the other prefaces.”

It has been my experience that it's usually Roman Catholics bringing up Luther's infamous description of the book of James as an "epistle of straw." Go to virtually any Roman Catholic discussion board, place "epistle of straw" in the search engine, and you're bound to get a hit. For instance, on the CARM Roman Catholic discussion board, I read the following, "Your man Luther called James 'the Gospel of straw' Now who disrespects the Bible?" Well, OK, this defender of Rome almost got it right: the comment from Luther was "epistle of straw," not "Gospel of Straw," but it's close enough.

Should we thank Roman Catholics for so vigorously defending the book of James and chastising Luther for such a statement? I can appreciate Roman Catholics vigorously defending the canonicity of James, but they don't have the right, according to their own belief system, to criticize Luther, and I'll explain via the short dialog I had responding to the "Gospel of straw" comment.

Some years back, I took a close look at Luther's "epistle of straw" comment in a paper entitled, Luther’s View of the Canon of Scripture. I noted that an interesting fact about this quote is that it only appears in Luther's original Preface To The New Testament (1522). John Warwick Montgomery points out:
“Few people realize — and liberal Luther interpreters do not particularly advertise the fact — that in all the editions of Luther’s Bible translation after 1522 — the Reformer dropped the paragraphs at the end, of his general Preface to the New Testament which made value judgments among the various biblical books and which included the famous reference to James as an “Epistle of straw” [John Warwick Montgomery, “Lessons From Luther On The Inerrancy Of Holy Writ’s,” Westminster Theological Journal Volume 36, 295].
Montgomery finds that Luther showed a “considerable reduction in negative tone in the revised Prefaces to the biblical books later in the Reformer’s career.” Therefore, for anyone to continue to cite Luther’s “epistle of straw” comment against him is to do Luther an injustice. He saw fit to retract the comment. Subsequent citations of this quote should bear this in mind.

I posted this information as a follow up to the "Gospel of straw" comment. Another defender of Rome had a response to this information about Luther's retraction of the comment:

Luther didn't retract his comment. At best you can only claim that he stopped publishing his comment. A retraction is a formal disavowal. I see no evidence that Luther ever retracted his statement about the book of James. That he did not continue to publish the claim is an indication that his claim was not well received. His lack of disavowal indicates he did not change his mind on the subject.

In my response I stated that I could understand the concern this Roman Catholic had for the book of James. I also appreciated the defense of the Scriptures when confronted with a comment like Luther's "epistle of straw" remark on the book of James.

Indeed, Luther held lifelong doubts about the canonicity of James. As I have researched it, even though Luther arrived at the harmonizing solution between James and Paul, it is probably the case that the question of James’ apostleship outweighed it. Luther's questioning of James primarily has to do with the book's status in Church history, and it’s internal evidence as to its apostolicity. For Luther, James was the writing of a second century Christian, therefore not an apostle nor an eyewitness of the risen Christ. Did Luther simply arrive at this conclusion without a basis? No. Throughout his career, he maintained a position that echoed other voices from church history. This trumped any type of harmonization between Paul and James.

But one thing I do not fully understand about Roman Catholics continually putting forth the "epistle of straw" comment, and maybe some of my Roman Catholic readers can explain it to me. For the sake of argument, I'm going to grant hypothetically that the Roman Catholic Church infallibly decreed the contents of the Bible. That is, in 1546 at the Council of Trent, the question of canonicity was put forth before the Council, and they issued a dogmatic pronouncement of which books were "canon." Once the Council declares something, all discussion is over! No longer can anyone question the Apocrypha, or James, Hebrews, Jude, or Revelation. The Roman Church meeting in a Holy Spirit led Council put forth the absolute truth on the canon, binding the entire Church. The New Catholic Encyclopedia has stated,
“According to Catholic doctrine, the proximate criterion of the Biblical canon is the infallible decision of the Church. This decision was not given until rather late in the history of the Church (at the Council of Trent). Before that time there was some doubt about the canonicity of certain Biblical books, i.e., about their belonging to the canon.”
Let us remember that throughout Church history, many Christians did not hold the apocrypha to be sacred Scripture. In the 16th Century Catholic men like Erasmus, Luther, and the great Catholic scholar Cajetan expressed doubts on some of the New Testament books as well. These men all share one thing in common. They formed their opinions on the canon previous to the council of Trent. The liberty these men had was simply the liberty as allowed by the Roman Catholic Church. If the New Catholic Encyclopedia is correct, Erasmus, Cajetan, and Luther, and a host of others previous to them had every right within the Roman Catholic system to engage in Biblical criticism and debate over the extent of the Canon. In the case of Luther, Cajetan, and Erasmus, theirs was not a radical higher criticism. The books they questioned were books that had been questioned by previous generations. None were so extreme as to engage in Marcion-like canon-destruction. Both Erasmus and Luther translated the entirety of Bible, and published it. to read more about the views of Erasmus and Cajetan (contemporaries of Luther), see my paper, Luther’s View of the Canon of Scripture.

When one looks at the totality of Luther’s New Testament canon criticism, it is quite minute: four books. Of his opinion he allows for the possibility of his readers to disagree with his conclusions. I can show his overall opinion softened later in life by the exclusion of many negative comments in his revised prefaces. Of the four books, it is possible that Luther’s opinion fluctuated on two (Hebrews and Revelation). Even while criticizing James and Jude, he positively quoted from them throughout his career. In the case of Jude he did a complete series of lectures. In the case of James, he occasionally preached from the book. Add up the chapters Luther questioned in James and Jude, and the amount is quite small.

I suggest Rome's defenders follow the criterion put forth by their Church: theologians are granted the freedom to hold opinions on matters not settled dogmatically. If  Rome's defenders do this, well, I'll at least respect them for being consistent with their authority paradigm. If they still maintain criticism of Luther's statements on James, perhaps they can explain on what basis they do so, for it is certainly not being consistent with the criterion put forth by the Roman Catholic Church and her infallible pronouncements.


I wasn't planning on mentioning this, but as I was putting together the above "epistle of straw" post, I remembered my criticism of a Romanist apologist usage of this particular Luther quote. He stated,

"Of special noteworthiness and relevance is Luther's Preface to the New Testament (1522; revised 1545), where he says many astonishing, outrageously presumptuous and foolish things (including the famous "epistle of straw" remark)." [Luther vs. the Canon of the Bible ]

In my article, Luther’s View of the Canon of Scripture, I criticized this comment:

In his paper Luther vs. the Canon of the Bible, the Romanist says, “Of special noteworthiness and relevance is Luther's Preface to the New Testament (1522; revised 1545), where he says many astonishing, outrageously presumptuous and foolish things (including the famous "epistle of straw" remark).” He notes the preface was revised, yet leaves out the fact that the comment “epistle of straw” was dropped from the text. Perhaps he isn’t aware of the actual revisions since the current publishing of Luther's Preface to the New Testament combines the 1522 prefaces with its revisions, usually with brackets to delineate which sentences were left out. Perhaps the version he utilizes does not include the brackets and explanatory notes. He isn’t guilty alone: many Protestant authors do Luther the same discourtesy.

He then revised his article:

[correction: (added on 9-26-04) it was helpfully pointed out by Reformed Luther researcher James Swan that these words appeared only in the original 1522 preface, not the 1545 version. Luther seems to have retracted this particular remark. I inadvertantly [sic] overlooked a footnote which explained that bracketed sections were later removed.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I'm assuming most of you read the aomin blog, and have seen Turretinfan's article, "The Canon was NOT Decided at Nicaea!"It is a great entry! It's wonderful that Turretinfan's writings will be getting a much wider audience. Turretinfan has been a great help to me on my own blog, finding tidbits of information that have helped me construct some of my blog articles. The man has an incredible knack for research, tied with a deep love for God and truth....the perfect combination! Dr. White, in my opinion, picked one of the best researchers/bloggers/apologists to join Team Apologian when he picked out Turretinfan! Make sure also to bookmark Turretinfan's blog.

I can say this about the CA Forums, I haven't been banned from participating yet, though I haven't actively participated for quite some time. The forums are user friendly and easy to navigate.

On the other hand, Catholic Answers is not a "mom and pop" store. They are a multi-million dollar organization . If they can't figure out how to budget the few million they take in every year, well...goodbye Catholic Answers Forums.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The "Luther" entry in the Catholic Encyclopedia

Below is a section from my paper, The Catholic Understanding of Luther (Part one). It's the write up I did on the author of the Luther article in the Catholic Encyclopedia. I scoured many a library looking for information on George Ganss, author of the C.E. Luther article. I haven't searched out any new information on Ganss since the advent of Google Books, though I'm sure there is probably a lot more available.

Catholic Encyclopedia (1910): Luther Entry

American Catholics in the first half of the twentieth century were guided in their understanding of Luther by the article in the Catholic Encyclopedia written by George Ganss (1855 – 1912). Now available on-line, a new generation of Catholics (and non-Catholics!) are similarly coming under the influence of Ganss’s work. Ganss was strongly influenced by Denifle, and he has been credited for bringing the “views of Denifle to the English speaking world.” [87] James Atkinson gives an accurate summary of Ganss’s article:

“He declares that Luther inherited a wild temper from his father, who was an irascible man almost carried to murder by his fits of temper. Ganss denies that Luther ever had a true vocation to the monastic life; and suggests that in the monastery he became the victim of inward conflicts. He also claims that Luther was unfaithful both to the rules of his order and to the teaching of the Church, and that his infidelity brought on very deep depressions of a mental and spiritual kind. Ganss attributes Luther’s consequent despair to a false understanding of the Roman teaching on good works, and describes his break with the church as the product of reforming zeal that degenerated into political rebellion. The reformer is portrayed as a revolutionary who, in the enforced leisure of his sojourn at the Wartburg, broke down under sensuality; it is alleged that in his book On Monastic Vows, Luther pleads for an unbridled license.

Ganss presents Luther’s irascibility in pathological terms, and describes him as disheartened and disillusioned in his old age, dejected and despairing, tortured in body and spirit, abandoned by friends and colleagues alike. He assembles his portrayal of Luther in terms of “The Accusers’: it is all a matter of revolt, apostasy, a fall- the unhappy end of a monk unfaithful to his vows. There is nothing of Luther’s searching biblical theology, of his glad-heartedness in Christ and joy in the gospel, of his deep prayer life, of his compelling power as a preacher, of his invincible faith. He speaks of Luther’s sojourn in the Wartburg as beset by sensual temptations, and yet makes no reference to the fine books he wrote there during his captivity of some nine months, books such as his Refutation of Latomus, not to mention his magnificent and influential literary masterpiece, the translation of the entire New Testament, which in itself would have been a life’s work for any other mortal.” [88]

Patrick W. Carey also gives an insightful review:

“To give the article a sense of scholarly objectivity, Ganss informed his readers that he had relied primarily upon German Protestant authors as his authorities, and when he cited Catholic authorities he put an asterisk beside the authors' names. The lengthy article quoted selectively from the Protestant sources and from a few of Luther's own texts to verify the negative assessments of Luther found in the Catholic historian Denifle. Throughout the article, the early Luther is presented as a deeply disturbed personality, one with a brooding melancholy, scrupulosity, and morbidity that was susceptible to spiritual depression. Luther, Ganss asserted, would later attribute his own personal religious anxiety to the Church's teachings on good works. Thus the central doctrine of the Reformation was, in Ganss s view, the product of a "hypochondriac asceticism." Ganss failed to examine in any detail the substance of Luther's teachings and presented Luther as an isolated figure in the history of Christianity, neglecting to place Luther in the context of the late Middle Ages, except to agree with Denifle's judgment that Luther's "historical inaccuracies have been proved so flagrant, his conception of monasticism such a caricature, his knowledge of Scholasticism so superficial, his misrepresentation of medieval theology so unblushing, his interpretation of mysticism so erroneous, .. as to cast the shadow of doubt on the whole fabric of Reformation history.

Luther's Reformation ideas were successful, however, primarily because he pleaded with the masses in the language of the populace when he could not win his scholarly battles in the academy through the regular process of disputation. His appeal, moreover, was to the "latent slumbering national aspirations" of the German princes and people. And by such solicitations the reformer became "the revolutionary." His physical ailments and his "congenital heritage of inflammable irascibility and uncontrollable rage" isolated him during the days of his decline and he ended his life in a "deluge of vituperacion" against the Jews and the papacy. From Gansss perspective Luther was a tortured and unhappy soul whose own self-delusion operated as a driving force behind the Reformation. It was a moral and psychological analysis that isolated the individual from the wider historical currents of thought and culture, and that gave no insight into the theological discoveries Luther had made. It is difficult to know in the present state of scholarship how widespread Gansss view of Luther had become in early twentieth century American Catholicism. Similar negative views of Luther were evident in Father Patrick R O'Hare's (1848-1926) The Facts About Luther (1916), a popularized account of Luther's character and motives reminiscent of Denifle and Grisar. Luther, in O'Hare’s view, was no religious reformer but "a deformer."” [89]

Richard Stauffer has also provided a valuable analysis of Ganss’ article:

“With the help of Denifle, Ganss sketches a portrait of Luther with the following main characteristics. Burdened with a bad inheritance (his father, irascible by nature, was carried by fits of temper almost to the extent of murder, cf. p. 438, col. 2), the young Augustinian monk was the victim of inward conflicts which jeopardized his vocation—supposing he ever had a vocation. Unfaithful to the rules of his order and to the teaching of the Church, he sank into a "depression, physical, mental and spiritual" which, by a strange aberration, he attributed to the Roman Catholic doctrine of good works (p. 441, col. 2). Cornered by despair, he had to react; and this he did by breaking his ties with the Church and setting himself free for "religious agitation". But this "reforming activity" had to degenerate into "political rebellion". By considering himself to be the herald of the aspirations of his people, Luther became "the revolutionary" (p. 445, col. i). In all this he could not find the peace he was seeking. To his ordinary disquiet must be added, during his sojourn at the Wartburg, outbursts of sensuality that found him defenseless (p. 447, col. i). Under these conditions he wrote the De votis monasticis and promulgated a new moral code in which concupiscence cannot be overcome, "sensual instincts are irrepressible" and sexual appetites to be satisfied by no matter what physiological demands (p. 448, col. i). So vicious a man could obviously not enjoy a happy old age. Ganss therefore puts a last touch to his portrait. Having reminded us that Luther's increasing irritability and explosions of passion must be viewed pathologically rather than historically, he depicts the Reformer as abandoned by most of his friends and colleagues (p. 456, col. 2), dejected and despairing, tortured in body and spirit (p. 457, col. i). Thus he draws up a completely negative balance sheet. In it nothing can be seen of the eminently theological motives to which Luther subjected himself. In effect, it makes it all a matter of the revolt, apostasy, fall, and unhappy end of a monk who was unfaithful to his vows. On the other hand, although Ganss is blind to the bright side of Luther's work and character, he does play down Denifle's more violent theses. One must grant that his portrait is far the better of the two, both in manner and at heart.” [90]

Interestingly, the New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967) does not use Ganss’s article on Luther, but rather uses Catholic Reformation scholar John P. Dolan’s article. Dolan argues,

“no evidence existed for prior Catholic assertions that Luther's family's poverty "created an abnormal atmosphere" for his early development. It was absolutely absurd, moreover, to contend that Luther was a "crass ignoramus," and it was no longer tenable to hold, as Denifle did, that Luther was an "ossified Ockhamite." To question Luther's religious motives for entering the monastery, furthermore, did Luther a Fundamental injustice. Dolan instead focused upon Luther’s religious and theological discoveries and admitted the scandalous and immoral simoniacal acts associated with the sale of indulgences. Dolan’s article recognizes precisely what religious and doctrinal issues were at stake in the Reformation, a view that was not evident in the earlier twentieth or nineteenth century views of Luther.” [91]


[87] James Atkinson, Martin Luther: Prophet to the Church Catholic, 14. Stauffer notes, “The "Accusers", as I have called them, did not fail to influence Roman Catholic theologians in the English-speaking world who were interested in the person and work of Luther. To my mind, the first time that Denifle's control is perceptible is in the long article "Martin Luther" in The Catholic Encyclopedia. If he is indebted in the first place to Janssen and Dollinger, the author, H. G. Ganss, owes a not inconsiderable part of his information to Denifle. Moreover, he pays him homage more than once. Thus, he praises him for demolishing the "legend" that Luther built on his memories of the monastery. He praises him, too, for succeeding in the greater feat of calling in question Luther's account of the history of the origins of the Reformation” (Luther as Seen by Catholics, 20).

[88] James Atkinson,. Martin Luther: Prophet to the Church Catholic, 14-15.

[89] Patrick W. Carey, “Luther in an American Catholic Context,” found in: Timothy Maschke, Franz Posset, and Joan Skocir (eds.), Ad Fontes Lutheri: Toward the Recovery of the Real Luther: Essays in Honor of Kenneth Hagen’s Sixty-Fifth Birthday, (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2001), 45-46.

[90] Richard Stauffer, Luther as Seen by Catholics, 20-21.

[91] Patrick W. Carey, “Luther in an American Catholic Context,” 52-53.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Was Luther's Father a Murderer?

Over the last few days I was again reminded of the impact of Father Patrick O'Hare's book, The Facts About Luther on Catholic laymen. The other night, I sat down with this book and re-read the first few chapters. I admit, it's been quite a while since I've read more than a few paragraphs of O'Hare's book in one sitting. My copy is heavily marked up, as I've researched the material it contains for more than a few years now.

One of the early slanderous charges put forth by Father O"Hare is a story that Luther's father was a murderer. O'Hare presents it as absolute historical fact. He explains Luther's parents originally lived in Morha, "a little township situated on the northwest corner of the Thuringian Forest and a few miles to the south of Eisenach" (p. 23). Luther's father Hans had a small farm. Shortly after he married Luther's mother Margaret Zeigler, "we find him abruptly abandoning his small holding in the little peasant township and hurriedly seeking a new home and a new occupation four score miles away..."(p.24). O'Hare wonders what would cause Hans to pack up and leave hurriedly with his pregnant wife. Here is his answer,

That there was a cause, other than such as is ordinarily assigned, for John Luther's sudden departure from Morha is certain, and substantiated by documentary evidence. Henry Mayhew, a man of distinguished literary attainments and best known as one of the Mayhew brothers who founded London Punch, made Luther the subject of a close, careful, critical study. In an interesting work published in London he treats of the question under consideration and declares John Luther's departure from Morha was a "flight," and he further adds, "men do not fly from their homes except on occasions of the greatest urgency." "The simple fact, then," according to Mr. Mayhew, "would appear to be that John Luther — as Martin Michaelis tells us in his description of the mines and smelting houses at Kupfersuhl, a work which was first published in the year 1702 — Martin's father, had, in a dispute stricken a herdsman dead to the earth, by means of a horse bridle, which he happened to have in his hand at the time and was thereupon forced to abscond from the officers of justice as hurriedly as he could" (pp. 24-25).

O'Hare continues for a few pages, piling up the historical records to prove this event actually occurred. To read all of O'Hare's "proof" see his book here. Interestingly, O'Hare points out this story circulated during Luther's lifetime by a man named "George Wicel." Who was this man? He was a Catholic preacher, and no fan of Luther's.

Through the quote of another, O"Hare posits "that Martin was a veritable chip of the hard old block" and "If a gouty father or a consumptive mother, in the usual course of nature, beget a podagric or phthisic child, surely one with a temper as fiery as a blood-horse may be expected to cast a high-mettled foul. It may account for that 'terrible temper' of the Reformer..." (p.27). O'Hare provides an interesting quotation from George Ganss (the author of the old Catholic Encyclopedia article on Luther):

Fr. Ganss in dealing with this question concludes a learned contribution to the American Catholic Quarterly Review, Jan. 1910, with an observation which is vitally germane to the subject. "This is, the wild passion of anger was an unextinguished and unmodified heritage transmitted congenitally to the whole Luther family and this to such an extent that the Luther-zorn (Luther rage) has attained the currency of a German colloquialism" (p.26).

Note also this comment from Ganss at the beginning of his Luther entry from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

His father, Hans, was a miner, a rugged, stern, irascible character. In the opinion of many of his biographers, it was an expression of uncontrolled rage, an evident congenital inheritance transmitted to his oldest son, that compelled him to flee from Mohra, the family seat, to escape the penalty or odium of homicide.

The charge: Luther's father was an angry man prone to violence and murder, Luther shared the same heredity and this likewise accounts for aspects of his personality. Obviously, this conclusion is spurious and laughable, and is a silly presentation of the genetic fallacy. It's yet another attempt to do psychology on a dead man. It is very interesting how Roman Catholic apologists, both old and new, educated and or not, are experts in psychology when it comes to Luther, and also his genetics.

However, one may wonder if the actual charge against Luther's father is accurate. Below is an interesting evaluation from a very helpful Luther book by Heinrich Boehmer:

In his work, De raptu epistolae privatae, the Catholic preacher, Georg Witzel, states at Eisleben in 1535: "I might call Luther's father (0b. 27, 5, 1530) a man-slayer and himself a changeling of the Devil." Witzel afterwards repeated this statement several times. Whether it ever reached Luther's ears we do not know. In any case, however, he would hardly have considered it necessary to take any action; for it was his principle never to reply to such attacks, Table Talk, 4086, 4504. As early as January 14, 1520 (Correspondence,ii. 293), he refers people who cast aspersions on his parents to the testimony of the Count of Mansfeld, not without pride.

Witzel's statement became one of the stock weapons of Catholic polemic. In the course of the seventeenth century, however, it found belief here and there, even among Protestants, who were not satisfied with the bare information of Mathesius, ed. Loesche (Prague 1906), p. 16 : "Hans Luther moved from the village of Mohra to Eisleben," and who felt it necessary to hunt up the most impressive motive possible for this departure. At the turn of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries people in Mohra knew exactly how the alleged murder happened. Hans Luther, the tale ran, had accidentally killed a peasant in a field with his own horse-bridle. How he managed to do this no one troubled to wonder, cf. the essay of the mine official, J. M. Michaelis, on the Kupfersuhl mines, written in 1702, in Von Thon, Schloss Wartburg, p. 143 f. In quite modern times the inhabitants of Mohra were able to point out the very meadow in which this happened.

The obvious objection that if Hans Luther had been guilty of such an action he would not have chosen the Mansfeld district but would rather have fled across the border, which was very close, into Hesse, where the Saxon courts could not have interfered with him, was ignored; so also was the very surprising fact that the supposed man- slayer, no later than 1491, was appointed to the very honourable office of one of the "four of the commonalty," whose duty was to uphold the rights of the citizens as opposed to the Council, C. Krumhaar, Versuch einer OeschicJite von Stadt und Schloss Mansfeld (1869), p. 26.

The story thus has as legendary a flavour as possible. But there must be something in it. And there is in fact something in it. Hans Luther had a younger brother whose name was also Hans. For it was formerly the custom in the Thuringian districts bordering Hesse, as it still is in Hesse itself, for the Gode or god-father to give the child his name. Consequently in Thuringia, as to-day in Hesse, the same name sometimes occurs twice among the children of one family. In Hesse the children are distinguished in such cases by giving them different nicknames (e.g. Kathe and Trinchen for Katharina). In the family of Heine Luther of Mohra a still simpler method was adopted : the elder Hans, Luther's father, was called Gross-Hans and the younger Klein-Hans. Klein-Hans later followed Gross-Hans to Mansfeld; for Gross-Hans kept up a communication and intercourse with his relations in Mohra, a fact which also does not speak for the credibility of the later Mohra legend.

But Klein-Hans did no good in Mansfeld, as the still existing law-court records of 1499-1513 show, cf. W. Mollenberg in the Zeitung des Harz- Vereins fur Geschichte und Altertumskunde xxxix. (1906), p. 191 ff. He was a rowdy fellow, a tavern hero of the worst sort, and very ready with his knife. The records do not, indeed, state that he ever killed a man. They show only that he once cut a man on the mouth, another time injured several people on the hands (with a knife), a third time struck a severe blow with a knife at a man's head from behind, and a fourth time gave a man a violent blow on the head with a stick. All this makes it quite plausible to attribute a fatal blow to him. These misdeeds of Klein-Hans Luther were still the subject of much discussion in Eisleben at the time when Georg Witzel was summoned by Count Hoyer of Mansfeld as pastor for the ever-shrinking Catholic community. It is possible that in the little community the story was already told as Witzel, who is known to have seized upon any gossip about Luther's family, reproduces it. It is alternatively not impossible that Witzel, who can hardly have known of the existence of two Hans Luthers in Mansfeld, quite honestly attributed to Gross-Hans the deeds told of Klein-Hans. In any case, the alleged manslaughter by Gross-Hans is as credible as the story told in the same breath, probably also originating in the embittered little Catholic community in Eisleben, that the heretic Martinus was begotten by an incubus or devil in adultery with "Margarethe Lutherin." [Heinrich Boehmer, Luther and the Reformation in the Light of Modern Research (London: G. Bell and Sons LTD., 1930) pp. 357-359].

For an excellent and concise overview see also, Julius Kostlin's overview of the charge that Luther's father was a murderer.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Luther's Imaginary Letter to Pope Leo, Busted.

The web-page, The Orthodox vs the Heterodox Luther, which I referenced in my last blog article, Luther's Imaginary Letter to Pope Leo January 6, 1519 now contains the following explanation / retraction in red lettering:

[Note: this was written in 1992. I've learned tons of things about Martin Luther since that time; even in just the last few years, as I continue to do further research and reading. In several cases, I have changed my opinion on particular elements of his beliefs and behavior. Thus, I wouldn't express several things in this article the way I did then, and I've discovered one definite inaccuracy; see the next note below. I have kept this article online, listed on my "Resume" because it was my first published article. But I don't list it on my Luther web page, due to its outdated nature and relative lack of documentation. At the time I wrote it (before I was even online), I didn't have nearly the resources available to me that I now have]

As to the Luther quotation in question:

[This was mistaken documentation on my part. Luther indeed did write (or say) all these words, but they actually derive from two sources, and neither is a letter to Pope Leo X from this date. The first clause came from the Leipzig Disputation with Johann Eck in July 1519; the rest is from a tract called An Instruction on Certain Articles, which dates from late February 1519. For much more on these four Luther utterances and related issues, see my paper about Luther's views on the papacy from 1518 to 1520]

There you go folks... a "published article" (obviously, in whichever publication it made it to, the editors did not consider accuracy as something necessary), of a non-letter taken from two different documents, put forth as "apologetics." I'd like to know who first put these two different quotes together to make it one quote? Who attributed the bogus date to the quote? Who did this research? I can't even blame O'Hare, he didn't put two different quotes together to make them one. He didn't attribute the date "January 6, 1519" to it. Someone did. Someone was putting forth propaganda. These are most likely questions I'll never get the answers to, but my work is done here....

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Quotable Sippo #5

I have an occasional feature called, "The Quotable Sippo." It's very simple, I just let Catholic apologist Art Sippo speak for himself. Recently, Dr. Sippo provided some of his insights, and well... let's just let the good doctor speak for himself:

Luther's mental illness and its influence on his theology are beyond question. That is what we need to deal with.

Manic depression is characterized by periods of extreme hyperactivity sometimes bordering on psychotic behavior alternating with periods of deep despair and self loathing. Anyone who has read Luther's autobiographical material can clearly see this in his behavior. Honest Protestants are starting to finally admit that Luther was seriously disturbed. If he was and if his "religious breakthrough" was actually a psychotic break with reality (which I can prove it was) then your whole religion is founded on madness. it is a bitter pill to swallow but for the sake of your immortal soul, you need to deal with this.

Luther's doctrine of human depravity (made deeper and darker by Calvin's paranoid delusions) is clearly pathological. Luther described the human person as a horse with an empty saddle in which either God or the Devil would ride. This is the same kind of description we get from psychotics who tell us the voices are compelling them to do things and that they have no will of their own. Anyone who finds this picture to be descriptive of their own mind is seriously disturbed and needs psychiatric help and medications.

You forget, Algo, that unlike you and the sad and disreputable Mr. White I have a REAL doctorate from an ACCREDITED University and have board Certifications in two medical specialties. I have been trained to do psychiatric interviews and to recognize pathological mental processes in patients. I am sorry if UNEDUCATED people still harbor religious fantasies about certain historical lunatics. There are still folks who think Hitler, Mao, Saddam Hussein, and Stalin were "great men." Yet it is clear form the historical records that they were murderous psychopaths. I fear that a study of Luther and Calvin in context proves that they too were mentally unbalanced and morally degenerate.
It is time you grew up and faced reality.

source: Envoy Forums

Sunday, June 08, 2008

"Little about Luther’s celebrated translation may have been original" says Philip Blosser

It's interesting how one thing leads to another. I was reading Philosophical and Practical Problems with Sola Scriptura by Philip Blosser in the book, Not By Scripture Alone (Santa Barbara, CA: Queenship Publishing Co., 1998). In the article, Blosser explains how previous to the Reformation there were ample translations of the Bible in German, and this points to the fact that pre-Reformation Catholicism had a high view of Scripture. Blosser then states,

"In fact, little about Luther’s celebrated translation may have been original. The Swiss Reformer, Ulrich Zwingli, is quoted as having declared to Luther: 'You are unjust in putting forth the boastful claim of dragging the Bible from beneath the dusty benches of the schools. You forget that we have gained a knowledge of the Scriptures through the translations of others. You are very well aware, with all your blustering, that previously to your time there existed a host of scholars who, in biblical knowledge and philological attainments, were incomparably your superiors.' "

This type of comment and argument have a ring of truth, to an extent. There is a popular myth that in the library of the Augustinian cloister, Luther discovered a neglected, chained, dusty Bible. The myth then states it was not until Luther's German translation that the Bible was given back to the world. This myth became so popular, that versions of it actually appeared by the end of the sixteenth century in editions of Luther's Bible in a short biography on Luther, or in the introduction.

It is though possible, that this myth has some truth to it, and may have some insight into this comment from Zwingli. It is possible that Luther found a chained Bible in a university library while he was a young student. Luther's early biographer, Johannes Mathesius (a friend of Luther's), tells the story that the young Luther did have such an experience. Luther also mentions something like this story in a few Table Talk utterances. For a detailed study on this issue, see: Willem Jan Kooiman, Luther and the Bible (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1961). Given that the printing press was still relatively new, finding a chained Bible would not have been outrageous, but rather a sad practical necessity. Well, Zwingli speaks about the "Bible from beneath the dusty benches of the schools"- which may actually be something completely different than the chained Bible myth.

Roman Catholics have pounced on the different versions of this myth for a few hundred years. I probably would have passed by Blosser's comment had it not been for his documentation of the Zwingli quote:"Alzog. III, 49, quoted in Patrick F. O’Hare, The Facts about Luther (Rockford, IL: TAN [Thomas A. Nelson] Publishers, Inc., 1987), 191."

So, one thing leads to another. I looked up O"Hare's comment:

"To maintain that Luther knew not and could not find any Bibles except the one he was supposed to discover as librarian of his convent, is to brand him as a liar. It is interesting now to recall what Zwingle, the Swiss Reformer, who made many false boasts for himself, once said to Luther: "You are unjust in putting forth the boastful claim of dragging the Bible from beneath the dusty benches of the schools. You forget that we have gained a knowledge of the Scriptures through the translations of others. You are very well aware, with all your blustering, that previously to your time there existed a host of scholars who, in Biblical knowledge and philological attainments, were incomparably your superiors." (Alzog. Ill, 49.)"

Previous to this comment, O'Hare presents the same type of argument as Blosser, that there were German Bibles in existence previous to Luther. The Zwingli quote is icing on the cake since Zwingli, a Protestant, appears to be stating this as well. Blosser goes a step further stating, "In fact, little about Luther’s celebrated translation may have been original." You see, Luther probably just did a medieval cut-and-paste from these earlier German translations. Now, I'm getting more curious. I'd like to see the context of the Zwingli quote. Blosser may actually just be parroting something Father O'Hare mentioned earlier. O'Hare (citing Protestant writer Licentiate Braun) stated, "We recognized in [Luther's] translation of the Bible a masterpiece stamped with the Impress of originality — we may be happy now if it is not plainly called a 'plagiarism !'" [The Facts About Luther, ( p. 5 in the Tan Edition)].

So, one thing leads to another, now I start searching for the Zwingli quote. I did some quick searches, nothing in depth. I didn't come up with the context (yet), but I did find some interesting things. I found Alzog. III, 49 cited by Blosser and O'Hare as the source for the Zwingli quote. Now, Mr. Blosser doesn't explain what Alzog. III, 49 is, nor am I sure if O'Hare does either (a cursory search of The Facts About Luther retrieved little). But Google Books gave me the text from Johannes Baptist Alzog, "History of the Church," p. 49. Alzog states,

"Luther now had the effrontery to make the silly boast that he was the first to drag the Bible forth from beneath the dusty benches of the schools, an assumption which even Zwinglius some time later indignantly denied. "You are unjust," said he, "in putting forth this boastful claim; you forget that we have gained a knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures through the translations of others. To mention a few, there is Erasmus in our own day; Valla, a few years earlier; and the pious Reuchlin and Pelican, in the absence of whose labors, neither you nor others could have accomplished the great work. But I will be merciful, my dear Luther, although I should not; for the impudent boasting that pervades your books, your letters, and your discourses, merits the severest chastisement. You are very well aware, with all your blustering, that, previously to your time, there existed a host of scholars, who, in biblical knowledge and philological attainments, were incomparably your superiors."

First and importantly, note O'Hare gave a conflation of the quote (and Blosser never probably checked it). The earlier translation work of other's are explained by Zwingli as, "To mention a few, there is Erasmus in our own day; Valla, a few years earlier; and the pious Reuchlin and Pelican, in the absence of whose labors, neither you nor others could have accomplished the great work." These of course, were fairly recent people. The "work of others" Zwingli has in view are men like Reuchlin (no friend of Rome!) and Erasmus (a sometimes friend of Rome). Zwingli notes of the men, "in the absence of whose labors, neither you nor others could have accomplished the great work"...the great work of Luther's translation! This is a far cry from Blosser's assertion that Zwingli held, "little about Luther’s celebrated translation may have been original." Zwingli notes Luther built on the foundation laid by these earlier men, not that he plagiarized these men, or that he reinvented the wheel, so to speak.

Then Zwingli says, "But I will be merciful, my dear Luther, although I should not; for the impudent boasting that pervades your books, your letters, and your discourses, merits the severest chastisement." Indeed, Luther did frequently boast about his abilities as a theologian. Zwingli then states, "You are very well aware, with all your blustering, that, previously to your time, there existed a host of scholars, who, in biblical knowledge and philological attainments, were incomparably your superiors." Now this is true as well, there were men previous to Luther that surpassed him in theological and philological ability.

Do you see how the conflation of the Zwingli quote from O'Hare and Blosser puts a slightly different spin on his words? The Biblical translating work that Zwingli referred to was recent work, done by some who were not hook-line-and-sinker in step with Rome. He wasn't referring to all the older German translations (as brought up by both O'Hare and Blosser).

Well, there's more to look up, time allowing. There's Luther's "dusty bench quote" and context, which was also added into the citation by O'Hare, and possibly not actually said by Zwingli. Could it be, Alzog was simply repeating the popular myth, and adding it to Zwingli's words? Not having a richer context for Zwingli's quote leaves everything here somewhat speculative. As to the Luther quote, Carrie found a secondary source, that I was able to use to trace back to a treatise from Luther, though it probably is not from the writing Zwingli had in mind, but interesting nonetheless:

"My friends the theologians have spared themselves pains and labor; they leave the Bible in peace and read the Sentences. I should think that the Sentences ought to be the first study of young students in theology and the Bible ought to be the study for the doctors. But now it is turned around; the Bible come first, and is put aside when the bachelor's degree is reached, and the Sentences come last. They are attached forever to the doctorate, and that with such a solemn obligation that a man who is not a priest may indeed read may indeed the Bible, but the Sentences a priest must read. A married man, I observe, could be a Doctor of the Bible, but under no circumstances a Doctor of the Sentences. What good fortune can we expect if we act so perversely and in this way put the Bible, the holy Word of God, so far to the rear? Moreover the pope commands, with many severe words, that his laws are to be read and used in the schools and the courts, but little is said of the Gospel. Thus it is the custom that in the schools and the courts the Gospel lies idle in the dust under the bench, to the end that the pope's harmful laws may rule alone. [An Open Letter to The Christian Nobilityof the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate, 1520]"
One thing I'm fairly confident of, Philip Blosser may want to rethink using Patrick O'Hare as a source, and he may want to consider actually reading Luther and Zwingli rather than about Luther and Zwingli through the eyes of Father O'Hare. I'll keep this one in the oven for a few days, to work on it when I get the chance.