Monday, February 22, 2010

Martin Luther Advocates Breaking Wheel Torture and Execution for Prostitutes, Capital Punishment for Female Sorcerers, Burning of "All" Witches

[BreakingWheel.jpg]

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:

Luther never persecuted, imprisoned, put to death, those who differed from him in his religious teachings.

(The Lutheran Witness, Vol. 34, 1915, p. 197)

One can only present the facts. Here are some more:

* * * * *

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)


9 comments:

john said...

If He Stayed Catholic All He had to do was give out ST Benedict exoricism Medals.

Ben M said...
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Dave Armstrong said...

Wow, Ben. That one bears more looking into, for sure. What will we discover next, huh?

Ben M said...
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Dave Armstrong said...

That's scary. But doctors are very cautious.Many times it is less serious than they suspect. I hope and pray that it works out for you and is not serious.

Ben M said...
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Contarini said...

Dave,

I'm not sure how a quotation from 1915 justifies your use of the present tense. A lot has changed in Protestantism in the past century, in case you haven't noticed. And a greater awareness of the flaws of the Reformers is one of the changes.

Furthermore, nothing you say actually contradicts the quote. Witches and prostitutes are not, after all, people whose theological views differed from Luther's (well, they may have, but that wasn't why he wanted them executed). Unless in the case of witches you want to resurrect the neo-pagan myth (largely abandoned by neo-pagans these days) that witches were some kind of underground pagan religion and their execution was religious persecution.

Luther certainly favored harsh treatment of criminals--as did many people in the sixteenth century. But this has nothing to do with the claim made in the 1915 quote. As C. S. Lewis said, the reason we don't execute witches is that we don't think there are people running around committing crimes by the power of Satan. If people were doing those things and it could be proven, then of course they would be criminals by any definition. It has nothing whatever to do with "religious intolerance," except in the sense that belief in (and harsh punishment of) witchcraft stemmed from the same atmosphere of paranoia and fear of social disorder (and belief in human depravity) that led people to persecute heretics.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Edwin,

I'm not sure how a quotation from 1915 justifies your use of the present tense.

I made a statement of what I have observed many times. I just happened to have that quote at hand, and it was a perfect expression of what many people think: the myth of the tolerant Luther.

I didn't claim that a 1915 quote proved what I have observed today. LOL You're assuming a chain of logic that I wasn't using.

A lot has changed in Protestantism in the past century, in case you haven't noticed. And a greater awareness of the flaws of the Reformers is one of the changes.

Much more so among scholars, I highly suspect.

Furthermore, nothing you say actually contradicts the quote. Witches and prostitutes are not, after all, people whose theological views differed from Luther's (well, they may have, but that wasn't why he wanted them executed).

Now you're nitpicking . . . :-) Luther thought the Anabaptists were seditious and would harm society, so there is a fine line. He didn't like the adult baptism, though. That was really the root of it.

Unless in the case of witches you want to resurrect the neo-pagan myth (largely abandoned by neo-pagans these days) that witches were some kind of underground pagan religion and their execution was religious persecution.

Dunno; but I wouldn't favor burning all of them (or any of 'em), in any case.

Luther certainly favored harsh treatment of criminals--as did many people in the sixteenth century. But this has nothing to do with the claim made in the 1915 quote. As C. S. Lewis said, the reason we don't execute witches is that we don't think there are people running around committing crimes by the power of Satan.

Yes; I've written about that and have long stated that there is a case to be made for capital punishment for heresy. I don't advocate it, but I think a solid case can be made along these lines.

If people were doing those things and it could be proven, then of course they would be criminals by any definition. It has nothing whatever to do with "religious intolerance," except in the sense that belief in (and harsh punishment of) witchcraft stemmed from the same atmosphere of paranoia and fear of social disorder (and belief in human depravity) that led people to persecute heretics.

Fair enough. My goal was simply to make people aware of these uncomfortable facts. Folks always hear endlessly about Catholic persecution and intolerance. Once in a while it is good to set the record straight that we weren't the only ones.

I get very tired personally of the myth that Protestants in general were far more tolerant than Catholics in the 16th century.

Learning facts never hurt anyone (though it may disenchant those who are attached to the prevalent myths).

mkn2929 said...

Greetings! Personally, after many years of being put on the defensive internally whenever hearing people use the Inquisition against the Church, only resulted in:

1. Silence
2. The feeling of embarrassment
3. Weakening of Faith

All of which resulted in not engaging religious talk, you know the old saying, don't discuss politics or religion at a social gathering?

These are sayings straight from the very depths of hell as far as I am concerned TODAY, finally!

What people have to realize regarding the Inquisition is that it began as a response to the Moors AFTER they were very narrowly defeated.

These dregs of Islam were ruthless and savage beasts deserving of the worst treatment humanly possible simply
because of their inhumane genocide on All of Christianity.

Isabel was barely able to defeat them. It took every last personal resource she had to get the weapons required to even think about a victory and even then seemed precarious. However, they prevailed at the 11th hour and the Moors surrendured. They were still around in the outerlying areas and they needed time to be able to rid Europe entirely of them. In the meantime, anger rose against the Jews when it was found out that they held high positions in their governing body. It was suspected and known they 'cooperated' with them but when they found out they were directly responsible for the atrocities they went ballistic. This prompted Isabel to weed out 'heretics' from the soceity so that this would never happen again. Who would be qualified to question? The Bishops of course. For that she needed the Popes approval which she obtained.

The Church merely did what she asked, to identify those unrepentant heretics. Isabel executed them NOT the Church. And, given the history, who could blame her?

All you have to do is imagine Islam taking over the U.S.by force, and every American family having to give a virgin to their harems for the next 90 years.

After that, I know darned well The Inquisition would be rejected here because we wouldn't have the humility to defer trials to the Church as she did. We would be much more barbaric and intolerant under the guise of justice.

God Bless the One, Holy, Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, THE One and ONLY Church that preaches the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth, Thanks be to God! Alleluia, Alleluia!