By Dave Armstrong (2-22-10)
In the past, I have noted Luther's propensity for intolerance and capital punishment; particularly for Anabaptists and adulterers and frigid women. The myth of the tolerant Luther dies hard in many folks. For example:
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Out of special hatred for our faith, the devil has sent some whores here to destroy our poor young men . . . such a syphilitic whore can poison ten, twenty, thirty or more of the children of good people, and thus is to be considered a murderer, or worse, as a poisoner. . . .
And I must speak plainly. If I were a judge, I would have such a poisonous, syphilitic whore tortured by being broken on the wheel and having her veins lacerated, for it is not to be denied what damage such a filthy whore does to young blood, so that it is unspeakably damaged before it is even fully grown and destroyed in the blood.
(Table-Talk, WA, TR, IV, no. 4857, pp. 552-554; cited in Susan C. Karant-Nunn & Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks [editors and translators], Luther on Women: a Sourcebook, Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 157-158)
Concerning the female sorcerer. . . . Why does the law name women more than men here, even though men are also guilty of this? Because women are more susceptible to those superstitions of Satan; take Eve, for example. They are commonly called "wise women." Let them be killed.
(Sermon on Exodus 22:18: "You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live," 1526, WA XVI, p. 551; in Susan C. Karant-Nunn & Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks, ibid, p. 231)
August 25, 1538, the conversation fell upon witches who spoil milk, eggs, and butter in farm yards. Dr. Luther said: "I should have no compassion on these witches; I would burn all of them. We read in the old law, that the priests threw the first stone at such malefactors, `Tis said this stolen butter turns rancid, and falls to the ground when any one goes to eat it. He who attempts to counteract and chastise these witches, is himself corporally plagued and tormented by their master, the devil. Sundry schoolmasters and ministers have often experienced this. Our ordinary sins offend and anger God. What, then, must be his wrath against witchcraft, which we may justly designate high treason against divine majesty, a revolt against the infinite power of God. The jurisconsults who have so learnedly and pertinently treated of rebellion, affirm that the subject who rebels against his sovereign, is worthy of death. Does not witchcraft, then, merit death, which is a revolt of the creature against the Creator, a denial to God of the authority it accords to the demon?"
(Table-Talk, translated by William Hazlitt, 1857, DLXXVII; see alternate URL; yet another URL; also variant by Preserved Smith)
One should hasten to put such witches to death.
(Table-Talk, 20 August 1538; from Conversations With Martin Luther, translated and edited by Preserved Smith and Herbert Percival Gallinger, New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1915, p. 163)