I have really enjoyed this series about Martin Luther and his marriage to Katharine, hope you have as well…~Paul S.
The Original Lutheran Marriage: Love and Marriage Aren’t Always Like a Horse and Carriage
On June 13, 1525, Martin Luther married Katherine von Bora at the Black Cloister. After the ceremony, the wedding witnesses escorted the bride and groom to the marriage bed.
According to ancient German custom, there should not only be a witness to the marriage ceremony, but there should also be a witness to the act of consummation! The task fell to Luther’s best friend, Justus Jones, who was there as the two became one.
Why Did Luther Get Married?
It’s interesting to explore why Luther wanted to marry Katherine. To one friend he said he did it “to silence the evil mouths which are so used to complaining about me.” To another he wrote, “I have stopped the mouths of my calumniators with Katherine von Bora. . . . I have made myself so cheap and despised by this marriage that I expect the angels laugh and the devils weep thereat.” In fact, Luther says the marriage must have been a work of God, “for I feel neither passionate love nor burning for my spouse, but I cherish her.”
William Nazareth writes:
Modern marriage counselors probably would have questioned the marriage itself. It was an open secret in Wittenberg that Martin and Katie did not get along very well because of their clashing temperaments and personalities. Certainly they were not romantically in love, and there is no evidence that any kind of courtship preceded their marriage. . . . We have no reason to doubt Luther’s contention that he married primarily as a testimony of faith.
No “passionate love” for his own wife?
Where’s the Passion?
A little context might help to explain what Luther might have meant. Luther’s friend Melanchthon, nervous that Luther’s marriage would make him unavailable for reformational work, was not alone in his opinion that the Reformer got married simply out of lust. Erasmus helped spread the rumor that Katherine had given birth to Martin’s baby two weeks before the ceremony. When Katherine did get pregnant a year after the ceremony, it was predicted that the offspring of this former monk and nun would be a two-headed baby or the Antichrist!
In this context of public slander, perhaps it’s not surprising that Luther wasn’t eager to add fuel to the fire in talking about passion for his wife—though he was quick to say that he cherished her. At the same time, ours is a different age than that of Luther’s (not to mention the biblical times). Today “passionate love” is seen as both a necessary and sufficient condition for marriage, whereas Luther may have seen in Katie not someone with whom he currently felt such passion, but someone with whom he could easily foresee such a warm and intimate relationship. As we’ll see in the next post, a true romantic relationship—within the context of their marriage—was just around the corner.
To be continued.