Is it true that Martin Luther cursed a lot and even used some bad language in his own writings?

  • 5
    You should beware of assuming that language we would refer to as 'bad' today was unacceptable in Luther's day. Standards of acceptable talk and writing have changed a lot in 400 years. – DJClayworth Jan 6 '12 at 17:52
  • I just found something along these lines that you might enjoy: tyler.rasmussen.name.s80883.gridserver.com/luther – Dan Feb 27 '12 at 20:53
  • Thank you Dan. I am surprised there is even a whole website composed of Luther's slurs. However, it really makes me feel quite sad as I really have a lot of respect toward Luther, and I wish he behaved in a more humble way. – brilliant Feb 28 '12 at 0:30
  • I remember when I learned of Martin Luther's anti-semitism - it made me pretty sad at the time as I respected him as well. It taught me the valuable lesson that all men are sinners and we should really not be surprised when one of our "heroes" makes mistakes. – Nacht Jun 17 '15 at 9:02
  • @SolaGratia - I am quite surprised to have read this comment of yours. Having received so many valuable answers from you on this website, I've always thought that you were a big supporter of Luther or, at least, most of his beliefs. Does what you wrote here just now mean that my assumption regarding you was altogether wrong? BTW, did Martin Luther really call Jesus an adulterer?! I just can't believe it! Can you, please, provide a link? – brilliant Nov 14 at 13:45
up vote 7 down vote accepted

It should be noted that profanity is a relative cultural concept. That is, what one culture considers to be profane may not be offensive in another. For example, various hand gestures that are perfectly acceptable in the USA would be highly offensive in the Middle East. Similarly, the word "bloody" in the UK carries a harsher connotation than in American English. Thus we should not be quick to dismiss quotes because they do not match what our culture considers to be profanity, especially in Western culture that allows horrific words, violence, and sexuality to be displayed routinely on public television. With this in mind, I offer some quotes by Martin Luther:

"Did I not tell you earlier that a Jew is such a noble, precious jewel that God and all the angels dance when he farts?" (On the Jews and Their Lies)

"He who hears this name [God] from a Jew must inform the authorities, or else throw pig poop at him when he sees him and chase him away." (On the Jews and Their Lies)

Of course "fart" was highly offensive at the time and "pig poop" (older translations say "sow dung") can be translated more harshly - I don't think I need to spell it out ;)

  • That first quote is priceless. Just change the subject for anyone who is fond of himself. – fredsbend May 16 '13 at 19:51

Yes it is, Martin Luther was after all: angry and upset at the Pope and the Catholic clergy. Some examples would be: "no sooner do I pass a motion than they smell it in rome. Saying in effect that Rome was a cess pool. Many times does he call Monks the "lice placed by the devil on God's almighty fur coat." There are of course many other things I won't repeat out of decency.

Martin Luther also would curse Rome and the Pope, comparing them to villains in the bible. These phrases of themselves are not "extreme" by todays standards of course, however when the remarks were made they were directed at the Holy men of the time, something many people just thought as heresy. So it's easy to believe that a lot of the things he said were taken to be just so foul.

  • 1
    It's not clear to me that your examples are 'bad language'. Very insulting, sure, but talking about lice is not 'bad language'. – DJClayworth Jan 6 '12 at 17:53
  • 4
    He was also sick later in life when most of his objectionable writings were composed. His later screeds against the Jews directly oppose his earlier works. Many of these were ignored after his day and only brought to light when Nazis in Germany looked to justify their antisemitism. – Jon Ericson Jan 6 '12 at 18:15

I wouldn't be surprised if Martin Luther did that because, surprise, surprise, God Himself uses extremely strong language that would make people faint by today's standards.

First off, He compares Israel's "good works" without faith to "filthy rags". The even more specific translation of that is "filthy rags filled with menstrual fluid". Translated to today, God basically said, "Your good works are as useless to me as a woman's bloody discharge filled with unused egg cells."

Jesus Himself used very, very harsh language towards the Pharisees. He called them a "brood of vipers". To modernize that would be "sons of snakes". To make that phrase completely accurate today would be to call someone "sons of bitches".

Jesus even called Herod, one of the tetrarchs at the time, a fox. Again, calling someone an animal was to call them less than a human, or basically an insult. By today's standards, Jesus called His human king a "filthy bitch".

But you see, in the Bible, God always has a reason for using strong language: to bring people to repentance and to call out the ugly truth as He sees it happening.

The imagery of unused bloody egg cells was to make Israel realize their frailty, idolatry, and need for God, the same God they had rejected time and again.

Jesus called the Pharisees "snakes" because they were acting like animals (in their time like vipers poisoning what was good)! They knew the law but twisted it to fill their own cravings of greed and power. These "holy men of God" were stealing properties from widows and orphans and even stealing from their own people with the exhorbitant seller fees at the temple. Charging interest to your own people was a crime by Jewish law. Yep, Caiaphas the high priest was in on that too so he could gain money. Yet, despite their corrupt behavior they were oh-so pious on the outside. No wonder they were called hypocrites. They were great actors (hypocrite's Greek meaning is basically "an actor")!

Jesus called Herod a "fox" because a fox was ritually unclean to eat back in their day. Herod, a Jew, forewent what he knew about this moral and cultural law and instead acted like a pagan. Here's some of what he did per Richard Floyd's blog:

"Though Herod often tried to appear the pious Jewish leader, he had more than a few problems maintaining the loyalty of his Jewish subjects. His first problem was his very authority. He had been put in power by Caesar Augustus, the Roman Emperor, in 4 BC. And then in 17 AD, to honor his Roman overlords, he build a grand new capital city named Tiberius, after the current emperer, only to discover that it was built on top of an old Jewish cemetery. No pious Jew ever entered it, and it was inhabited almost exclusively by Greeks and Romans.

Then he also had serious women problems. He divorced his first wife, which had been a political union, as she was the daughter of an Arab ruler, in order to marry Herodius. She had been the wife of his half brother, also called Herod just to confuse us. It was not unheard of in those days to marry the ex-wife of one’s brother, but she was also the daughter of another half-brother, Aristobulus. Marriage to one’s niece was also permitted, but marriage to a woman who was both one’s sister-in-law and ones’ niece was irregular, or as my kids might say, “sketchy.”

It was this Herod who had John the Baptist killed. John had been a persistent critic of Herod for his dubious marriage and his general immorality. The Gospels say he had John killed because he had promised his daughter Salome anything she wanted if she danced for him, and John’s head on a platter is what she wanted. The historian Josephus wrote that Herod’s subjects believed that the war that broke out in 36 AD with the Arabs (recall the first divorced wife), and the subsequent Arab military successes, were divine punishment for Herod’s many transgressions."

How does this coincide with Martin Luther? Well, noting the examples mentioned above, it seems Luther did what the Lord also did as well: calling sin as it is and using very strong language to bring people to repentance, even if by today's standards it doesn't seem "proper" or "polite" or the Roman Catholic authorities who heard him got offended instead of repenting.

Luther was against the "sanitized" religion of his time and...to the best of his ability...wanted to bring it back to what was in the Bible.

  • 1
    I don't quite understand why you needed to compare here what Luther did to what God did. God is God the Creator, while Luther is not a creator, nor God, but merely a creature. The Creator by definition has the right to do a lot of things that creatures by definition cannot. Likewise, the fact that the Creator does certain things does not at all mean that creatures are, therefore, allowed to do the same things. – brilliant Nov 14 at 5:12
  • While you do have a point, I compared both so people would have further reference as to why Luther wrote what he wrote, said what he said, or did what he did. Does it mean we should do it often? Absolutely not. There is a time and season for everything. But in the cases of Luther, him standing up against the Pharisees of his day somewhat mirrored what Christ did to the Pharisees of His day. – Philip Nov 14 at 6:49
  • I see. You do have a point, too. – brilliant Nov 14 at 14:16
  • Glad we could see eye to eye. That was awesome. :D – Philip Nov 14 at 14:37

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.