I've heard it said that Martin Luther condemned the use of pipe organs, saying that they were somehow evil.

What is the source for this quote? Or is it falsely attributed to Luther?


2 Answers 2


Might this be your quote?

"The organ in the worship is the insignia of Baal" (Martin Luther, Mcclintock & Strong's Encyclopedia Volume VI, page 762)

This phrase turns up 1,400 results in Google; but it may not be accurate.

One researcher, apparently familiar with Luther and this quote, had this rebuttal:

Strong DOES NOT use the word “insignia,” it uses the word “ensign!” Various other church of Christ denomination websites also misquote this statement.

Searching Google for the quote with "ensign" instead of "insignia" turns up 7 results. This suggests widespread dissemination of the (mis)quote without checking sources. (This is possibly the encyclopedic source, though it's certainly not word-for-word; thanks @James T)

The source mentioned above had more to say on the topic:

One big problem with this quote is that students of the writings of Luther CANNOT find this quote ANYWHERE in the writings of Martin Luther! It is well known that Martin Luther DID NOT oppose musical instruments in church. Luther was at odds with John Calvin on this subject. Luther taught Gospel Liberty, that anything not specifically condemned in the New Testament was authorized.

With a creative search query, I determined that 98% of the online sources for this quote reference the same Martin Luther encyclopedia referenced above.

Another possible source for this saying is Heinrich Eckhard's Fasciculus Controversiarum Theologicarum where he states,

Lutherus organa Musica inter Baalis insignia refert.

Which a 19th century author translates as:

Luther considers organs among the ensigns of Baal.

A few problems, though: @James T's source suggests that "organa Musica" is better translated as "instruments of music." Further, Eckhard isn't even himself the original source of his statement.

As we trace this quote back, we go from one shaky source to another (as the "quote" changes) until the internet trail peters out at "Anhaldini p. 74"

  • 1
    Interesting! I found an antedating (see here) to Heinrich Eckhard in 1607, but the further reference to "Anhaldini p.74" remains obscure.
    – James T
    Feb 5, 2014 at 3:53
  • 3
    Huh. I've never heard this quote before, but even if not apocryphal, without context it is impossible to interpret. Did he mean that all instrumental music was evil? That there is something specific about the nature of organs that makes them evil? That he was opposed to organs, not because of anything actually about organs, but because he had some complaint about the leading organ manufacturers of the day? Etc etc.
    – Jay
    Feb 5, 2014 at 5:27
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    I think I have "Anhaldini". It is a 1597 polemical text titled "Erinnerungsschrifft etlicher vom Adel und Städten..." addressed to Prince John-George of Anhalt. See here on p74ff, concerning the organ ("Von Orgeln"). In particular, near the p76 mark, the text "Ober wie kan es Christlich..." refers to "den Abgott Baal / unnd andern Abgöttern". There is a reference to "siebenden deutschen Thomo Lutheri / Anno 72. zu Wittenberg gedruckt / fol. 425" which may be our next clue.
    – James T
    Feb 5, 2014 at 12:26
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    Aha, just a bit further on are the words "des Römischen Abgott Baals feldzeichen", and a list attributed to Luther of superfluous things to be removed from churches.
    – James T
    Feb 5, 2014 at 13:09
  • 1
    fantastic work, and great collaboration guys. Would love to see if y'all turn up more on this.
    – wax eagle
    Feb 5, 2014 at 14:12

Then he perceives with great clarity what great fools they all are who want to become pious through works, and he will not give one penny for all the tonsures of priests, monks, bishops, and popes nor for cowls, incensing, ringing of bells, burning of candles, singing, making noise on the organ, and reciting prayers with all their external performance. He sees how all this is nothing but idolatry and foolish sham, exactly as the Israelites worshipped Baal Ashtaroth and the calf in the desert, a precious matter under the influence of the old light of their self-willed and egotistical reason.

Luther, M. (1999). Luther’s works, vol. 52: Sermons II. (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald, & H. T. Lehmann, Eds.) (Vol. 52, pp. 79–80). Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

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