Monday, July 20, 2020

Luther: "Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!"

Here's a Luther quote pulled from a Lutheran discussion group:
Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!
This is another one of those Luther quotes splattered all over the internet.  It appears to be particularly an obvious favorite of beer websites and beer enthusiasts. One site states,  "I not 100% sure that the following quote is truly from Martin Luther; however I’ve seen it attributed to him enough that I willing to do the same." One page considers the quote one of 50 Profound Martin Luther Quotes About Faith.  A basic book search reveals it's gone to print as well. Let's take a closer look. No, it wasn't Luther, but it is surprising to find out that one of Luther's closest associates was using a version of it.

Typically, there is no documentation other than attributing the quote to "Martin Luther." Others have sought to verify this quote. This author claims the quote "seems to have appeared suddenly in 2007 on a blog" but doesn't provide a link to substantiate the claim.  An intriguing clue is found on Wikipedia, dating the phrase in Latin to 1658:

Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!
  • Widely attributed to Luther, but actually is an example given in 1658 book Ἑρμηνεια logica of faulty logic. In Latin:
    • Si vero termini in sorite sunt causae subordinatae per accidens, sorites non valet; ut ia hoc, Qui bene bibit, bene dormit; qui bene dormit, non peccat; qui non peccat, est beatus; ergo: qui bene bibit est beatus. Vitium est, quod bene bibere sit causa per accidens somni.
  • Translated via Fauxtations:
    • If, however, the conclusions in the sorite are subordinate by accident, the sorites is not valid; as in this one, He who sleeps well, drinks well; he who sleeps well, does not sin; he who does not sin, is blessed; therefore, he who drinks well is blessed. The problem is that to drink well is a cause of sleep only by accident.

The 1658 book / page cited by Wikipedia can be found here.  Wiki, as admitted, absorbed this information from this source, a blog entitled, Fauxations, because sometimes the Internet is wrong. Kudos to this source for at least determining the quote has an old pedigree that need not necessarily be linked to Martin Luther. Unfortunately, while 1658 may appear at first glance to be the oldest use of the quote found via Google Books, this does not determine if its the actual origin of this quote or if Luther originally said it or not.

An interesting clue that Fauxations points out is the aspect of the "syllogism"... that the quote was not intended to be a cute saying, but rather an example of a logical problem.  This nineteenth-century source refers to it as a "classic canticle" citing it as: Bene vivit. Qui bene vivit Bene dormit. Qui bene dormit Non peccat. Qui non peccat In cælum venit. Ergo qui bene bibet In cælum venit. Another nineteenth-century text refers to it as "the syllogism," another, "the formula."  This text refers to it as "a profane syllogism obtained by Lord John Russell from an old Spanish priest": Qui bene bibet bene dormit, qui bene dormit non peccat, qui non peccat salvatus erirt (the incident appears to be recorded here and here).  This text puts the syllogism in a narrative form. The one thing these texts at least have similarly in is that the syllogism existed as common knowledge.

Philip Melanchthon?
One can go deeper than 1658 and find the syllogism being toyed with by none other than Luther's associate... Philip Melanchthon!  In a Google book from 1529 from Melanchthon one finds

This text reads, Qui bene bibet, bene dormit, Qui bene dormit, non peccat, qui no peccat erit beatus, ergo qui bene bibet erit beatus. There appears to be correlation of this Latin syllogism to the German jingle, Zu nacht wohl essen, macht wohl schlafen, und wohl leben, macht wohl sterben.

I doubt Luther coined the phrase in it's typical logical formula or in the form Melanchthon presented. It is fascinating though that Philip Melanchthon, a close associate, was using it in his logic textbooks and Luther was well aware of his publications.  It is therefore, not out of the possibility that Luther could have repeated it, or a version of it, say in a Table Talk (my cursory search though didn't find anything). It would be interesting to determine if the syllogism existed previous to Melanchthon (I suspect it may have) in a book on logic.

The version that currently circulates the Internet is the obvious work of an editor, perhaps unintentionally or humorously, making the syllogism specific to beer and specific to Luther.   But hey, maybe tacking on "Luther" can actually generate $$$.

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