During the Reformation, Protestant reformers such as Huldrych Zwingli and John Calvin promoted Iconoclasm among their followers. I have found information about Luther opposing it, but little about why.

Why exactly did Luther oppose iconoclasm when other leaders supported it?

Illustration in a deluxe Luther Bible showing God creating the world

Illustration in a deluxe Luther Bible showing God creating the world

The same I llustration in a deluxe Luther Bible owned by Count Joachim, which had the depiction of God erased because of his support of iconoclasm

The same illustration in a deluxe Luther Bible owned by Count Joachim, in which he erased the depiction of God because of his support of iconoclasm

1 Answer 1


Luther's own words on the subject are quoted in:

The Third Sermon, March 11, 1522, Tuesday after Invocavit

In his sermon on 'How Christians should regard Moses' Luther makes it clear that he does not agree with making images nor with worshipping them but he draws the line at destroying other people's images.

Luther draws the line because he says :

And if you reply: The text says, “You shall not make any images,” then they say: It also says, “You shall not worship them.” In the face of such uncertainty who would be so bold as to destroy the images? Not I. But let us go further. They say: Did not Noah, Abraham, Jacob build altars? [Gen. 8: 20; 12: 7; 13: 4; 13: 18; 33: 20]. And who will deny that?

Since he feels that he cannot prove that someone is worshipping an image in an idolatrous manner (although there may be no doubt that they made the image) he feels it wrong to destroy the image.

He also accepts the fact that some might criticise the making of an ark and cherubim. They were not made to be worshipped and it was wrong to do so, but Luther feels the criticism is valid and accepts that if Iconoclasts are going to destroy other people's images then those whose images are destroyed have a claim on them.

  • For “the making of an ark and cherubim”, are you referring to the Israelites making the Ark of the Covenant at the order of God? Oct 30, 2017 at 6:25
  • @Thunderforge I believe that Luther is referring to such artefacts in the entirety of the quoted sermon. He is accepting that artefacts were made in relation to the old covenant and he accepts that, if he were to destroy other people's artefacts (with no real, documented proof that they are being worshipped , as such) then he feels the other side would have valid argument regarding the making of artefacts a priori.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 30, 2017 at 14:07
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    I am awarding a bounty as part of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation Bounty Challenge. Thanks for providing a great answer! Oct 31, 2017 at 22:31

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